It was inevitable that I’d write about All Day Darling – after all, one of their popular salads is literally in my bio for this website as my favorite dish in the city. Obviously, there are a million other amazing dishes, but at the intersection of affordable, ambiance, flavorful, and nutritious, that salad really checks every box.
From salty and chewy halloumi to lentil fritters for a great crunch, this salad mixes greens, seeds, and a great honey-tahini dressing to make a salad that is a real meal while also filling me up with good nutrients and fiber.
But let’s not start there. Let’s start with the concept of All Day Darling, where the name is a reference to a great concept: opening at 7am and staying open continuously till 9 pm, this is a spot for literally most of the times of your day.
I know that my days often get away from me and breakfast might be at 10:30 am or dinner at 4 pm due to other needs, and I always know that I can get food at All Day Darling. If I’m meeting a friend there at an off-hour, one of us can go coffee-break with a pastry and a drink while the other gets a full meal… it’s an all-things-to-all-people kind of place.
What makes this more impressive is that they aren’t a diner with 10 laminated pages of menu items. Everything on the menu is pretty lovingly crafted, with many dishes featuring recognizable ingredients but with a serious helping of care and attention added in.
Everything from a house dressing that is a champagne vinaigrette instead of something more quotidian to the fact that they serve squeaky-delicious halloumi crisped to perfection instead of more common cheeses feels intentional – this is an intentional place!
The result of all this intention, ironically, is a space that has a real natural flow and ease to it. The main building is an old shop that I was told used to be a mechanic shop but has had quite a few lives before being converted into the kitchen and front counter of the restaurant.
All the seating, however, is in an outer space featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of mini garage door windows. It’s like eating in a greenhouse, and on all but the nastiest weather days, the windows are rolled up, meaning that you’re basically outdoors.
When you walk into the front door of the restaurant, you can grab a single double-sided menu that will share your food and beverage options while you wait to order at the counter. In addition to breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and bowls, you’ll also find a large pastry case full of incredible laminated pastries – croissants and their ilk of all kinds, studded with fruits and crystals of sugar and looking very tantalizing.
There’s also an extensive coffee bar, cocktail list, and wine and beer list, as well as a frosty case for non-alcoholic options like kombucha and craft soda. A simple self-serve station provides water, and once you order, you’ll take your table number with you as you seat yourself. Easy peasy!
You can sit at the concrete bar, at one of the indoor tables with their metal and wood chairs, or out on a variety of brightly colored metal chairs in the garden that surrounds the building itself. With multiple trees and shrubs, this space feels like a set-apart arboretum in spite of being near a school and a busy street – All Day Darling has successfully made their space feel like an unexpected oasis.
One of my favorite meals here is a small but powerful one (yes, I abandoned my beloved Hearty Salad and branched out for the sake of this feature. You deserve to know more than just my favorite salad.). Their Smashed Avocado Toast begins with a slice of homemade whole wheat sourdough, featuring a great chewy crust and whole wheat that, by the time I bit into it, had soaked up some olive-oil-y goodness.
Atop that, you’ll find smashed avocado, a better move in my opinion than slippery slices, and to crown it all, a dollop of ricotta completely swimming with black pepper. I spread the ricotta over the whole toast because it packs a punch, bringing so much zing to the rest of the toast. Mmm… I could eat a piece of that every and any day!
The toast is accompanied by lightly dressed greens with shaved carrots and radishes, a truly delectable side dish, and all for about $11 at the time of writing. Keeping peak-of-ripeness avocados at home is a challenge, so I am very grateful that All Day Darling makes the effort for me.
The drink menu is one of the best things about All Day Darling, and while I have been skeptical about some of the concoctions I’ve found around Asheville, I’ve not had a bad drink from All Day Darling. I still daydream about their Golden Mocha, a turmeric-focused sipper that has enough coffee and chocolate in it to make it a treat without being so sweet your teeth hurt. With my avocado toast, though, I opted to try the Sproda, a drink I’d never heard of.
With the weather getting hotter every day, it seems, it’s not surprising that people would find a way to get their daily espresso without drinking it hot, and Sproda is, it seems, any concoction that chills down espresso with ice and makes it effervescent with soda water.
The All Day Darling twist on the Sproda has a lemon wedge on the rim and citrus soda mixed with the espresso. All the components were there, mingling and melding, and while I could have never asked for a drink that was equally coffee-bitter and citrus-bright, it really worked. I felt prepped for another hot day.
You’ve got a lot of other options on the All Day Darling menu, though. Like most of the restaurants in Asheville, you’ll find that the available options do change, since they care so much about sourcing and want to give you food that is in the peak of flavor and freshness. Still, you’ll find a variety of breakfast-all-day staples, like pancakes, a seasonal frittata, and shakshuka.
There are a variety of topped toasts like my avocado one, some sandwiches like the chicken salad and the burger, and both protein-filled bowls and delicious salads with homemade dressings like their signature champagne vinaigrette and the honey tahini dressing I love so much. Don’t sleep on the tatertods, the fried halloumi, or the lentil fritters from the sides menu, and some simple options like the Grilled Cheese or a Beans, Greens, & Rice plate are available for the kids.
I’ve never come in for alcohol, but they seem to have lovingly crafted their selection of wines and beers and varied smoothies and coffee drinks (there’s a latte with cayenne, vanilla, and cinnamon that is called the Spicy Drinky!). If you want coffee and good food all in one quick blended smoothie, the Flying Tiger combines nitro coffee, banana, almond butter, cacao, banana, honey, granola, and oat milk for a drink that’s sure to fortify you.
Part of why I find it so easy to relax in this space is that there is so much fresh air and so many plants suspended or attached throughout the area. Rather than decorating with lots of art, it seems that thriving plants were the way to bring color and brightness to the space, and now that it is my go-to restaurant to share with visitors from out of town, I can see how it relaxed other people, too.
One way they keep it relaxed, however, is that they don’t offer open Wi-Fi. I had come here initially, due to the coffee bar, thinking it could be an option for between-standard-meal-service coworking, but after a little bit of time doing work that could be accomplished offline, I closed it up and read a book instead.
The atmosphere of some places is absolutely enhanced by the addition of hardworking, tea and coffee-drinking laptop users, but I can see why having no open Wi-Fi appeals to the All Day Darling crowd. While you can definitely order just a drink and a pastry or another coffee-shop-like order here, the vibe is first and foremost a restaurant.
If you want a restaurant where the adults can eat well-crafted food while the children still have plenty of good options (open windows keep the sound levels easier even with boisterous kiddos, which is nice), All Day Darling is great for this.
Counter service makes it a great fit for a surprise or spontaneous outing where you don’t have time to get reservations, and the fact that one person can order their matcha drink while the other feasts on a full meal just makes it a truly adaptable choice.
Throw in that my gluten-free friend said that she felt like she had a lot of great options here and the team was very attentive to avoiding gluten for her, and you’ve got a real recipe for a fresh, friendly experience.
All Day Darling: 102 Montford Ave, Asheville