48 Hours in Asheville: Where to Eat and Drink

Award-winning restaurants, crafty cocktails, and so very much beer awaits you in this North Carolina gem.

wedge at foundation
Photo: Courtesy of Jenn Rice

Asheville, nestled in western North Carolina's picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, is a city that has it all. Coined the "Paris of the South," it's a vibrant mix of art, culture, architecture, spectacular beer and a food scene that rivals any in the country. Plus, let's not forget about George Washington Vanderbilt's jaw-dropping Biltmore Estate, a 19th-century chateau-style home that feels straight out of Bordeaux.

While you could spend weeks perusing Asheville, we suggest a quick weekend jaunt to explore its bustling food scene. With chefs like Meherwan Irani, Brian Canipelli, Katie Button, and John Fleer constantly pushing the envelope — along with many other talented chefs, brew masters and tastemakers in the area — there's something in the city for every palate.

What next? Simply pack your bags, board the plane and leave the rest to us. Here, a 48-hour eating and drinking guide that won't steer you wrong; however, some serious gym time will be required upon your return home.

Day one.

The Asheville Regional Airport is thankfully small, so grab your luggage and buzz right through to head to the first stop: Sierra Nevada (100 Sierra Nevada Way), the "Biltmore of breweries," for lunch. Mix up an eclectic flight of Basil Mint IPA, Ovila Abbey White, Hop and Sour, Otra Vez and Kellerweis while sinking your teeth into gourmet Joyce Farms chicken wings with soy glaze and heavenly duck fat fries.

It would be wise to check into Chestnut Street Inn (176 E Chestnut St.), part of Asheville's touted Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association, for the sole purpose of meeting owners Emilie and Arturo, who met in New York City; they're sommeliers and food fanatics at heart. The duo offer a self-guided beer crawl based on personal favorite breweries, local beer on tap at guests' disposal, a rotating weekly port wine in a charming crystal decanter and Emilie's ridiculously amazing cookies and pastries available as a pick-me-up snack throughout the day. (Note: her potato chip shortbread cookies alone are worth the trip.) For cheeky Tyrolean fun in a luxe setting, opt for Grand Bohemian Hotel, It's fully decked with bespoke art around every corner, warm and thoughtful service, and lovely touches like Champagne or cocoa on arrival at check-in.

The afternoon is young, and it's time for a cocktail or two at Capella on 9, a scenic and spacious rooftop bar and restaurant. A signature gin and tonic or a local cider are best paired with marinated olives, a mixed board of imported and local charcuterie and cheeses, and the most spicy, alluring spread from Lusty Monk Mustard. From there, mosey down the street to French Broad Chocolates for some bean-to-bar action before dinner. A Mexican-style Oaxaca drinking chocolate and the chocolate bar library will keep you occupied for a while, just don't leave without a souvenir of award-winning lemongrass and ginger truffles.

chestnut street inn
Courtesy of Jenn Rice

For dinner, choose between Rhubarb (7 Southwest Pack Square), helmed by chef John Fleer, who helped put Blackberry Farms on the culinary map, or Brian Canipelli's Cucina 24 (24 Wall Street.) Quite frankly, this is the toughest decision you'll make during this trip. At Rhubarb, sit at the chef's bar, imbibe a notable farmhouse ale and order the can't-live-without burrata to start. Next, we suggest "the house cure," an ever-changing Instagram-worthy spread of items like head cheese, smoked trout rillettes, country pâté, cured meats, and glorious accoutrements; the salad of local lettuces with a Banyuls vinaigrette; and main dishes like celeriac schnitzel, smoked chicken, or rabbit au vin for two. At Cucina 24, there are two ways to go: an a la carte menu, or a four-course dinner for the table, both featuring Italian cooking informed by the bounty of local Appalachian ingredients. Depending on the day, offerings might include wood-roasted snails with chanterelles and salsa verde; gnocchetti with chickpeas, arugula, and pine nuts; wood-roasted North Carolina flounder with fava beans, greens, tomatoes, and capers, or whatever else the season may bring.

Day two.

A good night's sleep followed by breakfast at Chestnut Street Inn (if you're staying there) is a marvelous way to start this eating and drinking day. Think house-made granola and yogurt, quiche, Spanish tortilla, and Arturo's mother's secret green salsa from Puebla, Mexico. If you've laid your head elsewhere for the night, the daily brunch (served 9:30 to 2:30) at Corner Kitchen is the stuff of local legend. Why should shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, or chicken and waffles be relegated to the weekend?

You're in Asheville, the most hyped beer city in the South, so it's only natural to spend a portion of the day hitting some of the best breweries around. Start in the South Slope district, aka the "brewery district," so you can hit several breweries at once. Burial Beer Co. (40 Collier Ave.), Wicked Weed's Funkatorium (147 Coxe Ave.) for sour beer enthusiasts, and Twin Leaf Brewery (144 Coxe Ave.) come highly recommended, though there are many others to explore depending on your liking.

If time allows and the day is right — as in only open Friday and Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. — Zebulon Artisan Ales (8 Merchants Alley), just outside of the city in Weaverville, is one of the most interesting breweries in the country. Brewer Mike Karnowski's focus is Belgian farmhouse-style beers and historical, forgotten beers such as an October Beer from 1750 and a Polish Grodziskie from the 1400s, sipping just as they would have in the past.

Naturally, after a day of drinking beer, it's time for more food — and cocktails. Food & Wine Best New Chef Katie Button's James Beard Award-winning Cúrate (13 Biltmore Ave) is a perfect pre-dinner spot, or settle in for dinner at La Bodega by Cúrate (32 S. Lexington Ave.), Button's all-day Spanish café, market, and wine bar.. "We wanted to do what we do, but better," says Button, of the space featuring a tap wall of vermouth, sherry, red sangria and cider, as well as a Jamoneria station. For a proper vermouth experience, Button suggests ordering exactly this: the gilda (anchovy, olive and piparra) to start, pan de cristal con tomate (tomato bread that will forever linger in your imagination), a selection of cured Spanish ham that will melt in your mouth and cockles with Bonilla à la Vista potato chips from Spain and obviously a vermouth beverage.

souvereign remedies
Courtesy of Jenn Rice

The James Beard Awards named Meherwan Irani's Chai Pani as 2022's Outstanding Restaurant, and for good reason. Irani's homage to Indian street snacks and thalis is a rollicking way to sample the wide diversity of the country's cuisine — especially when paired with a creative menu of cocktails, wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks. Like Chai Pani, Buxton Hall BBQ, created in partnership with pitmaster Elliott Moss, is underpinned his bold and brilliant Spicewalla blends, but features meticulously crafted versions of North Carolina's signature barbecue dishes. Reservations are highly recommended at Chai Pani, but it's first-come, first-served at Buxton, so plan accordingly.

Cap the night at Sovereign Remedies (29 N Market St.), a whimsical cocktail lounge and restaurant with later-night bites. The cocktails here are quite possibly some of the most inventive we've consumed and change with the seasons. If you see bone marrow on the menu, order it.

hole doughnuts
Courtesy of Jenn Rice

Day three.

It's your last morning, sigh. Not to worry, though, as there's still time to hit a few of the city's finest. Start strong with organic iced coffee at Sunny Point Café (626 Haywood Rd.), a popular breakfast spot in West Asheville. There are two routes; black bean and sweet potato empanadas and a breakfast salad (yes, breakfast salads are a thing here), or the restaurant's famous huevos rancheros doused in cilantro crema. Prioritize a doughnut just down the road at Hole Doughnuts (168 Haywood Rd). Flavors may come and go, but vanilla glazed still remains the most coveted order, fried to order right in front of your face.

If you'd care to really soak up the flavor of the state, head to the all-day Tastee Diner, a local favorite for over 75 years, newly revitalized by chef-owner Steven Goff. A brisket, cheddar, and egg sandwich is a hearty start to the day, but the sleeper hit is the only-in-NC livermush, egg, and cheese on a roll, Texas toast, or handmade biscuit.

sunny point cafe
Courtesy of Jenn Rice

Your final hours are best spent exploring the River Arts District, located on the picturesque French Broad River, one of the world's oldest. The area is booming with studios and galleries and food stops along the way, including 12 Bones Smokehouse (5 Foundy Street), a hyped barbecue spot with otherworldly ribs smothered in divine sauces made from Cheerwine and blueberry. The sides here are also unmissable, because to be honest, we can't resist the corn pudding and jalapeño grits.

Wedge Brewing Co. just so happens to have a new location, Wedge at Foundation (5 Foundy Street), beside the BBQ joint, so end the trip on a high note with a local brew or two before checking back into reality.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles