A Local Chef Reveals His Perfect Day in Asheville, North Carolina

A chef-restaurateur who loves the city recommends a noteworthy hike, a hole-in-the-wall taqueria, and a honky tonk.

All Day Darling cafe in Asheville, NC

Despite its “come anytime” name, All Day Darling, the popular Asheville breakfast spot is easiest to get into before 8 a.m.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Jacob Sessoms moved to Asheville in 2004 to open Table, paying homage to the Southeast with an emphasis on ingredients from local farms and purveyors. Table is driven by the seasons, so the menu changes constantly. “Right now, we’re serving a roasted chicken and dumplings dish with sprouting cauliflower and curly endive. It’s fantastic—and probably one of the best dishes we have ever served,” says Sessoms.

Sessoms grew up in Nashville and studied culinary arts and baking at New York City’s French Culinary Institute (now named Culinary Center). His skills also shine at his other in-demand restaurant, which opened in late 2018 in the historic Montford neighborhood, All Day Darling, where a lengthy queue is normal (unless you get there before 8 a.m.).

His latest venture is overseeing food and beverage at The Radical, the first hotel to open in the River Arts District, in October 2023. Note: He’s really excited about the smash burger, the whole trout dish, and the vegetables, for which he works closely with Evan Chender, The Culinary Gardener, to secure the best produce in town (whole steamed pumpkins are the latest prize). “We will steam them until they are soft and kind of char over the wood, then break them open and serve them—those are going to be really cool,” he says.

While busy running around between the restaurants, he still manages to frequently enjoy some of Asheville’s hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems. Here’s his guide to how to spend the perfect day in Asheville.

A croissant and a mug of coffee at All Day Darling in Asheville, NC

Perfection in pastry form at All Day Darling.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

The early bird gets the caffeine

I wake up early and get a coffee at All Day Darling—I love a cup of black coffee and a ham and cheese croissant with Dijon mustard. The seasonal sweet pastry is always good, too, but make sure you get it warmed up! If you get to All Day Darling before 8 a.m., you’re going to have it nice and mellow. If you get there anytime after 8, it’s going to be wild—but it’s also a fun vibe. It’s all indoor/outdoor with plenty of room to hang out.

Hawksbill Mountain in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains

Bluebird skies and summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Hike off the pastries on Hawksbill Mountain

Then, I’d head up the Blue Ridge Parkway north from downtown, about an hour pending traffic, to hike Hawksbill Mountain. The trail is about two miles out and two miles back. It’s a fantastic early-day hike with a magnificent view as its reward. The trail is nice and flowy with some steep, rocky sections—the very last bit is very steep and rocky up to the pinnacle. It’s a gorgeous 360-degree view looking out over the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Virginia Piedmont.

Lunchtime = tacos and tamales

I’d head back into town for lunch, but if it’s a cool day, I’d head to the hole-in-the-wall Taqueria Munoz on Patton Avenue for a bowl of lamb consommé or a lamb quesadilla. Or I’d go to Molina for tamales. If it’s a nice warm day, I’d go to the Zillicoah brewery. It’s out of the fray—about three miles outside of downtown, right on the French Broad River—and has a really big, open outside space. I always get food from one of the rotating food trucks here and then sit by the river and enjoy a beer and the views.

Art walk and happy hour in the River Arts District

Next, I’d head down to the River Arts District—walk around and see some art. It’s a great place to talk with artists and buy ceramics, handblown glass, and paintings. It’s not a retail shop; it’s artist studios, so it is really a go-and-explore kind of situation. Stop by The Radical; it’s inspired by the culture and street art of Asheville and the hotel is in a renovated warehouse from the ‘20s. Head up to The Roof for drinks overlooking the French Broad River and watch the sunset.

Plates of food at Leo's House of Thirst restaurant in Asheville, NC

Start a dinner crawl with deviled eggs and chips at Leo’s House of Thirst.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Seek out a really great vegetable-forward dinner

Try dinner at Cucina 24, or perhaps Leo’s House of Thirst. At Cucina 24, Brian Canipelli makes the best pasta in town. He is also an avid vegetable cooker and buys from the same farmers we mostly buy from: Evan Chender and Anne Gaines. Leo’s House of Thirst is a wine bar with chef-driven food. There’s always a handful of small plates that are great and also very vegetable-driven.

A little mezcal, a little High Life, a lotta honky tonk (or vice versa)

I would hit Anoche for a mezcal or tequila and then head to Crucible for a shot of Angostura bitters (to prepare for the rest of the night). I’d head to Double Crown to drink a Miller High Life, and finish the night there dancing the honky tonk. Bring some shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty and plan on drinking tequila and Miller High Life all night. There’s always a good band; the promoter brings a different country band [from around the U.S.] every Wednesday evening. It’s always fun and always packed.

Jenn Rice is a nomadic food and travel journalist with over a decade of international digital and print experience as a writer. She currently splits time between the Southeast and Europe and her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, Vogue, The Washington Post, Thrillist, Eater Carolinas, and more.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR