mixing comfort with class at tupelo honey cafe

It’s not like me to be interested in doing restaurant reviews. You see, I normally draw the line at taking pictures of the chocolate I eat, and the desserts I make. I feel that most else should be enjoyed sans camera, for the benefit of those in my company at the time. I choose to savor my meals with my eyes and stomach, knowing that at a later date I may not recall any details of what I’ve eaten, since the camera is frequently relegated to remain silent in the metaphorical corner.

But. I was on vacation in the South. And when on vacation in the South – – anything goes. Indeed, I knew something would be different the moment I crossed over the threshold into the vibrant, flashy, and hipster-filled Tupelo Honey Cafe, in Asheville, North Carolina.

With my previously-local-pal as my trusty guide to the greater Asheville region, I was able to see a lot in the two days that I was there, without actually spending much time in the city proper. Drinks at the well-liked Pisgah Brewing? Sure thing [I see now that they have bacon stout – I hope that wasn’t around when I stopped in. If it was, I have some regrets]. A wonderfully lengthy visit to the North Carolina Arboretum, where I worked hard to learn all of the southern tree species I’m unfamiliar with? Of course! While I can’t proclaim the pro status that my previously-local-pal is privilege to, I am now a bit more familiar with sourwood, blackgum, Virginia pine, and the seemingly 62,000 species of oak that are found in the region. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to learn about the shrub that goes by the name of farkleberry.

What you see in the image directly above is my arch-nemesis. That which has caused me loads of pain. That which is abundant in the South, and which grows on trees vine-like (or ninja-like, let’s be honest). That which I successfully didn’t succumb to while voyaging, despite walking through clumps of it with bare legs. That which is poison ivy. Steer clear of it, folks.

With that less-than-cheery warning of the dangers the South has in store out of the way, let’s move on to something more positive. More appetizing. More delicious. Let’s move on to the Tupelo Honey Cafe!

We started off the meal with two pints of Green Man IPA, which was crafted down the road at the Green Man Brewery, and has been open for brews-ness since 1997. I’m a big fan of a good IPA (I haven’t yet mentioned that one of the best parts of this vacation was finding a few bottles of my favorite, Two Hearted Ale), and I thought this was pretty good. We were warned of “hints of juniper and a mild pear finish;” I’m no beer expert, so let’s leave it at that.

Our waitress started our meal off with some complimentary biscuits, presented with berry jam and a bottle of tupelo honey jarred for the restaurant. I should point out now that while I mentioned learning about the blackgum tree, I could have easily written the black tupelo tree, as they are one and the same. Tupelo honey is made from Nyssa (tupelo) flower pollination action, which has a high fructose content. Yum, we’ve gone full circle.

We tried an array of southern goodness, with each of us ordering two sides in addition to a sandwich. Everything was amazing. Focusing first on the food that I did not order (to get the jealousy out of the way), Tupelo Honey offered up a fantastic Roast Beef Po’Boy, complete with lettuce, cherry pepper aioli, and oh. my. gosh., do you see it? …slices of fried green tomato, all packaged up on soft-yet-crispy sandwich bread.

My partner in delicious-eating crime (although I insist, it is not a crime to order way more food than you need) also ordered the Goat Cheese Grits, which were creamy and smooth and contained all the benefits of goat cheese without going overboard, and the Fried Okra. The okra was delectable: each piece was substantial while on the plate, but fell apart in my mouth. We had a few pieces of okra that somehow snuck into the to-go box, and they were just as good the next time around. While the goat cheese grits didn’t make it into a photo due to my inability to capture, emotionally and artfully, the sassy side of a creamy, white, lumpy dish of food, imagine them to be as gorgeous (in your mouth) as the fried okra was. Moving on to my side of the table!

On a bacon kick that began in 2008 and has yet to end, I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken BLT. This sweet li’l sandwich, found underneath an “artisanal bun,” contained maple peppered bacon, dijonnaise, lettuce and tomato, not to mention the (free-range) fried chicken breast. I rounded out the meal with Fried Parmesan Corn on the Cob, and Candied Ginger Cornbread with Whipped Peach Butter. The Parmesan was perfectly encrusted on the still-juicy corn cob, while the cornbread was soft, delicate (to the point of being crumbly) and flavorful – as was the whipped peach butter. All three of my meal choices, despite their pleasantries, were a bit of a head scratcher for me: I dislike chicken, ginger and (usually) butter, and eating corn while cobbed is on my jaw doctor’s list of no-no’s. No, I don’t really have a jaw doctor. …But I used to.

Regardless of what I usually like or dislike at mealtime, I was floored by my choices. I was pleased. Thrilled. Satiated. And a bit gaga over my wonderful luck that found me sitting along a sidewalk, eating some of the best food of my life, while all sorts of strange and silly Buncombe County residents meandered by.

The food and atmosphere found at Tupelo Honey Cafe were about as heavenly as it gets. And did you know – I bet you didn’t – that the restaurant recently put out a cookbook? That means you can bring the heavenly food home with you!  Keep in mind that recreating the atmosphere will be entirely on your shoulders, though.

If you find yourself in Asheville, eat here. And then do dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, just like I did. If you want to do things just like I did, your “dessert” will be enough to last you at least five weeks.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

12 College St
Asheville, NC 28801

Daily 9h00-22h00
Dinner menu available from 16h30

There is a second location, if downtown is, to you, frowntown:

1829 Hendersonville Rd
Asheville, NC 28803

Monday-Friday 11h00-21h00
Saturday/Sunday 9h00-21h00

Read more about Tupelo Honey Cafe here.


16 thoughts on “mixing comfort with class at tupelo honey cafe

  1. It’s always so nice to find a great place to eat when traveling. Your photos are wonderful and the food looks delicious. You’ve created a great place for your readers to visit and I’ve enjoyed the time I spent browsing through your site. I’ll definitely be back.I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary.

  2. Maris: It didn’t hurt that I was on vacation, in a very beautiful town, having a terrific day, and traveling with someone I love:)

    Mary: Thank you ! I’m always glad when a pair of fresh eyes enjoys what they see here. Thank you for the kind sentiments:) And I agree, a nice restaurant can turn a good visit into a great one. You have a great day too!

  3. The fried okra made me squeal. I go a little crazy for good okra. My father always had it in his garden in southern Wisconsin, and he really knew how to cook it. I haven’t had okra like that for years now, as he has had trouble growing in it in his just-barely-U.P. soil (He lives in Menominee, MI these days).

    I’m glad you’re still sharing tales of your trip! Hope there’s more to come!

  4. Brianne: How silly of me to think that Menominee and Menomonie were the same place, and both in Wisconsin! Looks like I need to give back my Geography Bee 2nd Place Award. The award which was never awarded to me materially – merely spiritually and intellectually. Okra okra okie-dokra, I love it too!

    And heck yes there’s so many more tales I could choose to recount from my trip. I’m glad you’re enjoying them, I was hoping they weren’t growing old and tiring! I might have to double up on chocolate bar reviews since I still have sooooo mannnneeee leffffft:)

  5. *whimper* Oh, the longing! I miss cornbread and grits and that area of beautiful America (I was at UVA for a year and spent a weekend at Asheville with a friend). I’ve yet to try fried okra – oh, why won’t Australia copycat the American south more often?

  6. I’m so glad you decided to capture this on camera and share with us. This delicious round up of food is so different from anything we can get here in Brisbane. Now THAT’S a crime.

  7. Hannah: After hearing about your UVA pastimes enough to intrigue me, I finally had to look it up. I guess I’ve heard of it before, but I had no clue where it was located. Charlottesville, eh? I’m heading down to Roanoke soon, so I’ll get close to it – unless you tell me there is something I simply MUST eat there, in which case I’ll detour:) I feel so lucky to be visiting the South twice in one summer!

    Oooh the okra. It was a hit, simply a hit! Is okra grown in Australia? ALSO, I was at a thrift store and happened to see a giant map of Australia against the wall. In summary, I now know Canberra’s location. Looks brrrrr chilly!

    Julia: Ha – that makes two of you Australians longing for American South-style food Down Under! It makes me wonder what it is that you do eat over there??? I picture lots of strange unidentifiable meats being roasted on spits in the middle of scrubby desert land, accompanied by weird-shaped fruits I’ve never seen before.

    …But after looking up Brisbane, I’m pretty sure that’s not how you live. Although a meat/fruit-only diet would probably be approved by the allergy doctor, no?:)

  8. Oh so wonderful to hear of your travels…What a great find in “Tupelo Honey Cafe”! Since we are growing a couple of plants of okra this year, I’m going to have to find some good recipes for it. That fried stuff sounds great! And fresh biscuits and cornbread–well, nuff said:-))

  9. Goat cheese grits?! And fried okra!!!! Oh man, they look wonderful almost like green hush puppies! Glad you photographed this event…or we would have been missing out on a drool fest.

  10. What a feast you had!!! Sadly, it has been so long since I had some good southern food. I need to check out that cookbook…..Bacon. Fried Green tomatoes. Corn Bread. Biscuits. Honey. And oh my that peach butter sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing with all of us:)

  11. Mum: Nuff said, nuff said! Everything was so fantastic. And hey – I bet with those okra plants in the yard, you could recreate the atmosphere needed to match such delicacies as fried okra:) Let’s try it in August!

    sophia: I was so impressed with the fried okra. I’m glad the picture turned out okay, because if it had been disgusting-looking, I would have had a hard time convincing y’all that it was actually tasty! Man those grits were good. Watch where you drool that drool:)

    Erin: I need to check the cookbook out too – I should have looked at it, but I was so single-mindedly hungry! And even if you haven’t had southern food recently, you’ve got all that amazingness that is the rest of the world, at your fingertips, for a few more days. Enjoy it! …And then post more gorgeous pictures:)

  12. Your pictures are beyond beautiful, and I love reading your writing.

    Tupelo Honey cafe has my head in a spin – fried okra, Souther Fried Chicken BLT, parm corn on the cob, candied ginger corn bread, and did you say peach whipped butter? Oh my.

    I’m so glad you left me a comment and my found my way here. BEAUTIFUL!

  13. sarah: Thank you so much for the kind comments! I’m honored. And now that I’ve been back home from Asheville for over a month, my head spin is finally slowing from all that delicious southern cuisine! Mmmhmm, whipped peach butter indeed:)

  14. Oh, how I love fried okra! But holy cow…candied ginger cornbread with whipped peach butter?? *mind explosion* That is going to haunt me until I attempt to make it someday. Hmm, maybe it’s in the cookbook! What’s the plant in the last photo? It’s stunning!

  15. Jessica: I love anything fried, but okra is an exceptional treat. The cornbread was wonderful! If you were to make it, you may want to make it a bit more flavorful than it was at Tupelo Honey. For me, it was perfect, since candied ginger isn’t my favorite, but I bet most folks would want to dial it up a wee bit.

    The plant in the last photo is mountain laurel, a shrub that can grow to small tree size down in the Carolinas. The woods were on fire with mountain laurel blossoms – it was magnificent:)

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