Tag Archives: beer

Asheville road trip: eating and drinking in Asheville

Asheville is a great town in which to spend a weekend – especially if you have some weather like we had.

When people had told us about Asheville they had talked about the craft breweries, the arty/hipster vibe of the town and the Vanderbilts’ Biltmore House and Estate. Luckily it turned out that it was possible to experience all of these in just a few days, and in fact we fit most of our sightseeing and pub-crawling into just one day, as I was actually attending my conference the rest of the time(!)

So here’s a run down of where we ate and drank over the three days we had in Asheville.


Wicked Weed: Our first night in Asheville we managed to find the Wicked Weed Brewing pub/restaurant. They specialise in West Coast-style hoppy IPAs and they did not disappoint. This is my kind of beer, so I was pretty happy. Their burgers were also amazing, including one topped with pancetta and pork rinds and a bison burger with hoi sin sauce and blue cheese coleslaw. I liked the complimentary pretzels with mustard dip. Some of the beers are rather strong, and some are a bit experimental – mango guava gose anyone? – but I’d rather have a place that misses from time to time than one that isn’t interested in trying stuff out.The pub has a large garden area and is able to open most of its frontage to the open air, so you feel like you’re eating outside even when you’re inside. They also have a downstairs tasting room and a yard area that gets busy on a weekend evening, with long tables, loud music and games of corn hole. We ended up here for a late night drink the next night…


Lexington Avenue Brewery: On Friday we started here, closer in to the center of town. This place has a nice variety of beers, and I was able to find a nice session beer to start the evening with. No free snacks here, but we ordered some really great soft pretzels. Although this place does not have a garden, if you can get seats at the front you can lean on the large window ledges and enjoy the open air of the square outside. This was also a really friendly place – we got some good recommendations for other breweries from the other patrons here.

Oysterhouse Brewing Company:


We stopped here for a mid-afternoon snack after going round Biltmore. On first sight it looks just like a nice cafe-bar on a corner. There’s a few tables out front, the frontage opens to the street, and there’s a nice bar with oyster shells embedded in the top. If you go to the bathroom though, you come across the brewery! We had a really great stout here, along with some excellent oysters. I didn’t expect to find good seafood in the mountains, but these were fresh from New England, and delicious.

The Wedge:


This was probably our favourite brewery in Asheville. Based in a few old buildings by the railway, in the Asheville Arts District, this place has a large amount of outside space for people to enjoy, and free mini-pretzels and a Korean barbecue food truck in case you get hungry. We sat in the sunshine, at a picnic table which we ended up sharing with a group of hikers who had just finished a hike in the mountains. They were interested to find out how we’d found the Wedge, and what people had told us about Asheville, and were very happy to give us some recommendations for where else to drink, and eat, and hear some music. As can happen when you find that perfect beer and a sunny place to enjoy it in, time rather got away from us at this brewery, and we ended up heading back to the hotel sunburnt and sleepy.

The Thirsty Monk: We came here for a beer while we waited for a table at Tupelo Honey. It was a cool pub, decorated with signs from breweries from around the US, and the beer was good, Belgian style beer.


Tupelo Honey: Although this is a chain, we decided it was worth eating here while we were in Asheville. And it was good. First came pickled and fried vegetables with ranch dressing, and fried green tomatoes with grits. I must admit, I just don’t get fried green tomatoes. The grits were great, but the tomatoes were just acidic. For mains we decided to go with the meals that included a choice of two sides, as a Southerner once told us that Southern-style food is all about the sides. I had the Carolina pan-seared trout along with mac and cheese and basil fried green beans, which was just perfect, while R went the whole hog and had fried chicken with gravy, sweet potatoes and okra – very Southern!

Biscuit Head:

I cannot recommend this place highly enough. We went here on the way out to Biltmore for breakfast/brunch and it was a revelation in biscuits. Here we were introduced to the Cat head biscuit – biscuits literally as big as a cat’s head – smothered in various breakfasty toppings and sauces. This is probably the only place in the world you can get a flight of gravies to go with your biscuit. We had a go at sharing both the pulled pork biscuit (which comes with maple syrup, pimento, bacon and a poached egg) and the country ham biscuit (which comes with cheese, scrambled egg, fried green tomato and espresso gravy). It’s a lovely place too, with space in and out, and friendly staff. You queue to order and then find somewhere to sit – it doesn’t take as long as you might fear from the length of the queue, and while we were queuing they brought out refreshing testers of iced chai. You also get unmatched proper mugs for your coffee, which I thought was a nice touch.

Getting Around

While Asheville has a nice and compact downtown area, and you can just about walk to the downtown arts district – which is around where the Wedge is – we found that it was helpful to have a car, especially to get to Biscuit Head and the Oysterhouse.

Locals’ Recommendations

We didn’t manage to check these places out, but we were told good things about them. One thing we noticed about Asheville was that its restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisines – if we hadn’t been so looking forward to Southern food and Brew-pub snacks, we would have been spoiled for choice. (Some of these might require reservations)

  • Zambra: tapas restaurant
  • Table: modern American restaurant
  • Limones: Californian/Mexican restaurant
  • Early Girl Eatery: brunch place
  • Catawba: brewery
  • Green Man: brewery
  • The Moth Light: music venue
  • Asheville Music Hall/One Stop Deli and Bar: food, drink and music


Read other posts in this series:


‘American’ Food

This post was written a couple of months ago, but I just found it and thought I’d post – just to add to my growing collection of food posts.

[image by Imjustmatthew (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

I’m having a love affair with crab. Crab cakes and crab dip to be precise. And while I keep thinking that it will become too rich, too cloying – as dressed crab in the UK always did – between two halves of sweet bun or muddled with horseradish, this obsession is not going anywhere.

Of course this is just a part of my wider love affair with American food and beer. I thought that after a few months I’d be bored of burgers and IPA and desperate to get back to the joys of camembert and Bordeaux, but that just shows how ignorant I was of the variety of burgers and beers that can be experienced over here. I reckon I’ve got at least another month before I start to crave what some over here call indiscriminately ‘ethnic food’.

So here’s a quick list of the best places to get American food – especially crab – that I’ve been to so far. Most are in DC, but I thought it would be unfair to miss out the best brew pub in Binghampton for merely geographical reasons – especially as it restored my faith in upstate NY after being horribly disappointed by the Holiday Inn room service. (That experience went something like this: ‘Can I get a beer?’ ‘What kind do you want?’ ‘Do you have any local IPAs?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well do you have any IPAs?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, then what do you have?!’)

  1. Legal Seafoods. I thought I’d had the best crab dip in the world. I hadn’t until I came here. This is without doubt the best crab dip you will get in DC – they’ve certainly had the time to get it right. They also, according to numerous reviews, have the best crab cakes, and the best seafood in general. And their New England style clam chowder has the presidential seal of approval, having been served at the inaugurations since 1981. Certainly I couldn’t choose from all the delicious looking things on the menu and had to go with their wood-grilled assortment (chef’s choice of three types of wood-grilled fish with jumbo shrimp and sweet, sweet scallops as well as a choice of two sides). While I ate some of the vegetable sides for vitamins I relinquished most of the fries in favour of eating more fish – there was no way I could eat it all. I seem to remember we had wine, and dessert, and that they – and the service – were also excellent. But what sticks in the memory is that crab dip and those sweet scallops.
  2. Capitol City Brewing Company. This was my favourite crab dip before we went to Legal Seafoods. One of the best things about this place is that you get warm pretzels with a mustard dip instead of an ordinary dinner roll – and they’re also available free at the bar to accompany your beer. CCBC also has the best crab cake sandwich I’ve tasted. In fact I can’t bring myself to try any of the other ‘entrees’ on the menu. I’m just not willing to forgo that pleasure which I really thought would tip over and get too much, but never did. The wings are ok, and I’m told the burgers are very good but, for me, it’s just about the beer, the pretzels and the crab cake.
  3. Cashions. Now this is another place where American food comes with wine rather than beer. Good wine too – we enjoyed an Argentinian red made from one of those minor French grapes like malbec that’s done so well in South America. This is also one of those places where you can have a burger, and I’m sure it would be an amazing burger, and no-one would judge you for it, but how can you pass up the bison steak? Or the scallops? This is a local but somewhat fancy restaurant – people come here to celebrate special occasions – and the people who run it are just the best examples of famous American hospitality I’ve seen over here. We were three people with no reservation on a busy Saturday night, but they didn’t turn a hair. In terms of their menu, they keep it simple and short, and change it with the availability of local ingredients – what more could you ask for?
  4. Galaxy Brewing Company (Binghampton). This place was just the perfect American experience. We showed up with nine people and were seated immediately. There’s plenty of room, a two-sided list of beers on tap, and the staff are friendly. On the night we were there a country/folk duo were playing who produced a sound like something out of Inside Llewyn Davies. I had a special – crab cake BLT – which was a great idea, and definitely lived up to its billing. There was also a spirited debate about whether either of the vegetarians had ever tasted a better veggie burger, so I think the rest of the menu was equally good. The beer was one of the most beautifully balanced, hoppy, fruity and well-kept IPAs I’ve ever tasted. It was, for me, perfection. It was great later on to be able to share that with the proprietor, who, in that lovely way of smaller towns, came to ask us how things had been.
  5. Black Squirrel. Did you know there was such a thing as a black squirrel? Well there is, and we have them in DC. They’re slightly larger than the grey squirrel and sometimes boast a chestnut-coloured tail, and they give the name to this small bar/restaurant on 18th street. There’s not much that differentiates it from other good pubs that serve American food, but they do a number of very good burgers topped with various cheeses, bacon etc., and serve excellent beers from around the US.
  6. Jack Rose. Or, as they call themselves, Jack Rose ‘Dining Saloon’. It’s hard for me to remember the food here as what they’re really good at is whisky – especially bourbon and rye, of which they’ll pour you a tasting flight if you ask. But I seem to remember some excellent whisky-glazed wings, a good burger, and a seriously good sandwich. And I think that’s the food group that’s most different over here – the sandwich. While one of our aristocracy may give his name to it, the Americans have entirely reinvented the genre. Here you can have a sandwich for dinner because they’re that satisfying.

As people might correctly object, this list covers a relatively narrow variety of what I’m calling ‘American’ food. I guess I’m mainly sticking to foods that are representative of American pub-food, and mostly specialities from Maryland and New York. I’ve not covered Southern cuisine – grits, barbeque, Cajun – but I’ve not experienced enough of that yet, and I’m also not sure that DC’s the best place to do so. Also this list does not include fast-food, or pizza. For the record, there are some pretty upscale fast food places over here – Five Guys, for example, which I think is now also in Manchester, and Shake Shack with its amazing secret sauce. These deserve their own post, which I’m sure I’ll get round to at some point!