Integral to the Asheville Renaissance - which dates from approximately a decade or two ago to the present - is the
revitalization of West Asheville. Simply put: West Asheville quietly rocks.
West Asheville was once a town unto itself
and in many essential respects remains so - or, more accurately, has returned so - today. West Asheville has a
character distinct from that of Asheville as a whole, somewhat akin to that of Lower Lexington, but with homes,
and a sense of its roots as a generally working-class little burg, where somehow three barbershops within two blocks
can stay in business from generation to generation, and remain so to date.
To capture a sense of today's West Asheville, look first to the Bledsoe Building, the cornerstone of Haywood Road's
commercial vitality. Within this one-block (the 700 block) building, you'll encounter: Orbit DVD Rental (an excellent,
eclectic, Indy-rich selection), Beauty Parade ("West Asheville's Full Service Salon,") Haywood Road Market ("West Asheville's Community Owned Market")
and Westville Pub.
Harvest Records at 415-B Haywood Road you can find a widespread collection of new and used CDs and vinyl, as well as DVDs, magazines, books, visual art and more. Owned and operated by Matt Schnable and Mark Capon, they have also been bringing regional, national and international acts to perform in Asheville using local venues and art spaces such as The Wedge, The Grey Eagle, and even the record store itself.
Asheville BookWorks at 428 1/2 Haywood Road, began in 2004 as a community resource for print and book in response to the growing number of book artists and printmakers living and working in Western NC. Laurie Corral, founder and director, was inspired by an exhibit of artists books from the Women’s Studio Workshop in 1996 while working at the Hickory Museum of Art and envisioned a place where artists working in print and book arts could support shared studio space, foster the exchange of knowledge and raise awareness of book art and print in Western NC. Since then, Asheville BookWorks has become a place where classes and workshops are held regularly year-round, studio rental is available, an artist residency program has been developed, artist talks are scheduled, an exhibition gallery has been designed and built, and the BookWorks Co-op has been initiated.
A few words on Westville Pub: This place is a genuine neighborhood bar, doin it old school. It's okay to walk in
here not knowing anyone. You may well walk away knowing several folks. But if you'd rather not, that's cool: just
sit and read the Mountain Xpress. There's live music about six nights a week, including open mike on Monday's.
And - not so typical of your genuine neighborhood bar - the food here's first rate, thanks largely to Chef Oso,
whose culinary architecture and long-term kitchen stewardship set a formidable standard (he's now pursuing other
ventures, but is still around part time). As of this writing, the third Sunday of each month is African cuisine
night, and that's a real treat - but you may want to call ahead to see if it's still scheduled as such: (828) 225-9782.
Free movies under the stars? Sponsored by the Bledsoe Bldg. proprietors, the Walk-in Theatre series, held Friday
nights through the warm-weather months behind the Bledsoe, typifies the efforts extended in West Asheville to create
and maintain a true sense of community - to bring folks together in a clean, not-so-well-lighted place.
Just across the parking lot is West End Bakery: a variety of excellent baked goods, a good cup of coffee, the New
York Times, a generally swell place to hang out, meet and greet. There is also Bean Werks Coffee
and Teahouse. In fact there are probably as many coffee shops per-capita
in Asheville than there are in Seattle. (For those who know Seattle
imagine a smaller, sea-less version with a lot less rain, and snow
in the winter. )
Across from the Bledsoe and a half-block west is La Empanada, purveyor of those tasty little Colombian meat or
vegetable turnovers, and, at a buck and a nickel per, certainly the least-expensive filling lunch or dinner in
the vicinity. The Sunny Point Cafe at 626 Haywood Road is a family owned independent restaurant serving upscale comfort food that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and uses fresh ingredients from their garden next door. Through their “garden to table” ideal they are able to provide local and organic produce from their very own backyard, a concept that is not only ecologically sound, but aesthetically pleasing, as well. The Sunny Point Café kitchen garden blog let's their friends and customers keep track of how the vegetables are progressing so they know what to order in terms of freshness, which is a great concept. Plus it is educational.
In the other direction, heading east down Haywood, are two humble eating establishments you should give a try.
Burgermeister's which was originally at Pack Square moved in 2003 to 697 Haywood Rd. They serve some very fine beef burgers there at Burgermeister's - beer burgers,
they call them - and a spicy ground-turkey burger that's every bit as nice. You'll find local grass-fed beef and bison, natural hot dogs, made to order salads, unique sandwiches and a full bar with local brews. Burgermeister's is also one of the
few places in West Asheville with multiple TV screens for relaxed, easily accessible game watching. They also win Western North Carolina's Best Burger Award year after year. They use trans-fat free fryer oil and only use olive oil in preparations. All their used oil is collected and recycled by Blue Ridge Biofuels and also compost all food waste & used napkins and recycle containers to reduce the impact on our planet.
At 630 Haywood
Rd. is the Lucky Otter for excellent California-style burritos (traditional or not-so, your call), interesting daily specials, cold
beer - lots of good stuff at a very reasonable price, and in a West Ashevillesque laidback atmosphere.
Hops and Vines at 797 Haywood Road was voted one of WNC's best Beer and Wine stores for five years in a row and is the only place in western North Carolina to stock up on specialty beer, wines and homebrewing supplies in one stop. From award winning homebrew recipes to unique small production wines to local brewery favorites they've got something for every taste. They also offer classes in beer-making for beginners, and advanced classes too. They carry over 300 beers, with an emphasis on US microbreweries and European imports. In their coolers you’ll discover hard to find Belgian abbey ales, growlers from local brewers, organic ales and more. Plus, they always keep a good selection of cold singles on hand so you can try something new.
Nona Mia, which in Italian means my grandmother, serves Italian-American “soul food,” the kind of food served for generations by Italian cooks in American kitchens. If you are Italian or had Italian friends when you were growing up you know exactly what that means and have probably been searching ever since to find Italian food that was as good. Wood-fired pizza (two kinds: Neapolitan and Sicilian), artisan sandwiches, pasta dishes, and classic Italian specialties are served by a fabulous staff in a casual, laid-back atmosphere. And it’s inexpensive. Nona Mia Ritrovo is the latest brainchild of chef Peter Affatato, who helped develop other well-known Asheville restaurants such as Savoy, and created the original 28806 Deli, Bakery & Caterers. They are located at 1050 Haywood Road.
The Altamont Brewing Company at 1042 Haywood Road is yet another reason Asheville will soon lay claim to being the craft beer capital of America. Brewer Gordon Kear, former brewer for Flagstaff Brewing Company, and business partner Ben Wiggins built a brewing company and bar with all the best Asheville has to offer. Known locally as “the bar”, the Altamont boasts a wide open floor plan with regulation ping-pong, a foosball table and single disc-golf basket and hosts a variety of musicians and dj’s weekly plus open mic-night every tuesday. While the brewing facility is still a work-in-progress, the Altamont has some of the finest locals on tap.
West Asheville has access to the series of parks along the western banks of the French Broad River. From Haywood Road the easiest access to these parks is down State Street to Amboy Road.
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