Tree-covered mountains, tranquil creeks, stunning waterfalls: The natural beauty is reason enough to visit Asheville, North Carolina. Plus, the city has a thriving restaurant and local brewery scene that is constantly evolving. Just this year, the city earned a spot on Zagat's 26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016. Here are some of the newest and hottest places to eat and drink in the Blue Ridge’s coolest town.
Buxton Hall Barbecue
James Beard–nominees Elliott Moss and Meherwan Irani opened what is arguably the hottest barbecue joint of 2016 in Asheville’s brewery mecca, South Slope. The Eastern Carolina–style spot recently received the #9 nod on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants in America list for its local, pasture-raised whole hogs that are smoked for 18 hours over a combination of oak, cherry and hickory.
Insider tip: Try the fried chicken sandwich; it's smoked before it hits the fryer.
32 Banks Ave., Asheville; 828-232-7216
Executive chef Justin Burdett, an alum of Atlanta’s Miller Union and Hugh Acheson’s 5 & 10, prepares sleek, locally sourced, Southern fare at his chic new restaurant. The regularly changing menu celebrates the Southeast with modern dishes ranging from fried oysters with champagne mignonette and buttermilk whipped lardo, to apple brandy flank steak and grilled South Carolina stuffed quail. Burdett’s ability to hone the area’s impeccable local ingredients earned him a place in the national spotlight.
Insider tip: Fermented and cured items are Burdett’s specialty.
77 Biltmore Ave., Asheville; 828-424-7815
Gan Shan Station
North Asheville–native Patrick O’Cain spent time cooking in some of Charleston’s most acclaimed kitchens, including Sean Brock's McCrady’s Tavern and award-winning Xiao Bao Biscuit, before returning to his hometown. He opened Gan Shan Station with the help of Chris Hatchock, another Charleston expat who spent time at acclaimed, now defunct Two Boroughs Larder. O’Cain transformed an old gas station into this East Asian–inspired eatery that focuses on boldly flavored interpretations of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese fare. Expect well-executed dishes ranging from pork ramen and spicy drunken noodles, to Sichuan beef stir-fry and Korean-style wings.
Insider tip: Call 48 hours in advance to book the $45 per person chef’s table experience.
143 Charlotte St., Asheville; 828-774-5280
Set in a Grovewood Village bungalow next to the Omni Grove Park Inn, this upscale Mediterranean place has been quickly gathering a following since it opened in March 2016. In a nod to owner Giorgio Bakatsias' heritage, the menu skews Greek with a range of classic dips (think skordalia and tzatziki) and Aegean-influenced entrees like grilled lamb chops and flame-kissed whole branzino.
Insider tip: The octopus is a must-order.
111 Grovewood Rd., Asheville; 828-424-7655
This visually stunning Downtown cocktail bar offers great drinks, excellent food and a cool, vintage vibe. The place has been a go-to for adult beverage enthusiasts since opening in 2014, but earlier this year it got an upgrade with a new outdoor patio and expanded menu prepared by incoming chef Graham House. Dishes include internationally inspired selections like bone marrow tater tots, white hominy pozole and Joyce Farms chicken breast with cabbage soubise, oyster mushroom, crispy quinoa and carrot and bacon espuma.
Insider tip: The place regularly hosts farmers and foragers for special events.
29 N. Market St. #105, Asheville; 828-919-9518
James Beard–finalist John Fleer is one of Asheville’s top toques. His farm-to-table icon, Rhubarb, has been a longtime favorite in the city's vibrant dining scene. In early 2016, he opened The Rhu, a cafe, bakery and shop, offering paired down versions of his regionally inspired fare for breakfast and lunch. The menu includes a wide selection of toasts offered on different housemade loaves along with cereals, eggs, sandwiches, salads and entrees.
Insider tip: Pick a picnic package for lunch on the go.
10 S. Lexington Ave., Asheville; 828-785-1799
Wicked Weed Funkatorium
Since brewing their first batch of beer in 2011, brothers Walt and Luke Dickson have gone on to become two of the biggest players in Asheville's killer craft beer scene. Wicked Weed now has three locations with a fourth on the way. The Funkatorium, the East Coast’s first sour and funky brew-dedicated taproom, is a must-visit. Snack on tapas, like boquerones, beef stew and prosciutto flatbread, while exploring interesting barrel-aged brews.
Insider tip: Scheduled tours of the barrel room are available every day.
147 Coxe Ave., Asheville; 828-552-3203
After spending four years in Southern Mexico, gathering recipes and tips from grandmothers and street vendors, Hunter and Beth Berry opened this casual West Asheville taqueria. Lunch is great, but the breakfast tacos draw the crowds. Local ingredients are used in options like the migas tacos, filled with Farside Farms eggs, onions, colby Jack cheese, tomatoes and jalapeños.
Insider tip: Plan to arrive early for a seat.
201 Haywood Rd., Asheville; 828-505-0088