Posted on / by Debra Alfarone / in General

If you’ve got 48 hours in Asheville, here’s what to do

Confession: I have always envied travel bloggers. From the outside, it looks like they eat instagrammable and delicious food, have super fun and unique experiences and see the underground stuff everyone wishes they could see. But, the journalist in me knows it’s hard work. Every picture must be just so, every word carefully chosen and don’t get me started on the delicate and painstaking task of formatting my WordPress blog. 

I’m a writer, so I know the art of not burying the lede: Go. And go hungry, 

We ate our way around Asheville and enjoyed the hell out of it. 

The iconic Stay Weird sign in Asheville’s River Arts District.

My husband Josh and I drove to Asheville from D.C. We arrived on a Monday afternoon (we have weird schedules, so our “weekends” fall mid-week). ROOKIE ALERT: Some places are closed on Mondays. We had two must-stop restaurants identified, Rhubarb & Cúrate. A quick Google search decided our fate. Since Cúrate is closed Monday, we used Resy to make a rezi there for lunch Tuesday, and hit up Rhubarb for dinner Monday night.

But first, we were famished. We stopped at the first place we saw in downtown Asheville, Cafe 64. There, we were met with the nicest people and two delicious sandwiches. We were both too hungry to stop and snap a pic of said sammies. See, I told you we were too new at this. 

Then, we stopped at The Chocolate Fetish – a custom local chocolate shop. Two truffles really stood out – the Key Lime Pie Ecstasy Truffle won an award and now I know why. Also the Peanut Envy Ecstasy truffle was a straight shot of peanut butter and since that’s half my diet on a good day, I was happy as can be .

Finally, we stepped into Rhubarb, also in downtown Asheville. It’s a farm-to-table New American spot and their menu is filled with what’s in season right now locally. Josh ordered up an Old Fashioned and I had a glass of rose, while we waited for a few yummy dishes to be delivered. My favorite was the supremely addictive Crispy Fried Hominy. Never had it before, didn’t even know what it was when I ordered it. But, I couldn’t stop shoveling these tiny fried morsels in my mouth. We also had two mains which were delicious, the Smoked Wild Mushroom Cassoulet and the Mountain Trout – but the real stars to me were the apps. The House Cure was another showstopper, a wooden board with Country Pate, Testa Terrine, Deviled BCF Ham, & other eats. 

The House Cure at Rhubarb
Crispy Fried Hominy at Rhubarb

We had made the calculated move of staying at an inexpensive Airbnb so we could spend it our money on food. It served it’s purpose. Clean and warm and had coffee. What more can you ask for?

Asheville has an eclectic, post-industrial River Arts District (RAD) where it’s super laid back and full of warehouses, murals, artists and supreme coolness. And it’s full of down-to-earth, genuinely nice people. No need to get dressed up in Asheville. Unless you want to wear a special outfit to snap a pic in front of the iconic Stay Weird sign. Which we did. Many of them.

Josh embracing his weirdness in Asheville’s River Arts District.

Next stop: the world famous Moog synthesizer factory & store. They have free tours but even a stop by the store is enough to get a feel for how important this machine is to the history of music. There you can play with different synthesizers. Josh is a DJ so he loved it. The Moog Theremini looks like something out of an old space cartoon, and it’s an experience play with it.

Red Sangria at Cúrate

By then it was time for our lunch at Cúrate, pronounced COO-rah-tay. It’s a traditional Spanish tapas place helmed by James Beard award finalist, chef and co-owner, Katie Buttons. We were intrigued to find out they have vermouth and sherry on tap. That’s because they apparently have something called the “la hora del vermut” (the vermouth hour) in Spain – who knew? So, Josh ordered a Vermouth over a big block of ice, with an orange wedge and an olive and I ordered the red Sangria. The vermouth was pretty sweet, so be warned. Then we loaded up our table with tapas. The very simple and traditional pan de cristal con tomato (tomato and bread) a ham board, and the standouts: bunnells de bacalao (fried cod fritters drizzled in honey) and berenjenas con miel (honey drizzled fried eggplant).

The pan de cristal con tomato (tomato and bread) and a delicious ham board at Cúrate.

With a shared promise to start our diets Wednesday, we stumbled out of Cúrate into the mid-day sun to buy gifts for my parents who were watching our rescue pup, Murray Silverman the Dog. Asheville is very into locally-sourced foods. We went into Olive This – and picked up some delicious Rosemary-infused Olive Oil. 

It was such a beautiful day that we had a beer outside amongst couples and their dogs at the Wicked Weed, which is next to the world famous Orange Peel. I had no idea so many huge acts have performed there. The Beastie Boys. Blondie. Ice Cube. They were dark that Tuesday night. Damn. Then, we walked around downtown Asheville until our feet hurt and drove back to our Airbnb. Which reminds me, you will have to pay for parking on the streets downtown Asheville, and there’s an app that makes it super easy to do. 

Wedge in Asheville’s River Arts District.

A quick nap, and then it was time for our last stop of the night: The Wedge Brewing Company in the River Arts District. They have a different food truck parked there every night. Outside people were eating and drinking along with a few dogs. 

We woke up Wednesday with a long drive ahead of us, and an opportunity to find one more place to try. We chose the Ultra Coffee Bar. It was the first eatery in the area. And boy are we happy we did. I had a latte with almond milk and a honey lavender shot. Yum! And we ordered two breakfast sandwiches of which there are no pics because they were just too damn delish to stop eating. Ultra also has a small jewelry display from a local jewelry maker named Fountainaity Handmade with beautiful handcrafted necklaces. Josh saw me eyeing one and bought it for me  as a belated birthday present. As I was thanking him, a man named Adam overheard us and wished me a happy birthday. Turns out, he works at New Belgium Brewing Company which is a huge brewery in the River Arts District. He told us about how the company treats their employees well and it’s employee-owned so when you drink one of their beers, you are directly taking care of 600 employees and their families and supporting a great work environment. Having left a workplace with less-than-warm-and-fuzzy management just 6 months prior, this was welcome news to my ears. We exchanged info and he said next time you’re back in town, first round’s on me. That’s kind of sums up Asheville: The people are nice, generous and the whole place feels like it’s giving you a hug.

One of my favorite stops on this trip: Ultra Coffee Bar.

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