Asheville’s Best of 2022—A Local’s Perspective
All in all, I think 2022 was a good year for Asheville. Lots of new businesses and restaurants. Lots of renovations. Revitalizations. Even resurrections.
It’s a lot to keep track of, especially if you’re not from around here. So, I’d like to take a moment to summarize some of the best things to do in Asheville from 2022; everything from new openings, to the old tried-and-trues. Think of it like an awards ceremony. If you happen to be a local, and you see your business mentioned below, note that you are entitled to one (1) firm handshake delivered by yours truly.
1: Huli Sue’s BBQ—Best New Hawaiian Restaurant
Huli Sue’s popped up on my radar early in the year. I’m a big fan of barbecue and arguably an even bigger fan of pineapples, so I knew from the start I’d have to give them a try. They have not disappointed.
The blend of classic Texas barbecue and tropical Hawaiian delicacies makes for a menu chock full of mesmerizing opportunities, from poke bowls to brisket with French onion gravy and an egg over-easy. As far as location, they reside in some true prime real-estate, inside the historic Grove Arcade. A visit here is easily incorporated to some great downtown shopping.
I’ve always held up the variety of culinary traditions featured in Asheville’s local restaurants as a compelling point in the argument for my hometown’s regional supremacy. I'm proud to say we can add stellar Hawaiian to the mix.
New Year’s Resolution: Try their lilikoi cheesecake. Passion fruit calls to my heart.
2: The Arboretum’s Winter Lights—Best Holiday Event
It’s been a busy holiday season on my end, let me tell you. Baking. Merry making. Getting thrown out of the Grove Park Inn for “Overly-vigorous caroling.” And amidst all this, I think my favorite event was my family’s traditional visit to the Arboretum’s winter lights display.
The whole upper gardens are bedecked in the most festive decorations you’ll see anywhere in town, and with a cup of hot cocoa in hand (vended on-site), you’re guaranteed one heck of a holly-jolly night.
In past years, I’ve seen the cars lined up all the way out the gates and down the road, just to get a parking spot. This year we went on the Thursday before Christmas, and it was the perfect amount of people. Not too many as to hinder your advancement. Not too few as to put a damper on the holiday cheer. I don’t know if this was merely chance or part of a larger pattern, but it’s certainly something I’ll keep in mind for this year’s visit.
New Year’s Resolution: Sell roasted chestnuts from a handcart. The Arboretum’s officials may try to drive me out, but the forest is dark, and full of hidey-holes.
3: Well Played Board Game Café—Best Café Returned from the Dead
Back in 2020, when I heard my favorite local board game café had bitten the dust, I didn’t take it well. Friends and relatives tell me I was inconsolable for a whole week, roaming the house in the manner of a mournful ghost. Among my friends, it was an institution to grab some coffee at Well Played, alongside a couple rounds of a board game few of us had ever heard of before, and none of us understood.
Last year, the shadow was lifted from my eyes, with Well Played’s grand reopening in the early summer. Their new location lies in the South Slope Brewing District, and offers the excellent menu of hot drinks, light fair, lunch, and local brews that I had grown to know and love.
Long story short, I’m just happy they’re back. Not only for my own sake, but so that visitors to Asheville can experience this café's singular delights.
New Year’s Resolution: Win the Catan tournament. I’ve been training my whole life for this.
4: Marquee—Best New Gallery in the River Arts District
Opening at the very start of 2022, I find relatively little mention of Marquee in the typical news-lines, given that this gallery is huge. I mean literally large. Something like 50,000 square feet. That, my friends, is a whole lot of art.
Marquee combines the best parts of a high-art showroom, local-chiq retailer, and a casual bar, with drinks served courtesy of St. Brighid’s. It’s the epitome of what you would call an eclectic space, featuring every medium you can imagine and then some. Not a bad place to start your exploration of Asheville’s River Arts District, especially with the Grail indie movie-house and 12 Bones Smokehouse just down the street.
New Year’s Resolution: Get my collection of antique jam forks put on display. I just can’t keep all these boxes around anymore. It’s getting out of hand.
5: Hiking—Best Thing to do in the Mountains
I’ve always felt fortunate to live in Asheville. Not only do we have the hippest city-center in the entire Southeast, but the Blue Ridge Mountains to boot. No matter the season, a drive up the Parkway to Asheville’s nigh-infinite hiking trails makes for an excellent way to spend your day. And with so many to pick from, there’s paths for every level of experience and activity.
You can find some of my favorites here and here. Enjoy them with gusto, and happy New Year.
New Year’s Resolution: Find that shoe sole I lost back in March. It’s got to be up there still, somewhere in those rolling hills. Waiting for rescue. Waiting for me.
Huli Sue's BBQ and Grill
1 Page Ave Suite 150, Asheville, NC 28801
Well Played Board Game Café
162 Coxe Ave Suite 101, Asheville, NC 28801
36 Foundy St #21a, Asheville, NC 28801