by Sandy McLeod
Many people visit Asheville because of its uniqueness. The downtown area is mainly composed of small, independent stores, restaurants, bars and galleries that cater to the individual looking for something different. Maybe you’re into handmade clothing, or carefully crafted objects such as wood furniture, glass blown art or handcrafted jewelry. Perhaps you want to find an organic treat for your dog. Or, you want a pair of woven hemp sandals for the summer months. Maybe you want to sift through old vinyl records and used CDs and find a title you’ve been looking for but cannot seem to find anywhere else. It doesn’t matter what intrigues you – or grabs your attention. An afternoon or evening in Downtown Asheville will surprise and delight most any visitor.
While you’re shopping around the downtown area, you and your loved ones may be hungry for a little snack and in need of a pause. So, I’ve compiled a very short list of some quirky and endearing places to take a break, kick back, and enjoy a light afternoon or evening snack and people-watch.
The Gourmet Chip Company
Fans of potato chips have most likely never visited a place like this. Choose from 12 different styles of gourmet chips, made from the finest potatoes and cooked kettle style. The chips are served in a wire spiral shaped holder with a crisp, fresh bag. Some style of chips include the familiar salt & vinegar, or, for those who may have an experimental streak, the Parisian, made with white truffle spritz and rosemary/thyme-crusted goat cheese with a dash of sea salt. Some may prefer a spicier option. Sample the Southern BBQ chips, with 13 different spices and a choice between sweet, smoky and slightly spicy. The Gourmet Chip Company is located at 43 ½ Broadway and is open from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Order your chips then take a seat near the window and watch the local color and others strolling by.
The Chocolate Fetish and The Chocolate Lounge
Yes, there really are two places in Downtown Asheville where the chocolate fiend can be satisfied beyond your wildest dreams. The Chocolate Fetish, aptly named, is a place where one can indulge in some of the finest homemade chocolate truffles and bars – guilt free. Remember, you’re on vacation. The Ecstasy Truffles™ are premium American and European style chocolates with a wide choice of fillings that are sure to stimulate your emotional state and inspire your continued worship of chocolate. Pick up some truffles to go or buy a creatively fashioned chocolate ‘present’ to bring home as a gift. A staff person will provide a nicely wrapped box. The Chocolate Fetish is located at 36 Haywood Street, right across the street from Malaprop’s Bookstore. Hours are: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday; and Noon – 5 p.m. on Sunday.
If the Chocolate Fetish is closed when you visit downtown – no worries. Chance are, the Chocolate Lounge will be open for business and can accommodate all of your chocolate cravings, and then some. The Chocolate Lounge also serves wine and beer, for those who love to mix wine and chocolate, or for the person who simply wants a tasty locally brewed pint. Here the visitor will find an assortment of truffles and caramels, brownies, chocolate bars and special holiday and seasonal chocolates. The Chocolate Lounge is located at 10 S. Lexington Avenue and is open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. – 12 Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. If you stop in during the evening you may even catch some local musicians playing for the crowd.
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe
Creameries are abundant in the Asheville area – a town that thrives on the products of independent farmers. This means fresh cream is available for the most delicious, mouth-watering ice cream ever. The Hop Ice Cream Café has been a local favorite since opening in 1978. Homemade ice cream is fresh from the creamery and available in a variety of flavors. The Hop even offers vegan/gluten free ice cream options, as well as sugar free choices and ice cream made from local goat milk. The owners believe those on a special diet should never be denied ice cream. There are two locations: 640 Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville (closest to Downtown Asheville), hours are 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday. The 721 Haywood Road location in West Asheville is open from 1 p.m. – 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday
Asheville gives new meaning to the phrase, “off the beaten path.” Many of the proprietors in this small city are here because they have a passion for something, and want to share this with locals and visitors. If you are visiting this quirky little Appalachian Mountain town, be sure to save a day to visit Downtown Asheville and spend some time snacking, Asheville-style.