What is the most American thing you can think of? Is it Ohio? Health insurance? A cowboy prospecting for oil on the moon?
All are good answers, but in my opinion, it is the hamburger which wins the title of the most American of all creations. Its not just about being the national dish; its about symbology.
You can get burgers from fast-food chains, prepackaged, regimented, reliable. You can get them from mom-and-pop diners, made with simplicity and care. You can get them with mustard, mushrooms, jam, or a fried egg. You can even get a hamburger made of beans if you’re so inclined. Hamburgers are adaptable, dense, and fundamentally straightforward—but above all else, they are vehicles of variation. And that’s what makes them American—variety, in spite of apparent plainness.
In appearance, Asheville is anything but plain, yet it embodies the American spirit of variety better than any city of its size. Yet with variety comes confusion, and it certainly complicates such matters as deciding what’s for lunch. To that end, I invite you to read on, and educate yourself concerning the best burgers in Asheville, where to find them, how best to eat them, and how they vary from the competition.
To start off, I’d like to introduce a restaurant that may not provide the most artisanal burgers in Asheville, but absolutely nails one of the most important tasks of a good eatery.
A restaurant is not just its food, but the process of ordering and receiving that food, and so Burgerworx claims the honor of providing some of the best burgers in Asheville by providing the best process.
Being an individual of eccentric and extensive tastes, I often find myself accidentally dictating my master’s thesis when I try to order a burger; its usually by the twelfth topping that I see the poor waiter’s spirit become truly unhinged.
I know plenty of individuals who would be happy with the basic ketchup, mustard, lettuce, etc., but for those of you who—like me—want to consume a monstrosity of nature, Burgerworx has your back.
Rather than ordering your masterpiece verbally, Burgerworx simply has you check a series of boxes on their menu, not unlike a sushi bar. Theoretically, one could check every box, although this of course may result in unforeseen consequences.
With ingredients ranging from ghost pepper jack to chili, Burgerworx offers the opportunity to create whatsoever affront to veganism your heart desires. By the same token, one could also craft a purely vegetarian burger, or maybe forget about sandwiches altogether and enjoy one of Burgerworx’s premium milkshakes.
That right there is the power of variety, and its why—with a little ingenuity—one could find the best burger in Asheville hidden within Burgerworx’s menu.
Where and Why: Burgerworx sports a location in South Asheville, along the much-traversed Hendersonville Road, as well as a location in the heart of downtown. The former provides for those in transit, the latter for those who desire a jaunt around Asheville’s beating heart.
2: Farm Burger
Despite being a national chain, Farm Burger’s name might as well read “Asheville Burger.”
The ethos of “buying local” thrives in Asheville’s consumer industry, and Farm Burger does just that. The chain prides themselves in their partnership with local small-scale farms, where they obtain their grass-fed beef and seasonal fare.
For this reason, Farm Burger warrants consideration for the title of the best burger in Asheville, in terms of responsibly sourced ingredients if nothing else. Speaking of ingredients, have you ever considered pork belly on your burger? How about roasted bone-marrow? Farm Burger has considered such things, and found them suitable for a menu comprised of ingredients seemingly pried from a gourmet cookbook.
In a final salute to Asheville’s food culture, Farm Burger also offers local draft beer, which can be had a-la-carte, or mixed with ice-cream. Such a slew of artisan foodstuffs makes Farm Burger one of the best chain-restaurants in town, as well as one of the best proprietors of burgers in Asheville.
Where and Why: Like Burgerworx, Farm Burger sports two locations, one in the South, and one in downtown. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself with the choice of going to either Farm Burger or Burgerworx. Such a situation invariably leads to competition, and we may only hope that the two restaurants have the foresight to strive to better their own capabilities, rather than annihilate each other via mustard-based recipes of mass destruction.
3: Abeja’s House Café
I remember when Abjea’s first opened—I remember because it has been a staple of my weekly diet ever since.
One part hometown diner, one part Latin fare, and one part pure Ashevillian culture (kale, tempeh, etc.), Abeja’s skilled chefs provide a wide range of caringly-prepared dishes.
Whether I’m having breakfast, lunch, or one of the café’s inspired rotating specials, I have never been disappointed. It should come as no surprise that Abjea’s contends for the right to the best burger in Asheville.
Whereas other restaurants in this article may rely upon fanciful toppings to bring their burgers up to speed, Abeja’s relies upon good ingredients, and good cooking. Better yet, the café is a bastion for compromise.
Say, for instance, you want a hamburger, but the wife is feeling like a chicken wrap, whereas your kids haven’t ventured far beyond the realms of breakfast food. Just to complicate things, let’s say your in-laws have declared a veto on anything that doesn’t rhyme with BLT. Well, in this nightmarish scenario, Abeja’s can provide everything your party wants; you can have your cake and eat it too. Really, their cakes are quite good.
If such bold words have piqued your interest, I invite you to follow in my footsteps, and enjoy your burger with three cups of Guatemalan coffee. However, I bid you beware of the Sunday brunch crowd—they are a dense bunch, all as avid as the rest for a taste of this café’s wonderful offerings.
Where and Why: Abeja’s lies on the South side of town, not too far from an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway itself. From there, one may range Asheville’s lush environs, from the Arboretum, to the countless hiking-paths which branch off from this national masterpiece.
The Universal Joint
I am told that this iconic Ashevillean eatery takes its name from that famous “universal joint” known in engineering as a coupling unit that attaches two rotating shafts which may not be parallel but do intersect. That is to say, it's a metaphor for community.
Nestled into the heart of vibrant West Asheville, I can think of no better name. The Universal Joint is a self-described “neighborhood restaurant,” a spot to connect with locals—whether you’re a resident or not—via the ancient mediums of shared food and televised sports.
Weather permitting, I suggest you take your meal out onto their dog-friendly patio. Fresh air will fortify you to tackle such delicacies as their spicy egg rolls with mango chutney, cheese curds, and of course, the eponymous “U Joint Burger,” furnished with bacon, jalapenos, and ranch.
As far as libations, the Universal Joint sports one of the largest drink-menus I’ve been acquainted with, and that’s saying something for Asheville. Local craft beers, import beers, wine, cocktails, irish coffee; it's all there.
To wrap it all up: if you want one of the best burgers in Asheville alongside a dose of local community, look no further than the Universal Joint.
Where and Why: West Asheville often poses some challenges in the realm of parking, but with Isis Music Hall and ice-cream at the Hop just downstreet, you’ll have plenty of reason to persevere. If things are truly desperate, I sometimes park at the nearby Ingles supermarket. The establishment would stop me if they could.
5: HomeGrown West
For the record, its written “HomeGrown,” not “Home Grown.” The lack of a space between “Home” and “Grown” is intentional, and it shows. HomeGrown is just about as local as it gets, with food straight out of your grandmother’s kitchen (if she was from Asheville), and ingredients cultivated in the local community.
Therefrom comes an advantage in freshness and flavor. The décor follows the tenants of the rural Bohemian (eclectic tablecloths, mix-and-match chairs, etc.) and outdoor seating flows out of HomeGrown’s back door, straight on to an open-air firepit. While their menu boasts a wide selection of delectable dishes, if one seeks the best burger in Asheville, HomeGrown may just be the summit.
Paired with a healthy helping of pommes-frites—note that “healthy” means it would terrify any nutritionist—I would confidently call HomeGrown’s burger the hamburger of Asheville.
Where and Why: HomeGrown’s West location may be found along the French Broad, just across the water from the River Art’s District—a must-see for any newcomer to Asheville. Likewise, it lies within minutes from Carrier Park, for those who realize a diet of just hamburgers is lethal without some exercise.
1378 Hendersonville Rd a, Asheville, NC 28803
1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Farm Burger Asheville
10 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Farm Burger South Asheville
1831 Hendersonville Rd #100, Asheville, NC 28803
Abeja’s House Cafe
1550 Hendersonville Rd #116, Asheville, NC 28803
784 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
West Asheville Tailgate Market
701 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
219 Amboy Rd, Asheville, NC 28806