The Asheville area has also evolved into a foodie’s dream destination.
I’ve chosen to highlight three very different and successful restaurants.
Being a New England boy, I was thrilled to discover The Lobster Trap. The restaurant is casual, friendly and has been packing them in for almost 15 years. As owner Amy Beard shared with me, “I got The Lobster Trap started, but Mike McCarty runs the show and is responsible for our menu, sustainability, etc.” But it’s not just lobster, there’s an array of super fresh oysters, mussels, clams, crab, and their award-winning Sunburst trout. When asked what patrons love the most, Amy replied, “Our best sellers, Oysters on the half shell and our Wicked Good Maine Lobster.” The lobster is steamed in the shell and served with corn and new potatoes. Caught sustainably by Captain Tom Martin of the Lucky Catch, the beauties are flown down from Maine, and as the restaurant says, “From Tom’s trap to our trap to your trap.”
For a super laid-back atmosphere, Pack’s Tavern can’t be beat. Mary Evans, head of marketing and events shared with me, “We have some great burgers and a wood-fired oven for pizza and hot subs.”
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale try the Chestnut. Taking “farm to table” to the next level, Chestnut offers new spins on old classics, and they take just as much pride in their craft cocktails. Their charcuterie consists of three types of cheeses, and locally sourced meats, most of which are smoked right in their own building. With the board comes local greens, pickled onions, lusty monk mustard, apple butter, and a sliced French Baguette. Vanessa Salomo, business development director for Westmorland & Sully told me, “Our dinner menu changes monthly. Our lunch and brunch items change quarterly.” When asked what patrons love the most? “For dinner I would say that our Petite Filet is a huge hit; for lunch, the Reuben or burger; and for brunch, eggs benny.”
Elizabeth, of Beverly-Hanks Realtors, added: “My favorite restaurant is the Well Bread Bakery. They serve a great lunch with many healthy sides to choose. It has a laid-back atmosphere and the staff is always super friendly.”
While Speaking to Asheville native Ned Tipton, a gay, church musician who has traveled the world and lived in Atlanta, Paris, Los Angeles, and now New Canaan, Connecticut, I asked him what it was like for him, growing up here.
“Growing up gay in Asheville was a very lonely experience, to say the least. The Asheville of my youth was very much described in Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel. Not in the gay sense, but in that it was very much a small-ish Southern city, with all of the prejudices against “the other.” I sensed, early on, that there was, somewhere, an environment where differences were celebrated, rather than shunned. In retrospect, I retreated into music, but I had some talent in that area, and was able to forge my own path. But I always felt different, one of those “others.” I couldn’t tell anyone about it, much less be myself,whatever that meant.” A note regarding Thomas Wolf and his novel Look Homeward, Angel – the town that Mr. Wolfe creates in the novel is called Altamont but it’s actually Asheville. In fact, his homestead is now a Memorial State Historic Site.