John and I have a tradition (three years strong!) of heading out to the North Carolina mountains one weekend every fall. We usually stay in the Asheville area, though last year we tried Boone with dubious results (totally not Boone’s fault, though!). Besides the gorgeous leaves and beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite reasons for venturing west is the food. Asheville has a plethora of delicious eating options, and I wanted to highlight the four we sampled on this trip!
First up was the White Duck Taco Shop, which we heard about through our friends Meredith and Michael. White Duck offers up some of the most delicious (if not the most delicious) queso dip I’ve ever sampled, and their salsa isn’t too shabby, either. Of course, the tacos themselves are the stars, and they don’t disappoint. Get ready for creative and unexpected combinations like lamb gyro, buffalo chicken, BBQ carnitas, thai peanut chicken, lump crab, and mole duck. John and I tried six tacos between us, and a surprisingly small amount of food went uneaten. Happily, there’s Cheerwine on the menu with which to wash everything down!
Saturday night we had dinner at Chai Pani, which bills itself as serving “Indian street food.” Since neither John nor I have visited India, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of Chai Pani’s street food claim, but I can attest that everything we tried was delicious! We split samosas, then I ordered the Sloppy Jai (a twist on the Sloppy Joe!), and John ordered the Thali, or daily special, which was Butter Chicken when we visited. I wish we had been able to sample more of the menu, because it all looked so interesting! Think shrimp and grits Indian style, tamarind short ribs, and raspberry lassi cheesecake.
Samosas from Chai Pani’s Facebook page
We saved just enough room for a post-dinner treat from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The line snaked out the door and up the sidewalk when we visited around 10pm, and though we waited for about thirty minutes, I’d say it was worth it. They even had an acoustic jazz trio playing inside, so that helped the wait go by more quickly! I ended up ordering the theros olive oil chocolate cake with strawberry sauce, which was good, but in retrospect, I wish I had ordered one of their signature hot chocolates (which come in flavors like lavender and honey, cayenne and cinnamon, and masala chai!). John ordered a tea and the mint chocolate chunk brownie, and found both to be satisfying.
Our last stop of the weekend was at an old favorite of ours, Early Girl Eatery. John uncovered this gem while researching our first Asheville trip years ago (I think he spotted it in the NY Times travel section), and we’ve returned every visit since. Odds are good that John will order the BBQ pork sandwich with ginger coleslaw and the cucumber and onion salad, and I will order the cheeseburger with basil mayo and fries. (I know what you’re thinking — cheeseburger?! — but this one is AMAZING!) Everything is extraordinarily local and seasonal, and you really can taste the difference.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no visit to Asheville is complete without a visit to Early Girl… at least not for us! Two tips for your next trip: 1) Stick around even if they give you a long wait time at the hostess station. We were quoted 30-35 minutes, but ended up being seated in 4 due to no shows! 2) If there’s any sort of cobbler on the menu, order it.
I’ll be back with more soon on our hikes (waterfalls!) and antiquing adventures!