I'm thinking about buying a country place in or near Asheville, NC. Is it a good place to live, for someone who loves to cook?
I'd be spending weeks and months there at a time, throughout all four seasons. I'm most interested in hearing from people with homes or flats there. For example:
Where do you shop for groceries, produce, and specialty ingredients?
What are the farmers markets like?
What are the most pleasant neighbourhoods in which to live?
Are you affected by the growing numbers of tourists?
Is there anything else I should know? Thank you.
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Food is amazing in Western North Carolina. From James Beard nominated chefs to craft anything (but particularly beer) to local produce, we are truly blessed. The mild climate lends itself to amazing produce and a community focused on local drives enough demand to keep farmers growing and expanding.
There are several grocery options including the usual suspects. Ingles is the regional conventional grocer that actually has a reasonable selection of reasonably priced organic items with some local options. EarthFare started in Asheville in the 70's and has several stores in the area. This is our go to natural grocer. The French Broad Co-op is the most local grocer with a coming expansion likely adding significantly to a limited selection.
There are so many farmers' markets there are hard to keep track of. The Saturday market at UNCA is great. Tuesday afternoon brings another tailgate market in West Asheville. Wednesday afternoon two others appear in the River Arts District and another at the CO-OP.
Asheville is gentrifying at an incredible rate. According to a recent article one of the top ten fastest citeis in the US. In parts of Asheville homes sell for above list pricing within hours of listing. I am sure this is less true in the countryside surrounding Asheville but is worth noting. We live in one of the last neighborhoods to turn around just south of the city center. It is great to find an affordable home in a diverse neighborhood within walking distance to both downtown and the River Arts District.
Asheville’s food scene has exploded in the last 15 years. When my wife and I got married, there were two good restaurants downtown, which was otherwise deserted after business hours. There were lots of “Mom and Pop” places, and very few chains. Now, downtown is full of great restaurants, we have almost 60 breweries in the region, and Yadkin Valley wines are earning a great reputation across the country. It’s been fun, to be sure!
I have to chuckle about the shout-out for Ingles. A local chain, started and based in the Asheville area, Ingles is a good, but not spectacular, conventional grocery store. Produce, meat, staples—certainly good, but they don’t carry the variety you find at higher-end stores. Not too long ago visiting family in Florida, I complimented a local Publix, to hear that “Oh, your Ingles is far better!” Now, Publix has entered this market (in two locations), and all the local conversation is about how much better Publix is. I guess the Grocery Store is always greener on the other side….
Ingles dominates the market, and has for years. With Harris Teeter out of Charlotte and Publix coming in, Ingles has raised its game and has put more emphasis on prepared foods, the deli counter, and customer service. And they’ve always been a good member of the community, featuring local products (and in their hiring practices, too). Which is good, because while we have one Harris Teeter and two Publix, I can count at least 10 Ingles in the immediate area. I shop at three of them routinely (depending upon day and time) and usually come away satisfied.
We also have a number of higher-end grocery stores. The oldest is the Fresh Market, with two stores. Whole Foods has a presence: they opened store under that name a couple of years ago and operate another store as GreenLife, having bought out that chain about ten years ago. Trader Joe’s has come to town as well. But, local rules the roost here. Ashevillians will avoid chains as much as possible, in all walks of life: auto mechanics, nurseries, hardware stores, restaurants, grocery stores. Whole Foods’ strongest competition is the locally-based Earth Fare, an organic grocery store with two locations in town. The best meats are at the Chop Shop, a local butcher in north Asheville. Seafood is understandably problematic, but we can usually find relatively affordable, relatively fresh fish and shellfish at several places (including Ingles). And when we really want seafood, Charleston is four hours away, downhill. ;-)
Farm-to-table is the rule of thumb for Asheville restaurants and local tailgate markets, with organic produce, meats, and cheeses available from late spring into the fall. The WNC Farmers’ Market is more commercial in scope, but is still a fun place to visit.
Asheville is a beautiful, wonderful place to live with fascinating and diverse people. We’re more urban than “country,” with almost 90,000 in the city limits and almost 250,000 in Buncombe County. Think Portland, but smaller: a bit funky, with great food and great beer! Good luck!
I wish we had the Ingles grocery stores NC / Asheville area has. They are the everyday FULL service grocery when you don't need Whole Foods,Trader Joe's or Harris Teeter prices.
I'm sure there are good things about the area, but whether or not it's a step up or down from where you currently live is difficult to answer.
Some components may be a step up from London, Paris, or Tokyo, some might be a disappointment. Again, hard to say since you give no baseline reference point.
Anyhow, good luck with your move.