Friday, May 2, 2014

Asheville Restaurant Round-Up

I have just returned from a fabulous trip to Asheville, North Carolina.  My husband and I went for our 5th wedding anniversary, and couldn't have picked a better spot for food lovers like us to celebrate it! Asheville was packed with amazing restaurants; it was nearly impossible to pick which restaurants to dine at during our short stay.  Restaurants that I skipped that I will for sure check out for next time include:  Early Girl Eatery, Tupelo Honey, Biscuit Head, Zambras, Salsas, and Sunny Point Cafe.  We stayed at a great B&B during our vacation (Carolina B&B), so that eliminated the need to go out for breakfast.  This wasn't a problem though, because the owners of the B&B created some of the best meals we had on the trip.  Overall, we ate very, very well on our trip! 

Most of the food we ate in Asheville absolutely wowed us.  There was actually only a few disappointments, which is kind of amazing considering the number of places we ate.  Just like with the Charleston Round-Up, I'm not going to do a full review of all the restaurants, but instead just do a highlight of each place.  


Medina's Village Bistro
This restaurant is actually in Chimney Rock, not Asheville.  We went for lunch, and sat outside on the patio, where we had a wonderful view of Chimney Rock and the village below.  Although the restaurant was only about a third full, it took 45 minutes to get the sandwiches we ordered, which was pretty frustrating.  I had the Chicken Salad on Sunflower Bread.  The bread was a little stale and the chicken salad itself was just okay: a little bland, but not bad.  My husband got the Italian Cold Cut Combo, which was a better choice and was thoroughly enjoyed.  The side was a cup of fruit, filled with none of the fruit the waitress said would be in it.  Still, the fruit was good.  Bottom line? I probably wouldn't return to this restaurant.

Medina's Village Bistro on Urbanspoon


Cucina 24
Out of all the restaurants I picked out in Asheville, this was the one I was most excited about.  I'm pregnant, and have been craving pasta pretty much every day, so I figured an Italian restaurant would really hit the spot.  Maybe I had my expectations set too high?  I ordered the Pasta Carbonara with Peas and Pancetta.  The pasta noodles were thick and gummy, the "Carbonara" sauce tasted nothing like Carbonara--it tasted like jarred alfredo sauce with WAY too much black pepper in it.  The worst part of the dish was the pancetta: it had been overcooked and was like eating hard little pebbles.  This pasta was probably the most disappointing dish I have had in a long time.  I wasn't the only other patron disappointed in my meal in the restaurant however.  As we were walking out, a nearby customer was yelling at the host about how awful his dish was.  I wonder if he ordered the Pasta Carbonara too? 

My husband ordered the White Pizza with anchovies, lemon peel, arugula and olives, and it was tasty.  It was what you would expect a $20 personal pizza to taste like (unlike the $20 pasta plate I had).  Everything on the pizza tasted fresh and the flavors were balanced nicely.  My recommendation?  If visiting Cucina 24, stick with the pizzas!

Cucina24 on Urbanspoon

12 Bones
12 Bones is probably the most talked about restaurant in Asheville, other than Tupelo Honey.  Major talking point?  How our President recently dined there.  We had plans to spend the afternoon hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we decided a BBQ joint would be the perfect place to fuel up for hiking.  We got there early (around 11) and avoided the long line that was snaking out the door when we left.  We both ordered the pulled pork sandwich plate, though opted for different sides.  My sides were the corn pudding and the cole slaw.  I didn't care for the cole slaw; it was vinegar based and soggy, and a bit too sweet.  The corn pudding however?  Oh my god. It was life changing.  I'm determined to learn how to make it like 12 Bones does.  Phenomenal.  

My husband chose the greens as his side ("tasty!" he pronounced), and the jalapeño cheese grits ("amazing!).  

As for the actual barbecue?  It wasn't life changing like the corn pudding was, but it was good, solid barbecue.  Overall, a great meal.

12 Bones Smokehouse on Urbanspoon


Limones serves Mexican-Californian cuisine, something you don't see a lot of in the East Coast.  This restaurant definitely had my favorite environment:  the waiter was cheerful and knowledgeable, the room was lit so you could easily see your food (unlike most fancy restaurants), and the decor matched the food.  Ahhh, and the food!  It was good!  We started with the Tuna Ceviche, which was served with avocado and papaya.  It was absolutely delightful.  A neighboring table ordered the lobster nachos as an appetizer, and just looking at it made me wish my stomach was big enough for two appetizers.  Next time.  

For my entree I ordered the Sea Bass, which sat upon a corn and poblano relish, lightly coated in a creamy sauce with just the right amount of acid to balance it all out.  The fish was cooked perfectly:  crispy on the outside, delicate and moist on the inside.  Perfect.

My husband ordered the Lamb Tacos, which were served with a black bean-chorizo tamale.  Both were cooked great, and had amazing flavors.  Unlike our dinner the previous night, both dishes were what I had been expecting of Asheville cuisine: original, unique, and delicious.  

Since the dinner was so great, we opted for dessert, and ordered the flan.  It was creamy and silky, and everything you'd want in flan.  Overall, Limones was a great, fun meal.

Limones on Urbanspoon


Bistro at Biltmore
After a full morning of walking around Biltmore Estates, we decided to eat at Bistro at Bitmore for lunch.  I ordered the Lobster Roll, which was was lobster salad served on a brioche roll. It was much larger than I was expecting, which was good because I was starving.  My husband ordered the Filet Tip sandwich with tomato jam, brie, and horseradish .  Both sandwiches were extremely tasty, and served with great tasting fries.  The only issue I had with the meal was how expensive it was, but that's to be expected when eating at a place where the Vanderbilts once lived!

Bistro on Urbanspoon


For our main anniversary dinner, we chose Curate, a Spanish tapas bar, to celebrate.  We are huge fans of small plate meals, as it allows us to try a bunch of different things on a menu.  The chef of Curate, Katie Button, is up for the prestigious James Beard award, and is clearly working her tail off to receive it.  Curate was, hands down, the best restaurant we ate at in Asheville, and was one of the best meals we both have had in a long, long time.  We ordered 7 different tapas, with 4 of them being absolutely incredible.  

The first tapa was a Chilled Garlic-Almond Soup with Grape Granizado and a Sherry Reduction.  It was one of those dishes that invokes a sensation that your mouth likely has never experienced before.  I can honestly say I've never had anything quite like it, and I was in heaven.  The flavor, the was all unexpectedly perfect.  It was definitely a dish that I will be remembering for years to come.

The second tapa was Tomato bread with manchego cheese.  The bread was topped with a olive oil-tomato mixture and was quite good, but surprisingly, I think the manchego actually took away from the dish.  If I ordered it again, I would order it without the cheese.

The third tapa was the one I most didn't want to order, but my husband insisted:  octopus served warm with sea salt and olive oil.  I have never really cared for the taste and texture of octopus.  So imagine my surprise when this ended up being the best dish of the night, hands down.  The octopus literally melted in my mouth, and tasted buttery and rich.  I had no idea that octopus could taste like that.  This dish was the most memorable dish I have eaten in years.  Absolutely incredible.  

The fourth tapa was piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese.  I thought this would be one of my favorites, but found it to just be okay.  It wasn't bad, just not amazing like the other dishes.  I felt like it was missing a key flavor--perhaps some honey would bring it up a notch?

The fifth tapa tied with the garlic soup as my second favorite dish of the night.  It was fried eggplant drizzled with honey, and it was outstanding.  It was tender and sweet, and tasted like dessert. It was unique and different, and we both loved it.

The sixth tapa was off the charcuterie menu, a sampling of the 3 types of smoked ham they serve at Curate.  All three were delicious, but the Iberico de Bellota (free range iberico pig that had been acorn fatted) was hands down the best of the three, and like nothing I had ever tasted before.  It was nutty and rich.

I ate most of it before I remembered to take a picture :)
We finished our meal off with a seventh tapa, a dessert:  pistachio sponge cake with lemon-thyme ice cream.  Of all the tapas, this was our least favorite.  It wasn't sweet at all, a bit dry, and kind of dull compared to the other great dishes we had eaten.  

Overall, Curate was the best restaurant we visited in Asheville.  Everything was cooked wonderfully, prepared thoughtfully, and created with a unique vision.  Completely and totally recommend!

Cúrate on Urbanspoon


White Duck Taco
On our way out of town to head home from our vacation, we stopped at one final restaurant:  White Duck Taco in the River District.  There is a White Duck Taco downtown, but I think the ambiance at the River District probably adds to the enjoyment of the restaurant.  It's a funky little place, with brightly colored picnic tables to sit on outside, and a menu full of unique and interesting taco combinations.  I ordered the Bangkok Shrimp Taco (shrimp with cucumber and a honey chile sauce) and a Buffalo Chicken Taco.  Both were tasty, with the shrimp taco being my favorite.

My husband ordered the Korean Beef Bulgogi taco and the Jerk Chicken taco, with the Korean taco being his clear favorite, but enjoying both immensely.  

White Duck Taco was absolutely fantastic, and if we lived in Asheville, I could easily see this restaurant becoming our weekly go-to place.  

White Duck Taco Shop on Urbanspoon



  1. Not enough desserts! Glad yall had a good time!

    1. Actually I visited two different dessert places, I just forgot to take any pictures because I ate it up too fast! I visited French Broad Chocolate Lounge and we ordered liquid truffles--it's served in a cup, and it's melted ganache that you drink. I got the honey-lavender and Ryan got the Indian Kulfi, which was spiced with rose, pistachio, and cardamom. Both were fantastic! We also visited The Chocolate Fetish, which is owned by my childhood best friend's parents (and my friend is a chocolate artist there, and does amazing things), and loaded up on truffles. I seriously have never had such fantastic chocolate in my entire life. We were able to get a tour of the entire place and it's inner workings, and I want to live right there in Asheville's very own Willy Wonka factory!

  2. We love the restaurants in Asheville too! I'm glad you enjoyed what you had. I agree that Chocolate Fetish is the best. My husband loves White Duck.

    1. I wanted to try the pizza restaurant owned by the White Duck folks, but sadly didn't get a chance. Too many great choices in Asheville!