By now I’ve covered local cuisine of most every shape and stripe and it’s a testament to Asheville’s exemplary restaurant-scene that I can still find new subjects. To the point: this week its tapas.
In some circles tapas have a reputation for pretention; tiny plates and tiny dishes, trying to get by on miscalculated minimalism. I’ve got to tell you though, my experience with tapas in Asheville has been nothing if not a wild ride jam-packed with laser-focused flavors, served up in combinations which transcend mortal imagination.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about tapas is the social aspect. As these delectable dishes are designed for sharing, the whole table has an opportunity to engage in philoso-gustative dialogue. Did the steak surpass the prawns? How spicy is too spicy? Is honey a condiment?
If you too seek answers to these inescapable questions, I invite you to read on and discover the five best places for tapas in Asheville.
Tapas, they say, were born in Spain and although they may have been adopted by other culinary traditions, I believe its appropriate to start off with Asheville’s own Iberian tapas bar. Curate serves exactly what you’d expect of classic tapas: patatas bravas, chorizo, jamon iberico, and dazzling platters of cheese.
An evening spent sampling these delicacies amidst the hospitable environs of Curate’s converted 1920s bus depot makes for an excellent introduction to tapas in Asheville. What’s more, they pride themselves on a potent list of wines, including vermouths, sherry, and txakoli, or Basque wine. To my knowledge, no other restaurant in Asheville serves a more intriguing or unpronounceable beverage.
Location: Biltmore Avenue, close to downtown’s central Pack Square.
Red Ginger has long served as my go-to for downtown dining and yet I’ve only recently learned that it has been voted the best Chinese restaurant in Asheville for no less than five consecutive years. What more do you need as a stamp of local approval?
Their stylish interior glows with dumpling-steam and their outside sitting, although limited in space, makes for an excellent place to enjoy the crisp night air.
The menu can be overwhelming, given its many categories, so let me suggest the honey glazed roast pork and homemade pot stickers. Paired with a cup of hot green tea, there’s little better way to enjoy Chinese tapas in Asheville.
Location: Downtown’s Patton Avenue, a short walk south of the Grove Arcade.
This semi-subterranean tapas lounge was where I first encountered the tapas of my hometown and so it bears a special place in my culinary recollections. On the surface you may be tempted to confuse Zambra with Curate, as both pride themselves on dishes thick with authentic Spanish style. The initiated know, however, that Zambra posses a character all its own.
Under sinuous arches and moody lantern-light, you’ll find not only Iberian influences, but flares of Morocco and Asheville itself. Zambra serves bread from OWL Bakery, lavender-honey marcona almonds (they still haunt my dreams), pomegranate braised pork spring rolls, chickpea fries, and octopus fried rice.
Those last three sound made-up but that only serves to indicate just how much creativity you’ll find on display here. Alongside a solid brunch-menu and a wine list of truly astounding proportions, Zambra is a necessary stop on any tour of tapas in Asheville.
Location: Downtown, right around the corner from Malaprop’s bookstore.
I’ve often considered cafes and tapas bars to be two sides of the same coin. Its gratifying to see an establishment which agrees with me. In the mornings, this restaurant operates as Filo Pastries, which I’ve covered to my satisfaction in the Best Things to do in East Asheville. In this article I’d like to focus on Filo Pastry’s nocturnal alter-ego: Post 70 Indulgence Bar.
Their tapas menu is relatively short yet finds great range between Western North Carolina favorites (Carolina BBQ wings, sunburst trout) and more Mediterranean entries (baba ghanoush and patatas bravas). Post 70 offers spacious, yet cozy indoor seating, as well as an array of outdoor patio tables.
To seal the deal, all of Post 70’s cocktails appear to be christened in the vein of terrible film puns. I find its that kind of thematic consistency that raises a tapas bar above the competition.
You’ll find Post 70 open weeknights and Saturday evenings. Otherwise, its Filo Pastries (exempting Sundays) and still worth a visit.
Location: Off Tunnel Road in East Asheville, past the WNC Nature Center.
I love ramen. By conservative estimates, ramen has constituted fifty percent of my diet for the past two weeks. Some people might say that’s sheer madness, but I like to take as a testament to ramen’s power and delight. If I’m capable of enjoying such quantities of packaged, low-grade ramen, you can imagine just what I think of the kind of ramen served at Itto, with broths brewed on the degree of seven hours or more.
I could go on in ecstatic praise of such broths, but I’ll turn my focus back to the matter at hand: tapas. Japanese tapas, this time around. That means gyoza, chicken katsu with eel sauce, and tempura cheese. Wrap it all up with some mochi, and you have yourself an excellent encounter with tapas in Asheville.
Location: Itto’s downtown location lies just up the street from Curate, downtown. They have a twin location off of West Asheville’s Haywood Road, the quarter’s main thoroughfare.
13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Red Ginger Dimsum
82 Patton Ave Suite 100, Asheville, NC 28801
85 W Walnut St, Asheville, NC 28801
Filo Pastries & Post 70 Indulgence Bar
1155 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
Itto Ramen & Japanese Tapas
3 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801