The other day I was comparing notes with a fellow world-traveler, and as often happens in my presence, the conversation turned towards provisions. “How about that Portuguese food?" I said. "Yes," they said, "Delicious." “And Spanish?” I said. "Yes, wonderful as well." And so on.
Half a dozen countries later it struck us that we loved the food in just about all of Europe. Imagine that: a whole continent just full of delectable cuisine. Some people may disagree, but I’ll even throw the UK in there. I do love a good shepherd's pie.
Now imagine that you didn’t have to take a seven-hour flight to access such cuisine. A wonderful fantasy, sure, but it’s more likely than you think. Yes, with just a short journey on down to Asheville, NC, you too can enjoy the fruits of the Continent, in some of my hometowns chicest and most delicious restaurants.
They don’t call it the Paris of the South for nothing. So, read on, and discover five of the best European restaurants in Asheville.
One of my favorite downtown restaurants, Curate specializes in the art of the tapa, a small plate shaped around delicate flavors, meant to be shared with friends and family. This kind of eating is a dream come true for the indecisive and the curious, and a dazzling gateway into Spanish cuisine for those yet unacquainted with the delights of manchego cheese and jamon Iberico.
Larger plates include whole grilled trout, lamb skewers seasoned in Moorish spices, and butifarra a la plancha. Paired with one of their dazzling wines or vermouths, a meal here will be one to remember. But, as with all of Asheville’s best European restaurants, reservations are recommended.
For a more casual experience, visit their spinoff La Bodega, on the other side of the block, serving brunch, lunch, charcuterie, and of course, plenty of wine.
Hours: 4-10:30pm, Tuesday through Thursday. 11:30am-10:30pm, Friday through Sunday. Closed Mondays.
Long have I yearned for this north Asheville staple to open a second location closer to my southerly stopping grounds. And lo and behold, my prayers were answered, nearly two years ago to the day of my writing. It was a match made in heaven, and together Vinnie's and I have shared numerous garlic rolls.
I feel like the joy of Italian food’s not something I have to explain. Most people know it, most people love it; it’s a crowd pleaser. As such, this local favorite is bustling many nights of the week—both at its north and south locations—but if you don’t mind a short wait, I’m telling you it's well worth it for some of the best cannolis and twice-baked lasagnas you’ll find anywhere in town.
Hours: North: 4:30-9:30pm, every night of the week. South: 4:30-9pm Sunday through Thursday. Open until 9:30pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Yet another local institution when it comes to European restaurants in Asheville, Apollo Flame’s signature Italo-Greco-American fusion is one of my top picks for casual, consistently delightful dining. I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember, brought back again and again by their white pies and lamb gyros.
As a side note I’ve noticed that any restaurant that prides itself on its pasta—Apollo Flame included, rightfully so—tends to make a land-office business. There’s a lesson here for the budding restaurateur.
Anyways, I’ve never had trouble finding a table here, which is a testament to their efficient service. Add on top of that two strategically placed location—one near the Biltmore Estate, one near the NC Arboretum—and you have yourself a restaurant that's easily incorporated into a visit to two of Asheville’s most beautiful destinations.
Hours: Hendersonville Road location, near the Estate: 10:30am-10pm, Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. Brevard Road location, near the Arboretum: 11am-10pm, Monday through Saturday. Closes at 9pm Sundays.
Now we come to one of the many restaurants in Asheville that I wish I had mentioned long before. You can scarcely call yourself “The Paris of the South” without a devoted creperie, and that’s just what we have here, folks.
Sweet crepes, savory crepes, brunch crepes, and lunch crepes, all served at a fair price, and in short order. Take a seat at their counter, and watch the pedestrians stroll on by. It’s a laid-back place, as many creperies are, making it an excellent alternative to the commitment of time and lucre often involved in finding a table downtown.
And with their prime location, just a few minutes east of the Grove Arcade, within shouting distance of Malaprop’s Bookstore, the Twisted Crepe comes highly recommended if you’re looking for lunch while exploring downtown’s most iconic landmarks.
Hours: 10am-5pm, Monday through Friday. 9am-6pm Saturdays. 9am-3:30pm Sundays. Closed Wednesdays.
Speaking of la France, I can’t think of any better way to wrap up this roundup of Asheville’s best European restaurants than a little visit to my hometown’s resident bastion of authentic French comfort food. Which has a leg up on your average French food, mainly because it involves beacoup de frites.
Imagine you’re coming to the end of a long day of touring downtown Asheville; museums, shopping, cafes, and all the rest. You make the final journey to Bouchon, grab a table outside, dine on steamed mussels with imported wine, or salmon Dijonnaise, or bouef bourguignon, or Moroccan spiced lamb chops, or maybe even steak tartare.
Suffice to say, here at Bouchon you can enjoy all the greatest hits of French cuisine, without crossing a single national border. The prices may be high, but this is certainly a location for a special occasion. Conclude your meal with pain perdu a la mode or the fabled banane bouree, and I'm sure you will agree.
Hours: 5pm-9:30pm, Sunday through Thursday. Open until 10:30pm Fridays and Saturdays.
13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian (North)
641 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian (South)
1981 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803
Apollo Flame Bistro (Brevard)
1025 Brevard Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Apollo Flame Bistro (Hendersonville)
485 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803
62 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
62 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801