asheville weekend A sign in the window of an Asheville gift shop.

By now we’ve established a few basic facts about Julie and Drew, the travelers:

  1. We are pretty terrible tourists, rarely visiting the ‘must see’ anything
  2. We nearly always create detailed eating itineraries, frequently booking our meals prior to arrival
  3. We’ve never been late to an airport, missed a flight, or made a massive travel blunder, because we’re paranoid, obsessive triple-checkers
    1. Except for that one time when Drew overslept an alarm and nearly missed his family’s Christmas
    2. That was 15 years ago
    3. He’s still traumatized by it
Drew having fun on our asheville weekend.
asheville weekend A candy display at Mast General Store

When we had a chance at another Asheville weekend (we were there last August for 24 hours) for a few days, we did our typical thing and just showed up. And by showed up, I mean that we booked a hotel the day before, didn’t plan a single activity and also had a list of five or six restaurants that we were hoping to visit over one weekend.

Because that’s how we roll.

asheville weekend A good reminder in West Asheville

Here’s what we did wrong: we assumed that Asheville in January would be quiet.

Asheville, North Carolina, the place with the reputation that everyone wants to move there, is never quiet. Never empty. Our first pick for dinner on Friday night (Cúrate), was jam packed. All of the reservations were taken all weekend. We were instructed to stop by ‘around 4 or so’ on Saturday afternoon to have any chance of getting seats at the bar.

We felt thrown off by Asheville’s busy downtown, all of our other top restaurant choices either booked or full, so we ended up ducking out of the cold into a place we had neither researched nor read about.

Salsas, a Mexican/Caribbean fusion restaurant had an empty table and we snagged it. Turns out, not planning ahead obsessively sometimes works out and we loved our salsa trio and the steak mole fajitas. If you come here expecting old world, authentic flavors, you may be disappointed by some of the combinations but we were pleasantly surprised.

Frankly, the more pickled items I can get on one plate, the better.

A great dinner at Salsas during our asheville weekend

We also made a somewhat amateur move and booked our hotel last minute and without much research. We ended up at a recently renovated roadside motel (the kind with the outdoor facing doors and a central courtyard) that was fine, but not much more.

We joked that when the front desk person reminds you to respect the other patrons and not have a party in your room, well, they must have a lot of room parties to contend with. Sure enough, in the middle of the night, I awoke to our next door neighbors yelling something about ordering pizza and getting violently sick. At least, to my half awake brain, I think that’s what I heard.

Pralines at Mast General Store during our asheville weekend

Lots of jam because we're in the south during our asheville weekend

Probably our worse violation in Asheville this time around is that we didn’t visit the Biltmore Estate. Again. I like touring big houses as much as the next person, and I distinctly remember watching the 1990s film Richie Rich thinking I’d like to go to that house someday. But I just can’t seem to stomach the $50-75 each (depending on time of year and if you book in advance or not) to see a big house. Tourist fail.

Here’s what we did right on our Asheville weekend: our lengthy list of restaurants came in very handy and we ended up eating our way around the flourishing neighborhood of West Asheville.

You can read about all of our best finds here.

asheville weekend Chowing down on chicken and waffles

asheville weekend Getting our breakfast on at Taco Billys

We also watched Arsenal (go Gunnars!) destroy Southampton 5-0 at Pete’s Pies, an Asheville newcomer that serves up traditional British pies and opens early to show English Premier League matches. Drew, who has been missing traditional ciders, was happy to see that local cider powerhouse, Urban Orchard, has a wide range of funky flavors, and he happily drank the game away.

I am a sucker for a local bookstore, and Asheville has several downtown. We particularly enjoyed Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, because hello! I’ve never before seen this magic combination of a labyrinth of used books paired seamlessly with a champagne (and wine and coffee) bar. We got lost in the stacks, relaxed on an antique couch with a glass of bubbly and made friends with several friendly canines.

asheville weekend The dog themed champagne flute at Battery Park Book Exchange

asheville weekend Grove Arcade is one of Asheville's iconic buildings

Oh, and that pesky restaurant that was so busy we were told to come back mid-afternoon for any hope of getting in? We did show up again and managed to get a seat at the bar on Saturday afternoon, and thank goodness we did. We were floored by the creative tapas preparations as well as the traditional at Cúrate, not to mention its open kitchen which is always fun to watch.

Patatas bravas are always a good idea.

asheville weekend The menu at Curate

asheville weekend Patatas bravas at Curate

asheville weekend The crowded bar is real at Curate in Asheville.
asheville weekend Paying for meal at Curate

It turns out that Asheville is a good fit for Julie and Drew, the travelers:

  1. There isn’t a long list of tourist attractions, which makes avoiding them pretty easy (sorry Biltmore, maybe next time!).
  2. Food is the star of the show in town, and we’ve been consistently impressed with the quality and creativity of the city’s chefs.
    1. Seriously, I just counted and we’ve been to something like 12 or 14 restaurants in Asheville during our two visits and cannot overstate how much we jive with the food.
  3. Despite arriving mostly unprepared for Asheville (twice!) the city has been kind to us.
    1. Plus, the magical bookstore/champagne bar is pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
    2. Except for the fact that I couldn’t steal any of those adorable pups that kept saying hi to us.

asheville weekend Breakfast at King Daddy's in Asheville

asheville weekend Asparagus served at Curate in Asheville.

Why We Love Asheville, NC-min

  • February 14, 2017

    Fantastic colors in that “play every day” wall! ​🙏🔮

  • February 14, 2017

    You guys have the exact same travel style as my husband and I do – love it! We never get around to the “must sees” (aka, going to Rio and NOT seeing Christ the Redeemer…) and food is absolutely our number one priority. Asheville is another East Coast city I’m dying to visit soon, even more so after reading this!
    Kacy recently posted…Weekly B.S. Report 2.10.17My Profile

    • February 16, 2017

      glad someone else shares our travel style! We’ve tried to be better, but we just have more fun going at our own pace and seeing only the things we actually want to see!

  • February 19, 2017

    You guys really love to eat!! I also love the different angles of photos here I think they were great!

  • February 19, 2017

    We have not made it to Asheville yet but glad for your post on it. Don’t know if will will go at a moments notice like you but we would try some of the restaurants you mentioned with gusto! Especially Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. Can’t believe the price to see the Richie Rich house, that’s crazy! For $50-75per person we would definitely pass on that.
    Nancy recently posted…Mont Saint Michel Medieval FantasyMy Profile

  • February 19, 2017

    So cool when serendipity steps in and the places you found on the fly were just as tasty as the ones you’d originally planned. The labrynthine bookshop sounds very cool.
    Kavey at Kavey Eats recently posted…Budget Cooking | Bacon, Cheese & Onion Savoury Bread PuddingMy Profile

  • February 19, 2017

    Sometimes it really pays to be persistent with food! Glad the tapas was worth returning for. Great post!
    anna recently posted…How to Find Cheap Flights to Anywhere: Our Secret WeaponMy Profile

  • February 19, 2017

    I didn’t realize that Richie Rich was filmed at the Biltmore! Loved that movie, lol. That’s crazy it was so busy in January! It’s too bad you missed out on some restaurants you were hoping to check out, but glad you were still able to find some great food. Asheville has been a city I’ve wanted to visit for awhile now–thanks for the great suggestions! Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar sounds really great!
    Jenna recently posted…A Trail of Lights at the Luminary Loppet in MinneapolisMy Profile

    • February 23, 2017

      books and champagne…what a combo, right?

  • February 19, 2017

    Bookstore with a champagne-wine-coffee bar is always a good idea! I would definitely love to try out some food of those local city’s chefs.

  • February 19, 2017

    I adore Asheville, it’s one of my favorite cities! Like you, I still have yet to tour the Biltmore estate 🙂 The entrance fee is just a little to high.
    I’m a huge fan of the breweries in Asheville and look forward to trying Urban Orchard on my next visit.
    Thanks for the restaurant recommendations. Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to snag a bar seat at Cúrate. I think I’d prefer a bar seat there to a table to watch all the lively action.

    • February 23, 2017

      glad someone else agrees with us. The entrance price seems crazy!

  • February 21, 2017

    You really had a food fest in Asheville. Looks amazing. Love that you plan your restaurant bookings before your accommodation!

  • February 22, 2017

    Wow, that was one big food trip! Interesting. I love gravy and biscuits too.

  • February 22, 2017

    I’ve never heard of Asheville, but by looking at your pictures and all that amazing food, I think I’m definitely missing out on something!
    Pedro recently posted…Top 4+1 Destinations for a Sunny Greek Spring BreakMy Profile

  • April 10, 2017

    Looks like you hit the highlights of some great dining and beautiful spots. Asheville is a fun town.