I can see it now: the rocky beaches, the blue sky. I hear the seagulls chatter. I smell the salt on the siroccos, and I taste the olives. This place I describe may lie several time zones away, but in Asheville—dining Mecca of the Appalachians—a lucky traveler can sample globe-spanning cuisine without crossing a single national border.
Mediterranean; it’s long been one of my favorite culinary traditions. I’m a sucker for spices, be they on lamb or baba ghanoush. So, without further sensory hallucinations lets dive right in to the five best Mediterranean restaurants in Asheville.
This Greek bistro has stood the test of time. With locations in Brevard and south Asheville, if you speak to any locals from those parts of town, you’re bound to hear it's one of their go-to’s for Mediterranean in Asheville.
Why is this? Solid gyros, solid pita. And, like the Euboeans of Archaic Greece, Apollo Flame is not averse to a little foray into Italy. Pizza, pasta, Italian subs. Out of all of these excellent options, I personally prefer a white pie with fresh tomato. That’s just my two cents.
Mediterranean History Hour: In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, the ancient Greeks founded colonies in southern Italy, known then as “Magna Graecia.” Please note: the Mediterranean History Hour does not cite its sources, nor is it sponsored or endorsed by anyone except the author.
Speaking of Italy, Vinne’s new south Asheville location has swiftly become my first choice for Italian. As of the time of my writing, I highly recommended reservations or take out. Their parking lot is full to the brim just about all night, every night. You should take that as a testament to local popularity.
At Vinnie’s you’ve got your usual pastas, your eggplant parmigiana, your pizza, lasagna, etc. Everything you’d expect of a self-respecting “neighborhood Italian” place. The stand outs to me are the linguini pescatore, the garlic knots, and the mozzarella sticks. Fried cheese; it's pure genius.
Mediterranean History Hour: The last Western Roman Emperor had the same name as the city’s founder: Romulus. It is unclear if everyone understood the irony at the time.
While there’s no shortage of Mediterranean restaurants in downtown Asheville, Jerusalem Garden has long been my favorite. Hot mint tea and a vegetarian platter piled high with falafel, stuffed grape leaves, and warm pita. What more does a man need? How about lamb shawarma, lamb chops, roast lamb and baklava for dessert?
Visit on a Friday or Saturday night for live music and belly dancing. It’s a unique experience to say the least.
Mediterranean History Hour: In 1202 a bunch of knights and whatnot got together for the Fourth Crusade for Jerusalem. Much to the surprise of everyone, they ended up in Constantinople—modern day Istanbul—where they caused a myriad of problems (to the surprise of no-one).
Just down the street from Malaprop’s Bookstore, this semi-subterranean Mediterranean restaurant in Asheville specializes in Spanish tapas. Patatas bravas, charred Spanish octopus, and my personal favorite: lavender-honey almonds.
If you ask me, tapas make for some of the most entertaining dinner nights. If everyone tries everything, there’s plenty of fertile ground for culinary opining, arguments, and/or appreciation. For the icing on the cake, Zambra’s wine menu must have several thousand entries. I’m no expert, but I assume options are a good thing.
Mediterranean History Hour: From 1580 until 1640, Spain and Portugal were both ruled by the same monarch, in what’s termed a “personal union.” I’ve proposed this political entity be called “Sportugal,” but the academic community isn’t ready for such ambitious endeavors.
Last but not least on this roundup of Mediterranean restaurants in Asheville, Baba Nahm places an emphasis on quick counter service and authentic street-food. I’m always on the hunt for a menu’s most unique and memorable entries. Here that’s Persian meatballs, Israeli fries, and a Sunday brunch featuring turmeric soft-boiled eggs and spanakopita.
Situated in the Grove Arcade, Baba Nahm’s a great place to pick up some shawarma for your walk about downtown, or to dine-in and simply watch the passers-by.
Mediterranean History Hour: The origin of falafel is controversial.
Apollo Flame Bistro - Hendersonville Road
485 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803
Apollo Flame Bistro - Brevard Road
1025 Brevard Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian
641 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian (South)
1981 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803
Jerusalem Garden Café
78 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
85 W Walnut St, Asheville, NC 28801
1 Page Ave #139, Asheville, NC 28801