Chestnut Restaurant Review in Asheville, NC
Local Business Reviews,  Wining & Dining

Chestnut Restaurant Review: Make a Special Memory

Some restaurants hold a special place in your heart not because of what the restaurant did, but because of the important occasion you spent there. The restaurant itself could have colored the occasion in some ways, but the rosier the memory, the more the food was just a compliment. 

I spent my first wedding anniversary at Chestnut in Asheville almost a decade ago, and the sensory memories are still so strong: the dim and golden light of the space on a winter’s night. Ordering the Lobster Bisque and being impressed with how perfectly creamy and lobstery it was, with just the hints of spice that make it one of my favorite soups. 

Reflecting on the year, on all that had happened in the year we’d spent as a married team, and, of course, being all dressed up and fancy for a night out. We were twentysomethings, and a nice dinner out was a really big deal – it still is now, but more so because life gets busy and time is sometimes even more precious than money – so every bit of the experience was treasured.

The brainchild of the owners behind Corner Kitchen in Historic Biltmore Village, Chestnut has maintained its reputation for many years as a wonderful dinner option when you’re headed out to the Fine Arts Theater to take in an arthouse flick, the Orange Peel for some excellent music, or the Diana Wortham Theatre for their wide array of performances. 

Chestnut Restaurant Review
All images courtesy of Chestnut

Located in the middle of everything and across the street from the famed double-decker bus coffee shop Double D’s, the centrality of its location is just the start of their iconic style: once you get inside, you’ll find that their “creative cuisine and craft cocktails” tagline is well-earned. 

Their menu is liberally seasoned with all manner of recognizable but unusually combined foods, bringing many cuisine influences to every dish, from a crab and tomato pasta dish to a tuna poke dish, with shrimp and grits in one part of the menu and a vegan enchilada dish in another, all focused on thoughtfully selected and subtly paired ingredient combinations.

I like the trend recently in restaurants that I describe as the in-between on the “tapas to dinner plates” spectrum. The menu includes Starters, Medium Plates, Entrees, and Desserts, which allows for a group to order some Hand-Cut Truffle Fries with herb aioli, the Brussels & Beets dish with its pistachio crumble and peppercorn parmesan dressing, some Fried Green Tomatoes, Cauliflower Bites, and puff-pastry wrapped scallops, called Black Tie Affair, for the table, letting everyone take a nibble of many sumptuous dishes.

Or you can go traditional, splitting the Chestnut Charcuterie complete with popular local Lusty Monk mustard and then opt for your own entrees, maybe the Pretzel-Crusted Pork Schnitzel or the Fall Squash Vindaloo. The menu offers up well-sourced and occasionally unusual meats, including the Bison Osso Bucco and specially sourced salmon from Verlasso Salmon covered in brown butter, butternut puree, and served with lemon sage mascarpone – it’s not pumpkin-spiced, but it’s the classy dinner entree that pumpkin spice lovers would enjoy.

Chestnut Restaurant in Asheville NC

Throughout the menu, I encountered comforting combinations that seemed rich and flavorful without being so unusual that they veered away from approachability. No one has ever served me pomegranate goat cheese before, but on top of Chestnut’s Pumpkin Quinoa Salad, it seems like a natural marriage. I’ve never had apple bourbon butter and crispy parsnips before, but that combo sounds top-notch as the side dish for the Pecan-Crusted Trout with a quinoa cake on the side. It’s creativity without fussiness – a beautiful and tasty line to walk. 

I recently visited for brunch for the first time. My husband and I often take our preschooler for a walk around downtown on Sunday mornings – primarily to see the fire station, for him, but also to get some air and enjoy the general bustle of a city weekend. 

Chestnut was open fairly early for a brunch crowd (10 am), and we saw that it was quiet inside, so we decided to risk it, even with our squirmy little guy. While I was a little nervous because it was such a swanky spot when I came in the past, I was gratified to see the slogan on the server’s shirt, “NO HOITY, NO TOITY.” 

Throughout the meal, there was nothing but politeness and kindness from the staff despite the fact that I brought a small child to a farm-to-table brunch. I think if we’d waited until 11:30 am or later when a real boisterous level of brunch crowd rolls in, it’d have been a harder sell – both because my kiddo gets a little more overwhelmed in noisy environments and because we wouldn’t have been seated in an entire section to ourselves.

That being said, we were seated in a section to ourselves. The dining room works on two levels, literally, with a windowfront area that is a step up from the rest of the building. It has a bar for great Biltmore Avenue people-watching as well as a few tables, and since we were up there on our own, we weren’t in anyone’s way with the stroller we toted along. 

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Our kiddo caught up on his shows while we ordered our coffee and chatted about our days – it’s worth noting, though, that Chestnut has the forethought to have a printed-out kids menu for brunch with a cute coloring graphic under it. While my little guy isn’t much for coloring, it did a lot to make us feel welcome! Meals out with kids can be a smidge stressful, so it felt good and gratifying to realize that we could relax just a bit. 

I was delighted to see that, while they have a few brunch standards, they also bring their signature creativity to their menu. No one would blame you for stabbing a fork into some Crow’s Famous Chicken N’ Waffles made with Hickory Nut Gap sausage gravy, chipotle honey, and parsley or slicing through the luxurious ingredients in the Lump Crab Benedict, which pairs Cajun-style crab cakes with avocado puree, baby arugula, micro cilantro, and a chipotle-infused hollandaise alongside the standard poached eggs and some brunch potatoes. 

However, you can really branch out if you want: the Pesto Shrimp Salad offers a flavorful mix of spinach, feta, heirloom tomatoes, olives, red onion, cucumber, and a lemon oregano aioli in addition to the shrimp and pesto themselves. The popular Lobster Bisque of my memory is on the brunch menu (the world rejoices), and a rye sandwich called the Rachel on Rye features turkey, swiss, 1000 island, slaw, and house fries for someone who really just wants top-notch ingredients on a great sammie.

Personally, I was drawn in by the side dishes like the Pimento Cheese Tater Tots, the Ricotta Donuts with vanilla creme anglaise, and the Smoked Salmon Toast, bursting with flavorful adds like dill cream cheese, caviar creme fraiche, pickled beets, and cured egg yolk. 

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I struggled to choose, as you might expect, and could only settle down when I came across what many would see as the cornerstone of a brunch menu: the Breakfast Sandwich. It just features so much of what I love about brunch food! My husband ordered a Pork Belly Benedict, and within very little time, both dishes arrived in excellent style.

My sandwich was on a delicate croissant, and while anyone can make a sausage, egg, and cheese sammie, there was an elevation to everything on this sandwich, starting from the choice of croissant over a harder roll. It meant I ate the whole thing with knife and fork, knowing that the over-medium eggs were going to break out some goo eventually, but the flavors were center-stage.

First, the Hickory Nut Gap sausage was top-notch – this small operation just down the road in Fairview focuses on raising meats in a sustainable and regenerative farming model, and you’ll find their food all over the city because it has such an excellent reputation. 

Add a slice of smoked gouda for way more flavor than a basic slice of orange cheese, and top it all off with those over-medium eggs and Firewalker aioli – I didn’t set my fork down long enough to ask what’s in it, but it added a creamy spiciness to the dish and really pulled the other flavors and textures along. 

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I mentioned the gooey nature of this dish, and the redeeming factor is that it comes with brunch potatoes that Chestnut has absolutely mastered. These aren’t standard fries, or standard home fries, but something totally different. Flat fingers of potato have been double-fried to an absolutely shattering level of crispy crunch, perfect for, say, dipping in dabs of aioli and egg yolk that have leaked out of your sandwich. I was in heaven.

My husband’s benedict was also lovely and accompanied by the heavenly potatoes (thank goodness, because I’d have been defending my own potatoes if not). On a base of jalapeño cornbread rather than English muffins, this benedict layered pork belly, grilled pineapple pico de gallo, and chipotle hollandaise as well as the classic poached eggs for another dish that made its own delicious sauce as it was consumed. 

Topped with micro cilantro, my husband commented that the pineapple flavor really added something unique and refreshing to the typically-very-rich-and-heavy flavors of eggs benedict. The spicing was also very nice, never too much but enough to keep everything interesting – it walked the line between being the most spicy that my bland palate can handle and being flavorful enough for my spice-loving husband.

We were able to take in the look of the space as we dove into our dishes, and it really does allow for a lot of uses. While our area was very bright from the storefront windows, the further back you go, the more you get that dim glow of a romantic night out, and many of the two-person tables are little micro-booths, making it seem like you can be in your own world while enjoying your meal. 

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The art on the walls is eclectic, from fantastical landscapes to surrealistic portraits, all the way to a bright quote from Toni Morrison about the impact of eating a strawberry, written on big brown butcher paper in thick lettering. My husband commented on the lighting, with some beautiful vine-adorned lamps that tower over the center of the room and delicate glass orbs that grace the bar area. 

The whole place has just a dash of art deco to it, but overall, it just feels like itself, cozy, warm, and inviting, but aiming for special – like they want you to remember it the way I remember my first-anniversary dinner there!

If you do decide to go, they do take reservations, and while it was quiet on one September morning at the very start of brunch, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll ever see a quiet dining room when walking in, so it’s well worth reserving a spot. This isn’t the place for your 20-person birthday dinner, since much of the dining room is small tables that won’t easily lend themselves to combining. 

While many people will fight for free evening street parking in downtown, this is a spot where you can always save yourself the trouble and park at the reasonably-priced Biltmore Avenue parking garage just across the street, which is also a good plan if you’re headed to catch a film, concert, or show afterwards. 

I hope that your experience of eating at Chestnut is just as much of a warm, special hug as mine has been!

Chestnut: 48 Biltmore Ave, Asheville

Have you been to Chestnut? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!


Laura finally got to move to Asheville in 2021 after a decade of visits and hangouts here. She loves the food, the coffee shops, and the riverfront in Asheville. Laura is always finding something new and wonderful to try.

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