Summit Coffee Review: Asheville, North Carolina
Local Business Reviews,  Wining & Dining

Summit Coffee Review: The Buzz of the People

Maybe it’s not true of everyone, but as a person who hangs out in coffee shops a lot, I have that one coffee shop on which all others are modeled in my mind. It was a coffee shop I frequented when I was in college, when frequent coffee drinking was still a novelty and not just a daily necessity. 

It was nestled out of the way, multi-storied, and I think in an old house. It was all nooks and crannies, and of course excellent coffee and pastries came standard – I remember vividly that there were only ever three or four food items, like a scone and a muffin and a single savory pastry, and they were all phenomenal! 

When I first walked into Summit Coffee in the River Arts District, my feeling was, “Oh, this is what a coffee shop is supposed to feel like!” In the many years since college, I’ve seen my fair share of coffee shops, and they can be incredibly varied while still being great, but this one came to the heart of what I think of as the coffee shop vibe. It must be experienced!

Summit Coffee Review

Ironically, I also visited the original Summit Coffee in Davidson, NC, a while back, and while I loved it, their property isn’t quite as perfectly “coffee-shoppy” as the River Arts District location in Asheville. For one thing, you’ve got the RAD itself – this space that is part scrappy post-industrial riverfront, part artistic haven, and part shopping district at this point. 

Beyond that, you’ve just got to see this space. It looks like a barn-like building from the outside, and you can enter from two different sides since their parking wraps all the way around the building. On one side, you’ll be greeted by the entrance that leads right up to the coffee counter, and on the other side, a charming outdoor patio gives the space lots of extra seating on pretty days.

Inside, the coffee counter takes up the heart of the building, with room to explore merch and bagged coffee on one side and a room of seating on the other side. The seating area is mostly small tables and two large community tables, and every time I’ve visited, it’s truly bustling enough to call them community tables.

Summit Coffee Feature

The protocol seems to be checking to see if anyone has left items at their seat, but then you can sit with a group even if you’re solo. More than any other shop I’ve visited in town, this one is usually a sea of laptop users – it just feels like a community of students and remote workers all getting the stuff done together, despite some substantial chatter from those for whom this is a coffee break.

The interior is very much in line with the modern coffee shop aesthetic – visible rafters, lots of live-edge wood, and exposed brick with murals painted on. There are rattan elements, metal accents, and very cool suspended lights that look like the lightbulbs are growing in a greenhouse. 

One of the nicest elements is the incredible high ceilings. While there is a whole loft area above the coffee counter, the ceilings are effectively double the standard, with a pitched roof that contributes to the feeling that this is a house of coffee, not just a shop. The warm industrial-style lamps on the walls add a golden hue to the natural light from the windows, and there is locally-made art for sale displayed on the walls, giving it a bit more of an art gallery ambiance as well. 

Summit Coffee Asheville, NC

The case up front has a few different treats like scones and pastries, but not an overwhelming selection, and at least two of the items when I was there were labeled as vegan. For instance, I saw a vegan croissant that looked incredible, especially given that butter is a huge part of how croissant dough gets its signature airy style. 

The coffee drink menu focuses on the standards of tea and coffee and espresso-based drinks, but they clearly put serious thought into their seasonal specials, displaying them with custom graphics. I am a black coffee girl at heart, since the first time a dentist disparaged the hue of my teeth and claimed that cream in coffee, drank at a leisurely pace over time rather than all at once and immediately followed by toothbrushing, was ruining their whiteness and eating them away. 

Best Coffee in Asheville Summit Coffee

However, on occasion, I just have to try some of the concoctions that coffee shops in Asheville dream up. For instance, Summit Coffee recently had a special called Purple Rain, which was honey-infused cold coffee with a bright lilac-hued lavender cold foam. 

The foam was thick but not ultra-fluffy on my drink, so it quickly waterfalled down the sides of the cup, making a drip-painting of honey-light-colored coffee and lavender cream. The flavor, like so many drinks that push back on the Starbucksification of coffee, was subtle and only lightly sweet. I relished every sip. 

I love the life of the space at Summit: facing me at a community table is a woman trying valiantly to carry on a meeting through her earbuds without being too loud, and just down the table, a group of three strategize on a group project for school. 

Summit Coffee Experience in Asheville

Friends sit by the window and stare out at the sunny day, and two people who are clearly just meeting for their first in-person hangout exchange bubbly pleasantries and confer, deciding to take their drinks to go for a walk along the river. 

When you want to focus with zero things to distract you, it makes sense to find a co-working space or a quiet, less-popular shop to sip your caffeinated drinks in. However, I find that many of us thrive on the buzz of other people’s lives, enjoying the feeling that the work we’re doing, be it studying or for pay, is part of a bigger picture that we contribute to with our efforts. Summit is a perfect spot for catching that buzz while also drinking something delicious. 

Summit Coffee: 4 Foundy Street, Asheville.

Have you been to Summit Coffee in Asheville’s River Arts District? Let us know 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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