When I experienced my first taste of Asheville, North Carolina, five years ago, I remember noting the power of the “Love Asheville, Go Local” posters I saw in nearly every store or restaurant window I passed. At the time, I hoped the trend would catch on in D.C., where I lived, and elsewhere.
Wow, did it ever. It’s now commonplace to see people embracing small businesses that stock their shelves with goods that reflect and support the work of local artists and artisans, and restaurants and breweries that source most, if not all, of their ingredients from regional farms.
Not surprisingly, cities that embrace a locals-first ethos wind up being some of the best places to visit, offering outsiders a window into the soul of a community.
This fall I was excited to return to Asheville and see that the city had taken its hometown pride to even greater heights.
Here are four epicurean experiences that give travelers a taste of Asheville’s distinctive regional flavor:
> Wedge Brewing Company:
Wedge Brewing has a beer for every kind of palette, but its atmosphere is what sets it apart from Asheville’s endless pub options. Visitors can find it in the bottom of the Wedge Studios arts warehouse, next to the train tracks in the hip River Arts District, and within walking distance of other artist studios and galleries. Wedge serves their brews with a bowl of peanuts patrons can enjoy outside in the ample patio area that includes pockets of bar-like seating and picnic tables. It’s the perfect spot to sip good beer and watch the trains roll by or, for more action, play a game of cornhole with friends.
> White Duck Taco Shop:
If hunger strikes, swing by the White Duck Taco Shop at Hatchery Studios. Affordable tacos range from classic (black bean, fish) to inventive (Thai chicken peanut, Korean beef bulgogi) and are made using 99 percent American products. There are three locations, but this one offers the opportunity to check out the Hatchery’s working artist studios. I particularly loved the modern metal designs from jeweler Olivia de Soria. The silver or brass earrings, rings, and necklaces make for a great gift for ladies with varied tastes.
> The Chocolate Lounge:
French Broad Chocolates is the establishment of choice for discerning chocolate lovers in Asheville—and the perfect place to pick up edible souvenirs to bring back for family and friends. It’s also home to the Chocolate Lounge, a must-visit downtown dessert destination described by reviewers as a “sacred space for chocophiles.” Handcrafted desserts and chocolate options are plentiful and the lounge offers tea and coffee from nearby local businesses.
> Biltmore Estate Winery:
No trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to the family-owned Biltmore Estate, a stunning—and impeccably maintained—8,000-acre estate just a few minutes’ drive from the heart of Asheville. The property’s gardens alone are worth the trip, but the price of admission also includes a tour of the Biltmore winery and a wine tasting. Try the award-winning Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay, a favorite at weddings hosted on the estate grounds.
- Travel Tip: Purchase a Go Local Card for discounts from local businesses in Asheville’s many happening neighborhoods.
Carolyn Fox is director of digital for National Geographic Travel. Follow her on Twitter@carolynpfox.