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North Carolina: Smokies, Ashville & Northwestern Parts


Katie Meadow
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We will be driving up from Atlanta in early May, noodling around the hills, checking out Asheville, birding in Chimney Rock, then continuing north along the Blue Ridge P'way and possibly visiting a friend in Stokes County, near the Virginia border. We don't plan to go any further east than the Lexington/Winston-Salem area, then head back to Atlanta.

If there is anything to add to the Asheville threads that would be great, but I expect to spend only one or maybe two nights in the Asheville area. Looking for great roadside BBQ and farm to table foods, down home, not super pricey and with no extra attitude, thanks. We will be two weeks in NY before that, and then several days in Atlanta, so we will already have blown a lot of money on sushi and overpriced food, splurges, etc. I'll be ready for grits and farm eggs and greasy wooden tables. As for Asheville proper, Early Girl has been recommended and it sounds like fun for breakfast or lunch. I guess we will be in Asheville for one dinner, but the rest of our plans are flexible.

Also would really appreciate suggestions in the mountains or western parts generally for places to stay: old hotels, small modest b & b's, nothing too extravagant or frilly. If you know of any great farm stays, that might be interesting.You could pm me with that if you have suggestions. Thanks so much!

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For breakfast I reccomend Sunny Point over Early Girl, though Early Girl is really nice.

For BBQ it really has to be 12 Bones, this place is famous due to President Obama going there but the BBQ is the real deal and it is the besyt in the Asheville area.

We also loved the Whtie Duck taco shop which is in the center of the River Arts district

The best dinner we had in Asheville was at a place called The Magnetic Field. Sort of below the radar, but they also had great cocktails.

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  • 1 month later...

Turned out we had very little time in Asheville, so we needed to find something open mid-afternoon near downtown. We had a very good lunch at Tupelo Honey cafe. Unpretentions but very friendly. Very good biscuits, knockout grits w/feta (gettin' a bit sick of cheddar grits) good quick saute greens and excellent house made pickled beets.

Highlights of the trip have been at places we stayed. Fantastic meal at a B&B cooked by a French woman near the Blue Ridge Hway, and I mean like four stars provencal meal: salad with home made canned pickled beets, fresh spinach from her garden and chevre, local rabbit with shitakes grown on her own log, home grown radishes, roast potatoes. For dessert she served a pear almond tarte tatin, ice cream and espresso. Next morning for breakfast she baked orange glazed brioche, served fresh strawbs and granola with Greek yogurt, toasted nuts and a little topping of whipped cream. I'm not ordinarily a granola person, but this was outstanding; looked like an ice cream sunday. Then there were the best smoked salmon and local eggs I ever tasted, and I've had a lot of that. It was totally amazing. Oh, I don't know what white wine she served at dinner, but it was great too.

Next highlights were two days of farm food in a very remote area near the Appalachian border. We had dessert the first night, which was home grown rhubarb and strawberry tart. The next morning was an enormous spread of johnny cakes with warm sorghum and honey mixed,biscuits just out of the oven, a fabulous fruit salad made from their apples and other fruits, and of all things, roast asparagus from their farm. Asparagus appeared the next morning as well, along with cheesy heirloom grits and delicious baked apple slices. Dinner was local farmed trout and a delicious pasta dish with carrots and guess what, more asparagus. Best asparagus I ever tasted. Wow, stay on a farm!

We are working our way down to Atlanta, where I am guessing we will be mostly eating in restaurants. It seems that B&B's (been awhile since we did this kind of trip) that are in out of the way places routinely offer dinner, for an additional charge. At the farm we would have had to drive on gravel roads and windy dark paved roads for almost an hour to get to a restaurant, so who wants to do that? We got lost going to three of the places we have stayed, even with GPS, which is often wrong when it comes to country roads, so once we found these places I would have rather starved than get in the car again. But as you can see, starving was not in the cards.

We had some North Carolina BBQ at a well known place in Lexington, chunks of pork with a vinegar tang that needed hot sauce, which we spritzed on, and hush puppies and some not very distinctive sides. Never had hush puppies before, but these tasted like a corn dog without the dog, not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Jury is out, not enough info. We also stopped for lunch today at an old historic inn with a restaurant where I had country ham for the first time. It was good, strong flavored, but again nothing to compare it too. Best thing about it was that it was served with more baked apples. I've had warm applesauce, but the baked sliced apple thing that seems to be a common side in several parts of NC is really yummy (I can do that at home, right? Well not the ham.) You got your salt, you got your sugar. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of ordering one sweet tea and one unsweetened, then mixing them for a not so sweet drink. Good, but the waiters usually look at as funny when we do it.

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  • 2 years later...

I was just at Smileys this weekend - also on Sunday afternoon.  Had the coarse chopped plate with hush puppies and slaw.  I'm no expert and have decided that I generally prefer ribs over shoulder for my bbq, but it wasn't bad at all.  I love hush puppies and it is probably a good thing I can't get them up here in Delaware!

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I was just at Smileys this weekend - also on Sunday afternoon.  Had the coarse chopped plate with hush puppies and slaw.  I'm no expert and have decided that I generally prefer ribs over shoulder for my bbq, but it wasn't bad at all.  I love hush puppies and it is probably a good thing I can't get them up here in Delaware!

 

This place has hush puppies. Right over in New Castle.  http://www.noralees.com/dining-room-menu

 

No idea if its any good...

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I was just at Smileys this weekend - also on Sunday afternoon.  Had the coarse chopped plate with hush puppies and slaw.  I'm no expert and have decided that I generally prefer ribs over shoulder for my bbq, but it wasn't bad at all.  I love hush puppies and it is probably a good thing I can't get them up here in Delaware!

 

In addition to what gfweb suggested, you might consider looking for sorullos/sorullitos instead?  It looks like you can buy bags of frozen sorullos [Kikuet brand] from the ShopRite on S Walnut St in Wilmington...

Carmen's Kitchen on 4th & Dupont is Puerto Rican although they don't seem to have them on their menu - perhaps you might give them a call, though.   Maybe other similar-cuisine places in town?

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  • 6 years later...

I'm back in Asheville as our home base. We are toggling back and forth from Asheville to Atlanta/Decatur to visit my daughter and husband"s gorgeous hilarious ten month old twin girls. We are staying in a very nice Airbnb in the center of downtown Asheville, so every other storefront is a restaurant, walkable from our third story loft. My idea of a vacation is to not cook, so we are checking out the scene here. I'm doing some cooking for my daughter when we stay in Decatur/Avondale Estates, because they are, well,  desperate, as you might imagine with two jobs and two babies. So far in the Decatur area we've only found two really good delivery options: Community Q (great St L style ribs and extraordinary decadent mac n cheese) and a Chinese joint called Hai, which is very good, and mostly very spicy. Frankly it is better than the Chinese places near us in Oakland.

 

In Asheville there are at least two walkable Chinese restaurants, and both are good. One is a big more corporate enterprise called Red Ginger, and the other is a small more funky place called Shanghai Dumpling House. They both serve soup dumplings, which are rare in Oakland as far as I can tell. We plan on working through the menus of both. The soup dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling were better: better tasting broth and way better wrappers. And they were big and looked hand made. The pork inside was maybe a bit more tender and tasty at Red Ginger but two out of three ain't bad. Red Ginger also served a fried calamari which had a sort of tempura batter which was great.

 

Other places we have tried:

*Early Girl for breakfast. I thought it was terrible. Maybe it's gone downhill. Burnt coffee from a thermos, never a good sign.

*Old Europe Pastries: So so macarons. There was one called "surprise" which was surprisingly good. We decided it was birthday cake flavor. The croissants were not exactly traditional, but they were big, and came to life when crisped up in the toaster oven. They were sort of a cross between a croissant and a Mexican Cuerno, and somehow satisfied for breakfast.

*Sonora Cucino. Bad Mexican food

* South Slope Cheese. Lots of local cheeses and some not local, but a great selection overall, plus exotic jams and crackers, and really nice people, packed to the rafters with local artisan foodstuffs.

 

South Slope is beer town. Uncountable number of breweries, among them Green Man, which makes an English amber ale called ESB which I adored. Too bad pub food doesn't aspire to the level of the fried calamari at Red Ginger. But Red Ginger has the ESB on tap, along with other local beers. There must be a lot of pressure to serve local draft beers at most restaurants in Asheville and that's a good thing.

 

One nice thing about the brew pubs in the Decatur area: Most all have generous outdoor seating and HIGH CHAIRS. The twins are fascinated by beer and beer bottles and have nothing against pub grub. I'm not a huge beer drinker but I do like brown ales and beers that taste of coffee. Not into IPA's or sours. So far we've just cracked the surface, but we will be staying in the area for the month of April, and options seem endless. Asheville is an interesting town. Not a hip university town and not a tech town. Lots of the restaurants in the downtown area have been operating for many years. Legislation re the sale of weed products is lagging behind some other states, but there is a hippy vibe that's sweet; lots of artisan shops, funky antique stores, CBD products, hemp stores, and hookah bars, with a zillion flavors of smoke. No idea what that's about, but many of those bars warn you that smoking happens inside, so I'm not likely to patronize them, especially if it smells like all those dopey vape flavors that were the rage: melon, candy apple, cereal milk, etc.

 

The only reason I'm posting at such length is because I believe I caught a cold from my son-in-law. I've actually had a second booster, so I'm crossing my fingers it isn't covid; rapid tests to be employed soon.  I'm lounging about in bed in Asheville, waiting for a Thursday NYT and crossover croissants from my kind husband out running errands. Tomorrow's forecast in Asheville is for rain and a high of 51. About like January in the Bay Area pre-drought.    

 

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It breaks my heart to hear that Early Girl did you so poorly. When I was there 10 or so years ago, it ranked as one of the top two or three breakfasts I'd ever had.

 

For lunch, or that matter dinner, Tupelo Honey is (or WAS) good. I think it started in Asheville, but has since franchised across the South. We ate at one of the brewpubs, can't recall which, and the ploughman's lunch was good. One dinner was an Indian place -- which I recall as good -- and the other was at a tapas place, which was excellent. Can't recall either name.

 

Highly recommend the winery tour/wine tasting at Biltmore. Not to mention the mansion tour. I lust after that library.

 

 

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Posted (edited)
On 4/8/2022 at 1:57 PM, kayb said:

It breaks my heart to hear that Early Girl did you so poorly. When I was there 10 or so years ago, it ranked as one of the top two or three breakfasts I'd ever had.

 

For lunch, or that matter dinner, Tupelo Honey is (or WAS) good. I think it started in Asheville, but has since franchised across the South. We ate at one of the brewpubs, can't recall which, and the ploughman's lunch was good. One dinner was an Indian place -- which I recall as good -- and the other was at a tapas place, which was excellent. Can't recall either name.

 

Highly recommend the winery tour/wine tasting at Biltmore. Not to mention the mansion tour. I lust after that library.

 

 

I ate at Tupelo Honey a few years ago when I was last in Asheville. Liked it, will try again. I do have a hankering for fried green tomatoes, but sadly my experience is they are usually too thickly breaded and the crust overwhelms the vegetable. Maybe the fried green tomatoes of my dreams is really fried green tomato tempura. In the north Georgia hills there seems to be a thing for a fried green tomato BLT, but in Asheville and Decatur I don't see it on menus. They prefer chicken and/or avocado in their BLTs, neither of which I care for. 

 

There is an Indian Street Food place that gets good reviews called Chai Pain including a shout out from the NYT recently. We will def try that. They opened a branch in Decatur, too, and my daughter said it was good. The tapas place you are thinking about may be Curate. Well reviewed and it seems to be the most expensive place in downtown Asheville. It's among my options for a splurge dinner, but not sure. We haven't decided to celebrate our anniversary here or in Atlanta with the kids. The babies do awfully well at beer gardens, but taking them to Miller Union in Atlanta  might tax their patience. They eat everything, including moderately spicy red beans and rice but after an hour they're falling face first into their gumbo.

 

My husband just came to tell me he sees snow flurries from the living room window here in Asheville. Two days ago it was 80 degrees. East coast weather, go figure.

Edited by Katie Meadow
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Thanks for the notes, I will be heading to Asheville for a wedding in October, and staying a couple of days.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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Posted (edited)

More notes on Asheville: We finally made it over to the River Arts district. Talk about colorful. A whole street full of graffiti and wall murals, totally fun. And yes we did eat at 12 Bones, which was all it is cracked up to be. Very good ribs, and as an amazing plus, really great collards and pretty good potato salad. I usually find the collards served at BBQ joints are bitter and have too m:h sugar and too much salt and are cooked to death, but these were delicious. Great atmosphere, very friendly folks and nice outdoor tables. I appreciate places that are open for business mid-afternoon. Yummy.

 

On our way yesterday back to Atlanta we stopped in West Asheville for doughnuts at Hole. Okay, I've never had doughnuts like this. They use one yeasted dough with several different toppings: a glazed vanilla, a cinnamon something, and an almond sesame with a little bit of salt that is out of this world. Then they rotate a fourth flavor in that changes. Yesterday it was beignet. Really just their basic doughnut with a generous snow of confectioners sugar. Really really really good. All doughnuts are fried to order and come out to you hot. Coffee is simple black drip, excellent. The doughnuts are undeniably sweet and greasy and fabulous. They gave us a couple of free ones because we must have seemed old and stupid, since it took a while to figure out their system of ordering and payment, the kind of thing Gen Z does in their sleep.  It takes about six times longer than stepping up to a human at a counter and finding some cash in your wallet, but so it goes. Clearly at least half the patrons were tourists, as they spent time taking pix of themselves in front of the an old Hole truck that appears not to be movable and in fact has a hole in it. The outdoor table next to us had a strange family dynamic. They had two preteen boys in bad moods and one of them asked, "Why are we here?" Everyone else in the parking lot slash outdoor tables knew the answer to that.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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Posted (edited)

A note on our dinner last night at Tupelo Honey. I do have fond memories of it from my last trip in 2013. It is always crowded whenever we pass by. We both have colds now; with granddaughters in day care there is no avoiding it. And since neither my husband nor I has had a cold in about 20 years, anything going around is going straight for us. Back in Asheville last night we sort of wanted to go to Jack of the Wood, which is an Irish bar and we sort of wanted some sinus-clearing Indian food, as in Chai Pain, but they don't serve even beer, which my husband seems to think is beneficial for a head cold. So we opted for the closest place to get both beer and comfort food. The app was promising: fried cauliflower with some kind of plcklish white dip. Actually very good. Everything that came after was so salty it was hard to know what was what. The grits were fixed in that overindulgent creamy cheesy way, but the ratio of cream and cheese to grits was skewed so far in favor of the cheese that it almost wasn't grits any more. There's a lot of lily-gilding in southern restaurant food that tries to accommodate modern tourist tastes, as if adding ingredients makes it fancy and therefore worth extra money and long descriptions on the menu. 

 

Yes, I know I'm picky about food, but the problem is I can make excellent grits myself.  My husband makes a mean biscuit. I know how to cook string beans, so my standards are annoyingly high.. Today we are going to lay low and soak our heads in steam. My husband is off buying a NYT and to WF to get lox and bagels for dinner and some essential oils to add to the steam-pots. If there's one thing Asheville must have in abundance, it is essential oils. Breweries and wellness stores and esoteric teas are abundant. So esoteric that they don't carry English breakfast tea in any iteration. Dobra Tea in downtown is a trip, and anyone who really knows their way around Asian teas would have a field day there.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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Not to be missed if you need some good bread in Asheville: Owl Bakery. It's conveniently close to Hole Doughnuts. Need I say more? The morning we went it was chilly, and no one was sitting on the patio, which is a pretty sweet friendly looking place. The bakery is in a ramshackle house with a window around the side where you order. What knocked me out was their 100 percent dark rye bread. It is dense and beautiful  and sour and it's the rye of my Lithuanian dreams, so dark it's almost black.. A good bread knife is advised; the one we have in Asheville is pretty inadequate, but ultimately it slices up fine and toasts slowly (be patient, remember it's rye bread and has lots of moisture.) Anyway I haven't had bread like that in a million years. And I mean absolutely the highest of complements when I say it's the doorstop to end all doorstops. No bakery in Oakland or Berkeley has anything like it, and after forty years living there I'm pretty sure I would know about it if they did. 

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On 4/23/2022 at 10:23 AM, Katie Meadow said:

Not to be missed if you need some good bread in Asheville: Owl Bakery. It's conveniently close to Hole Doughnuts. Need I say more? The morning we went it was chilly, and no one was sitting on the patio, which is a pretty sweet friendly looking place. The bakery is in a ramshackle house with a window around the side where you order. What knocked me out was their 100 percent dark rye bread. It is dense and beautiful  and sour and it's the rye of my Lithuanian dreams, so dark it's almost black.. A good bread knife is advised; the one we have in Asheville is pretty inadequate, but ultimately it slices up fine and toasts slowly (be patient, remember it's rye bread and has lots of moisture.) Anyway I haven't had bread like that in a million years. And I mean absolutely the highest of complements when I say it's the doorstop to end all doorstops. No bakery in Oakland or Berkeley has anything like it, and after forty years living there I'm pretty sure I would know about it if they did. 

My mind went immediately to @Pille and her rye from Estonia Is the one you remember like that. I want to make it but been back burmer forever nhttps://forums.egullet.org/topic/107602-eg-foodblog-pille/?do=findComment&comment=1470529

 

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9 hours ago, heidih said:

My mind went immediately to @Pille and her rye from Estonia Is the one you remember like that. I want to make it but been back burmer forever nhttps://forums.egullet.org/topic/107602-eg-foodblog-pille/?do=findComment&comment=1470529

 

@heidih, that sounds amazing. My husband is the baker, not me. He's tried rye bread a few times but I think there's a steep learning curve with a mind set all its own. We actually have the book called "The Rye Baker by Ginsberg, which is very interesting. After this experience with Owl Bakery he may have extra motivation. 

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