Asheville may be known throughout the southeast for its exceptional dining but that is only half the story. For every day, there is a night. For every luncheon, a digestive. For every savory, a sweet. You know of what I speak: dessert, the fourth meal of the day.
As a dabbler in the patisserine arts myself, I take a special pleasure in assessing the post-prandial puissance of my local cafes, bakeries, and chocolatiers. And I got to say, the very best contenders for the best dessert in Asheville lie in downtown. I think you’ll find this fact convenient, as if you sally downtown, you’ll probably end up eating there. And if you end up eating there, you’d better have a place in mind for dessert. It is, after all, the mark of a discerning and well-versed traveler.
Old Europe has long been my own personal go-to for dessert in downtown Asheville. By virtue of its location, just north of Pack Square—downtown's beating heart—I find my wanderings often take me into proximity of this exemplary café.
Old Europe’s cabinets glisten with authentic Continental confections, from the Hungarian rigó jansci—a product of the owner’s heritage—to classic French delights such as eclairs and pot-de-crème. I pair my purchases with a cup of strong coffee. It serves as the perfect enhancement to one's appetite.
A potential visitor here should note that the café's environs are remarkably narrow. If it's not too busy, I’d describe the interior as cozy, even romantic. If it is busy day, typically Saturday or Sunday, you may find it to be a bit of a hassle. Then again, I would gladly elbow, trip, shove, slap, wrestle, and/or defenestrate any number of innocent bystanders just to win a table at Old Europe. I suppose it’s a question of how far you’ll go for a pastry.
When do They Close? 10pm on weekdays, 11pm Friday through Sunday.
I consider crepes to be the feather in the cap of any city’s dessert-scene. At their best they are both delicate and explosively flavorful, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Asheville’s Twisted Crepe.
Located about two blocks east of the Grove Arcade, I often find myself walking past this worthy creperie, lending it a geographical advantage akin to Old Europe. As far as the crepes themselves, they serve both sweet and savory, with a delicious list of ingredients with which to formulate your own custom designs. This is of course nine-tenths of what the French call “le vivre des crêpes.” I find them surprisingly filling, so you may want to schedule your visit amidst a stint of afternoon shopping or the like, as opposed to after a meal.
When do They Close? 5pm most days, 6pm Saturdays, 330pm Sundays, closed Wednesdays.
Asheville has no shortage of chocolatiers, and frankly, I’d recommend them all, but I’d like to focus on the French Broad Chocolate Lounge due to its location. Less than a sixty-second walk from the Museum of Art, at the intersection of Asheville’s north-sound and east-west arteries, this purveyor of dessert in downtown Asheville stands on true prime real estate, at the center of the city itself.
As to the edibles, their vast assortments of bonbons, pastries, and cakes are all fashioned with chocolate from their independent factory, located north of the River Arts District. Talk about local products. If you take a special liking to their chocolatey formula, French Broad offers tours of their factory daily, from 2 to 4pm.
It's an experience both educational and delicious, which convinced me to try my own hand at chocolatiering, a career which was sadly cut short by the Cocoa Explosion Chaos Murder Incident, which made local papers. It isn't how I imagined I’d become famous, but I’ll take it.
When do They Close? 10pm daily.
This recent addition to the world of dessert in downtown Asheville lies within the historic S&W Cafeteria, built in 1929 and reconstituted as the city’s first food hall. The spacious, two-story seating sees tourists and locals alike mingling amidst an eclectic assortment of platters. It makes for excellent people-watching, an experience only enhanced with a cone in your hand.
Speaking of which, the Hop is a local staple, which often makes its way into my writings. Sure, its hard to mess up ice cream, but the Hop rises above and beyond the call of creameries, with exciting and exotic flavors such Chinese 5-spice and golden beet, alongside more mainstream and vegan options.
When do They Close? The S&W Market closes at 10pm, 8pm on Sundays, closed Tuesdays.
Most places for dessert in downtown Asheville stand on the more casual side of things. A nighttime expedition to Crave Dessert Bar may not exactly be a suit-and-tie occasion, but its lounge-y interior and decadent menu downright breathe sophistication.
This downtown destination offers a range of cakes, cheesecakes, and cupcakes, alongside the creations of an unusual imagination: red velvet waffles, churro fondu, and hot Italian doughnuts. Incidentally, I've found that "hot Italian doughnuts” makes for an excellent exclamation, as in, “Hot Italian doughnuts, I’m late for work.”
Crave’s libations run the gambit from dessert wine, to digestives, craft draft brews, and of course, a mighty selection of cocktails. I’d suggest Crave for a date-night, or get-together with friends.
When do They Close? Midnight. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Old Europe Pastries
13 Broadway St, Asheville, NC 28801
62 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
10 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801
The Hop (Downtown)
56 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Crave Dessert Bar
41 N Lexington Ave Suite# 100, Asheville, NC 28801