Where to Find the Best Southern Comfort Food Asheville, NC
Are you craving Southern comfort food and wondering where to eat it in Asheville? While it’d be safe to say that every restaurant here has at least a few Southern staples on its menu, there are Asheville restaurants specializing in this type of food associated with emotional wellness, safety, fulfillment, and love.
Asheville’s food scene excels for its variety of offerings, the commitment to the farm-to-table movement, and the collaborative spirit and creativity of the local chefs. Southern food, of course, it’s not an exception. While some restaurants are more innovative than others, they all respect the rich heritage of traditional Southern food.
Although the term “comfort food” might be associated with simplicity (comfort food is, after all, food that brings you comfort), food history is rarely simple because human cultures have influenced each other since the beginning.
Southern comfort food, for example, results from the complex cultural exchange between Native Americans, European Americans, and Black Americans brought here from Africa as enslaved people. I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me a little emotional and extra appreciative of our history and cultural heritage.
We’ve put together a list of the best Southern restaurants in Asheville, highlighting their offerings and sharing what other locals and I have loved and hoping it makes your search a little easier!
What are your favorite Southern comfort food dishes? Have you tried any of these restaurants? Do you know if this list is missing something vital? Please let us know in the comments.
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The 14 Best Southern Food Restaurants in Asheville
1. Enjoy Sunny Point’s Neighborhood Restaurant Ambiance
Sunny Point Café is one of the best brunch restaurants in Asheville, loved by locals and visitors alike. It was recently voted one of the three restaurants that best represents the spirit of Asheville (Mountain Xpress, 2022).
This family-owned, independent restaurant offers Southern comfort food, making everything from scratch and using local ingredients. An authentic neighborhood restaurant, the ambiance is sweet, homey, and unpretentious.
Sunny Point Cafe takes the farm-to-table approach to food seriously. A beautiful urban vegetable garden is adjacent to the restaurant, and the produce is used in the recipes.
Try the Biscuits and Gravy (the biscuits are some of the best in town!), the Shrimp and Grits, and the Southern Omelette filled with house-made pimento cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, crisp bacon, biscuit, and grits. I love the Stuffed French Toast, the Pecan Crusted Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, and the Bourbon Pecan Pie. I don’t know the secret, but their bacon is fantastic!
Sunny Point gets busy for breakfast and brunch, and they don’t take reservations. So make sure to add wait time to your visit and plan to walk around the garden and sit down in the shade while you enjoy a sweet tea.
2. Enjoy ‘Scratch-Made Southern Faves’ at the Acclaimed Tupelo Honey Cafe
Tupelo Honey Cafe is one of the best places to eat in Asheville and one of the best (if not the best) Southern restaurants in Asheville. The first cafe opened downtown in 2000. Since then, it has expanded countrywide. The original site is still open and is the best one to experience the city center’s vibe. There is another in South Asheville.
The menu offers “scratch-made Southern faves” using responsibly sourced ingredients. Think about Shrimp and Grits made with wild-caught white gulf shrimp, heirloom grits, and goat cheese. The Famous Fried Green Tomatoes are my favorite (panko-crusted fried green tomatoes, basil, roasted red pepper sauce, over heirloom grits with goat cheese).
Of course, no Southern comfort food menu is complete without fried chicken. Try Tupelo’s Bone-In Fried Chicken, brined for over 18 hours. Or dig into the Boneless Fried Chicken served with buttermilk waffles! And then there’s the Heavenly Banana Pudding which is, well… a taste of tropical heaven.
Tupelo’s biscuits are amazing. Try the Biscuits for a Cause: two cathead buttermilk biscuits with blueberry jam and whipped butter. All the proceeds go to the Tupelo Honey Relief & Development Funds that aid employees in need. Please make reservations because it gets busy!
3. Definitely Try Sand Hill Kitchen’s Award-Winning Fried Chicken Sandwich
We can all agree that fried chicken is the best Southern comfort food dish, right? AVL Today’s readership voted Sand Hill Kitchen’s Fried Chicken Sandwich as the number one fried chicken sandwich (March 2022) for a reason!
This sandwich is the perfect combination of buttermilk-soaked, crispy fried chicken with homemade dilly pickles, cheddar cheese, and herbed Duke’s mayo (add bacon or pepper jack pimento cheese). The bread choices include a biscuit (highly recommended!), white, wheat, or rye (there are gluten-free options, too).
The Fried Chicken Sandwich is not the only thing to try, though. Sand Hill Kitchen offers authentic Southern flavors made with fresh ingredients in a friendly, non-pretentious atmosphere. Locals love this authentic comfort food restaurant where everything is delicious!
Although not a Southern food, burgers are the number one American comfort food, and San Hill Kitchen was the winner of the 2018 Battle of the Burgers!
4. Eat Amazing Nashville-Style Fried Chicken at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack
The two final contestants in AVL Today’s readers Best Fried Chicken Sandwich Tournament were Sand Hill Kitchen and Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack. So, you can imagine this is one of the best Southern restaurants in Asheville. Plus, it’s very family-friendly and a great value.
This restaurant serves everything chicken (including a Chicken Salad Salad), and it’s famous for its Nashville-style hot fried chicken (one of the best in Asheville) and the excellent double-fried (not breaded) chicken wings. They only use naturally raised chicken.
The fried chicken starts plain, and they spice it as you desire. There are eight levels of spiciness, ranging from plain to extra hot. The dish comes with two slices of white bread, and it’s topped with a pickle slice. They have all the Southern comfort food staple side dishes, and you can also add buttermilk waffles.
They also offer grilled and rotisserie chicken, chicken sandwiches, and a fantastic chicken pot pie. You can buy platters that serve between eight and 15 people. They have homemade dips and dressings (including chicken gravy). For dessert, try the Southern classic Coca-Cola cake and the butterscotch pudding.
5. Get Authentic Southern Comfort Food at Affordable Prices at HomeGrown
One of the local food movement pioneers, HomeGrown’s motto is “Slow food right quick.” Here you won’t have to wait long to get a delicious dish made with clean, local, organic ingredients at affordable prices.
Voted as one of the three best Southern food restaurants by the readers of the local Mountain Xpress in 2022 (alongside Tupelo Honey and Rocky’s, featured above), its menus offer a solid selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, specials, and excellent comfort food.
Some Southern favorites are the Pimpin’ Fried Chicken (lettuce, pickled onions, pickles, horseradish honey mustard, and pimiento cheese), the Open Face Fried Chicken Biscuit (with cheddar and sausage gravy), the delicious Cheesy Grits, and the biscuit sandwiches. Homegrown’s fried chicken is some of the best in town. For dessert, please try the classic Banana Pudding’!
Also, because we care about our business practices in Asheville, HomeGrown is a certified green restaurant (there isn’t a single thing that’s landfill waste). They do great work in the community, donating over $100K in goods, services, and cash to local non-profits since they opened in 2010.
6. Go to Biscuit Head to Have a Taste of Biscuit Paradise
Nothing screams Southern comfort food louder than a flaky, light biscuit. Biscuit Head‘s formula is simple: begin with a giant, fluffy biscuit and add whatever you want. I wouldn’t say the options are endless, but they are close. The result is a very generous, satisfying, extra-comforting dish. Also, their gluten-free biscuits are among the best in town.
The first Biscuit Head opened in West Asheville in 2013. They have since opened two more locations in Asheville and one in Greenville, SC. They offer many sides, gravy, and biscuit sandwich options.
You’ll love the jam bar, and they never spare bacon. Biscuit Head is open for breakfast and lunch. The lines are long but move fast. Please stay and try the country ham!
By the way, have you ever wondered why Southern biscuits are the most famous and the best? The secret is that the flour is ground from soft wheat, which grows in warm, humid environments. This flour has half the amount of gluten as the flour from hard wheat used to make bread, so it’s less chewy and softer. Another good reason to live in the South!
7. Enjoy the Unique ‘Southern ‘Cue, 12 Bones Style’ of 12 Bones Smokehouse
12 Bones Smokehouse restaurant opened in 2005 in a squat building in the River Arts District (when the RAD wasn’t the hip neighborhood it is today). The sign outside offered “Tender Butts and Sweet Racks,” making the neighbors wonder if they were opening a strip club. Today, 12 Bones is an Asheville institution serving creative barbecue that doesn’t adhere 100% to any particular style and tastes fantastic.
12 Bones has been featured in the national media many times, and locals and visitors worldwide love it. The most famous guests were Michelle and Barak Obama, who ate here three times!
Everything is made daily and from scratch, even the sides and the melt-in-your-mouth cornbread. 12 Bones is famous for its ribs with blueberry chipotle sauce. Try the Baked Beans, the Collard Greens, the Jalapeño Cheese Grits, and the Smoked Potato Salad (yes, you read that right). They offer specials based on seasonal ingredients.
You can’t leave Asheville without discovering the flavors of 12 Bones, one of the best places to eat in Asheville. As they invite guests to do: “Let the purists be the purists, fire up the grill, and enjoy some Southern ‘cue, 12 Bones style!”
8. Let the Fabulous Pulled Pork of Buxton Hall Bar-B-Que Melt in Your Mouth
Buxton Hall Bar-B-Que is owned by Meherwan Irani, the owner of Chai Pai, the Indian street food restaurant that won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2022. Irani is a self-taught chef and has been nominated five times as Best Chef in the Southeast. So, you can imagine the quality of Buxton BBQ!
Located in a historic building in the South Slope, Buxton’s been “revitalizing Carolina barbecue” since it opened in 2015. They serve local pasture-raised pigs that are butchered in-house and smoked over oak, cherry, and hickory for 18 hours.
The result is pulled pork that’s to die for. The menu also offers brisket, ribs, sausage, all the Southern classic side dishes, and one of the town’s best fried chicken sandwiches. It’s so good and popular that they recently opened the sibling restaurant Buxton Chicken Palace in The S&W Market (downtown’s only food hall).
Buxton’s Banana Pudding Pie is the best in Asheville (bu’nilla wafer crumb crust, house-made vanilla bean pudding with sliced bananas, toasted brown sugar meringue, and vanilla wafers). Also, try the Salty Honey Pie and the Key Lime Bar ice cream. They don’t take reservations.
9. Chase the Root Down Food Truck to Taste Award-Winning Creole Southern Soul Food
Root Down Food Truck came to Asheville in 2014 from Statesville (NC), where it had started a year earlier. It became an instant hit, and it’s been named four-time Best Food Truck since then (and is obviously on our list of the best food trucks in Asheville). It’s also been featured in national media, including Southern Living‘s Top 10 Best Southern Food Trucks. The reason? The food is fantastic!
The menu changes daily and offers owner and chef Dano Holcomb’s version of creole Southern soul food. It has all the staples and everything, including the desserts, is excellent. Try the Gumbo, the Roast Beef Debris Po’ Boy, and the Griddled Mac & Cheese.
Root Down’s Fried Chicken Sandwich is one of the best in town! It’s usually part of the menu on Sundays when the food truck is at New Belgium Brewery (the bread is from Geraldine’s Bakery).
You can follow the updates on their Instagram account or check the calendar on the website to see where the food track is. Wherever they are, believe me, the food is worth the drive. They also cater events.
10. ‘Taste the Love’ of Grandma Lue at Luella’s Bar-B-Que
Luella’s serves excellent Southern food in Asheville. It has two locations in North and South Asheville, and both are super family-friendly, unpretentious, and of great value. The food has been consistently good since they opened in 2007.
Grandma Lue was the grandmother of Jeff Miller, the owner and pit boss of Luella’s. So many of the recipes were hers – that’s why the restaurant’s slogan is “Taste the Love.”
Everything here is excellent, and the menu has all the Southern comfort food staples, from Brunswick Stew and award-winning wings to chopped pork BBQ and Chile Rubbed Beef Brisket to Louis Cut Pork Ribs and the “almost blasphemous, but it’s so good we’ll forgive you” Smiling Hara BBQ Tempeh.” Plus, they have amazing homemade sauces.
The most stellar side dishes are the Mac and Cheese, the Fried Okra, and the Hush Puppies. They also have family packs. The scratch-made Banana Pudding is one the best, and they have seasonal desserts.
Do you need another reason to give Luella’s a try? They do great work in the community, supporting education programs, youth sports, and organizations that work to increase food stability in our area.
11. Go to The Blackbird to Savor Modern Southern Food Made with the Best Ingredients
The Blackbird is one of the best restaurants in Asheville, serving “Modern Southern food with a nod to tradition.” It’s located in the heart of downtown, and the dishes are made with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients and deeply rooted in the culinary tradition of the Carolinas. It’s open for lunch and dinner and offers brunch on the weekends.
The Blackbird’s Creole Shrimp and Grits are the best! Try the Butter Honey Glazed Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread and the Fried Chicken Sandwich (buttermilk fried sweet tea-brined chicken, sweet tea mayo, pimento cheese, lettuce, and pickles in a house roll).
Make sure you leave some room because The Blackbird is also one of the best places for dessert in Asheville! Try the Bourbon Ice Cream Cake (Bourbon-soaked chocolate cake, Bing cherry cream, and vanilla ice cream). Or let the famous Southern Custard Coconut Cake (coconut custard layered with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut) melt in your mouth. The Blackbird’s wine menu won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2021.
Please make a reservation. There is parking at the Aloft Hotel with over 250 parking spots (the first hour is free!).
12. Try Tasty and Locally Sourced Southern Food at Kinfolk Food Truck
Kinfolk food truck serves delicious Southern food in Asheville at very reasonable prices. You can check the food truck schedule on their website, but the great news is that they’ll soon open a brick-and-mortar shop in South Asheville, where they’ll serve lunch and offer take-home eats and pantry items.
The formula is simple: “Locally sourced, Southern-inspired.” The menu varies seasonally and weekly, and they post the updates on their Instagram account. You can find them daily at different times around local breweries and events and soon at the restaurant.
The menu offers all the Southern comfort food classics, including the yummy deep-fried staples (tater tots, hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes). The collard greens, the Southern Pork Belly Pastrami Sammie, and Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo are wonderful. Definitely try the deep-fried deviled eggs! They have vegan and vegetarian options.
13. Check Out Black Bear BBQ, Another Great Barbecue Place in Asheville!
Black Bear BBQ serves “soulful, delicious, traditional style BBQ dishes” in a family-friendly, homey ambiance at unbeatable prices. Everything tastes great. Many locals agree it’s the best and most underrated BBQ restaurant in Asheville. You’ll have to check that out for yourself!
They are known for the super juicy brisket and burnt ends sandwiches. These specials on Fridays offer a new creative variety every week. Think about “Double smoked burnt ends topped with fried dull pickles, fetta cheese, and a deviled egg” or “Brown sugar burnt ends topped with poblano-Oktoberfest beer cheese, fried macaroni, and dehydrated ketchup powder.”
The sides menu is also extensive (try the cole slaw and the mac and cheese!) and includes several vegan options (the collard greens, for example, are vegan). You’ll love the sides in three sizes, the family feast packages, and the Black Bear Samples.
They have daily specials that come with a side and a drink and post the updates on Instagram. Black Bear BBQ also caters private events and offers a private dining room that can be rented for your party.
14. Eat ‘More than Made from Scratch’ Southern Staples at Early Grey Eatery
The first Early Grey Eatery opened downtown in 2001 and has added two more locations in Asheville and one in Charlotte. They serve farm-to-table breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day.
Their motto is “More than Made from Scratch,” so while they make everything fresh and in-house, they also strive to use the highest quality ingredients sourced locally and organically grown and raised.
The most popular dish is Bow to the King: Southern fried chicken tenders paired with cinnamon-battered, made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits, topped with fresh house-made whipped cream, powdered sugar, and seasonal fruit.
Early Grey Eatery’s grits are very popular. Why? The grits come from a family farm in Marshall, NC. The corn is part of a larger seed project to protect ancient grains and legumes and is ground in a stone mill in a restored 100-year-old church. “Out of respect for the seed, we don’t try and hide its flavor,” so they only add salt and freshly made green hot sauce to cook the grits.