My first experience with a rooftop restaurant involved about a half-hour of stairwell-related confusion, an impromptu inspection of the kitchen and a view obstructed by overly zealous safety precautions. This disappointment, I imagine, ultimately stems from the fact that at the time of this experience, I was not in Asheville.
If I had been, perhaps my experience would have entailed mountain-views, locally sourced, artisan dishes, and one of the best art-deco skylines south of New York. For a city of moderate population, Asheville boasts an impressive slew of rooftop restaurants and bars—established, one presumes, due to the city’s strong culinary backbone, and the nationally famous views of the Blue Ridge mountains. To best partake of these pleasures, I invite you to read on, and familiarize yourself with five of the best rooftop restaurants in Asheville.
Oddly enough, I have recently had a conversation concerning Hemingway’s. It went something along the lines of: “Have you been to Hemingway’s Cuba,” to which I said, “No,” which elicited, “You should go.” Regardless of presumptions made about my taste for Cuban fare (which I quite like), I too echo, “You should go.”
The restaurant’s name and culinary roots come from an eatery in Cuba, loved both by the Hemingway’s founder, and the actual Hemingway. Sitting high atop the Cambria Hotel in downtown, here one may find omelets and Cuban sandwiches in the morning, and at night, paella and ropa vieja. Both such plates carry weighty prices, but the other, smaller dishes are relatively moderate in cost. Their drink and dessert menu includes churros and tres leches, as well as Cuban cocktails, including Hemingway’s Daquiri, prepared as he used to like it. Combined with proximity to the Grove Arcade—an excellent section of town for shopping and parking—Hemingway’s Cuba is an undeniable contender in any list of the best rooftop restaurants in Asheville.
Timing: Most rooftop restaurants in downtown Asheville have both morning hours (for catching the daybreak), and night hours (for enjoying the stars). As such, their schedules are presented in somewhat confusing fashion. I shall try to remedy that.
Busiest on: Friday and Saturday nights.
Across to the east of Hemingway’s lies none other than Cappella on 9, that is, the ninth floor of the AC Hotel. Cappella towers over the Vance Monument to the South and they pride themselves on their mountain views and local ingredients, found in a tapa-centric menu. Always a fan of the variety and craftsmanship posed by such menus, here I find the standouts to be the cioppino, and Spanish-style pork belly. In terms of their morning menu, Capella offers an irresistible European-style breakfast-board, including quiche, tarts, and charcuterie selections.
Finally, Capella’s drink menu seems composed mainly of fruit-juice and wordplay, which is the best observation I can make as a non-expert. And while Capella’s prices do lie towards the high-end, this may be justified due to their high-end ingredients and high-end location. If you seek a rooftop restaurant in Asheville with great views and a taste for tapas, Cappella is the choice for you.
Busiest on: Friday and Saturday nights.
This entry forces one to contemplate the very meaning of “rooftop restaurant in Asheville.” For instance, if the establishment has a roof, aren’t you in fact beneath where the restaurant should be? And if not, then isn’t every restaurant a rooftop restaurant, so long as its not on the ground floor? And what of basements? Regardless of such existential concerns, the height of Edison’s vantage-point is undeniable, as are its splendid views of the Blue Ridge, and the Grove Park’s rolling grounds.
Like Hemingway’s, Edison stands as a testament to Asheville’s connection to the famous—it is said Thomas Edison himself frequented the location. Their menu is defined by charcuterie boards and venison tenderloin and is accompanied by a rotating selection of local craft brews and cocktails. This always raises a restaurant in my eyes and the eyes of my fellow Ashevilleans.
Yet as may be expected of any restaurant found in the Grove Park Inn, Edison’s prices are quite high, and reservations are recommended. Of course, I would recommend reservations for most restaurants on this list. They tend towards the high-end, and if one means to scale up to a rooftop restaurant in Asheville, they ought to take some kind of precaution, be it climbing gear, or a phone call.
Timing: Not only does Edison break the mold of rooftop restaurants in Asheville due to its location outside of downtown, but so to they do not separate their morning and night hours. Edison, Craft Ales + Kitchen is open from 11am-11pm on Sundays through Thursdays, and 11am-12pm on Fridays and Saturdays. They are busiest on Saturdays for lunch, and Sundays for dinner.
Like Edison, Pillar Rooftop Bar raises questions. They stand atop the AC Hotel—at downtown’s eastern edge—and their delectable southern-fusion fare is piped up from the Pillar Kitchen in the lobby. Thus, is Pillar Rooftop Bar a standalone establishment, or simply a far-flung set of outdoor seating? Indeed, what does this mean for their taxes? And what do pillars have to do with all this? Perhaps I ask too many questions.
In any case, here one may expect burgers, berry French toast, fire pits, a wide, mountain-view, and on weekend nights, live music. Pillar’s prices lie at the midline, somewhat below the standard deeper in downtown, and their drink list includes the, “Creative License” option: the bartender gets imaginative. All-in-all, Pillar Rooftop Bar delivers a comfortable and laid-back impression, making them an excellent choice for rooftop restaurants in Asheville near to downtown’s attractions, while standing somewhat separate from them.
Timing: Like the Edison, Pillar does away with the downtown tradition of split morning and night hours. They are open weeklong from 4pm-12am, and are busiest Saturday nights.
An astute reader may notice that these last two entries dub themselves “bars.” What is the difference is between rooftop bars in Asheville, and rooftop restaurants? Personally, I find that there is little distinction between them—especially in a city as brew-rich as my own. One would be hard pressed to find an establishment that sacrificed food for beverage among the rooftop bars in Asheville. This entry is no exception.
While enjoying views of the mountains and the historic Montford neighborhoods, here one may dine on chilaquiles for brunch, and drink local craft brews in the evenings. The Montford’s devotion to local brands is obvious throughout their menu; they source some ingredients from OWL Bakery, which is enough for me to slap my money on the counter and say, “I’ll take twenty.” Combined with truly moderate prices, and a rustic-chic aesthetic, The Montford Rooftop Bar rises to the top of this list of rooftop restaurants in Asheville.
Timing: The Montford Rooftop Bar is open from 3-10pm on weekdays, 12-10pm on Saturdays, and 10am-12pm on Sundays. They are busiest around dinnertime on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hemingway’s Cuba Restaurant and Bar
15 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Capella on 9
10 Broadway St F9, Asheville, NC 28801
Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen
290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
Pillar Rooftop Bar
309 College St 6th Floor, Asheville, NC 28801
The Montford Rooftop Bar
199 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801