Off-the Beaten Path: A Local’s Guide to Asheville

People gathered in Asheville's town square to participate in the drum circle.
People gathered in Asheville’s town square to participate in the drum circle. Taylor Owens photos.

By Taylor Owens

While I no longer live near Asheville, North Carolina, it will always be a town with many exciting and adventurous memories. Asheville gives off a much more eccentric vibe with plenty of spots throughout the town showcasing its deep foodie, arts, and naturalistic roots.

The front of the house at Filo Cafe during breakfast hours.
The front of the house at Filo Cafe during breakfast hours.

Many planned trips and vacations to Asheville tend to include a lot of the popular tourist destinations: the Biltmore, a brewery or two, the national forest nearby, or shopping in the town center.

In my experience, the best recommendations for places to go when I’m visiting a new place usually ends up coming from a local I happened to speak to on the way.

A local’s guide to Asheville came from close friends of mine who call Asheville their home base and stomping ground. The following is a short list of some of the best off the beaten path foodie and hangout spots.

Breakfast Call

Start your morning off right with a light breakfast before a long day of foodie adventures throughout Asheville.

Filo is a café that has a cozy atmosphere for your morning jaunt to get coffee and bite to munch on. It’s a popular spot for locals to come and enjoy a cup of joe in the mornings, as well as provide a quiet space for people to work.

Atewerines George, a student at Warren Wilson College and an Asheville resident, mentioned that she likes to bring her laptop there to do work on Sunday mornings.

She suggests that if you pay the café a visit to “get a soy latte and a croissant.”

For Coffee Lovers

The Counter Culture Coffee Roasters training center during a brewing class.
The Counter Culture Coffee Roasters training center during a brewing class.

If you consider yourself a coffee enthusiast, one roaster in Asheville is holding coffee tastings to showcase their roasts.

Counter Culture Coffee Roasters, a pioneer of coffee quality and sustainability, holds free public coffee tastings that are open to the masses every Friday from 10-11 a.m.

Counter Culture Coffee also has a training center in the city that offers Home Brew classes. These courses include Brewing Coffee at Home and Espresso at Home.

Having taken the Brewing at Home course myself, I walked away with a better understanding of how to navigate my way through performing the perfect pour over, and I got to chat about coffee roasting and techniques with a small group during the class.

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The Mandatory Pint or Two  

The inner workings of the brewery during a guided tour.
The inner workings of the New Belgian brewery during a guided tour.

The New Belgium Brewery is a brewery where you get more than just a drink.

The New Belgium is open each day for free public brewery tours, private group brewery tours by reservation, and private behind-the-scenes brewery tours that give you a look into the heart of the New Belgium production with an expert guide.

The brewery also has an extensive schedule of food trucks that park themselves on site to feed the hungry brewery go-ers. At least one food truck is scheduled each day with options ranging from the Hop Ice Cream to El Kimchi.

Local Dinner Spots

The vegetable pho with tofu at Wild Ginger.
The vegetable pho with tofu at Wild Ginger.

Wild Ginger Noodle is the perfect dinner locale for anyone who appreciates a good bowl of pho.

Wild Ginger is located in South Asheville where they serve up delicious pho noodle soup and a variety of Vietnamese and Asian cuisine.

If you’re looking to go a different route with dinner, Chai Pani is an Indian street food joint that is dishing out chaat, uttapam, thali, and a plethora of sandwiches and wraps in the typical street food style.

Get Active in Town

A group yoga class at Asheville Community Yoga Center.
A group free yoga class at Asheville Community Yoga Center.

Atewerines George shared that her favorite way to get active in Asheville is free.

She attends frequent yoga classes at the Asheville Community Yoga Center because it is “an amazing yoga studio open to the public and completely run on donations.”

The yoga center also does service work with local groups and the homeless of Asheville. They have also started a yoga program for veterans.

Unique Spaces

If you’re in town and just want to go somewhere fun to meet up with a group of friends, the Well Played Board Game Café is a great gathering spot.

The Well Played Board Game Café is a recreational entertainment concept and restaurant where “they have really yummy food and serve you beer and wine while you play board games,” according to Atewerines.

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Another great option for a unique place to visit in Asheville would be to hit up the town center to see the drum circle. Anyone is welcome to participate in the music making, dancing, and general merriment that takes place during the drum circle.

Cafe goers play different board games during their visit to the restaurant.
Cafe-goers play different board games during their visit to the Well Played Board Game Cafe restaurant.

Sweet Treats

If you have a bit of a sweet tooth after dinner, Asheville does not disappoint when it comes to chocolate.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge near the town square is the place to be if you love milk, dark, extra dark, or drinkable chocolate.

The lounge looks just like any spiffed up coffee shop, but once you start reading the menus you quickly realize you’re looking at more than just your usual caffeine intake.

The menu is full of drinkable chocolate options like the Cold Sipping Chocolate, Liquid Truffle, Mexican-stye Oaxaca, and the classic Hot Chocolate.

The multiple different chocolate sipping options that are available at the lounge.
The multiple different chocolate sipping options that are available in the lounge.

Upon ordering your coffee or chocolate for sipping, you are free to pick out another dessert to go with your drink.

The menu and cases are full of brownies, cookies, chocolate mousses, crème Brulee, handcrafted ice cream, and plenty of options for cakes.

My personal favorite is a drip coffee with a small pot de crème to go along with it.

Taylor Owens

Taylor Owens is a Tennessee native who is currently calling the Massachusetts Berkshires home. She is passionate about the classics, folk music, and coffee. Taylor spends her days as a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, paddling plenty of rivers, skiing the slopes, sipping coffee, or on the hunt for the best breakfast.