Every few months, we get the urge to go out into nature, get away from the quotidian and explore. A recent craving led my husband and me 420 miles west into North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Nestled against them, in what seems like a perpetual indigo horizon, is Asheville. The North Carolina mountain town had long piqued my interest. And, A bevy of delectable features in some of my favorite travel magazines further sparked my taste buds’ curiosity. After doing some research and booking a charming little cottage, we packed the Honda Fit with water bottles and an excited golden retriever and hit the road at 4 a.m. (the sunrise alone was well worth it).
The majesty of the Blue Ridge was the first to greet us, setting the tone for our mountainside adventure. The rest would be a pleasant, progressive and pet-friendly discovery: a mix of hikes, rich history, storied architecture, quirky shops, local beers and so much good food!
Here, a highlight reel of my top Asheville picks. One quick tip? Be sure to plan for more than a weekend – or no doubt, you’ll be left craving much more.
Our bellies were growling after our first hike, so we headed into town, eyes set on some local, fresh bites. We found that and so much more at Homegrown, where they take their “slow food right quick” approach to heart. The menu is as creative as it is fulfilling. You’ll definitely want to order the Redneck Cuban (take it from this Miamian; this is as good of a Cuban – with a twist – as sandwiches come)! Pair it with a local beer to seal the deal. When offered, you may think you don’t have room for that brownie, but it’s not just a brownie. The Coconut Marshmallow Brownie must be experienced – whether at the restaurant, served with ice cream, or back at your cottage.
Browsing Instagram before our trip, I stumbled upon OWL Bakery and decided we had to pay it a visit. Located within the eclectic West Asheville neighborhood, this cozy artisan bakeshop specializes in naturally leavened breads and European-inspired pastries. The bakery locally sources ingredients for their breakfast and lunch menu items and has an aesthetically sensible approach.Our picks? A lavender latte for me, a vanilla cardamom latte for him. Need I say more? Add to the order a tartine with caramelized onions, brie, roasted apples and sage compote and the best quiche we have ever had (seriously, we had to ask the baker to sneak out from the kitchen so that we could thank her), and our bellies, hearts and design-loving eyes were full and ready to take on the day.
Housed in a historic downtown building that once served as the city’s bus depot, the restaurant’s recent expansion is not surprising, given the popularity of Chef Katie Button’s brick-and-mortar toast to Spanish cuisine (and the instant success of her first cookbook, Cúrate). The robust and authentic menu includes Spanish must-haves like jamón Ibérico, patatas bravas and sangria by the pitcher. I promise your mouth will water. After careful deliberation over a cheese-and-charcuterie board (three-year-aged Serrano, need I say more?) and delicious cocktails, we ordered the Tortilla Española with Chorizo (took me right back to my Catalan abuela’s kitchen), Pulpo a la Gallega, and Rossejat Negro (traditional Spanish noodles with squid, cooked in its own ink, paella style)!
Since this trip involved our favorite four-legged companion, Summer, I’d be remiss to not recap some of her favorites. Despite the wintry weather, downtown Asheville warmed us up with its pet-friendly vibes and ample spots for sampling, sipping and soaking up the local scene. We sampled honeys at the Asheville Bee Charmer; browsed art and purchased homemade botanical soaps and local kombucha from the Asheville City Market; and sipped on literature-inspired champagne cocktails at Battery Park Book Exchange, while browsing one of the best Borges collections I’ve seen outside of Miami. We closed out the afternoon with a flight at Wicked Weed Brewing, as fellow pet-lovers and explorers passed on by. And of course, Summer received lots of attention and house-made treats from the ladies at Three Dog Bakery before heading back to our cottage for the night.
When we stepped outside to pack up our car the next day, we were greeted by a snow-covered porch and a nebulous snowy yet blue-tinted sky. Had we both not needed to head back to work the next day, I think we would’ve booked an extra night right then and there. We learned that 36 hours in Asheville just isn’t enough. If you spend them wisely, the city will make a lasting impression that’ll have you dreaming up your next visit soon enough.