We only had 24 hours to spend there, but I’d heard so many good things about Asheville, I hated to miss it since we were so close. People talk about Asheville with the same reverence that they speak of Portland, Austin, and Boulder. It’s known as a town that dances to the beat of its own drum, has no shortage of vegan options, and a welcoming feel. That was certainly my experience of it too.
To see it all in live action, including my reaction to eating boiled peanuts for the first time, check out the video above. (Side note: Gas station boiled peanuts are likely not the best representation of the boiled peanuts experience. I’d like to try them again another time at a farmers market or roadside stand. But my experience still has a certain comic appeal…)
Our first stop in downtown Asheville was Rosetta’s Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant with adjacent kombucha bar. We sat upstairs, where there’s a small outdoor seating area. We ordered at the counter and then waited for our food to arrive.
I had the peanut butter tofu, which is one of the signature dishes at Rosetta’s Kitchen. In fact, I even saw it for sale in packaged frozen form in area grocery stores. The tofu came with sautéed kale, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The flavors of the food were good, but it was all kind of lukewarm. It tasted like it had been under a heat lamp and kind of forgotten there.
After our lunch, we walked around the area’s unique specialty boutiques, bookstores, and craft galleries. I was surprised by how much the stores really hit my tastes. There were dresses aplenty, cute gift shops, and lots of art galleries selling the work of local artists. We also happened to be there when an outdoor art fair was going on, and I picked up a necklace.
Of course, if there are vegan doughnuts to be had, that’s definitely worthy of a visit. So we headed to Vortex, a coffee & doughnut shop with a selection of vegan as well as non-vegan donuts.
They had several vegan varieties on display, and we got a cinnamon sugar and chocolate, cherry, and passion fruit. I had no expectations of the passion fruit, but it was the surprise hit. It had just the right amount of sweetness, and the donuts were fresh and bouncy.
Blue Ridge Parkway:
Although we didn’t have time to drive any great length of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles, I wanted to see at least some of that gorgeous drive. It’s known to be one of the highlights of Asheville.
One of the first lookouts is only about 15 minutes from downtown Asheville. So we drove to the overlook of Haw Creek Valley, and it was very picturesque. I’ve read it’s also a nice hike, and it would be fun to do that on another trip when we have more time.
Another must for Asheville was visiting Plant. Whenever there’s a list of top vegan restaurants, Plant is on it. I made sure to get reservations well ahead of time, and I’m glad I did. The restaurant was buzzing by the time we got there on a Saturday night.
We started with a savory take on plantains. The fried plantains were topped with sour cream, hot sauce, and maldon salt. I love plantains any way that I can get them, but this unique spin was a welcome surprise.
Korean food in general and bibimbap in particular have become obsessions for me. So I knew I’d be ordering the bibimbap as soon as I saw it on the menu online. It was topped with tofu that was reminiscent of my own bulgogi-style tofu. It was beautifully laid out with kimchi and vegetables on chilled sesame rice.
For dessert, we shared a cannolo made with an anise shell and filled with candied orange ricotta. (Fun fact: “Cannolo” is the singular form of “cannoli.”) The flavors of anise and orange aren’t ones I typically go for in desserts, but it was an unusual twist that felt very fancy. (Candle 79 still wins top cannoli honors for me, though.)
Green Sage Cafe:
Before leaving town the next morning, we visited Green Sage Cafe for breakfast. It’s a casual order at the counter kind of place with vegan options. We had scrambled tofu, biscuits and gravy, tempeh sausage, and root hash.
In the plus column, the biscuits and mushroom gravy were the best parts of the meal, and I liked that they included a little vegan flag on their plates. In the negative, the scrambled tofu tasted like turmeric and not much else, which always kind of bums me out, and the tempeh sausage was a bit on the hockey puck side.
By then it was time to say goodbye to Asheville. I look forward to going back when I can spend more time. There were so many more restaurants I’d love to visit, and it would be easy to spend a day hiking, exploring the mountains, or even whitewater rafting.