Asheville’s culinary scene offers unique al fresco food and beverage options perfect for practicing social distancing.
Gourmet Picnics, Provisions & Pop-Up Bodegas: Asheville’s award-winning indie restaurant scene has evolved with increased safety and flexibility for travelers. While restaurants slowly open with safety in mind, one trend that is here to stay is the increased array of gourmet take-out offerings perfect for a multicourse picnic packed with local flavor or a cook-it-yourself meal for your rental or campsite. James Beard-nominated chefs including Brian Canipelli (Forestry Camp, Cucina 24), Katie Button (Cúrate), John Fleer (Rhubarb, The Rhu), Ashleigh Shanti (Benne on Eagle), Jacob Sessoms (All Day Darling, Table and Tacos El Gallo) and others have opened up pantries and pop-up bodegas to serve diners with a range of provisions, gourmet meal kits and curated beverage samplers. See this list of restaurants offering take-out.
Outdoor Dining: Many of Asheville’s 250+ independent restaurants offer outdoor dining in the form of sidewalk tables, tucked-in courtyards and rooftop spaces with fire pits and mountain views. Some notable spots to dine outdoors include 12 Bones’ Foundation location (all surrounding buildings are covered in street art), Smoky Park Supper Club (French Broad River views), The Montford (rooftop space offering epic opportunities to watch a mountain sunset) and The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Sunset Terrace (views of the resort, mountains and Asheville skyline). More on Asheville's outdoor dining areas here. (Check on the open status of individual restaurants here.)
New Restaurants Push Forward Amid COVID-19: Despite the coronavirus' impact on the industry, some new Asheville restaurants are still forging ahead with plans to open. Jacob Sessoms (of Table, Imperial Life, All Day Darling and Cultura) – the city's first chef to receive a James Beard nomination back in 2010 – has Tacos El Gallo slated for this summer, named after the monthly pop-up Sessoms and local chef and Mexico native Luis Martinez headed up. Asheville Proper, from two local couples including Chef Owen McGlynn (formerly the executive chef at Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro), will be a live-fire dining experience taking an unconventional approach to the classic American steakhouse in the historic Grove Arcade. Originally set to open in April, its doors remain closed for now. The upscale-casual, chef-driven Griff’s Kitchen & Bar, from Gina and Ian Griffin (who was previously at All Souls Pizza), is still moving forward with a summer opening in the nearby Enka-Candler community. Also on the horizon is Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, a fresh-seafood concept from Eric Scheffer of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, coming to the former Gan Shan Station space.
Open Fields and Farmstead Breweries: With 50 breweries and counting in the region, Asheville is often referred to as “Beer City, USA.” Pack your blanket and check out the scenery while sipping your beer of choice at Highland Brewing Company’s meadow. Enjoy the view of the French Broad River on the back porch of New Belgium’s Liquid Center, or from the expansive front lawn. Turgua Brewing Company, a small farmhouse brewery set on a 5-acre farm in Fairview, is the perfect place to remove yourself from crowds and relax (the company has just opened a second rural creekside location nearby), and Whistle Hop, with its antique train-caboose taproom, offers multiple seating areas, a disc-golf course and sweeping mountain views.
Perfect Pairings | Fresh Air, Food Trucks & Breweries: An easy way to grab a quick bite and find some space is to catch a food truck at a local brewery. Breweries like New Belgium, Highland Brewing Company and Wedge Brewing Company often have a rotating schedule of visiting food trucks. The Taqueria Muñoz food truck (a local favorite) can be found at Zillicoah Beer Co., and Foothills Meats has a permanent food truck (think house-cured hotdogs, hamburgers, deli sandwiches and tallow fries) at Hi-Wire’s Big Top facility.
New Tailgate Market with Safety in Mind: Tailgate markets (what locals call open-air farmers markets) are a way of life in Asheville's modern Appalachian food scene. For the time being, ASAP (or the nonprofit Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) is offering Saturday and Thursday markets on the expansive campus of A-B Tech in Asheville. The 9 a.m.-to-noon markets offer social distancing, touch-free payment options, pre-packaged items and require all visitors to wear a mask. More info here.
Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge + Businesses with Modified Operations
Asheville-area businesses have stepped up to protect workers and guests with safety measures that go beyond state guidelines, including the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge, a shared commitment with travelers to keep everyone safe with extra precautions. Understand the extent of the protections that the Buncombe County hospitality industry is putting in place—click here to read the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge. Explore Asheville is also keeping a list of businesses with modified operations with safety and sanitation protocols in mind.
City of Asheville Evolves Policies to Support Businesses in Safer Operations
As businesses, particularly restaurants, continue to work through capacity constraints and physical-distancing guidelines, the City of Asheville has launched both a “Temporary Parklet” and a “Shared Streets” program as tools to temporarily create more space for safe public and customer access. By allowing approved businesses and organizations to use one to three on-street public parking spaces adjacent to their storefronts for outdoor dining, merchandise or other safe-distancing measures while also converting entire blocks to “pedestrian priority” areas that enable outdoor seating and retail sales, the city hopes to support economic recovery with greater flexibility to align with health guidelines. More information about these programs is available at www.ashevillenc.gov/avlsharesspace.