Where a Local Chef Takes Visitors to Eat, Drink, and Shop in Asheville

Chef Silver Iocovozzi, of James Beard Award-nominated Asheville restaurant Neng Jr.’s, recommends delights on and off the table during this 48-hour itinerary filled with the best of the city.

A table with a few seafood dishes from Silver Iocovozzi’s restaurant Neng Jr.’s in Asheville, North Carolina

Dishes from Silver Iocovozzi’s acclaimed restaurant Neng Jr.’s

Photo by Tim Robison

We tapped celebrated chef Silver Iocovozzi to help create this delicious two-day getaway in Asheville, which will thrill your tastebuds and satisfy all your other senses with nature outings, shopping, and more. Iocovozzi ranks high among the city’s luminaries. His 18-seat Filipinx restaurant, Neng Jr.’s, started racking up accolades almost as soon as it opened in 2022, including finalist for Best New Restaurant in the 2023 James Beard Awards.

Iocovozzi’s culinary acumen comes from a decade-plus of experience in restaurant kitchens around the world, but it’s Asheville that he calls home and where he feels his restaurant Neng Jr.’s fits best. With in-depth knowledge and passion for the local food scene, this culinary expert makes an ideal tour guide for a trip bursting with unexpected flavors and finds, including what fuels his creative spirit.

Asheville_Tall John’s_Explore Asheville

Trip Highlight

Tall John’s

Chef Trevor Payne’s airy Montford kitchen is a convivial neighborhood gathering place with a menu of European and American favorites, such as a roasted half chicken and grilled trout. The lively bar and friendly service make this a popular local pick for dinner and weekend brunch.
Explore Asheville_Logo

Trip Designer

Explore Asheville

With so much to see and do in this eclectic city and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Explore Asheville has you covered with in-depth information for every interest and angle. Whether you’re drawn to the city’s architecture, thriving restaurant scene, lively art galleries, or serene natural beauty, this welcoming destination offers all the elements of a rewarding getaway.
People dining in Montford, an open rooftop cocktail bar at the Doubletree by Hilton with floor-to ceiling windows opening onto mountain views in Asheville, North Carolina

The Montford, the rooftop cocktail bar of the Doubletree by Hilton, is a prime spot to take in gorgeous sunsets and mountain views.

Photo by Tim Robison

Day 1:Shop Vintage and Hit an Asheville Spa

Begin your trip by checking in to the Chestnut Street Inn, Iocovozzi’s pick for your stay, replete with old Asheville charm. This 1905 colonial revival home is a bed-and-breakfast with eight bedrooms and handsome original woodwork (including a “courting bench” installed by the home’s original owner for his growing children). The home-cooked breakfast rivals any in the city—think apple-cheddar soufflé with potato nests. It’s also the nearest bed-and-breakfast to downtown, a 10-minute walk away. If you prefer a hotel, consider another well-located option on Chestnut Street, the historic Princess Anne Hotel.

Today you’ll embark on a veritable treasure hunt as you shop throughout Asheville. The area boasts a robust network of thrift and antique stores, bursting with vintage clothing, original artwork, pop culture ephemera, and more.

The 77,000-square-foot Antique Tobacco Barn is a prime example of the vast warehouses you can find here that nod to Asheville’s industrial past. Filled with everything from maps to ceramics and so much more, it’s a place where you can easily spend hours. Find 31,000 more square feet of collector’s paradise nearby at Sweeten Creek Antiques, which has a similar but smaller inventory. When you need a break, go for fortifying pho or a báhn mì sandwich at Wild Ginger Noodle Bar, an Iocovozzi favorite.

Head back to Asheville proper to round out your shopping adventure at Wildflowers Vintage. Located within the Foundy Street Collective in the River Arts District (RAD), the boutique sells a curated selection of clothing from eras past. It’s also surrounded by an entire day’s worth of activities, including a movie theater, smokehouse (12 Bones, where President Obama has dined), breweries, Pleb winery (which serves organic wines), and cafés, along with the studios of nearly 300 working artists that are open to the public.

Take the next few hours to relax in one of Asheville’s notable spas or wellness facilities—one of Iocovozzi’s top ways to unwind in his downtime. Downtown, inside the Grove Arcade at Wake Foot Sanctuary, you can care for your feet with a soak and massage. Expand relief to your entire body with a wood-fired sauna at Drip Nordic Sauna in the RAD or try the Biltmore Village area for a session in a Himalayan salt cave at the Salt Spa of Asheville. Or head to East Asheville to reach Still Point Wellness for treatments like floating atop a thousand pounds of Epsom salt in a sensory deprivation tank.

Check the timing of sunset and plan accordingly for a visit to The Montford, the rooftop cocktail bar atop the Doubletree by Hilton. It’s a prime roost from which to watch the sun sink gloriously behind the mountainous backdrop to the west—especially with a Montford Mule or other house cocktail in hand.

Grab dinner at Tall John’s, a few blocks away. Housed in a former church, this bistro serves American and European comfort food such as pork schnitzel with fennel salad, grilled trout with blood orange relish, and the house signature, a half chicken with roasted lemon. The restaurant also draws a heavily local crowd, largely from the Montford Historic District right outside the front door, providing an authentic experience.
A man looking out at a sunset on Black Balsam, a hiking area in Asheville, North Carolina

Black Balsam is a popular spot for a hike.

Photo by Andre Daugherty

Day 2:Visit West Asheville Markets and The Great Outdoors

Asheville’s vaunted food culture rests on the shoulders of the area’s farmers. Today you’ll connect with the region while browsing farmers’ markets and taking in the surrounding natural environment that’s been drawing wellness seekers and outdoor enthusiasts since the 1800s.

Multiple farmers’ markets take place in and around Asheville all year long. If you happen to be in town on a Tuesday between April and November, go to the West Asheville Tailgate Market, which pairs natural beauty products, herbal medicine, and arts and crafts with a bevy of produce, dairy, and baked goods—plus live music and kids activities. Asheville City Market takes place downtown on Saturdays and is another great place to find all manner of local produce, eggs, honey, and more. It’s also one of several farmers’ markets where you can pick up items from Lee’s One Fortune Farm, which supplies the rice used at Neng Jr.’s.

After a morning stroll through the markets, find a deeper connection with nature on one of the numerous legendary hikes only a short distance from the city center. Iocovozzi recommends Black Balsam, an easy, family-friendly hike that’s famous for blueberries in late summer and early fall, and Graveyard Fields, a 3.5-mile loop trail through high-elevation meadows and forests, waterfalls included.

Craggy Gardens, less than 20 miles northeast of downtown Asheville, is another good choice with inspiring sunset views alongside bursting rhododendrons in early summer. (Pro tip: It’s open from mid-April through mid-November.) If fishing is how you like to enjoy the outdoors, sign up for a guided fly-fishing tour with Hunter Banks, where you’ll drop a line into one of the finest trout habitats in the U.S.

Back in West Asheville, follow your hiking with much-deserved gastronomic rewards. You can’t go wrong with anything on the seasonally focused menu at Iocovozzi’s own Neng Jr.’s—just be sure to make your reservations early for the highly coveted seating. Or dig into some incredible Mexican food. While artisanal tacos populate nearly every neighborhood in Asheville, Taqueria Muñoz offers an authentic experience, with classic tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more served by a Spanish-speaking team.

Then, check Pink Moon Bar’s Instagram to retrieve the daily code that gets you into the outdoor wine bar, one of Asheville’s favorite speakeasies. Toast to your fabulous two-day getaway over a glass of rosé or orange wine at this excellently designed space.

With so many stellar dining options, you’ll be yearning to come back soon for another round of palate-pleasing Asheville delights. For more expert recommendations, head to and download the Explore Asheville App and have everything you need to get the most out of your next trip right in the palm of your hand.
More From This Author
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure