This North Carolina City Was Just Named the No. 1 Food Destination in the U.S. — Here's Why

·2 min read
Asheville, North Carolina, USA at twilight.
Asheville, North Carolina, USA at twilight.

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Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the North Carolina city of Asheville is once again making waves for its innovative culinary scene, earning the No. 1 spot in Yelp's newly released top cities for foodies survey, an honor it also received in 2020.

"Blending the flavors of the American South with Appalachian fare, Asheville boasts a unique mountain-to-urban creative food scene," a representative from Yelp said in a release sent to Travel + Leisure.

People enjoy the outside patio at 12 Bones Smokehouse barbecue restaurant in the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina.
People enjoy the outside patio at 12 Bones Smokehouse barbecue restaurant in the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Among the spots that Yelp called out are two downtown Asheville hotspots. Katie Button's Spanish restaurant Cúrate, known for its lamb skewers and fried eggplant, recently added the James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality to its accolades, while the Southern American fusion eatery Chestnut, co-owned by Joe Scully and Kevin Westmoreland, is known for handcrafting every item, from its beloved lobster bisque and pork belly down to its sorbet and demi-glace sauce.

Also on Yelp's top Asheville picks are a pair of restaurants in the South Slope Brewing District: Funkatorium, which has a sour beer taproom, and Daddy Mac's Down Home Dive, a southern barbecue joint that opened last year, serving the recipes of owner Dave McFarland's four grandparents. Yelp's top 10 Asheville restaurants are rounded out by Tupelo Honey, The Admiral, Corner Kitchen, White Duck Taco Shop, Sunny Point Café, and The Montford Rooftop Bar.

Downtown Asheville, North Carolina at Grove Arcade
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina at Grove Arcade

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But what really makes Asheville's culinary scene shine are the stories behind the scenes. The cozy Indian street food eatery Chai Pani from chef Meherwan Irani won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant this year, while Top Chef's Ashleigh Shanti is getting ready to open Good Hot Fish, serving up her trademark seafood dishes like deviled crab, hush puppies, and fried fish sandwiches.

Pita pizza with ricotta and caramelized onions, Albemarle Inn, Asheville, NC.
Pita pizza with ricotta and caramelized onions, Albemarle Inn, Asheville, NC.

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Also on the way is the city's first Filipinx restaurant Neng Jr's from chef Silver Cousler, featuring Filipino-style hot dogs, trout roe served with pork rinds, and collard greens with coconut milk on the menu. Also of note is the tremendous journey of Steven Goff from a homeless dishwasher to acclaimed chef, who is currently renovating West Asheville's mainstay of more than 75 years, Tastee Diner, into a chic new eatery.

All together, Asheville lovingly refers to its culinary culture as Foodtopia, which it says is a "community of culinary collaborators crafting an experience to nurture your soul."

Customers at the outside seating area of a restaurant in downtown Asheville, North Carolina,
Customers at the outside seating area of a restaurant in downtown Asheville, North Carolina,

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In order to determine the top food cities, Yelp's Data Science team looked at the places with the highest restaurant ratings from out-of-towners, among other factors. Find the full list of top U.S. food cities here.