GareBear's Asheville

Asheville's an exciting and growing place, full of new places to discover. This is a list of my favorites, but the next person will have their favorites. Get out there and start discovering. 

Favorite food experiences

12 Bones, River Arts District - counter service - $

Great meat. Killer sides. Can't go wrong with anything. Wedge salad with four ribs ties for my favorite meal in the whole city. Can get crowded, but seating is ample (at least at the River Arts District location), and the staff hustle. Know what you want when you get to the counter - it's not a time for 20 questions.

Asheville Pizza and Brewing, Merrimon Avenue - counter service since COVID - $

Local beer. Local pizza. A movie. An Asheville standard. This is a no-frills place, so don't expect frills. Not a single frill. Also, not on the radar of any tourists. The Shear Delight pizza is stellar.

Buxton Hall BBQ - wait service - $$

It's a BBQ place, so clearly...get the chicken sandwich. The BBQ is fine but the chicken sandwich is stellar. Or get your sandwich up at their chicken sandwich stand in the S&W food hall. Wanna turn it up? Get the bourbon Cheerwine slushee. Crowd can be an issue - go at an off hour.

Doughnuts - counter service - $

We are blessed with three outstanding local doughnut shops. Geraldine's, in north Asheville offers up, by-far, the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to doughnuts. The Boston creme is a delicious beast and considering the price, you should be here every day. It's a very bright lights, chrome and formica vibe (though I don't think they actually have formica), and thoroughly local experience - this is not a coffee shop scene inviting you to bring your laptop and hangout. For those looking for a coffee shop experience, Vortex, on downtown's south slope is solid, and exceptionally vegan-friendly. Finally, Hole, just on the west side of town, serves up delicious fresh, hot doughnuts best enjoyed mid-morning on a weekday when crowds are less of an issue. Since COVID, Hole has been to-go only, so check with them if you have visions of sitting there eating doughnuts and drinking coffee.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge - counter service - $

One of the most touristy stops in downtown. But hey, it's a chocolate lounge. A liquid truffle on a winter night will do you right. Can have one of the longest lines in town - go at an off hour. Why not eat chocolate cake at 3:00 p.m.?!

Jack of the Wood - wait service - $$

Best wings in town and I will die on that hill. I know, odd for a Celtic-themed pub. Downtown, but just off the tourist track. Time it right and you can enjoy a local musician circle playing traditional music.

Limones - wait service -$$$

A perfect date night? A bar seat, a pair of margarita's, shared order of lobster nachos, shared order of churros. Don't even dream of a walk-in table - get those reservations well in advance.

Mamacita's - counter service -$

I don't know anyone who dislikes Mamacita's, but I don't know anyone who likes it as much as I do. The baja fish taco on flour with pico, lettuce, cheese, and baja sauce has been a personal staple for nearly 20 years.

Nine Mile, Montford neighborhood - wait service - $$

Jamaican-inspired food. Never encountered anything like it. The Natty Bread is delicious. The His Majesty salad dressing is delicious. Best tofu I've ever had. One Foundation with tofu ties for my favorite meal in the city. Does a crazy business, yet refuses to implement a reservation system, so you'll be waiting. Also, if you want to order to-go, if they're busy they may simply not pick up the phone. As much as possible, go at an off hour.

Rosetta's Kitchen - counter service - $

Vegan restaurant with a very college-town vibe. If you're vegan, vegetarian, or just want a delicious meat-free meal, great place to stop. Best French fries in town.

Sunny Point - wait service - $$

Best breakfast in town with the morning crowd to prove it. But...breakfast is served all day and no one goes there at dinner time. I always go with the breakfast sandwich, side of grits, but  you can't go wrong with anything.

White Duck, downtown or River Arts District - counter service - $

I eat here so much it gets a little old, but there's a reason I eat here so much. Wide range of non-traditional tacos. I always go with the Buffalo chicken, but I don't think you can go wrong with anything. Good grits too. 

Favorite drinking experiences

Wedge Studios

Classic, no-frills place for an afterwork beer. Off the tourist route. Most seating is outdoors and without cover, so check the weather before you go.

5 Walnut Wine Bar

Cozy wine bar. Intimidated by wine? They offer daily red and white specials buy the glass to make your ordering easy. If you can grab a window seat, your evening is made.

Grove Park Inn

The original Asheville tourist destination. Have a drink in the great hall. Step out on the back patio. That's all you have to do. Avoid at Christmas time.


You save this for a special night. When you get there, you'll know why.

Favorite outdoor experiences

Roan Mountain

Perhaps the most beautiful place in Southern Appalachia. It's not a secret though, so go on an off day.

Mount Mitchell

Highest point east of the Mississippi. Don't get excited - the path to the top is paved, but other trails carry you through the spruce-fir forest. If you know where to look you can visit the remains of a small plane crash. Also North Carolina's oldest state park, so if you're into the classic stone and wood, slightly kitschy park aesthetic, this is your place.

Cataloochee Valley

Beautiful valley at the eastern end of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with remnant historical buildings from the community that was here before the park was established. Also, not a secret, so avoid on weekends, especially in the fall. Never go here on a fall Saturday.

Little Tennessee River

Between the town of Franklin and Fontana Reservoir this river is a beautiful stretch of wide, healthy stream running through a landscape with low- or no-development. Amazingly under-visited for what it is. Great for paddling, snorkeling, laying out on a rock.

Fontana Reservoir

Yeah, it's a reservoir. A huge one by eastern standards, and sited at a particularly bad location for native aquatic animals and animal diversity. But boating the lower end on a hot summer weekday (to avoid crowds) can feel like the whole world is yours. You can also boat over to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the north shore for a little exploring.

Hammock and a book

Get a hammock, a book, a little snack and hike out into Pisgah National Forest or Blue Ridge Parkway lands a bit, no need to go too far, and set up for a relaxing afternoon.

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