Asheville, NC Recap
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
I was in Asheville, NC last week (birthday trip!) for the first time in about 15 years. It was really different than I had remembered and a few locals told me that the city has gone through many changes even just in the last 5 years. It reminded me a lot of Austin, Seattle, and Portland. Rod and I were searching for somewhere within driving distance from Baltimore to go and per the 78 “Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly” restaurants on www.Happycow.net, Asheville was an easy choice!
We rented a cabin on Airbnb in Clyde, NC. Asheville is a bit sprawled, and when you’re traveling with 2 dogs and eyeing a hot tub, 30 minutes from downtown Asheville was about the best we could do. The cabin had a kitchen, which as you may have heard me say before, is a great asset for traveling as a vegan. We went to the local supermarket and picked up some easy breakfast options-- Barbara’s cereal, Silk unsweetened soy milk, strawberries, and a can of my favorite Annie’s Cinnamon Rolls because, #vacation!
For the first few days eating was a little tough as we got our bearings. Our cabin was in a mountainous area and we were nervous to get home in the dark! Our cabin was close to Waynesville, NC and we started there for a few meals. Our first night we got takeout dinner from Sauced, where they had vegan cheese available for their pizza. I built a pizza with tomato sauce, kalamata olives, spinach, and mushrooms. It seemed to be Daiya cheese and it was only okay-- they went overboard on the cheese and I am not a fan of Daiya. I’d recommend opting for the tofu tacos next time or requesting a cheeseless pizza. Another night, we got takeout from Watami Sushi and Noodles in Waynesville which I likely wouldn’t recommend. The food was greasy and didn’t taste authentic. So, Waynesville was not our spot. Next!
Eating in downtown Asheville, we did a lot better!
I had heard Laughing Seed Cafe was a staple in the plant-based food scene so of course, we had to check it out. I am not normally a french fry fan but their jalapeno and onion fries WITH a side of cashew queso were amazing. Crispy jalapeno slices, pervasive heat without being punishing, and perfectly salted french fries. 100% recommend. I also had the taco salad. I am a sucker for vegan taco salads as they are so filling and have tons of different foods in them. I love the feeling of exploring a meal when it has so many components and these dishes are often more nutritious too due to the variety. Rod got the Mushroom Risotto (vegetarian, with a vegan option) that was disappointing and not creamy, as is characteristic of risotto.
Rosettas Kitchen is also 100% plant-based. We tried their cashew queso (okay, so what if it was really just a queso tour of Asheville?!), buffalo cauliflower, and sauteed kale with cornbread and gravy. The food is decadent and it’s truly vegan comfort food.
In a similar sphere of vegan comfort food, Biscuit Head has a vegan biscuit and “gravy”. The vegan biscuit is also their gluten-free biscuit and it tasted a bit dry and chewy to me. I opted for the smoked tomato gravy which was flavorful and spicy, but more like a tomato sauce. I also tried the coconut collard greens. These were creamy but too sweet as if they added sweetener. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for this local chain.
For my birthday dinner, we went to Plant which I had read about in the Asheville Vegans Facebook group. Another traveling tip of mine is to join a local vegan Facebook group! Plant was the real star of the trip.
While the menu seemed *very* vegan, it was hard to get a sense of what the food would be like. Based on the positive acclaim, we made a reservation-- the restaurant seems to be in high demand. The outside was unassuming but the food was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s creative cuisine and so much thought has gone into it. The food is made right in front of you in the restaurant's (small) open kitchen. We got a cheese plate with almond ricotta, farmer’s cheese, and aged cashew cheese and it surpassed all other vegan cheese plates due to its addition of perfectly paired snacks, sauces, and oils-- like a rosemary and amber sauce on peaches! What even is Amber?? I didn’t know! Cooks.com says it traditionally contains corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, and canned milk, whoa. Not the healthiest. Thankfully here it was drizzled in small amounts-- and hopefully made with healthier ingredients!
We tried the ravioli appetizer and added on locally foraged mushrooms ::swoon::. The lobster mushrooms tasted very similar to seafood and the kabocha squash alfredo sauce on it was the creamiest vegan sauce I’ve ever tried. We also shared the summer ramen which had a heavily savory smoked tamari broth. For dessert, we shared the Blackout which was chocolate peanut butter fudge with a pretzel crust. Somehow, the dessert was a less exciting part of the meal! I found the pretzel crust dry and the fudge to be pretty plain, not as interesting as the rest of our food.
All in all, the ingredients at Plant were obviously so fresh and they’re proud to source them locally. It makes you think you’ve never really tasted your food before. Although not a common problem, the service was too fast for such a delicious meal. I felt a bit rushed and I would have liked to linger more.
Breweries were also a big part of our trip as we love craft beer. The Wicked Weed Brewpub has an awesome shady outdoor area. I got the Beyond Burger and a mixed green salad (order without chevre) which had peaches, blueberries, toasted almonds in a peach white balsamic. The perfect summer salad!
Asheville has a lot to see in the surrounding areas too. In the cute town of Brevard, NC we got lunch at Mayberry’s. I had the Spicy Orzo wrap-- ask for it without Cuban mustard, add in Balsamic, and ask for the wrap to not be grilled in butter. It comes with spinach, tomatoes, black beans, and edamame. Light but so filling! Rod also said the grilled cheese he got (vegetarian) was excellent.
On our last night we tracked down the Trashy Vegan food truck to get a “Junior Bacon Cheeseburger” and a Chicken Sandwich made with the super versatile soy curls and a “trash-fil-a” sauce a la Chick Fil A’s popular honey mustard-y sauce. The burger had Hooray Bacon on it which I had never tried and was truly trashy goodness.
All in all, we really ate well in Asheville. Maybe too well? Lots of heavy vegan comfort food. It’s rare for me to travel and ask for more salads, but on this trip, I could have used them! Plant was a major highlight and I’d recommend it to anyone within a few hours of Asheville. It’s worth the drive! I came home very ready to cook again and to eat lighter meals. If you follow in my gastronomical footsteps, introduce some movement and check out some of Asheville’s incredible hiking trails, waterfalls, and outdoor areas too. This is Upper Whitewater Falls below, North Carolina's largest waterfall!