Asheville-Like-A-Local in 36 Hours or Less

Kyle and I took a road trip last month to Asheville, NC and while we spent about 3 beautiful days there, I think you can get a great Asheville experience in 36 hours or less. Keep reading the longest post in vegology history below to see how to enjoy a weekend in Asheville like the locals do. If you want to read about our first 24 hours there, check out this post. For the story how of we got to Asheville on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, read ­­­­Spring Road Trip and Road Tripping Roanoke to Asheville.

We woke up on Saturday morning, after a night of drinking and cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins, to overcast skies. We had planned to go hiking that morning, but we were feeling the after-effects of all of the local beers we had sampled the night before and there was rain in the forecast, so we decided to check out another brunch spot instead.

We ventured on over to Sunny Point Café, where there was a very long wait. It wasn’t so bad though, because while we waited we enjoyed self-serve coffee on their garden patio. This was seriously such a good idea. You sign in to put your name in for a table and then grab a mug and help yourself to fresh brewed coffee. A sign on the coffee urn instructs you to notify your waiter when you are seated and they will add the bottomless coffee to your bill. Ingenious!

When we were finally seated, we enjoyed some awesome breakfast food. Sunny Point Café sources a lot of their ingredients locally and sustainably. Kyle ordered a breakfast sandwich on a croissant, with a side of stone ground chipotle cheese grits.

I ordered the MGB (mighty good breakfast), with two fried eggs, chipotle grits, vegetarian sausage, and a warm biscuit. Delish!

After brunch, we headed to nearby Black Mountain to check out Pisgah Brewing Company. Pisgah is an organic brewery with distribution only in western North Carolina. They have won a ton of awards for their beer and we were excited to see what they were all about. Our GPS took us to an industrial park hidden in the mountains off of a state road. We were wondering if we were in the right place when we parked in a gravel lot next to a commercial kitchen appliance distributor. We rounded the corner and saw this.

We found the brewery! After a quick tour and Q&A session with one of their marketing guys, Kyle and I hit up the on-site bar. This tasting was one of the highlights of our vacation.

If you are planning a visit, please taste some of their beer. A free tasting is not included in the tour, so you will have to purchase some beers at the bar. It is important to note that they accept cash only and they do not serve food, so have a snack before you arrive and bring cash. Pisgah offers pints, half-pints, and samplers that feature a 5 oz. sample of each of 4 beers – your choice. They also sell growlers of all of their draught beers, with varying prices depending on the beer. We ordered two samplers and got to taste eight beers. They were all delicious! I am so sad that we can’t buy Pisgah Brewing Company beer here in Richmond.

Beer tears aside, we had a great time and can’t wait to go back again in the future. At this point we had about 30 hours left in Asheville, so we had to boogie. Onward, my friends, to downtown Asheville! Downtown offers a collection of boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. There are cute little park areas with street performers, and there is endless free entertainment in the form of people watching. It started to drizzle so we ducked into World Coffee Cafe to grab an espresso con panna and a croissant.

I wouldn’t normally get whipped cream on my espresso AND get a buttery croissant on the side, but we were on vacation! Kyle and I sipped our espressos while watching the locals and tourists stroll by the front of the shop. Although it was raining, it was a beautiful 80 degrees. It was the kind of spring rain that was more a refreshment than a nuisance.

When the sun broke through the clouds, we walked over to the Grove Arcade, a large historic building filled with shops and cafes. The architecture was gorgeous but the stores left something to be desired. Many of the storefronts were closed (on a Saturday afternoon!) and the “farmer’s market” was a sparse array of prepackaged foods and produce from near and far. I am confident that the ramps were local, yet I have never seen an orange grove in North Carolina so I believe the fruits might have been shipped in. Although it is a grab bag of specialty shops, the Grove Arcade is worth a peek inside. And if you are interested in furniture, or men’s suits, or any of the random retail that the shopping destination offers, you might be in for a treat.

After wandering around for a bit, the buzz from both the Pisgah tasting and the doppio espressos had worn off, and we decided to move on to the next beer tasting opportunity. We walked to Jack of the Wood to try some more local beers. If there is one thing we learned about the people of Western North Carolina, it is that they love to brew beer. If there are two things we learned about the people of Western North Carolina, the second is that they love to bake. And I’m not talking about the kind of baking you do with flour and sugar. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, visit the hippie towns of Asheville and Boone, and you’ll soon catch on.

Where were we? Oh yes, Jack of the Wood Pub.

Here we tasted beers from the local Green Man Brewery. We had the ESB, IPA, Porter, Stout, and Cask Irish Stout. They were okay, not great. After the amazing experience we had at Pisgah, the Green Man beers couldn’t really compete. However the service and atmosphere at the bar were great, and if you’re looking for a dark, oaky, underground pub in downtown Asheville, definitely make a trip to Jack of the Wood.

You could have dinner at the pub, but we were looking for something a little more inspired than nachos or potato skins, we ducked out and walked to the other side of town, to one of the most renowned vegetarian restaurants in Asheville, Rosetta’s Kitchen. This place came highly recommended so we had to fit it in. When you enter the restaurant, you go immediately up a brightly painted flight of stairs, and turn left into the colorful dining room. Past the dining area is a chalkboard menu and counter where you can order your food.

love this poster!

There is also a case of baked goods that all look utterly delicious. I noticed several vegan options, and I loved that they included an ingredients list on most of the labels.

When your food is ready, the friendly staff brings it out to you. While you wait, you can sip a local beverage (the theme of the day was beer, okay?) and enjoy the scenery.

I ordered the Buddha Bowl,  “organic spring mix, organic brown basmati rice, sea veggie salad, tomatoes, avocado, mung bean sprouts, and grilled smoky tofu topped with our sweet tahini BBQ sauce.” Wow, amazing. Loved it.

Kyle ordered The Mountain, “layers of long grain brown rice, sautéed kale and fried local made tempeh topped with our sweet tahini BBQ sauce.” His was also fantastic, although a little simpler than mine.

Okay so here’s my take on the vegetarian food in Asheville. There were so many delicious options everywhere, that it really felt like I was dreaming. I loved the Laughing Seed, and Early Girl Eatery, and Sunny Point Café. I think you should try them all, and there were even more restaurants that we didn’t get to try that I would love to visit next time. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan visiting Asheville, do not leave without going to Rosetta’s Kitchen. They have a great variety of dishes that are so difficult to choose from, and their creative menu will inspire you to cook more interesting food in your own kitchen. Vegetarian and comfort food are two terms that don’t usually go together, but at Rosetta’s they do. GO there!

At this point, we are about 14 hours into our 36 hour (or less) journey. You’re already downtown, so go visit a bar. If you’ve had enough beer (like we had), go to bed. But before you go to bed, run to the grocery store to get breakfast food because you’re going to need fuel in the morning. Kyle and I had postponed our hike until Sunday morning, so we stopped by the local grocery store, Ingles, to pick up pre-hike breakfast food and post-hike picnic lunch food.

When we woke up on Sunday morning, we assembled our fruit, yogurt and granola bowls and packed up our things to check out of the hotel room.

I was sad to say goodbye to our luxurious hotel.

Just kidding, we stayed at the Courtyard. Although the Mountaineer Inn might have truly been an unforgettable experience. At hour 24, we grabbed coffee on the way out of town and got back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive to the Mount Pisgah Trail.

Well rested and excited for the views that the trek promised, Kyle and I slung our backpacks over our shoulders and started the climb.

The trail is definitely steep in spots, and most of it was rocky, which helped us get our footing. If the trail had been a dirt path, we probably would have slid back down it!

I made the mistake of forgetting my sunscreen, not realizing that most of the trail would be open overhead. I imagined the leaves on the trees would protect me, but we hiked most of the path in direct sunlight. I had some pretty adorable backpack and sports bra tan lines by the time we got to the top. After the climb back down, my shoulders were getting crispy. We had a perfectly clear day, so I could feel the strong sun on my face and shoulders as we rounded a corner and realized we were getting close.

About ten minutes later, we were at the top and enjoyed a 360-degree view from the octagonal observation deck that had been built by local Boy Scouts. It was quite a reward for one of the most strenuous hikes I have ever completed.

The views were breathtaking!

Okay, the hike was breathtaking. But once I got to the top, sat down, and caught my breath, the views were still pretty amazing. Kyle and I spent about 30 minutes at the top. We ran into a couple from Tennessee who had each hiked 500 miles last year. They offered some great suggestions for hikes in the South. When we felt like we had taken in enough of the landscape, Kyle and I trotted back down the mountain for a victory lunch at an overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

That brings us to about 30 hours in Asheville. At this point, Kyle and I hit the road for a 6-hour drive back to Richmond. Overall it was a lovely vacation, and on the 5 year anniversary of falling in love with each other, we fell in love with Asheville, NC. We wish we could have stayed another week (or year!) but that wasn’t in the cards for this trip. If you are lucky enough to have more time in Asheville, check out my Travel page for more ideas on what to do while you are there.

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