The best places to chomp and chug in Asheville, NC

A clarification of two points: A) Yes, this is going to be one of those annoying listicles a la BuzzFeed and B) Although the verb in the title suggests otherwise, it is not a guide to best places to imbibe spirits, beer and any other alcoholic beverages, as that deserves a new listicle in and of itself entirely.

If you ever for some reason find yourself in the strange, wanna-be city of Asheville, NC, do yourself a favor and do the one thing all the other tourists are doing: looking for food and drink. While it definitely does not have the culinary finesse of New York, or even its evil rival to the death, Portland, there are a few joints you can pop in and out of and not have a horrible experience in the while. This list is for that!

Double D’s Coffee and Desserts

A patron waits inside Double D's coffee bus in Asheville, NC. (c) Larisa Karr
It’s true. The tourists who are surely rich enough to have afforded many a family vacay to London and have undoubtedly seen a double-decker bus for some reason can’t GET OVER the fact that one rests stateside. You’ll see them on Biltmore Ave., clogging up the sidewalks with their fanny packs, a nuclear family of four riding about on their overpriced rented Segways stopping to snap a picture of the bus in between searing the corneas of Asheville locals. Sorry. This is not a rant against tourism. Well, maybe it is. The point being, back when A-Loft did not exist and you could park at the Aston Street Parking Garage without paying and nobody noticed, hopping across the street to the double-decker for a fine, delicious, rich but not aggressive brew was a thing. Almost always. Now, even though you literally have to deal with a quarter of the population of Florida to get that bitchin’ brew, it’s still worth the effort.

BEST: Hangover/Brunch Emporium
City Bakery
A troubadour talks to a woman outside City Bakery in Asheville, NC. (c) Larisa Karr

Way, way back in C.E. nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, throngs of pagans would roam the streets of Asheville, in particularly Biltmore Ave., ruthlessly. They would stand outside the erstwhile Blue Moon Cafe in 90 degree weather, indifferent to the heat their black cloaks were soaking up. Today, the throngs of pagans have been replaced with the most basic-of-basic tourists, and the Blue Moon Cafe has been re-named City Bakery, but it still retains the coziness and palatable cuisine of its predecessor. I have made many an early pilgrimage before job interviews, before roaming the streets of the AVL handing out my resumes, and being ruthlessly hungover on a break from my subsequent place(s) of employment. THIS IS IT. Any type of biscuit, cheese/veggie/etc., sandwich, panini, horribly but oh-so-good sticky pastry, they have ‘em. They get pretty creative with their cuisine, and I can attest, when you have about 5 different types of alcohol floating in your stomach, are having conversations with people outside about the perils of said alcohol, and spend over 40 minutes looking at your breakfast because you are too sick to eat it, when you are able to eat it, it soaks up all the alcohol and tastes OH-SO-GOOD.

Old Europe Bakery
A view down Lexington Ave. from one of the
 tables outside Old Europe Bakery in Asheville, NC.
(c) Larisa Karr

Old Europe is FRESH TO DEATH, and has been for a while. In high school, my pilgrimage to the AVL began with a stop at the coffee bus and was followed by a trip to Old Europe for some of their delectable desserts. When they shut down their Lexington Ave. location a few years ago, I was incredulous, as it was actually one of the best places to eat/chill/have weird conversations. When I saw they opened back up on Biltmore Ave., however, hope and joy were restored in my soul and I have since had many an anguished evening relieved and many a weird conversation there. Their desserts are homemade every day, and their selection is simply divine. If you go there, try the espresso brownie godiva cheesecake, the lemon-curd cheesecake or the tiramisu. If you tell me they weren’t good, I’ll cut you.

Jerusalem Garden Cafe
A woman passes through Jersalem Garden Cafe
in Asheville, NC. (c) Larisa Karr

As a vegetarian, I appreciate any place that can accommodate my diet and produce non-cringe worthy cuisine (and believe me, there is a lot of that out there). Jerusalem Garden has been owned by Farouk Badr for decades, and the authenticity of the cuisine is unparalleled. They serve a delectable falafel/pita platter with wrapped grape leaves in addition to a mean Turkish coffee. I’m normally a maximalist when it comes to coffee, and by maximalist, I mean the biggest coffee I can possibly find, but the peppy, rich shot of their Turkish coffee is enough to keep any caffiene addict satisfied. Not to mention, the authentic interior, with beautiful tapestries covering the ceiling and a room where you can sit on the floor, is stunning.

The original version of this article was published in The Tab.