The New Year’s Vacation: Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II.

Asheville truly is a unique city. It’s a city that’s 100% embraced the local movement, the whole foods movement, veganism, beer, organicism – you name it. It’s got some great, great, qualities. It’s also extremely young. Downtown Asheville resembled Alphabet City in the 80s and early 90s, and only recently did the city get kick-started [Shaun’s prediction is that it has something to do with the art school]. It’s so young that Pack Square Park, the central park in town, was built in 2009.

The city also has some bizarre qualities, a few of which I found frustrating. First, Downtown Asheville seems to run purely on tourism so there’s little to no staple-like stores, if that makes sense. Need a water? Good luck finding a CVS, 7-11, or grocery store of any kind in the Downtown area. Second, nothing opens before 10AM. Not even coffee shops for the most part. Shaun and I found ourselves wandering the city for a good part of the morning on New Year’s Eve, waiting for the 10AM or 11AM moment when we could snag a fresh cup of coffee.

We ended up wandering out of Downtown, walking about 1 or 2 miles until we discovered Dripolator just across route 240 – a coffee bar that serves Counter Culture coffee. My americano was smooth, and I enjoyed it even though it took 20 minutes to make because the grinder was broken. It was still worth it just to meet the woman who had a full-grown Bernese in her car [named Okra, hello South].

in love with okra.

From there, we returned to Downtown Asheville, and took Grady into two of the many pet-friendly locations in town: Funky Mutt and Three Dog Bakery. I can’t begin to describe to you how pet-friendly this city was, but suffice it to say Grady was never bored. At Funky Mutt, he picked up two homemade treats: pumpkin peanut butter and apple pie cinnamon. Three Dog Bakery was really the star, though [Grady freaked]. As soon as he walked in, the owners greeted him with snacks, and then Shaun and I picked out three pupcakes for him. Yes, pupcakes. It’s like a cupcake, but… nevermind.

don't know why this is so dark.

To speed things up, here are the highlights from the rest of New Year’s Eve. We covered a lot of ground and everything was awesome so I really want to share, but I also don’t want to make you all read a novel:

  • A trip to the Asheville YMCA, which offered us free seven-day trial memberships [to keep me sane]. I love YMCA’s. They always have wonderful facilities and give me a really good sense of the community in the area. Shaun and I flew through a run because they limit your time on machines [but alas, I still got behind on the half-marathon training over the holiday – partially because of a knee injury, partially because, well, it was vacay and seven-miles didn’t seem fun]… and I paid for it with my near pass-out experience when we had to wait for a table at lunch. You live and learn, eh?
  • A post-run lunch at Laughing Seed Cafe, one of the many vegetarian restaurants in Asheville. Asheville is filled with vegetarian and vegan restaurants, not just restaurants offering a vegetarian option [and a restaurant at that, not a dive, like, Bluegrass or Rev Soup]. It was heavenly. For me: tempeh nicoise salad with all of the traditional nicoise toppings, and a few crispy pieces of tempeh [side note: tempeh is a major calorie bomb, so I was thrilled when this salad came with reasonable-sized slices]. For Shaun: a tempeh cuban sandwich. Damn, was it awesome. Caramelized onions, pickles, black bean spread, swiss cheese – Shaun says this is the best veg sandwich he’s ever eaten.

tempeh nicoise with much-needed protein.

tempeh havana cuban...ohmygodsogood.

  • A visit to Grove Arcade, which was actually anti-climactic and quite disappointing [compare it to the South Street Seaport in NYC – a tourist black hole], except for (1) an awesome gingerbread house competition and (2) my dream bar: Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. Ready? It’s a used bookstore. It’s a coffee shop. It’s a wine bar. You can BRING YOUR DOG. You can bring your dog, lounge on couches, drink nice wine and coffee, and read old books. WHAT. I picked up a copy of a book written in 1960 about how to speak colloquial Czech [I love it], and an autographed copy of Fast Food Nation, which I probably won’t read, but for five bucks and an autograph, so worth it.

100% gingerbread.

  • A stop at Malaprop’s Bookstore, which I loved for its curation: not only did they have a “staff picks” section, but they allowed the staff to write about why they picked the books. Shaun and I drooled over the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, and I picked up the 2011 Best Food Writing book. I love bookstores
  • Next was Vinsite and Bruisin’ Ales, boutique wine and beer stores on Broadway. Vinsite was great because of their variety and inexpensive selections [except, of course, the California wines, which are always sadly overpriced], and Bruisin’ Ales had a stellar beer selection. Shaun picked out a few bottles for his upcoming birthday, including a Victory brew we couldn’t find until, of course, we went to North Carolina [?]. Turns out one of the owners is from the Reading, PA area. Maybe there’s a market for Pennsylvania transplants down there
  • Finally, we made it to our 8:30 New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at Posana Cafe, a restaurant that came highly recommended by one of our friends here in Charlottesville. They had a four-course prix fixe, free champagne, and live music by local group Dehlia Low. My meal was a cauliflower and leek soup, kale and manchego salad [my favorite of the four dishes], a lobster-and-grits entree, and a white chocolate mousse. Shaun had a pork belly with sweet potato biscuit, the kale salad [also his favorite dish], duck breast with carrots, and a hazelnut tiramisu-like-thing that I liked better than mine. We shared a bottle of 2008 Five-Blocks Oregon Pinot Noir [I maintain that Oregon/Washington wines are highly underrated!], and our champagne and listened to the music. Although I can’t say I’d eat there again [unless the kale salad is on the menu full-time], the food was adequate and it was a great experience. We closed out the night by ringing in the new year at Thirsty Monks after a few false starts [too crowded, Shaun wanted dancing, pricey covers, bad drink menus]. The countdown started at 17, which I can get down with, and then Grady had his first poop of 2012.

Keep on reading for Part IV: Asheville in 2012.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Beverages, Dog, Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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6 Comments on “The New Year’s Vacation: Part III”

  1. Chris
    January 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Hello… I was searching for Asheville and found your blog. I’ve been living in Asheville for about 3 1/2 years now and I love it. Downtown is the primary reason I moved to Asheville, and now I work downtown and feel very lucky!

    But I would add, there are a few places downtown to get staple stuffs… on Biltmore Ave. you have the French Broad Co-op, a grocery store that is pretty much all local, organic, and sustainable. Just off of Patton Ave. on the south end of downtown you have Amazing Savings, a discount grocery store that gets imperfect or close to expiring food from stores like Whole Foods and sells them at half the price. And if you can catch them while they’re actually open, right across from Pritchard Park you have Asheville Discount Pharmacy, which has your typical convenience store snacks, drinks, and essentials. Looks like you enjoyed your trip, hope you come back soon. Downtown thrives on visitors like yourself who spread the good word!

    • January 7, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Chris: thanks for the tips, I’ll definitely keep those places in mind when we go back – and we’ll DEFINITELY be back. We did make a stop at the co-op, but we had our dog so couldn’t stay for long. I think the problem with the discount pharmacy was its funky New Year’s hours. But that Amazing Savings store sounds right up my alley. We LOVED Asheville, and I can say we’re both jealous that you get to work downtown.


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