Weekend Postcard: Asheville, North Carolina

8 July 2014

Earlier this year,  I made a plan to travel more domestically.  While Croatia and Goa are certainly still high on my travel-to-do-list, I thought the continental United States of America should be explored first.  We’ve ticked the boxes for Portland, Charleston, San Francisco, Atlanta, the Adirondacks, and Philadelphia thus far.  Up next was Asheville, North Carolina and the long 4th of July weekend proved to be perfect timing. 

When we were planning our trip to Asheville many of our friends misheard us and excitedly responded, “Nashville?!!” When corrected with, “No, Asheville, as in North Carolina,” we were met with looks of confusion. With no real ties to the town, we were really just going on a whim with a need to be outdoors with some fresh air.  About 4 hours west of Raleigh, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and consistently recently voted as one of the upcoming food capitals of the US, Asheville lived up to the hype.  From the burgeoning culinary scene, to the buzzing arts + crafts and the obvious hiking, sight-seeing and general outdoorsyness made this a destination to be visited again.

Here are a few of the highlights from the trip including eating, drinking + sleeping. I also went ahead and made a few notes on where not* to eat.

Hiking: I try to balance my overconsumption with outdoor activities/physical activity. After our trip to the Adirondacks, I’ve invested in a proper pair of hiking boots and have been eyeing those professional walking sticks, but I’m not that serious yet. Nor do I think I can pull it off without looking like I’m  trying way too hard. I’ll stick to the hands out tight rope walk-dance I’ve been perfecting and just grab onto tree branches when I need to ensure I don’t fall face first.

There are over 3,000+ miles of free, public hiking trails near Asheville, including 1,600 miles in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, 850 miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and many more along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We chose an intermediate trail called Black Balsam Knob in the Black Balsam area. It took about 2 hours total and wasn’t crazy difficult, in fact many folks were hiking with their dogs; if Fido can do it, you can do it.

Here’s an excellent list of the Best Hikes in Asheville.

hiking

this is me basking in the glory of making it up the mountain and not falling. OK! High Five!

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Bob Ross would have died and gone to heaven if he saw this.

Make sure you stop by the following on your drive around The Blue Ridge Parkway: Sliding Rock (which has become a bit commercial since my family visited when I was a little girl) but still worth the look. Lookout Falls and Turtle Back Falls. All easy pit-stops before or after your hike.

Eating & Drinking:

There are so many good spots in Asheville, we had to really be picky with our reservations. Some lived up to the hype and some did not. I’ll do my best to steer you to the ones that you MUST NOT MISS, and the ones that were super meh.  4 stars is like the new “Most Improved” or “Team Player” award you’d get playing ball (any ball) as a kid but, really, you sucked and no one wanted to hurt your feelings.  Yelp lies!

Let’s start with the place you should skip: Table in downtown Asheville. Remember when you were in high school or maybe your first year in college and your entire wardrobe consisted of Abercrombie? And the part of the “shopping experience” of their “customer service” was to not have a shred of “customer service” at all. Basically ignore you, not make eye contact when you ask for a size 6 instead of size 00 and then charge you $89.99 for a pair of jeans. Well, Table is the equivalent of Abercrombie in the epicurean sense. Shit service, mediocre food and, like me, if I were using hiking walking sticks, trying way too hard.  Not to mention the “locally and sustainable menu,” with shark and marlin on the menu, totally hypocritical. Not impressed.

Breakfast: Over Easy Cafe, simple, casual, well priced + mostly importantly, damn good food. I should have ordered another biscuit. A line will begin around 11am, so either get there early or prepare to wait for a bit.

Beer & Snacks: Wicked Weed. I don’t even drink beer and this place made me want to try them all. The team at Wicked Weed brews their own beer and the snacks pair nicely.  Asheville has a dozen microbreweries and five annual beer festivals, so if you’re a beer person, take note.

Tacos: Again, I under ordered at White Duck Taco Shop. Which looks like a food truck all grown up into brick and mortar. I got the fish taco and then ate half of Patrick’s Bahn Mi. They also serve beer to wash it down. Bonus!

IF YOU READ ANYTHING IN THIS POST, READ THIS NEXT RECOMMENDATION.

Dinner: The Admiral in West Asheville. Described as “the elegance of a clipper ship in full sail with the practicality and economy of a cinder block.” This made absolutely no sense to me until I actually walked into the Admiral. From the facade below you can see it really looks like it was built with cinder blocks in a perfect square. On the inside it resembles a classy dive bar with super low ceilings. A Budweiser sign sits in the corner with only the portion “dwe” lit, appearing as “dive“–as if you didn’t get the memo this was in fact, a dive bar.  But don’t let the sign and vintage decor fool you. The service and food was anything but. From the first course, an inventive cauliflower mousse, to our dessert, a basil lemon sponge-cake concoction that had me licking the plate, was probably one the best meals I’ve had in my life. I can’t recommend it enough. Reservations are strongly recommended as this place is pretty small + gets super packed. Pro Tip: On Saturday nights they throw a 50/60’s themed dance party around 11PM. Sadly, I ate my weight in food and couldn’t boogie if I tried.  Next time… because I will be back.

the admirial asheville north carolina

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Last but not least:

Take an entire day to visit The Biltmore House.  The largest privately owned home in America (yes, bigger than that copycat version of Versailles) built by George Washington Vanderbilt with construction beginning in 1889.  The home itself was absolutely insane for obviously reasons: golden gilded walls, priceless art and chateauesque style architecture. However, my personal favorite was the landscaping, designed by genius architect, Frederick Olmsted (who designed Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City.) The gardens were designed to always have something blooming no matter the season. It included, Italian Gardens with a lily pond and koi, a walled garden, an azalea garden and rose & butterfly garden, even a shrub garden that consists of more than 500 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees. Buy tickets in advance here.

The Biltmore. I highly suggest valeting your car too, so you can pull right up to the front of the house like you own the place. It's only $10 and will save you a ride in a shuttle with 20 people you don't know.

The Biltmore. I highly suggest valeting your car too, so you can pull right up to the front of the house like you own the place. It’s only $10 and will save you a ride in a shuttle with 20 people you don’t know.

ceiling details

ceiling details

The Italian Gardens of The Biltmore

The Italian Gardens of The Biltmore

one of the many chandeliers.

one of the many chandeliers.

If and when you go, start in the gardens first.  Get there early, the grounds open at 8:30AM with the tours of The Biltmore home beginning at 9am.  You can even bring your bike to ride around the grounds and trails. A full winery sits in the middle of the compound with a creamery and farm.

Featured Image: our hotel, The Grove Park Inn.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” — Susan Sontag

Categories: food, Lifestyle, travel

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