Erin McGrady, Caroline Whatley outside of 12 Bones in the River Arts District Source: Erin McGrady

Asheville is a Foodie Paradise


On the edge of the Blue Ridge along the southern Appalachian Mountains lies Asheville, an eclectic city experiencing a renaissance. Asheville has developed a "creative culinary community" in recent years, bursting with inventive flavors, foodie scenes, and memorable dining experiences. From farmers markets to craft beverages, you and your LGBTQ+ friends and family are in for a delectable treat, because Asheville is a burgeoning foodie paradise.

Source: Explore Asheville

Feast Your Eyes on These Tasty Spots

The chefs of Asheville's culinary community – aptly referred to as Foodtopia – operate from the belief that "every meal is a celebration." The food is fresh, locally sourced, and reflects the flavors of the farms, food suppliers, and markets that sustain it.

Speaking of markets, the North Asheville Tailgate Market features some of the finest craft foods in the area. The community comes together every Saturday morning, drawing over 60 vendors and 40,000 annual visitors. Peruse a smorgasbord of fresh meats and cheeses, baked goods, vegetables and fruits, coffees, teas, and creams, and culinary crafts. Here's a pro tip: Drop in to J Chong Eats, serving up delicious Cantonese-inspired dishes such as dumplings and wontons for locals and visitors alike. Check out this complete list of surrounding farms and farmers markets to find the right spot for you.

The Foodtopia scene is known for celebrating its local talent, an inspiring group of chefs who aren't afraid to take risks and try new flavors. Ashleigh Shanti, a long-time Asheville resident and award-winning chef, is delivering on her promise of a brick and mortar restaurant with the upcoming debut of Good Hot Fish. The spot will feature a modern-day spin on fried fish – a perfect lunch spot coming soon to South Slope. For dinner, pop over to Sovereign Remedies for seasonal dishes and refreshing craft cocktails, or check out one of the region's most exciting restaurants – the James Beard Award-nominated Neng Jr.'s in the heart of Asheville. Southern and Filipino flavors converge in chef Silver Iocovozzi's vision for "old traditions and new ideas to shake hands." The three-month reservation window at Neng Jr.'s is absolutely worth it!

Source: Erin McGrady

Cheers to These Bars, Breweries and Distilleries!

The Golden Pineapple is a playfully kitsch neighborhood hangout that captures the local vibe. Located in a historic building in West Asheville, this popping spot prides itself on a unique take on cocktails and hospitality. Post up at the counter, sip on tiki-inspired beverages, and nosh on surprisingly gourmet snacks and bites. If breweries are more your scene, plan a visit to Asheville's award-winning New Belgium Brewing Company, where guests are welcome to sample beers on tap and explore. Don't forget to pair your brew with a snack – the brewery has plenty of food trucks on site for an enjoyable visit.

For distilleries, Eda Rhyne Distilling Co. is a contemporary distillery with unique offerings and surprising flavors. "Using folk knowledge, rare heirloom grains, and native botanicals," Eda Rhyne lets you experience libations that "capture distinct regional flavors." Or pop into Oak and Grist Distilling Company, where you can try artisan gin and whiskey made from locally-grown grain. There's also Chemist, a distillery that crafts handmade gin and promises to be the "cure for the common cocktail."

Asheville also boasts sober-friendly spots, featuring refreshing mocktails, non-alcoholic beers, and more. The Mule at Devil's Foot Beverage Company (a craft soda shop) serves up a mocktail version of its signature Moscow mule, a tasty concoction of spice and housemade flavors. Visit NOLO Bottle Shop in Marquee, a vintage lover's paradise located in the River Arts District that also features a sprawling inventory of all things non-alcoholic, including Phony Negronis and CBD-infused seltzer. And don't pass up Rosetta's Kitchen, a vegetarian and vegan soul food joint. Find a spot at the kitchen's Buchi Bar and try a mocktail, or pick from a variety of home brew kombucha flavors on tap.

Source: Explore Asheville

Exciting Foodie Adventures for Everyone

One must on your foodie to-do list is a visit to the Asheville Bee Charmer, an LGBTQ+ owned shop that delivers the sweetest honey this side of the Mississippi. Jillian Kelley and Kim Allen are the beekeepers at the heart of the operation who have made bee preservation their mission. The shop's most popular honey – Sourwood – comes from bees pollinating sourwood trees native to the southern Appalachian mountain forests. You'll also find a wide assortment of honey-based products, including skin care, home goods, apparel, and more.

The Asheville area's finest hand-made cheeses await you on the Western NC Cheese Trail, which is comprised of a diverse community of wineries, cideries, restaurants, shops, and farms. Perhaps the best part is the natural mountain beauty you'll encounter along the way. But trails and tours don't stop with cheese – check out this list of food adventures for every taste.

It wouldn't be a visit to Asheville without experiencing Asheville Drag Brunch, a beloved community-focused showcase of drag queens that raises funds for local queer-centered charity organizations. A ticket to brunch gets you a donation to the charity of the day, a delicious brunch, and a drag queen extravaganza. Enjoy a fabulous show while supporting a good cause!

Plan Your Visit

Asheville promises a foodie scene that is at once delicious and delightful. Discover a world of breweries and distilleries, restaurants and experiences that will enliven your taste buds and your creative spirit. Visit Explore Asheville to plan your unforgettable culinary experience.

by Roger Porter

Read These Next