tupelo honey cafe – asheville, nc

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this past weekend i trekked up 85 north, through traveler’s rest, and past the biltmore estates to the cozy town of asheville, north carolina.  it was kristen’s bachelorette weekend, and with eight high-energy, beautiful women in one house, you can bet we were ready to take on the town.

after a relaxing walk saturday morning, we boasted our best bourgeois mountain outfits and ubered into the city.  the first stop was brunch at tupelo honey café per many recommendations, so we filed in line with the rest of the locals.  well, we may not have looked like locals, but who cares!

a good looking bunch!

a good looking bunch!

tupelo honey café has become a bit of a national icon for creative southern foods with accolades from the new york times, southern living magazine, and the food network.  they strive to serve up spirited and inventive dishes that leave you satisfied, and i’m going to ruin the surprise for you right now and say that they certainly satisfied this group of very real and very hungry ladies.

after patiently waiting in line, we were promptly seated together at a couple of tables.  as i surveyed my surroundings, i found myself to be pleasantly surprised.  with a name like tupelo honey café, I was expecting the décor to be a bit more homey and southern, but the space was clean and industrial yet still warm.  it had a minimalistic hipster vibe, and after moseying through the rest of the city later that day, i’d like to think it fits just right in here in downtown asheville.

per the norm, we quickly ordered drinks to get the festivities started.  mimosas and bloody marys were ordered all around, but then cindy’s drink arrived, and our eyes opened wide.  do you like that little rhyme i just did for you there?  arrived, wide.  it wasn’t even on purpose!  anyway…

cindy had ordered the queen mary bloody mary, and my oh my, was she in for a treat.  this drink is so fantastically described on the menu that i just had to include it here for your reading pleasure:  “this 20-ounce masterpiece is made with our special house-made golden tomato bloody mary mix using roasted yellow tomatoes and garlic.  add demitri’s bloody mary seasoning, fresh lemon juice and your choice of vodka or moonshine.  the garnish deserves a drum roll:  lemon, lime, pickled okra, pimento cheese stuffed olives, grilled shrimp, maple pepper bacon, celery, asparagus, pickled jalapeno and cherry tomato with a lime-salt rim.”  this drink is so intense that it nearly requires its own paragraph!  it was hard for cindy to pass up something so epic, but after getting to the bottom of the glass, she concluded it wasn’t what she had been looking for and that perhaps a traditional bloody mary would have done just fine.

bloody mary, mimosa, the queen mary.

bloody mary, mimosa, the queen mary.

after scarfing down some very homemade and very delicious biscuits with honey, jam, and butter, the entrees arrived to cover the tables.  as everyone was served, it was hard to keep the drool from dripping onto the plates, as everything looked incredibly edible and delicious.  we’ll start across the table from me with meredith who ordered the breakfast bowl.  you can order this indulgent concoction with either bacon or soysage, and i think it was ordered both ways by a few of the girls, as talia and lindsey both had it as well.  these ladies saw goat cheese grits on the menu and were sold, and i don’t blame them.  that melty cheese and crispy bacon and black-eyed pea salsa verde looked wonderful.  and if you ask any one of them, i think they’d agree.

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moving our way around, kristen and cindy both went for the grilled cheese and tomato soup, and had i seen that on the menu, i might have ordered it, too.  the soup looked creamy and rich, and the grilled cheese also seemed to have been quite a hit with them.

ah, alas we arrive at the fried chicken and biscuits, because Lord knows i love gravy and fried chicken and homemade biscuits, and if i didn’t, Lord also knows i wouldn’t be a true southern girl.  i did grow up in alabama after all.

the dish did sound a bit heavy; i mean, buttermilk biscuits with buttermilk gravy and buttermilk fried chicken?  no, i take it back.  that dish sounded perfect.  the plate arrived with that big ‘ole knife sticking out, and i got to eating right away.  first, the biscuits really are something special.  they’re the kind of biscuits that you could eat with no topping at all and you’d still want more.  the chicken wasn’t overseasoned and was complemented perfectly by the savory gravy.  savory gravy?  ha, i’m quite the wordsmith today.  ok, let’s get back on track here.  the sweetest surprise, though, might have been the crispy country ham bits atop the whole thing.  they added a little extra crunch and saltiness that was quite welcome.

all-in-all, tupelo honey café was spot on for our group that fall afternoon.  the service was warm and attentive without being an imposition, and the food and the drinks delivered as well, all clear reasons why there was a line out the door.  i can only imagine how well this restaurant would do down in atlanta.  perhaps they’ll be bringing it to us soon?  i shall keep my fingers crossed!

before we swept out into the cool autumn air, our waiter kindly snapped a photo of us all paid up and ready to explore.  a bit grainy, but thanks, tupelo honey!

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