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For Labor Day weekend, we're going to drive down the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC. Has anyone been, and can suggest anything? The egullet threads were a bit old. Nothing too fancy-- unless it's a must-go.
(On the way down, we're stopping in Roanoke for the night, and on the way back, stopping in Charlottesville for dinner. If anyone has recommendations for either of those places, that's appreciated too, but we've already got a few places for C-ville, and Roanoke is really just a pit stop.)

Thanks!

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Had a tasty microbrew with above average bar apps at Jack of the Wood pub back in April. And I *think* we had a nice meal at Tupelo Honey Cafe, but I'm not 100% sure that was the place we went. Rachael Ray did a show on Asheville which somehow confused me.

The food at our B&B was fantastic but I assume you can only eat there if you're staying... let me know if you want the name and I'll dig around.

Have a great trip! Lovely part of the country. Just gorgeous.

Jael

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Along the Parkways, not sure. But if you venture off the Parkway onto I-77, at the NC/Virginia border there's a BBQ joint called Wallace Bros.

From VA, exit at the last VA exit, go under I-77 and turn right and right again. You cannot see the restaurant from the Interstate.

From NC, take the first VA exit (Exit 1, I beleive), turn right and right again.

Its the real deal NC style BBQ pork, chopped or sliced. The slaw is a Lexington style (vinegar and red pepper) and the hush puppies worth the stop alone.

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We had two great meals in Asheville-

Tupelo Honey Cafe for brunch. Extremely affordable and casual place. I had shrimp and goat cheese grits, which were so tasty and had a cajun kick and was only $10! My husband had catfish with a green salsa over grits. He loved the salsa. Meals came with homemade biscuits. All in all, a fabulous meal.

Zambra for dinner, which is a Spanish tapas place. We were both very skeptical, and the menu wasn't that inspiring. To our surprise, everything was very well prepared and tasty! Medium-rare hangar steak that was nice and red inside; portabella mushroom with a nice olive tapenade; cornmeal-crusted oysters; and warm olives (only $3!!). The only negative was the mashed potatoes accompanying the steak....I had a very strong suspicion that they were out of a box, and even if they weren't, it was not a good sign that they tasted as such. It had a casual and eclectic vibe. Also, very reasonably priced. (the couple next to us, also from out of town, also privately expressed their plesant surprise at how good everything was.)

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I had dinner last night at Tupelo Honey Cafe. I started the meal with a house salad ($3.50), that was nice and fresh, with sunfower seeds and a tangy housemaid spicy tomato dressing. I then had a plate of the shrimp and grits($13.00). The grits were creamy and infused with pepper and cheese. the shrimp cooked just right and a spice mixture that was a perfect contrast to the grits. Accompied with a nice reisling, the meal was perfect and i got a outside table to boot. The resturant does not take reservations and by the time i left, there was a large line at the door. The bisquits were fluffy and the jam seemed to be homemade. A wonderful meal! Service was great too.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Brian T Sinoskus, Executive Chef

12 College Street

Asheville, NC 28801

828-255-4863

http://www.tupelohoneycafe.com

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I'm heading to Asheville for the weekend. Sounds like Tupelo Honey is a good bet. Anyone been recently and have any other recs? My sister mentioned a place called Table... ?

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I'm heading to Asheville for the weekend. Sounds like Tupelo Honey is a good bet. Anyone been recently and have any other recs? My sister mentioned a place called Table... ?

A friend of mine was down there recently and raved about a place called Savoy.

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A friend of mine was down there recently and raved about a place called Savoy.

We ate at Savoy, but were blown away only by the dessert--a chocolate caramel tart with Guiness ice cream which was seriously delicious. I had the Carolina trout, which was very good, but the potato-apricot "risotto" that accompanied it was weird--strange texture and practically no flavor. Jonathan's salmon was overcooked and the roasted cauliflower on the side was ordinary. A bit disappointing for a place that is supposed to be the best restaurant in Asheville, and which charges DC prices.

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We ate at Savoy, but were blown away only by the dessert--a chocolate caramel tart with Guiness ice cream which was seriously delicious. I had the Carolina trout, which was very good, but the potato-apricot "risotto" that accompanied it was weird--strange texture and practically no flavor. Jonathan's salmon was overcooked and the roasted cauliflower on the side was ordinary. A bit disappointing for a place that is supposed to be the best restaurant in Asheville, and which charges DC prices.

Table is an outstanding restaurant which, if in D. C., would be one of our best. Perhaps on par with Palena and Vidalia. I cannot rave about this place more. (Chocolate dessert called Budino is the single best chocolate dessert I have had in my life! Serious.) Zambra was good for what it is; comfortable, soft dimly lit ambience. Good food but less about food and more about ambience and very reasonable pricing (as are most of the restaurants we went to in Asheville; I thought Table was a real bargain for its excellence! I cannot rave about this place enough!) Tupelo Honey had excellent breakfast along with good soup and dinner salads-pan fried potatoes are delicious as are the pancakes. Chocolate Fetish has remarkably good chocolate truffles for the U. S. Still, Table (along with Greenville, SC's Sobe's (best cream of crab soup I have ever had) and Savannah's Sapphire Grille (best fried calamari) is one of my favorite restaurants in an area that more people should experience. All three are serious dining experiences representative of each city's best.

I should also note here that we stopped in Chilhowee, VA at the Towne House Grill. Remarkable. Just remarkable. Literally, a Twilight Zone kind of experience. The definitive comments for this place are from "Estufarian" on Chowhound.

Our trip through Asheville, Greenville, Savannah and Hilton Head Island ended up with several restaurants worthy of a journey.

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I used to live and work in Boone, NC which is about 20 minutes away from Asheville. Everyone used to talk about Richmond Hill Inn... The restaurant there is supposed to be great, if you're willing to spend that money or are planning a special night out.

good luck

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Two days in Asheville is hardly enough time to gauge the food scene of even a small city like this one, but based on the other recommendations here, I managed to get three good-to-excellent meals here this past weekend. The raves about Table are by and large well earned. The space is informal--butcher block tables, wood floors, one wall that is mostly glass blocks, the other walls mostly bare--to match a menu that emphasizes locally sourced ingredients. Rather than go for the appetizers, which averaged $8-12, we went for two of the "tastings," $4/5 each, which were more than enough as starters. The "Devils on Horseback" were dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon; the salmon rillettes were served on red pepper pancakes. These went well with our nicely made cocktails--a potent Old-fashioned and a martini with elderberry liqueur (a bit sweet at first, but it went down well).

For entrees, Bob went for a sea bass on olive mashed potatoes with baby octupus and a vegetable I can't recall. My taste suggested that the fish and potatoes were an inspired combo, and the fish was perfectly grilled, though Bob was more enamored of the sides than the bass. Exact opposite for me--the thick Hickory Gap pork chop was perhaps the most flavorful and juiciest of that cut I've had; next to this spectacular piece of meat, it's no slam to say thatthe apple/fall vegie hash and molasses sauce were relative bit players. We each had nicely sized pours of an Oregon pinot and a Spanish blend, shared a chocolate/orange tart with elderberry ice cream for dessert. At about $65 apiece with tax and 20% tip, we felt we had a solid and delicious bargain.

Breakfast at Tupelo Honey on Sunday was worth the 50-minute wait, but primarily for the extraordinary coffee and fluffy biscuits with homemade blueberry preserves. The entrees were good, but would have been better if they hadn't been left too long under the heat lamps due to the place being slammed. Bob had a grilled pimento cheese/cheddar sandwich with tomato soup and a side of mashed cauliflower with cheese; I had "Eggs Betty" (like Eggs Benedict, but with ham and biscuit), which came with a huge side of home fries, and an extra of very good bacon. This is a place I'd like to try again during the evening, but at the very least we came away stuffed.

Given our relative fullness, we decided to try Zambra for dinner, with its tapas menus, which would allow us to control portions easily. I have to admit, I was skeptical of the menu, since it seemed to be a sort of fusion of Spanish, Asian, and Southern influences. But the skillful execution and fine flavors won us over. We started with a negroni, made with fresh OJ instead of vermouth, and a "Pimms Taza," a fantastic drink with Pimm's #1, ginger brew, and a cucumber infusion. Truly refreshing. The kitchen seemed to be way backed up that night, so the food came out fairly slowly, but each dish was worth waiting for: merguez and rice croquettes, a lamb taco, wild mushrooms with sweet potato wontons and edamame, and a mix of patatas bravas, baby octopus, and caper berries. Again, a pair of good-sized pours of a 2004 Montecastro, Ribera del Duero, and a final bill of about $70 with tax and tip.

Again, I have no idea if there is much more depth to Asheville's restaurant scene than this. But these were three places that would sit high in just about any city, and I'd gladly return to them all.

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Some friends just opened an Indian ''street food" restaurant. Chai Pani has been open about a month and is getting mostly good reviews. People I know who've tried it were very pleased. I admit to a little bias, as I've known the owners for many years.

Chai Pani

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Meals in Asheville over the last two weeks:

Breakfast at Tupelo Honey-great biscuits, homemade black raspberry jam, entrees were HUGE, tasty, and did we mention HUGE? I ordered the kid's little sweet potato pancakes for my two year old and what he got were two eight inch wide, half inch thick rounds of yumminess.

Dinner at Early Girl Eatery- you need to get the braised local lamb shank, so awesome. I'd skip dessert though, we were not impressed with the slice of German chocolate cake we got to go.

Dinner at Lexington Ave Brewery-good beer, okay not great food.

Two dinners at Bouchon, one with the kids and one without.-they were very sweet to our kids but the menu was a bit of a bust for my kids. Great frites and lots of stuff on the menu that we loved though. African Queen dessert is not to be missed and Mon-Wed are all you can eat moules nights. Really fun casual place.

Thai Basil-okay Thai but not great by DC standards. It scratched our itch for something with rice though.

Chocolate Fetish is locally acclaimed but I must be missing something, it was just okay.

A little north of Asheville in a town called Weaverville is the Well-Bred Bakery. Go there. Order a bunch of desserts. Eat while enjoying their free wi-fi. Repeat every other day until your whole family is gloriously fat or your two week vacation is up, whichever comes first.

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Five of us did a tasting menu at Table at the beginning of the month. Overall, I'd say the food was (for Asheville) good tending towards outstanding. For the DC area, i'd have to go with mediocre. Nothing was extraordinary or really stood out, everything was okay. I think I've been spoiled by too many good chefs in the DC area. Next trip to Asheville, we'll go to Cucina 24 and Savoy (again). Savoy has been very good every time we've dined there. (and if you like BBQ, try 12 Bones. Hard to find, short hours for the in-town location, but the take-out is open late and the BBQ is very good).

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12 Bones is still serving very good ribs and everything else. GPS highly recommended for the river side location.

Biltmore outrageously expensive at $54/person for a basic tour! We turned away in disgust and opted instead for a very nice afternoon in the NC arboretum ($8 per car).

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Cucina 24 is great. Three of us had a 4 course tasting menu that was extraordinary; on the other hand, Zambra was mediocre at best. Paella listed on the menu as Rice with Seafood or Rice with Chicken came with no saffron. A tomato base for paella. Most strange. A glass of Lan Tempraniillo was on the menu for $8/glass. Wasn't my choice or I would have been at Cucina 24 or Savoy.

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Following are two semi finalists for this year's James Beard Award for their respective categories. I should note the Rising Star nomination is a national award. I believe there were about 15 semifinalists for each category. There were five finalists for each category but just making the semifinal cut is a real honor.

Rising Star Chef of the Year - Katie Button, Cúrate, Asheville, NC http://www.curatetapasbar.com/

Best Chef, Southeastern U. S. - Elliott Moss, The Admiral, Asheville, NC http://theadmiralnc.com/

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Thanks, Joe!

We loved the Admiral when we were there a couple years ago - I was trying to remember the name, very glad to have it.

Will go back there, and will check out Curate.

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The Admiral and Curate were both excellent. Two nights of good eating.

Curate is a tapas place, very much in the Jose Andres vein (the chef worked at El Bulli and also under Andres). No molecular gastronomy that we noticed (wondered if the El Bulli credential meant we'd have some), but delicious and creative flavors. Everything was well prepared. Fried marcona almonds were unusually delicious, as was the butternut squash soup. Various grilled meats were tasty and well-seasoned. Desserts were devoured.

The Admiral would be our top choice, if you only have one place to go. Truly inventive food, with flavors that all sing together. I had green tea gnocchi with rich meaty mushrooms, fried tofu, burnt miso, candied orange, and a smoked hard-boiled egg that held up a sheet of nori. Every taste led to a sigh. My husband had a perfect and satisfying cioppino, and started with an almond and cauliflower soup, not at all his usual sort of thing and he loved it. Son had a pork chop with incredible roasted fennel tapenade, cannellini that were somehow deeply flavorful, and gorgeous arancini.

Dessert was amazing, just luscious. I had ginger rice pudding with mascarpone and coconut flakes and ginger beer syrup. Husband had chai brulee -- I thought I was completely over creme brulee, but my one bite made me want more and more. The chai flavor completely permeated it and suited it. Son had chocolate mousse with ganache and hazelnuts and spiced mango, when asked whether he preferred Curate's chocolate / raspberry / hazelnut dessert (which he liked very much), he said the Admiral's, most definitely.

The house-made ginger ale, by the way, is a don't miss, with fresh ginger, some citrus, and a little cayenne.

Note that the Admiral appears to be a dive bar in an unprepossessing part of town (not dangerous, just not appealing). Curate is much more attractive, so if you're with someone to whom that matters, go to Curate. Otherwise, if you have only one night, go to the Admiral.

and in either case, book ahead. We got same-night and next-night reservations by going at off hours (early and late), but for regular hours, these places fill right up.

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"With the procurement of a modest cinderblock building on the wage earning side
of town..."

From The Admiral's website. I am jealous of such creative hyperbole! And of your dinner there, Genevieve.

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Highlights from Asheville:

Wicked Weed Brewing - Calamari, Arugula salad, Weed Burger (pimiento cheese, cheddar flavored pork rinds, onion jam.) The salad, with julienned apples, pecans and feta was actually the highlight. The honey and acid in the dressing really complemented the peppery arugula. The burger was good, but the bun could have been better. It fell apart towards the end and was bigger than the burger patty, which is one of my food pet peeves.

Although food was our primary focus, the beer is legit. We tried: Milk & Cookies Stout, Zealot IPA, 1st Anniversary Barleywine, XXV New Zealand Saison and Bliss Belgian Tripel.

Biscuit Head - Special benedict which included roast pork and poached eggs topped with a chipotle sauce on a biscuit; grits and a gravy flight including the pork sausage, red eye and sweet potato coconut gravies. (It's not entirely clear from the menu, but the gravy flight comes with a biscuit and a half.) Everything was really good. My only complaint might be that the chipotle sauce on the benedict was a little overpowering. The gravies were all really good. The red eye was probably my least favorite, as it was thinner than I've seen. The Dining Partner thought the sweet potato coconut gravy was a little too sweet, but I really liked it. Almost like a (not spicy) Thai curry. Don't forget to check out the butter and jam bar! I fell in love with the candied jalapeno butter.

No food (bring your own or have it delivered), but Burial Beer is amazing.

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By happenstance I have found myself in Asheville for the weekend with my 4 year old son. Where to eat? Thankfully there is Don Rockwell's Intrepid Traveler!  While he is a pretty good diner for his age I didn't think I could take him to the Admiral even if I could get into the restaurant (which, for the record we couldn't, I tried.) Instead we've booked brunch reservations at Curate tomorrow and tonight tried Chai Pain (http://www.chaipaniasheville.com)  tonight.

Indian is a cuisine that my son loves so I assumed if they had naan and a decent chicken tandoori he'd be set. Well this place far exceeded my expectations. The restaurant is fun and youthful while maintaining its Indian street food character. Unfortunatly, my husband wasn't with me to eat his fair share so I only had room to order two items and a cocktail but all were amazing. There were at least 5 other small plates I was regretting I wasn't able to try. The Bhel Puri ( a favorite of mine) was perfect. (photo is too large to upload) Crispy, slightly spicy and perfectly balanced. I also ordered the Kale Pakoras (attached photo) which I hesitated ordering in fear of it being overdone and with out the Indian flavors I was hoping for but the waitress assured me it was a good pick. And it was. There was little heat to it which means even my son loved it. They weren't overly fried and just enough Indian spices to give flavor with out overpowering the kale. I can't remember the name of the cocktail I ordered but it had rum, cumin, some other hot spice and fresh lime juice with soda water. It was a perfect match.

Another bonus is the part of town Chai Pain is in. Its quirkily, creative, lots of outdoor restaurants, art shops, singers on the corners and unique stores. We walked around a bit and even picked up some sweet treats next door at a local chocolatier shop.

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