Asheville is known for its great food, and especially for its local independent restaurants that feature a unique, eclectic variety of flavors that are far more sophisticated than may be expected in a small southern town. What’s even more exciting than the food, perhaps, is that Asheville provides unique opportunities for locals and visitors to explore the culture and see what makes Asheville so special while having fun doing it. The annual “small plate crawl” is one of those opportunities, and this year it did not disappoint. Over 20 restaurants participated in this culinary tour, featuring special small-sized chef creations that highlight the essence of the restaurant and the Asheville food scene.
My husband and I chose to visit four restaurants on our crawl, all in the downtown area. Even though the menus at some of the non-downtown spots looked incredible (particularly at Sunny Point Café and Red Stag Grill), we wanted to make our experience a true crawl by walking to each of our stops. The first two places we visited were restaurants we had never been to but always wanted to try, and we ended our journey with two of our tried and true favorite spots.
Our food-lover’s scavenger hunt began at Strada (Italian cuisine), where we sampled almost every dish they offered. The menu had a good variety – more options than a lot of the other places and all of them looked appetizing to me. The food was very good, particularly the ricotta dumplings and the lamb slider. Then we proceeded to the Lobster Trap where we had a lobster claw dish and catfish on top of collard greens. Both were very good, but the plates lived up to their “small plate” name. They were tiny. I have to say that the service there was the best of all the places we visited, and the staff was extremely friendly. They also poured an extra-large serving of wine for the wine pairing, which was nice. I will definitely go back there for dinner sometime. We continued our tour at Chai Pani where we had ground lamb meatballs with curry and rice, and a potato cake on top of chick pea stew with all kinds of delicious sauces and spices. The food was delicious, as always, and their portion sizes were very large. Their small plates were about the same size as their regular menu items, and they were by far the largest servings of all the places we went. This may have been my favorite stop of all the places we visited, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the others too. We concluded our journey at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge where we had the only small plate item they offered – the chocolate trio. It included a trifle with chocolate mousse and a flourless chocolate cake, a peanut butter and jelly truffle, and a salted caramel liquid truffle. They were all scrumptious, but the liquid truffle was out of this world amazing. It was the perfect ending to our tour of deliciousness.
The entire experience was fabulous, and I would highly recommend it. It’s a great romantic date night for a couple, but it would also be tons of fun for a large group of friends. Four places seemed to be ideal since it took us almost 2 ½ hours to do them, and we were quite full by the end. Next year, I think we might “crawl” all three nights and go to four different places each night. What a perfect way to get to know the restaurants in Asheville and have a great time doing it!