Ah, Asheville - the place that makes everyone who visits look at local job openings and contemplate what it would take to move there. Usually while drinking a beer.
I'm fortunate enough to live about two hours from Asheville - two and a half if the stretch of I-26 between Hendersonville and Asheville is packed (which is always). And it's never not packed, so let's just say I live two and a half hours from Asheville. As any quick Google search will show you, there is a ton of stuff to do in and around Asheville. Everyone seeks out what appeals the most to them, and I am no exception: my visits to Asheville center around beer and always just barely missing getting to the Gourmet Potato Chip Company before they close. While there's always a new brewery to visit each time I go, I have my tried and true favorites I hit up every time I go.
Thirsty Monk (92 Patton Avenue)
I always have an interesting time at Thirsty Monk, although I should clarify that I always have an interesting time in the downstairs Thirsty Monk. As dirty as that sounds, the basement of Thirsty Monk is incredible and inspiring. It's frustrating when I'm there and someone (or someonezzzzz) comes in with no idea or appreciation of the amazingly well-curated draft and bottle list. Once I was there after Asheville's Oktoberfest ended and a tipsy group came in and stood behind me at the bar to put in their orders:
Bartender: What can I get you?
Group Leader (imagine the worst drunk bachelorette party leader you've ever seen): "Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm, okay. So." (counting off on her fingers) "We're going to need shots. And wine. And....what cider do you have?"
Bartender (nicely): "This is a beer bar. We don't serve liquor or wine or cider."
Group Leader: "Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttttttttttttt?!?"
For those of you who don't know, the basement bar at Thirsty Monk serves authentic and notable Belgian beers, including their own. You can close your eyes and blindly point at the menu and have a world class beer every time.
The last time I was there, my husband and I were the only two people in the bar the entire time we were there and it was fantastic.
Suwana's Thai Orchid (11 Broadway)
Because even when you're not trying to go to a brewery in Asheville, you end up in a brewery, food is a necessity. One of my go-to restaurants in downtown Asheville is Suwana's Thai Orchid. The food is amazing. The service is amazing. The space is amazing.
If you can, snag the little table at the very front of the restaurant right by the window. I'm a people watcher by nature, and this little nook gives you a fantastic vantage point to creep all the different types of people wandering around downtown Asheville.
I highly recommend the crispy rolls and fried tofu for the appetizers as well as the pad Thai, phad z ew, and phad khee mao. Like Johnny Depp's character Sands in Once Upon a TIme in Mexico, I usually order pad Thai with tofu at any new Thai restaurant I visit as a barometer for how good the food is. Unlike Sands, I do not then kill the chef if the dish is indeed the best pad Thai I've ever had. Do yourself a favor and grab a meal there when you're in downtown.
Asheville Brewing Company (77 Coxe Avenue)
My other favorite place to eat when I'm downtown is Asheville Brewing Company, which is right next to awesome breweries like Hi-Wire Brewing. You may recall how big a fan I am of tot-chos and no tot-chos can beat out the ones you can get at Asheville Brewing Company.
Also, the beer is great and either my husband or I inevitably Shiva blast when we walk in and see Shiva IPA on the menu. As a vegetarian*, one thing I absolutely love about Asheville is the availability of well-cooked tofu. Do yourself another favor and order the Nacho Daddy with tofu.
Interesting SN: I once saw a guy out with a group of friends stand up and punch one of his friends in the face and then walk outside. The punchee didn't really react at all. Huh.
Burial Beer Co. (40 Collier Avenue)
Where else are you going to find a giant mural of Tom Selleck and Sloth hanging out?
Besides the great artwork and murals, Burial has a beautiful space - it's barebones in the cool without trying way. They refer to it as "clever comfort." The beers are phenomenal - I don't know if I've ever had a beer from Burial that I didn't love. I'm obvs not the only one as Burial consistently shows up in beer listicles as being one of the best newish breweries. It's also conveniently located in the South Slope near a ton of other breweries.
Because there is so much beer culture in Asheville, I end up at at least one place where I've never been before. There are a ton of great places to go when you're in Asheville and I've left so so many of them off this list for brevity's sake - Bhramari and Hi-Wire are very high on my rankings as well. Wicked Weed used to be, but is not any longer because... AB-InBev. However, the above four places are my mainstays, the places I will ALWAYS go when I'm in Asheville.
What are some of your favorite Asheville spots?
*Standard Questions Every Vegetarian Gets Asked By Everyone: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12-years-old. I’m sure I had a noble, 12-year-old reason for doing so. No, I don’t eat fish. Yes, I eat cheese. Yes, I eat eggs but not usually by themselves because I don’t care for the taste. No, I’m not a vegan. Yes, my husband eats meat. No, I don’t cook it for him, but only because I don’t know how to cook meat well and he does, not because I judge him for eating meat. No, it doesn’t bother me when people eat meat in front of me. Also, I don’t need to hear how you could probably be a vegetarian because you “don’t really eat that much meat” – it’s a personal choice and I don’t care whether you eat meat or not.