Let’s face the facts: one of the best reasons to live in or visit Asheville is the fact of not actually being a great cook – there’s such good food at your fingertips here that people who aren’t much for the kitchen can find top-notch flavors without having to pick up a whisk.
Especially during the holidays, though, this becomes a bit more challenging, since many restaurants take a well-deserved break, and many regular-level home chefs still feel daunted at the idea of preparing an elaborate holiday meal for something like Christmas dinner.
The good news is that even if you don’t want to cook it yourself, you have plenty of options for finding excellent eats in Asheville for Christmas dinner and many of the other holidays and “Eves” of this season. Whether you opt to pick up some gourmet heat-and-eat dishes or bring your beloved ones to a restaurant downtown, Asheville will happily provide you with a flavorful experience that becomes a positive memory to bond you and your community.
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Buy-Ahead Prepared Christmas Dinners in Asheville
Since many places close on holidays, a few local spots have opted to create special menus that you can pre-order and pick up, all mixed and prepared in dishes so that you just have to heat them to the right temperature and then dish them up.
If you’ve got family coming into town and you want to feed them great flavors but don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen yourself, picking up a buy-ahead prepared Christmas dinner is a great way to do it.
While we picked the places on this list because they have in the past offered these options, we cannot guarantee that they’ll be choosing to offer this for every holiday season forever. If something whets your appetite, I’d recommend going ahead and calling to see if they plan to offer the same kind of deal this year.
1. Grocery Store Catering
Many people don’t realize that local supermarkets like Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Earth Fare, Ingles, and Harris Teeter have a variety of excellent deli and catering options that you can order, both for the main Christmas dinner and other meals/snacks you may want to have handy for visitors.
Grocery store catering offers a lot of flexibility and you may be able to freeze some of the items so that if you’re feeding a crowd, you can pick a lot up before the big day and just thaw strategically as you need to get items out.
It’s also a great way to pre-emptively have some high-quality allergen-free or vegan items on hand if you’ve got a variety of dietary needs in your family – so much easier than busting out a new recipe just in time for a very busy holiday season. Plus, some of these food items get rave reviews. Every time our family has gotten prepared meals from the Fresh Market, for example, the food is incredible.
2. Moose Cafe
I love the Moose Cafe, the homestyle restaurant right at the WNC Farmer’s Market in Southwestern Asheville. The food is out of this world and they really deliver on service, unique charm, and old-timey Southern hospitality.
They also create excellent order-ahead Christmas meals, and since they’ve been in the game for a while, you know they will be able to guide you on how much to order for a given-sized crowd.
From the roast turkey and cornbread dressing, complete with gravy, to the mashed potatoes, green beans, and sweet potato souffle, you’ll be well-fed and feel ready for a long winter’s nap afterwards. The leftovers from your Moose Cafe order-ahead Christmas dinner will be popular features in sandwiches and side plates for days to come after the main event!
Location: 570 Brevard Road, Asheville.
3. Smoky Park Supper Club
Smoky Park Supper Club is a crowd-pleaser right on the French Broad River, the perfect mix of date-night-special-occasion dining with a down-to-earth sensibility. Last year, they offered some tasty options for their order-ahead meals.
Think smoked salmon, slow roasted ribeye, smoked turkey breast with brown peppered gravy, shuck-at-home oysters, shrimp chowder, and fun sides: spiced roasted mixed nuts, take-and-bake buttermilk biscuits, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes with gruyere and scallions, and even a brownie dessert with salted caramel and crushed peppermint.
If you’ve got people coming into town that you want to wow with flavor and fill up with fun, the options for Christmas dinner pickup at Smoky Park Supper Club are likely to have them licking the plate clean.
Location: 350 Riverside Drive #3141, Asheville.
4. Fork Lore
Fork Lore is a locally-owned restaurant operating in the Hilton Biltmore Park in a beautiful and spacious dining area, conveniently located in Biltmore Park Town Square near lots of other businesses and options for a little Christmas afternoon wander. They advertise holiday hours, with special limited menus on Christmas itself and their full menu the rest of the time.
Whether you opt for a brunch or breakfast visit in the morning, a simple sandwich or burger at lunchtime, or a sumptuous entree for dinner, Fork Lore offers the classy flavors and local connections with the convenient hours of a hotel restaurant. It’s a great choice if you’ll be in the Biltmore Park Town Square area for Christmas.
Location: 43 Town Square Boulevard, Asheville.
5. Newstock Food Studio
I love the model of the Newstock Food Studio. This small market in the River Arts District specializes in local, high-end, flavorful foods with exceptional chef-driven menu choices, but instead of doing dine-in, they are mostly takeout, making excellent meals that will be the showpiece of any table.
I’ve gotten their lasagna dinner before and it was something really special – I took it over to a friend who was busy with the rigors of parenting, and we got to try something that would have been at home on the menu of any excellent Asheville restaurant right in her kitchen with her toddler running around.
While I don’t know exactly what Newstock will have for this holiday season, last year, they had special order pickup for homemade eggnog, which could be part of a signature holiday cocktail this year!
Location: 191 Lyman Street #115, Asheville.
Dining-Out Christmas Dinners in Asheville
While all of the featured restaurants have been open on Christmas Day in the past, there’s never a guarantee that a given restaurant will opt to stay open. One of the themes of these restaurants is that many are associated with hotels, which tend to want to be able to serve guests no matter the holiday.
Making a reservation well in advance at a restaurant that serves a hotel gives you a good shot of being able to eat flavorful options while checking Christmas dinner off your to-do list with confidence.
1. Omni Grove Park Inn
With visitors to the Grove Park Inn coming in droves during the holidays, it makes sense that the restaurants on-site are open on holidays – and if you make a reservation early enough, you can dine there even if you aren’t staying there!
Dining at the Grove Park Inn is a high-style choice. Any visitors to Asheville will be agog at the incredible view from the many terraces, the beautiful twinkling lights, and the comfortable and gorgeous main lobby full of roaring fireplaces.
After you dine at Edison for craft flavors or Blue Ridge for the literally most amazing Sunday brunch buffet you can imagine, you can wander through and view the National Gingerbread House Competition entrants and winners – it’s like an entire museum worth of edible sculpture, and every single house represents hours and hours of painstaking detail and effort.
Make sure that you take your time with this experience, since exploring the Grove Park Inn is so much more than just Christmas dinner! If you aren’t staying on-site, consider consolidating cars by carpooling, since there is a fee to park.
Location: 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville.
2. Hemingway’s Cuba
While maybe not a standard holiday flavor association, Hemingway’s Cuba delivers excellent Cuban-inspired cuisine and cocktails a few floors up in the Cambria Hotel. The rooftop offers an incredible view, particularly if you bundle up and head out onto the patio, but even through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the luxurious dining room.
The panoramic view of the mountains makes every cocktail and tasty dinner option even more delicious, and if the point is to get out and enjoy Asheville, even on a holiday, this is a wonderful way to feel like you’re in the middle of it all even on a day when downtown might be a little quiet otherwise.
Location: 15 Page Avenue Fourth Floor, Asheville.
3. Isa’s Bistro
Whether you’re in the mood for French-inspired, eclectically-combined brunch, lunch, or dinner fare, Isa’s Bistro is a great option. Their classy corner location, where Haywood Street meets Battery Park Avenue, is kind of the perfect location for Asheville people-watching.
While most Christmas Day weather will be too chilly to take advantage of their terrace of outdoor dining, there are occasionally unseasonably warm Christmas days, so you might get lucky!
From a truly comforting French onion soup to cedar salmon nicoise, duck pilaf, and so many more delicate and tasty dishes, you and your loved ones are sure to pass a pleasurable meal here, all without having to do the cooking yourselves! Be aware that, like other restaurants on Christmas Day, there may be a special or limited menu.
Location: 1 Battery Park Avenue, Asheville.
Make Your Big Meal a Christmas Eve Dinner!
If you want to have a special Asheville dining experience but notice that many of the popular spots shut down for Christmas Day itself, consider a new tradition and make reservations for Christmas Eve.
While many restaurants still close early or all day on Christmas Eve, a few additional spots on your list may make the holiday more merry and bright. Here are some restaurants that in the past have opened for dinner on Christmas Eve:
- Buxton Chicken Palace: This casual chicken restaurant offers a limited and super-tasty menu of fries, tenders, and chicken sandwiches. Located inside the historic S&W Market, it’s a great option for a very casual and affordable Christmas Eve meal that still lets you dine in architectural style.
- Jargon: Perfect for an intimate dinner with your sweetheart, Jargon is a sweet and cozy New American restaurant nestled in the heart of West Asheville, featuring all kinds of flavorful food options and craft cocktails.
- Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktails: In Black Mountain, this option for Christmas Eve dinner is a great fit if you’ll be to the east of the city anyway. Located inside the Monte Vista Hotel, they aspire to seed-to-fork dining that brings you well-sourced ingredients put together in the most delicious ways for a truly upscale experience. Try some of their excellent cocktails, too!
- Pack’s Tavern: While they have closed earlier than usual for Christmas Eve in the past, Pack’s Tavern is a good choice for big groups, given their huge dining area. They offer a wide range of American favorites, served with the care and tradition that long-time Asheville restaurants always aspire to.
- Rhubarb: Chef-driven, elevated Appalachian cuisine sourced from as close to Western NC as possible, Rhubarb is a wonderful mixture of upscale and down-to-earth that brings new sensibility to the Southern food experience. You won’t be disappointed with the options, especially if you follow the menu’s lead and order a few different plates for everyone to share.
No matter how you opt to eat out for the holidays, whether you’re actually celebrating Christmas or just want to take advantage of the federal holiday to eat with friends and family, Asheville is a good place to do it.
With options for making an at-home meal easier and for having a memorable evening out, you’ll be sure to enjoy the best Christmas dinners in Asheville that are available this year. If you have your heart set on a different spot though, take the time to call and find out if they might be open, even if you discover that you need to declare the 26th your own “official” Christmas dinner.