A long weekend in Asheville: Days 2-3

SO.  When we left off (you know, like a year ago), we were just leaving the Frog Level Brewing Co on a trip to we took with friends to Ashevile, NC that occured almost two years ago.  Don’t remember (because, why would you)?   Let me refresh your memory:

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We had spent the morning hiking and ended up at Frog Level to hydrate and grab some snacks.  We decided that we wanted to be able to enjoy more than one beer and we had about a 30 min drive ahead of us, so we went back to the apartment.  We had a pretty exciting activity set up for the night:

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Drunk bike rides!  I’m sure you are familiar with the setup, I’ve seen similar activities in a lot of different cities (on our recent trip to Budapest we even spotted a bachelor party wearing tighty whities having a brisk ride around town).  The premise is that you bring your own beer on board and ride around for about an hour and a half.  For anyone that was worried about physical exertion like I was, the bike has a small motor and is not actually dependent on your pedaling.  The driver was funny and we had a good crew on our ride.  We used Amazing Pubcycle and it looks like they’ve changed their tours up a little bit.  Now they offer a 1.5 hr ride with stops at a few bars or a 40 minute Nomad tour.  Either sounds fun, but the one we did had no stops.

After our ride we decided to track down some dinner.  We heard a lot of good things about Tupelo Honey Cafe, but they had a ridiculous wait time (seems to be the norm, we have one in Greenville and it’s ALWAYS packed).  We walked around a bit more and happened upon Mayfel’s.  We looked it up, it had good reviews and a more reasonable wait time, so we got in our best Mardi Gras mindset and Cajun’ed it up.

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Our waitress recommended peel n eat shrimp, so we got that as an appetizer.  It was good, but didn’t really stand out from any ol’ peel n eat shrimp?  We also enjoyed some Seafood Etouffe, Gumbo, and Meatloaf, among other things.

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All of our main entrees were great, but the dessert was probably the best part.  Beignets!  P.S. I’ve tried to make beignets before from a mix someone brought us back from New Orleans and they were so flat.  These were 1,000,000x better, unsurprisingly.  Very soft and fluffy.

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After dinner, we continued to chip away at the population of Asheville breweries.  Our first stop of the night was Funkatorium.  This is Wicked Weed’s brewery and taproom that is dedicated to sour beers.  Which, as it turns out, I was the only one in our little quartet that likes sour beers.  So, I loved it.  Everyone else tolerated it.  We decided to split a flight rather than get individual drinks and I think I ended up finishing them all after everyone had a sample.  You certainly have to like sour beers to enjoy but it’s so unique and a cute space so I think it’s worth a stop!

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Our last stop of the night was Hi-wire Brewing.  This place was pretty packed and had some sort of live music going on.  I was impressed with their diverse selection of beers and had a hard time narrowing it down.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed a few beers before calling it a night.

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We started off our final full day much like we started our first full day.  Exactly like it, in fact, with a plate full o’ biscuit.  I went with the Chicken Mimosa biscuit this time and a side of fried chicken gravy.  All delicious again of course.

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After breakfast we drove to the Biltmore with plans to see the estate all dolled up in holiday splendor.  We drove all the way there, stood in line, and were told that tickets were $75 PER PERSON to walk around this giant house.  A bit steep, no?  Ultimately we decided that we weren’t willing to invest several hundred dollars into this high fallutin’ endeavor and went back to what we do best, beer.

We went to Sierra Nevada for lunch, we couldn’t get all of the food that we saw the other day out of our heads.  We inquired about a tour but they were booked up for the next few weeks (??), apparently this is the sort of thing that you need to do arrange in advance.  After two failed attempts at activities, we decided to just accept what the universe was telling us and just sit/eat/drink some more.  At this point in the trip my body was completely rebelling against all of the rich and fattening food and demanded some vegetables and roughage (ifyaknowhatimean).

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We each did a beer flight and I got the seasonal salad (which was some combo of arugula, chickpeas, roasted red pepper and a vinaigrette).   The food at Sierra Nevada is almost all small plate/shareable type dishes with a focus on local ingredients.  The menu changes often and everything we tried was fantastic!  Nick and I have been back on a few occasions and have always been impressed with what we’ve tried.asheville73

While we were out and about we decided to visit another brewery outside of town, Oskar Blues.  This place was about as different from Sierra Nevada as you can get.  No grand entrance, no fancy hipster menu.  Just a warehouse, some beer, and games.  My favorites from here were their IPA Pinner Throwback IPA, and their pilsner Mama’s Little Yella Pils.

We enjoyed several challenging games of Jenga (Nick’s first move was always to remove the bottom two sides so the whole tower was balancing on ONE block) before heading back to Asheville proper.

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Once we were back at our apartment we decided to stay close by and enjoy a few West Asheville establishments (besides Biscuithead).  Things were a tad fuzzy at this point so I don’t exactly remember where we went for dinner.  I do know that we went to Pour Taproom, which was such a cool place.  Rather than serving beers by the pint, you get a wrist band and they have like 30+ taps set up.  You scan your wristband and pour as much as any beer (or cider, or wine) that you want and just pay by the oz at the end.  I was able to enjoy more sour beer here and have this lovely, blurry, pic to commemorate the event.

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They also had a lot of games in the basement (including pool and GIANT SIZED Jenga) that we enjoyed until we went home and concluded our Asheville trip.

Overall this was a great trip with great friends, we loved staying in West Asheville and found it to be a great cheaper alternative to downtown Asheville.  I don’t think I had a bad beer or meal the entire time we were here and can’t wait to go back!

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A Long Weekend in Asheville: Days 1-2

I have been dying to share details and photos of our trip to Asheville (in DECEMBER) for some time now.

We went with two of our favorite friends from when we lived in Pittsburgh. We don’t get to see them nearly enough but when we do we end up taking a cool trip to somewhere new, so that works out really well. We also traveled to St. Maarten with them a few years ago!  It’s really nice to have a couple friend that you are compatible with travel wise. We are all pretty laid back and enjoy the same kind of things and are interested in seeing the new and different.

We ended up staying in West Asheville, mostly because we waited until the last minute to book a place and there were few places downtown and the ones that were available were pretty expensive. West Asheville is across the bridge and has more of a residential cozy neighborhood feel. There are a few smaller breweries and restaurants but overall we really enjoyed staying there and the Uber to main downtown was only about $10, so it really was worth it.

We drove to Asheville from Wilmington and got an early start. We ended up getting there a little too early and needed to kill some time before we checked into our Airbnb. I was looking up breweries on the way in the car and we ultimately decided to make a stop at Sierra Nevada to kill some time. This place was seriously impressive!  The brewery really had a huge ski lodge kind of feel. It was also packed af on a Monday afternoon (granted it was the week between Christmas and New Years). We got lucky and found a spot at the bar and decided to do one of their flights.

I tend to like wheat and fruity beers, so I stuck to those.  As we were sitting there, plate after plate of food was brought by and it all looked amaaazing.  The beers were also delicious, except for maybe the lemon verbena. It was a bit too lemony for me. I was surprised by how much I liked the tropical IPA!  Up until this point, I always found IPAs to be bitter but I think the fruitiness of this one made it a little lighter.

Local roasted heirloom pumpkin beer – I didn’t know my fav beer could sound so pretentious

After our beers we checked into our apartment and looked up a West Asheville spot to walk to while we waited on our friends.  We found a trippy hippy little spot that weirdly reminded me of Morgantown. It was here that I had my first sour beer. The bartender forced my to try a sample before she would pour me a full one, I guess people order the sours not fully knowing what they are getting themselves into?  The sour reminded me more of a cider or kombucha or something like that, tart/vinegary/fruity. I loved it!

After we met up with our friends we decided to head downtown for dinner. We went to Wicked Weed and enjoyed an array of hummus, a cheese plate, burgers and salad. It was all really good!

One of 2,833,656,987,515 beard and flannel combos we encountered

After Wicked Weed we apparently stopped by Asheville Brewing Company, I only know this because I had the following picture on my phone, no recollection of this place whatsoever.

You are welcome for this value added photo

We then walked over to Top of the Monk. This bar is split into three floors, each which has a unique theme and beers. We started at the bottom which featured Belgian beers. Megan and I did another flight.


Later we ended up heading upstairs to the fancy bar. They had a speakeasy theme going on and specialized in cocktails. I think this was some sort of gin and grapefruit? I saw in the menu that you got a key to the snack chest with each drink, so after I ordered my drink I went over and unlocked some olives. Turns out, we only got one key PER GROUP and I used it on OLIVES of all things, which is totally polarizing and there weren’t even four of them. #theworst. By the time we were done with our drinks here it was absolutely pouring so we got an uber and headed home.


The next morning we decided to head to the famed Biscuit Head for breakfast.  Leading up to this trip we all asked family and friends for restaurant recommendations and EVERY SINGLE PERSON recommended Biscuit Head.  We tried to get as there as early as our hangovers would allow but still ended up waiting in line for a while.

It was completely worth it though because the food was god damn fantastic.  They obviously specialize in biscuits, and have an entire bar dedicated to biscuit toppings.  Every  combo of honey, jam and butter that you could ever imagine.  I had a REALLY hard time deciding, mainly because of their multiple types of gravy and the fact that a GRAVY FLIGHT was an option.  Gravy is like, one of my top 3 favorite foods (of course it’s a food, don’t tell me otherwise).  There is also a GRAVY OF THE DAY (bestill my beating heart) but I ultimately went for the Brisket Biscuit, which was smoked pulled brisket, goat cheese, and buffalo hollandaise on a biscuit, topped with a poached egg.  It was AMAZING.  The biscuits were so large and buttery.  I’ve only ever attempted biscuits one time and they turned out like inedible dense little pucks.  These biscuits were the complete opposite of that, fluffy yet rich.  A real feat of chemistry.  Everybody’s food was really amazing, there wasn’t a bad thing between the four of us.

So yes, in case you can’t tell I think this place is a must-do in Asheville.  They currently have 2 Asheville locations and have recently opened a GREENVILLE SC location(!!!!!).  SO MANY CAPS but I’m just so passionate about biscuits and gravy guys.

 

This day was also our best day of weather, so we decided to take our full bellies outside and hike some of these famed Smokey Mountains that we kept hearing so much about.  We thought we would do a nice hike, but there are SO many mountains around Asheville it was really hard to narrow it down to an area, let alone a single trail.

I ended up finding this site on my phone, which seemed very helpful.  But Nick seemed to have an idea of where to head for the entrance of the National Park, so away we head.

I don’t want to criticize, because I certainly didn’t want to navigate..but Nick decidedly did NOT know where he was going.  I think we had to turn around 2-3 times, and we ended up climbing some mountain that a Toyota Corolla should never have attempted.

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We hiked around for about 30 or so mins and decided to head back and find some waterfalls.  More beautiful mountain driving later and we found ourselves at a random roadside waterfall.

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After all that adventure we were more than ready for a freakin beer and found the cutest little gem, Frog Level Brewing Co.  This place was in the middle of the tiny little downtown of Waynesville, NC and had an awesome outdoor area.  It actually ended up being one of our favorite spots!  There were about 8-10 picnic tables along the river behind the place.  The scenery plus the Salamandar Slam IPA made for a very happy crew.  In addition to the beers, we got some chips and chipotle hummus (which was amazing).  We were pretty hungry from our hike and it had been a while since our late breakfast, so it really hit the spot.

 

So….I know this seems like a really unnatural place to end this post, but this is getting really long and we did a lot of activities and breweries, so I cannot even fathom how long you would have to listen to me blather on if I actually attempted to finish out this day.  So I’ll wrap it up here and save the rest for next week’s travel post!

 

This post is part of the Wanderful Wednesday link-up, be sure to check out the other posts!

 

 

The Best Places to Beach/Eat/Drink in Wilmington, NC

Wellll I planned on recapping our December Asheville trip for this Travel Tuesday, but with all the moving, I am not even close to going through all of the pictures on my camera. So that will have to wait for another day.  Try to contain yourselves.

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If you missed it, we are in the process of moving from Wilmington to Greenville, so I thought it might be a good time to list some of our favorite Wilmington spots before they are all a beloved distant memory and I have no recollection of the beautiful beach dream that I’ve been living (not dramatic at all).  This past weekend was likely my last weekend in Wilmington for the forseeable future, so we spent some time hitting up my favorite spots.

Beaches:

Aka, the best part of the area.  There are three main beaches in the Wilmington area, and even more if you look across the river in Brunswick County or north at Topsail.  For the sake of this post, I’ll focus on the three around Wilmington.

Wrightsville Beach is probably the most popular beach near Wilmington.  It’s easily accessible from downtown (a straight shot on 74), has a ton of restaurants, is home to “The Loop” (a popular running route), has more beach houses than hotels (which helps keep the beach less crowded), and is generally a “nicer” beach.  You will also see more boats and activities like kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, thanks to the lovely Intracoastal Waterway.  If you are looking to really explore Wilmington and/or are an active vacationer, Wrightsville is your jam.

Look at all that empty sand space

 

The Intracoastal.  via

Carolina Beach is a little further away from Wilmington proper and is more….touristy?  than Wrightsville.  There are more souvenir shops, kitschy beach themed restaurants/buffets and bars, more high rise hotels, etc etc.  This reminds me of the beaches that I would vacation at as a kid.  There is a boardwalk with an arcade and a small amusement park.  Definitely a family vacation vibe.  If you have kiddos on board, Carolina is a winner.

My hot dogs hanging out at Carolina Beach

Kure Beach is just past Carolina Beach and is the quietest of all three.  It has less restaurants (but still enough to get you by) and shops than either Wrightsville or Carolina.  There is also free parking so Nick and I hit this beach a lot (is there any harder pill to swallow than having to pay for parking at the beach where you live?  In Virginia Beach there are some lots where you can park for free as a resident, get with it Wrightsville.).  If you plan to be a total beach bum and want quiet and serenity, Kure is the beach for you.

Eats:

Oh, the food.  The glorious, glorious food.

This is definitely one of the things I will miss MOST about Wilmington.  For the first six months we lived here, we talked nonstop about how much we loved the weather and the food.  We couldn’t shut up about it.  We annoyed and alienated all of our friends.  But it’s ok, because we filled that void with MORE FOOD.

Fish Bites – This isn’t a surprise to anyone that knows us.  This is stop 1 on our Wilmington tour when people visit us.  Fish Bites is very unassuming, it’s in a shopping center in the middle of Wilmington, far from downtown or any of the beaches.  But it’s our number 1 recommendation if you are looking for simple seafood.  We had family members want to go here 3 times in one long weekend visit, it’s that good.  Their fresh catch is my default choice, and I highly recommend the coconut sauce with that (unless it’s tuna).  They also serve raw oysters during oyster season that are delicious if that’s yo thing.  The mussels appetizer, the crab dip, the zucchini fries, all amazing.  I could go on and on about this place, but I’ll spare you.  Just be sure to go.  We tell everyone we know about it and have never gotten anything less than glowing reviews in return.

 

Delicious, free corn muffins
Salmon and zucchini fries for me, Scallops and mixed vegetables for Nick

Catch – Catch is located on Market St., also in a shopping center and not near downtown or the beaches (I guess I have a type?).  The chef was featured on Top Chef Texas and is a bit of a local celebrity.  It’s a bit more expensive than Fish Bites (~$30 per entree) but the food is a little more high end/modern/creative as well.  Their menu changes frequently, so my recommendations are probably useless, but their asian-ish entrees are always amazing.

Las Olas – Mexican food is my favorite food.  Period, the end.  And for me, Mexican food really comes down to the salsa, and the salsa here is FANTASTIC.  It’s super fresh and super cilantro-y.  Their seafood tacos are amazing, and you have to get the Street Corn as a side.  Nick and I used to live across the street from this place when we first moved to Wilmington, and I could have eaten here weekly.  Or daily.  The owners of this restaurant own a couple other in the area, I’ve tried k38, but not Tower (which is located in Wrightsville), and it was just as good.

Britt’s Donuts – I will preface this recommendation by saying I don’t even like donuts.  Whaaat?  I know.  But here I am, recommending a donut joint.  We heard about Britt’s from our apartment maintenance manager when we first moved here, and after the conversation I promptly forgot all about it, because I am anti-donut.  We were checking out Carolina Beach a week or so later and walked right by it and I was all “oh yeah, that’s that donut place that guy was telling us about.”  We were between meals and decided just to have one each to see what the BFD was.  OMG IT WAS HEAVEN.  These are the lightest, sweetest, fluffiest donuts you will ever have in your entire life.  They only make one kind, but it’s the only kind you will ever need.  They created the absolute perfect donut and it would be an insult to you to serve you anything else.  There is usually a line all down the boardwalk during the summer, but it’s worth it.  I recommend getting at least half a dozen per person.  My brother-in-law holds the current record of eating an ENTIRE dozen in one day.

Nick and I got a half dozen for a between meals snack
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Looookk at it

 

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This is what the line looks like at 2 pm

Mott’s Seafood Channel – I know, this isn’t even a restaurant, but it is hands down the best fish market in Wilmington.  If you are visiting and have access to a kitchen, do yourself the kindest favor you possibly can and make dinner in one night.  And buy that dinner at Mott’s Seafood.  It’s located near Wrightsville Beach, and after trying a ton of different fish markets in the area, it’s the only one we go to now.  Their seafood is always SO fresh, and we have fun trying all kind of different things according to what’s in season.  The employees are especially helpful and we always ask what is the freshest/what looks good.  If you happen to be visiting between October and May GET THE STUMP OYSTERS if they have them.

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Look at the color on the tuna (far right)
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We went with Wahoo and Tuna and both were amazing

SO, those are my “must-do” places in the Wilmington area, and now I’ve successfully bummed myself out about not being able to visit them again.

I’m going to go be sad about not living at the beach anymore, K bye.

 

This post is part of the Travel Tuesday linkup!