The Best Restaurants In Asheville, North Carolina

Okra fries, a fried chicken sandwich at a gas station, and other things you must eat in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Best Restaurants In Asheville, North Carolina image

photo credit: Tim Robison

Some of what’s stereotypical about the South remains true in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s near-impossible to avoid a lengthy heartfelt chat with a stranger, and ordering a fat biscuit or pulled pork sandwich will never steer you wrong. However, as folks in surrounding towns and cities like to say (with varying degrees of intrigue and horror), there’s “something in the water” in Asheville. It’s located in a valley surrounded by hundreds of miles of temperate rainforest, and it’s got a real cozy, small-town feel. 

When dining in Asheville, you’re just as likely to find juicy fried chicken as you are vegan soul food or genre-bending small plates. And like many other nearby cities, the chefs here are helping redefine what Southern food means, with a renaissance of new queer and BIPOC-led spots joining the dining scene over the last decade. Below, you’ll find a list of classic Asheville institutions along with a mix of fun, casual spots and the brilliant newcomers we can’t stop talking about.


photo credit: Tim Robison


West Asheville

$$$$Perfect For:Feeling HotDate NightDrinking Good Cocktails
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Neng’s is a queer-owned restaurant that packs in a ton of bright colors and tenderness—think emerald-tiled walls, a Christmas-red countertop bar, and a massive painting of the chef’s mother—into its stylish 17-seat dining room. The menu features heartfelt notes from the chef, whose food often blurs the lines between Filipinx and Southern cuisine, fine dining, and home cooking. A few staples include the adobo oyster, monkfish laing, and the funky, unforgettable queso ice cream. Iced beer is a charming pairing with any meal, and the cocktail menu is also killer, with savory, briny drinks like the soy-washed adobo martini and Thai chili-infused whiskey collins.

This cozy wine bar delivers food that tastes as beautiful as it looks, with vegetable-centric small plates and housemade pasta dishes that arrive topped with edible flowers, fresh herbs, and pollen. Other, meatier menu hits include the smoked honey and bacon deviled eggs, steak tartare, and a reuben with house-smoked pastrami. Located in an artfully-renovated, historic cinderblock building, Leo’s also has a covered patio and garden lined with twinkly lights and wooden walls of ivy. On sunny days, it’s the perfect place to linger with friends and a bottle of natural wine, snacking away the day in cottage-core bliss.

You’ll find moon-like orbs hanging from the ceiling and edible mushrooms growing on the walls at this New American restaurant. Once you peel your eyes away from the plants and stunning interior—where, yes, you can eat inside a giant wine barrel—you’ll find an excellent menu. Try to come on a Friday or Saturday for the seven-course chef’s tasting menu, which is heavy on ferments, as well as dishes inspired by local chefs who have cooked in the restaurant as part of the Cultivated Community Dinner Series. A recent example of this concept is in the Zapoteca heirloom beans, brought from Oaxaca by local chef Luis Martinez, that come topped with mole, smoked chicken, and cured egg yolk.


Chai Pani forever changed Asheville’s dining scene when it began serving Indian street food dishes like chaat, pakora, sloppy jai, and uttapam back in 2009. The owner, who grew up in Ahmednagar, India, helped popularize Indian street food throughout the American South, and has since expanded with an Atlanta location and a retail shop Spicewalla(which you can find down the street). Be warned that there’s no reservation system and the line regularly creeps halfway down the block, so you’ll probably have to plan your day around getting a table, or at least an hour to secure takeout. It’ll wholeheartedly be worth it, though, especially when you taste the okra fries.

If Julia Child cooked like a Southern belle, the result would be something like Vivian. In practice, that means rich dishes like the Nordic deviled eggs, smoked oysters, crab dip, and scallop quenelle, making this cerulean-blue dining room the perfect bet for a romantic dinner. There are also less buttery options (though if you ask to substitute dairy out of anything, you’ll get shut down). Local produce and Carolina-caught seafood really shine in the salade de saison, the seasonal crudo dish, and the seared sunburst trout. 

While dinner and craft cocktails are Vivian’s main draw, the weekly Sunday brunch, which offers everything from French pastry boards and lobster parfait to fried chicken biscuits, is another great time to stop by.

High-end tapas spot Cúrate was one of the restaurants that put Asheville’s food scene on the map when it opened in 2011. This retrofitted 1920s bus depot has a magnificent marble bar and open kitchen where you can watch dishes like gambas al ajillo, fried eggplant, and rossejat get prepared in real-time. If you can’t manage a reservation (they’re notoriously difficult) or are dining with a larger group, head around the corner to La Bodega, Cúrate’s new all-day pintxo and wine bar. They usually have plenty of space for walk-ins along with a bottle list that’s fairly pricey but filled with a fun selection of natural and orange wines, sherry, and vermouth primarily from Spain.

Retro lighting, a long beer and wine selection, and a relaxed, minimalist atmosphere make All Souls the perfect place to come with a group or for a casual dinner date after spending the day floating down the French Broad River. In the spring and summer, you can also take your pie outside to the picnic-style seating in the serene River Arts District. Even if you’re one of those people who regularly toss aside their crust—which we’ll never understand—we bet you’ll end up devouring every edge of this springy sourdough, which gets its tang from heirloom wheat that’s milled into flour on-site. The toppings go the extra mile, too, with fresh artichokes, leeks, and foraged mushrooms. Consider asking them to top your pizza with an egg, and definitely don’t pass up the dark chocolate soft serve.

If you’re somebody who binge-watched Stanley Tucci trot around Italy, there’s a high probability you’ll love this spot. The dining room feels romantic, with warm orange lights, exposed brick walls, and intimate seating options. The menu focuses on multi-regional Italian food with Appalachian ingredients, combining Sicilian, anchovy-punched pasta dishes and heartier platters of roasted meats and ragu. But Cucina’s real star is the wood-fired oven, which churns out whole branzino, roast chicken, and porchetta with a crackling skin and juicy interior. Try the chef’s tasting menu if all of this sounds simply too good to pass up, and consider ending your evening with a nightcap at Contrada, which is only a quick stroll down the cobblestoned Wall Street.

This dive bar-meets-fine-dining establishment feels like it’s run by a pirate who's seen every episode of Bar Rescue. Located in a cinderblock building in West Asheville, The Admiral’s space has a surprising blend of nautical decor, antique tin ceilings, and polished mahogany furniture. The menu toes the line between one you might find at a white tablecloth steakhouse and a New American spot. They nail classics like beef tartare and seared scallops, but it’s the dishes like the pork belly funnel cake, bonito sake mussels, and off-the-wall salads that really make the restaurant fun. 

Over the last decade, despite going through some leadership changes, The Admiral still has plenty of charm, and it’s hard to not feel cool when you’re eating here. Stop by dive bar The Double Crown after dinner for the full West Asheville experience.


This super casual, walk-up joint has just six entrees, an “all or nothing” substitution rule, and a spare rotation of specials. Really, though, just order the cheeseburger and fries. The burger, held together by a potato bun, is the perfect combination of grease, melted cheese, and tangy sauce, and the fries come with a delicious aioli. If you must deviate from our instructions, the lobster roll and vada pav are both stellar options. Enjoy your meal at the picnic tables outside or in the dining room, which has a vintage Americana charm.

The baby back ribs from 12 Bones check all the boxes—they’re tender, crispy, and caramelized—but they also add something new to the mix: wildly creative flavors. Rather than sticking to the typical vinegar-based Eastern barbecue sauce or tomato-based Lexington style, 12 Bones instead chooses a third option: sauces made with blueberry-chipotle, Cheerwine, and pineapple habanero. 

While ribs are the star dish, you can also get beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, and chicken. There’s also the adjacent 12 Bones Brewing, where you can fill up on crisp lagers, stouts, and everything in between, making it a great stop for eating and day drinking with a group. On a sunny day, take your meal to the outdoor picnic tables, or stay inside where it’s airy and simple and look upon the blue mural of Anthony Bourdain as you eat.

As you make your way out to Sand Hill Kitchen, the road becomes abruptly rural, with rolling farmland, winding roads, and the Blue Ridge Mountains emerging every now and then. Eventually, you’ll hit a BP gas station on the outskirts of West Asheville, which is exactly where you’ll find Sand Hill Kitchen and the best fried chicken in town. As spiritual as the crispy, buttermilk-soaked chicken sandwich tastes, it’s certainly not this breakfast and lunch spot’s only claim to fame. The cheeseburger, breakfast burrito, and biscuits are just as good, and if you’d like a lighter, plant-based option, the pastrami-cured roasted red beet sandwich is a sleeper hit. 

You can order at the drive-thru window or settle into one of the five-ish tables in the gas station, a set-up that’s surprisingly homey and spacious for a petrol stop—especially if you’ve just returned from a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway or the nearby Pisgah National Forest.

Since 2002, this vegan soul food restaurant has been a cornerstone of the independent storefronts found on downtown Asheville’s Lexington Avenue. Its patio, framed with a floor-length curtain of macrame plant holders, is the perfect spot to catch live music and street performances from the wild cast of singer-songwriters and street performers who hang out downtown. A few standouts of the menu are the cast-iron cornbread served with gravy-smothered kale and the peanut-butter-baked tofu. Lean even harder into the New-Age, hippie energy and order from the local kombucha bar—they have fresh draft pours of what townies like to call “booch,” as well as cocktails and mocktails that feature “booched-up” versions of Old Fashioneds and margaritas.


The lines at this brunch spot are absurd, but Sunny Point’s garden courtyard and picnic tables turn the wait into an event of its own. You should occupy yourself with generously-poured mimosas and baked goods like scones, biscuits, and muffins. By the time you’re seated, we can’t promise you’ll be the same person you were when you arrived, but Southern farm-to-table staples like the fried chicken biscuit, carrot hotcakes, and pecan-crusted fried green tomato sandwich will make you new again. 

If you simply aren’t willing to wait, you can also snag coffee and pastries from the new on-site bakery Rabbit Hole. After your meal, check out the shops on Haywood Street, such as Harvest Records, Morgan’s Comics, Flora, and the Local 604 Bottle Shop.

These tacos, which get stuffed with everything from chipotle-stewed tinga to ground beef, always hit the mark. That’s especially true if you visited one too many breweries the night before and need something to help ease the pain. As far as breakfast goes, the jalapeño and fried tortilla-spiked migas are a hit, and you can never go wrong with the Mama’s Favorite: a sausage, egg, spinach, sweet potato, and goat cheese option wrapped in a plantain tortilla. 

Lunch tacos are well-rounded with fillings that range from fried chicken and stewed pork butt to several plant-based choices. Seating is limited and goes quickly over the weekend, but luckily, Taco Billy is only a few blocks away from the French Broad River, where there are plenty of benches and picnic tables.

This Asheville classic has dished out enormous cathead biscuits (named for literally being the size of a cat’s head) for nearly a decade and has two other locations in town. For a classic Southern joint that mainly serves biscuits, gravy, and breakfast sides like grits and fried green tomatoes, the many vegan and gluten-free options also hold their own. There are five different gravies—which you can and should order as a flight—including fried chicken and sweet potato coconut, plus a seasonally-inspired jam and butter bar that may be the most thrilling part of the meal. 

The lines can be out of control, but this is truly the fluffiest biscuit we’ve encountered, which is impressive considering the only thing Southerners take more seriously than biscuits is butter itself.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

The Best Restaurants In Charlotte image

The Best Restaurants In Charlotte

Yucatán-style pork butt, Miami-style Cubans, and California-style vegan menus in our city of transplants.

The Best Restaurants In Raleigh, North Carolina image

Where to eat macaroni au gratin, North Carolina oysters, and more.

Where To Eat In Durham, North Carolina image

The 16 best restaurants in Durham.

Spread of colorful Thai dishes including a whole roasted fish at International Market

A taco truck outside of a tiki bar, the best hot chicken, and all of our favorite alternatives to hot chicken in Nashville, Tennessee.

Infatuation Logo


2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store