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Holiday Dining in Asheville—A Local's Perspective

There’s plenty of reasons to visit Asheville this holiday season. The gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn, for example. The winter lights at the Arboretum. Christmas at the Biltmore Estate or simply some coffee or tea at one of my favorite local cafes.


But, amidst the bustle of this electrifying time of year, the fact remains that one cannot survive on holiday punch and Christmas cookies alone. No, one needs real sustenance, and more importantly, the opportunity to spend time at the table with friends and family.


Well, if you’re hankering to work a fancy old dinner into your holiday visit to Asheville, you’re in luck. We got some of the best restaurants in the business, sure to delight, mystify, and make your trip just that much more special. Read on and discover five of the best places for holiday dining in Asheville.


holiday dining in Asheville - fish on ice
Image from Unsplash

If you’re traveling to Asheville this time of year, I reckon you’ve got some Christmas shopping to do. And if you’re going Christmas shopping, you’re probably going to find yourself downtown, and you’re going to find you’ve worked up an appetite.


Travel just five minutes northwards from downtown up Charlotte Street, and you’ll find one of Asheville’s most acclaimed seafood joints: Jettie Rae's. Now, I know what you’re thinking. What business do we have selling mollusks and such, so far from the sea? All I can say is that any place that’s got its name featured time and again among the best oyster bars in the Southeast, plus Trip Advisor’s 2022 Traveler’s Choice Award must be doing something right.


And that right thing might just be their caviar, or their seafood towers, or their mussels, octopus a la plancha, or the bread service, courtesy of OWL Bakery. It's a refined place for refreshing seafood, which I welcome as a nice change after weeks of leftover turkey.


Park on site or just across the street. Reservations encouraged, capping off at parties of six.


Hours: 5pm-9pm Sunday through Thursday. Open until 9:30pm Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Mondays.


holiday dining in Asheville - beef tacos
Image from Wix

Now let's head on down back to downtown proper. Say you just got out of an enriching tour of the Asheville Art Museum. You’ve moved those legs, you’ve spent those calories, you’ve taken the stairs; now, what’s for dinner?


Might I suggest Limones, just a block to the south, where you can find innovative dishes inspired by the flavors of Mexico and California, with a dash of French haute-cuisine. Their menu changes frequently—here they keep things fresh—but just to give you an idea of what you might expect: ceviche verde featuring tuna and papaya, street corn with chipotle mayo, adobe brisket tacos, fish asado with guajillo beurre blanc, and, the crowd pleasure, lobster nachos.


Don’t even get me started on the desert. Churros paired with sipping chocolate or a slice of tres leches garnished with peaches. You know why I’m here.


Make a reservation on their website, and find parking in the Pack Square garage, or if you’re lucky, street-side.


Hours: 5pm to 10pm Monday through Thursday. Open until 10:30pm Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Sundays.


holiday dining in Asheville - escargots
Image from Wix

Maybe your holiday visit to Asheville doesn’t take you downtown so much. Maybe you’re taking a shot, exploring what else the city has in store. Maybe, you’ve found yourself in the River Arts District—RAD to us locals—and are ready to treat your loved ones to an adventure in New American fare.


If that’s what you’re after, check out Bull and Beggar, two stories of hip dining sure to satisfy your craving for adventure via rabbit rillettes on toast, escargot a la bourguignon, pumpkin leek ricotta pies, and cider glazed pork belly.


Visit on a Monday for oysters at half price, or check out Baby Bull on the north end of the RAD for their take on a casual burger with fries. Reservations available for groups up to eight, and groups of nine or more with a prix fixe menu.


Hours: 5pm to 9pm, Sunday through Thursday. Open until 10pm Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Wednesdays.


holiday dining in Asheville - cornbread
Image from Unsplash

I may not mention this iconic downtown eatery as much as I should, but with a central location just west of Pack Square, it's hard to miss this place on your sojourns through the city.


You ask me, that’s a good place for it. After all, Rhubarb specializes in new takes on the age-old flavors of Appalachia, WNC, and the state as a whole, while sustaining close relationships with local farmers and breweries.


Suffice to say a holiday dinner here would be a real treat, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine of this region. I can’t think of a better place to be first exposed to the likes of hominy, hot water cornbread, NC shrimp and crabs, sunburst trout, or quail with wild persimmon barbecue sauce.


Reservations are, again, encouraged. Call ahead for parties of seven or more.


Hours: 5pm to 9:30m, Sunday through Thursday. Open until 10pm Fridays and Saturdays. Open on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.


holiday dining in Asheville - orange wine in glass
Image from Unsplash

Tapas are always up there for me when it comes to choosing a place for a family get-together. Nothing beats looking your loved ones in the eye while you shovel an entire charcuterie board down your gullet. They thought I was going to share.


This Asheville tapas bar lies just down the street from Rhubarb, keeping you close to the city’s center. With its warm atmosphere and smorgasbord of savory delights, I feel that Curate is particularly suited to the holiday season, especially when you fortify your table full of tapas with a refreshment from their extensive selection of wine, sangria, and Iberian ciders.


Make reservations for up to eight on their website. Book early; they won a James Beard Award in 2022 and the news is out.


Hours: 11am to 10:30pm Friday through Sunday. 4pm to 10:30pm Tuesday through Thursday. Closed Mondays. Open on New Year’s Eve, reservations required.


Businesses Mentioned

Jettie Rae's Oyster House

(828)-505-4499

143 Charlotte St, Asheville, NC 28801

Limones Restaurant

(828)-252-2327

15 Eagle St, Asheville, NC 28801

Bull and Beggar

(828)-575-9443

37 Paynes Way #007, Asheville, NC 28801

Rhubarb

(828)-785-1503

7 SW Pack Sq, Asheville, NC 28801

Curate

(828)-239-2946

13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

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