Tag Archives: biscuits

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.

Brews

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…

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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:

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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:

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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.

Food

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:

Fried Chicken in the South

On our Southern Road Trip we had fried chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And before you exclaim – ‘for breakfast?!’ – I have to ask, why are we in the UK fine with fried bacon and sausage for breakfast, but not chicken? I’m not sure I see a difference.

Unlike in London I haven’t seen that many fried chicken shops in DC – but maybe that’s because I’ve been in the wrong areas (ie – gentrified). But there’s always been plenty of opportunity to get fried chicken in diners, restaurants, and one place I really want to try that specializes in only chicken and donuts (not together, but maybe they fry them in the same oil?). One place that R had been for a fried chicken breakfast is actually not available in DC, and that’s Chick fil A (yes, that’s really how they spell it). This small chain can be found all over Virginia but for political reasons (so I’m told) can only be sourced in the DC metro area from a food truck at lunchtime.

We were now in the South though – where Chick fil A started out (Georgia) – and the chicken options were plentiful. So this is a run down of our chicken experiences on our road trip through Tennessee and Georgia. (South Carolina was a whole different culinary experience – more about this another time.)

For breakfast/brunch/lunch

  • Chicken and gravy on biscuits

Biscuits are like fluffy, soft scones, which makes a nice contrast to the crunchy fried chicken. Gravy is also not what you think, but more a savory (maybe onion flavored?) white sauce – really good. Here’s a recipe for it that I’m thinking of trying: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-gravy-recipe.html

  • Chick fil A breakfast sandwich

I finally experienced it! I know this chain has some pretty right-wing religious views, but I can’t help liking the food and the advertising concept.

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Chick fil A’s chicken is always juicy and high quality. And their biscuits were beautiful: warm, buttery, light and crumbly. I added barbecue sauce, but really needn’t have.

For Dinner

  • Nashville Hot Chicken

We had heard about this Nashville dish from a friend who was born in the South. I think they marinade the chicken in spices, add a hot paste (made mainly of cayenne pepper) either before or after frying it, and then serve it on white bread. (Here’s one recipe, but I imagine there are many versions.) We went to Hattie B’s hot chicken in midtown and while we had to queue for about 45 minutes it was absolutely worth it. Used to Americans being a bit soft when it comes to spice level, I went for the hot option, and R went for ‘damn hot’. They certainly lived up to their names, and we were glad we’d avoided the even hotter option (‘Shut the cluck up!!!’) which I imagine really does require its ‘burn notice’ warning. We were really glad of the refreshing and creamy sides of vinegar coleslaw and pimento mac and cheese. We also got a pitcher of beer, which helped. Overall we really enjoyed our meal, especially as we got to eat outside on a deck, which weirdly reminded me of the lobster shack we’d eaten in in Maine. I guess there was a similar rough and ready, casual vibe about them both, which I love.

  • Southern picnic

My Atlanta friend thoughtfully put this together for us. She served fried chicken alongside pimento cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs and watermelon – perfect. She also introduced us to the concepts of putting salt on watermelon (not sure I saw a difference) and peanuts in coca-cola (you really have to try it – add about 4 in a small cup).

I should really have taken a picture before we devoured it...
I should really have taken a picture before we devoured it…

To try at home:

For those looking to create some of these dishes at home, you could probably also make a few of them with the healthier baked ‘fried’ chicken: this one looks good to me.

One thing we still haven’t tried is that wonderfully American dish of chicken fried steak. They obviously thought, well, fried chicken is so well-loved that they thought why not treat steak that way too? If, like me, you’re curious, here’s the recipe I’m going to try to make if ever I get off my post road trip diet!