The second half of our trip was quite a bit different then the first half of the trip. The first half was rustic and the second half was urban, but more importantly, during the first half of the trip we cooked most of our own food, and during the second half of our trip we went out to eat at amazing restaurant after amazing restaurant.
Our first stop was in Asheville. Asheville is a really cool place, but sort of hard to describe. There are musicians on practically every street corner. There are tons of cool, unique shops and restaurants. If I had to sum it up in one catchy little phrase, it would be “buy local”. This is probably because most of them had a sign advising you to buy local (which is probably due to the opening of a large new Urban Outfitters). I have to agree with them though; you don’t get that awesome, unique vibe without that concentration of local shops, which are bound to be more interesting than chains.
It reminds me of a day a little further on in the trip, when we just got done eating a fantastic meal at a local eatery. We were driving back to our hotel, and we passed chain restaurant after chain restaurant, Applebees, TGIFridays, and Logan’s Steakhouse, each one packed fuller than the last. “Poor fools,” I thought. “Who would want to eat at one of those chain places when there are so many tasty and interesting places everywhere?”
Anyway, I digress. We bought our only souvenirs of the trip in Asheville; local honey, hand-dyed yarn, and some homemade soap. We even stayed in a non-chain hotel, which had a great location, but was a little on the shady side. It kind of seemed like there’s not much crime in Asheville, but what crime there is takes place at that hotel.
What we didn’t do in Asheville was go to the Biltmore estate. I actually really wanted to go to the Biltmore estate. First off, when I go somewhere, I like to go do the big thing of that place. The Biltmore estate is the biggest attraction in the Asheville area. Second off, it is billed as the American version of Versaille, which happened to be the very best part of our trip to France. So I thought, conceivably, it could have been the very best part part about our trip to North Carolina. However (and this is a big however), tickets to the Biltmore estate were going to run our family about $100! Just for comparison, tickets for Cedar Point would cost about $115 for our family. Are you really going to tell me that the Biltmore estate is roughly as much fun as Cedar Point?? “Hey kids, forget about roller coasters, look at this interesting architecture!”
Before I get into the restaurants, I just want to comment on something wonderful I discovered on the trip: the vegetable or side plate. Is this a southern thing? Basically, it just allows you to order some number of the side dishes on the menu (3, 5, 7). It worked out so well to order a bunch of side dishes and then dish them out to everyone and get to try everything. It’s like tapas or dim sum with delicious, Southern-made vegetables. Way better than ordering the chicken nugget kid’s meal.
Okay, so without further ado:
Tupelo Honey Cafe – The was the first, and perhaps only, meal that everyone was happy about (and by everyone, I mean Evie). Evie is pretty picky when it comes to food, and she mostly only wanted to eat french fries. However, even she couldn’t resist steaming hot biscuits with homemade blueberry jam, cheesy smashed cauliflower, and parmesan corn on the cob (okay, we also had sweet potato fries). This was the first place we went to in Asheville, and it was very difficult to not go back again.
The Green Sage – We happened to walk by this place the night before, so we gave it a chance for breakfast. It was more like a coffee shop, but they had food too. Aaaaawesome food. They had carrot cake pancakes with cream cheese
frosting topping. And they were perfect too, not overly sweet the way they could easily have been. I literally couldn’t eat any more. The coffee was good too. However, I couldn’t handle the trash/recycling/compost division, and I totally messed it up. Hey, I said the restaurant was perfect, not me.
12 bones – This was the best meal we had on a trip filled with excellent meals. It was also the most authentic southern restaurant I’ve ever seen. I ate ribs next to a guy with a gun in a holster. Real Southern barbecue next to a guy with a real gun in a real holster.
Speaking of ribs, this was a restaurant known for its ribs, but I was a little reluctant to get them. I’m usually more of a brisket kind of guy. However, I broke down and ordered the ribs…Oh Em Gee was I glad I did. I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted anything better in my life. The chipotle blue berry ribs were good, but the brown sugar dry rub ribs were out of this world. They also had a side platter option, and the sides were all great. The collard greens and green beans were the best, with the chipotle potato salad and corn pudding a close second. Seriously, there was something so great about the sides, I couldn’t even tell you. We had collard greens at three other restaurants, and they all looked more or less identical, but none of the held a candle to these. And I’m not the only one who liked the place:
Unfortunately for Oliver, he slept through the whole thing. The nice thing to do would have been to save him some, which we probably would have done if it were physically possible to do so. But it wasn’t, so we offered him a banana when he woke up right as we were leaving. No dice, he demanded a meal to go. We had no silverware in the car, so he had to eat it with his fingers. He didn’t complain. He couldn’t, because his mouth was full of pulled chicken and green beans.
Early Girl Eatery – Okay, technically this was on the way back. After Charlotte we stayed another night in Asheville on our way North. Once again, everything was really good (try the squash casserole). Sara had the sweet potato black bean cakes, and I had a blackened shrimp salad. Both were great.
If you’re keeping count at home, that’s four amazing restaurants in one small town. And I’m pretty sure we could have hit up more, but we ran out of time. Not too shabby. However, we couldn’t hang out with the hippies and foodies forever, because it was time for Charlotte…