Asheville’s culinary profile has risen in recent years — thanks in part to Katie Button.
The recipient of Food & Wine’s 2015 Best New Chef Award and a finalist for James Beard’s Rising Star Chef Award helms two spots in the charming North Carolina city: the Spanish tapas bar Cúrate and the American restaurant Nightbell.
The chef will be in New York City this week to celebrate the release of her new cookbook, “Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen,” and New Yorkers can get a taste of her Southern-tinged Spanish cooking.
But if you do find yourself in Asheville for the real deal, we asked Button for her favorite dining destinations, from her own restaurants, naturally, to breakfast spots, breweries and more.
“The food scene here has really been exploding,” Button says. “I feel like we have a new amazing restaurant popping up every day.”
Hole: “This is an amazing donut shop. They fry all the donuts to order. They have really interesting flavors. Their original glaze is always amazing.” 168 Haywood Road, 828-774-5667
Owl Bakery: “They’re making I think some of the best pastries in town — croissant-style, and like turnovers filled with kale or other savory items. They have one that has walnuts in it that’s delicious. I had a raspberry turnover the other day that was delicious. The dough and the technique — it’s amazing.” 295 Haywood Road, 828-785-1770, owlbakery.com
TacoBilly: “If pastries and donuts aren’t your thing, you can get breakfast tacos. Before you go on a hike or something, and you want an early breakfast that’s going to fill you up, definitely go there. They’ve got migas, another one that’s got sweet potato and greens and goat cheese and eggs. They’re really delicious. They have a whole other larger offering of tacos for lunch, and their breakfast tacos are served all day — you can totally eat breakfast for lunch.” 201 Haywood Road, 828-505-0088, tacobillyasheville.com
Cúrate: “Cúrate is a great spot for brunch. It’s a little bit easier to get into then. We offer the same full menu for dinner at that time, and a few additional brunch-type dishes, like a version of French toast that we soak in this custard that’s almost like an ice cream base. After we cook the French toast we brûlée it with sugar and serve it with a sherry sabayon. We’ve got some great breakfast cocktails as well, and a Spanish coffee, which is a version of an Irish coffee but with brandy and orange whip cream.” 11 Biltmore Ave., 828-239-2946, heirloomhg.com/curate
Chai Pani: “I’ve really enjoyed this place since we’ve lived here. They’ve got really great Indian food, it’s really quality stuff and super tasty.” 22 Battery Park Ave., 828-254-4003, chaipaniasheville.com
Nightbell: “I have to mention my other restaurant for sure. It’s small plates, regional Appalachian food. Our regional Southern cuisine. The reason I love to eat that way is I think it invites people to share. You taste all the dishes, and people end up talking about the food much more, which to me is what it’s all about. At night we’ve got this amazing burger that’s made with a grit brioche bun, housemade, and the meat from the burger we’re getting from a dry-age, whole-cow program we’re doing. We top it with housemade bread-and-butter pickles, a regional cheese, and Lusty Monk Mustard — a regional mustard. It’s super delicious. We worked really hard on making the best burger. Our most popular item is the ‘deviled egg,’ our version of a deviled egg, with smoked trout gravlax.” 32 S. Lexington Ave., 828-575-0375, heirloomhg.com/nightbell
French Broad Chocolate Lounge: “Hands down amazing. They do just fantastic truffles, and in addition to chocolate have this amazing carrot cake. I know that’s a weird thing, but I’m head over heels for their unadulterated carrot cake. It’s definitely a one-stop shop for all things sweet.” 10 S. Pack Square, 828-252-4181, frenchbroadchocolates.com
Put simply: “Beer is really big in Asheville,” Button says. Here are her favorite breweries.
Burial Beer Co.: “They’ve got just great beers that are constantly changing, and I love the atmosphere.” 40 Collier Ave., burialbeer.com
Wicked Weed Funkatorium: “They do a lot of sour beers, and a lot of interesting things with barrel aging — sherry barrels or bourbon — and you’ll get that little bit of flavor.” 147 Coxe Ave., wickedweedbrewing.com
Barbecue is really big here, too. Here are Button’s picks for some meat.
Buxton Hall: “It’s really delicious. Elliott Moss is the chef, he’s super talented. He’s doing whole-pig barbecue.” 32 Banks Ave., 828-232-7216, buxtonhall.com
12 Bones: “That’s another barbecue spot that’s been around longer. It has more ribs, smothered in sauces, and things like that.” 5 Riverside Drive, 828-253-4499, 12bones.com
“One of the unique kind of spots that we’ve got is, we have a couple restaurant hang-out spots on the river,” Button says. “I’ve never seen a concept like this before until I moved to Asheville.”
Bywater: “Somebody has created an amazing yard for people to hang out in, with little seating areas and grills and a little bar inside. You just gather with your friends and have live music and share a beer and hang out outside.” 796 Riverside Drive, bywater.bar
Salvage Station: “They have a little restaurant on site where they serve tacos and other bites. It’s really unique, fun décor. I brought my daughter there — it’s a good place to bring kids. There’s so much space for them to run around. You can listen to music, grab a beer and just chill outside.” 468 Riverside Drive, salvagestation.com