More and more we find ourselves, along with a growing number of other locals and tourists, heading just a little south of downtown these days. Gone are the days when this faded automotive and industrial part of the city, with its long idled warehouses, empty buildings and fenced off lots sat idle – now giving way to breweries, restaurants, shops, living spaces and even a donut shop.
Those looking for a multi-stop walking brew tour will find, tucked in between a four block area south of downtown, a cluster of six breweries (with more being planned). This area, known as the South Slope, is establishing itself with in the region’s (perhaps the nation’s) craft beer capital as Asheville’s “Brewery District.”
Leading the charge for this transition, was Green Man Brewery which opened over a decade ago at 27 Buxton Avenue. The brewery — one of the oldest in Asheville — opened in 1997 and moved from the popular Jack of the Wood downtown pub to the South Slope in 2003.
Other breweries have now found their way to the neighborhood, including Asheville Brewing Company, which expanded and took over an old Cadillac dealership at the top of Coxe Avenue; Hi-Wire Brewing next door; and then Burial Beer, Twin Leaf, Wicked Weed Brewing’s Funkatorium Tasting Room, and Thirsty Monk craft beer bar at the top of the slope.
If you want to get an early start, Vortex Doughnuts has opened a delicious spot with very unique twists on the sugary delight. They hand-make yeast and cake doughnuts throughout the morning with fresh, high-quality ingredients and top them with creative glazes, toppings and fillings.
Buxton Hall Barbecue restaurant is now open on Banks Avenue nestled between Catawba Brewery and Vortex — in a former skating rink — created by Chef Elliott Moss, former chef of The Admiral in West Asheville. This whole hog experience was our reason for sliding down to the slope on this Saturday night. Word of mouth was that this was the real deal and we could not wait to check out Moss’s new venture.
True to form, we found Elliott in the middle of the bustling kitchen – working the fires and tending the hogs. You can easily see that this is truly a labor of love for him and honors his upbringing in the south. Moss not only brings to Buxton his honest-to-goodness southern cooking, but his experience as chef at the Admiral and two other widely-regarded pop-ups at MG Road: Punk Wok and the Thunderbird.
Walking into Buxton, the smell of, well…cooked pig is thick in the air and the recent results of fire and sow coming close together are featured center stage – splayed out on the main table in the kitchen. There is also very little separation between diners and those putting your meal together. The open kitchen allows you to see where your meal is coming from – fully exposing patrons to the hustle and bustle, the smoke and the fire. The sounds and smells of cooking are an important part of this dining experience.
The breaking down of the barrier between kitchen and dining space may seem like a recent trend made famous by “in the field” dinners. As is the case in most homes; however, the desire to be close to the action – the sounds, the smells, the process of cooking, has always drawn people into the kitchen. That tradition is what drives the open-kitchen concept at Buxton Hall.
Besides the whole-hog barbecue, Buxton features dishes like chicken bog, a “humble, working-class, stick-to-your-bones” rice and chicken dish. An homage to being raised in rural South Carolina, Moss’ cuisine centers on the simple, slow-cooked comfort foods of both the roadside barbecue stands and the country buffets. It’s a testament to a time when down-home Southern food was made with fresh, local ingredients rather than boxed or corporately sourced components.
Our dining experience at Buxton Hall was unbelievable. The family made a wholehearted attempt to sample almost everything on the menu. Highlights were the buttermilk-breaded fried chicken sandwich and the pulled pork sandwich – which were reasonably priced and neither created for light eaters. The ribs were perfectly done and will give the other famous Asheville rib joint a run for their money. Our entire table strongly recommends the Farm and Sparrow hushpuppies. They were simply amazing – especially when smeared with the house made pimento spread. To slake your thirst, top notch cocktails, good wine and local brews are available from the bar.
Yes Asheville, the South Slope has an anchor restaurant to sustain you on your walking brew tour.
In between the restaurant and the donut shop, and very convenient if you need to whet your whistle while waiting for a table at Buxton, is Catawba Brewing. This recently opened brewery has a great open space with two bars and a courtyard. They have 24 taps at the front bar and another six at the back bar.
Another sweet spot that should not be ignored is the French Broad Chocolate Lounge Factory which has operated in the South Slope area since 2010.
Put on some comfortable shoes and do some urban exploring of your own. Keep an eye out for even more breweries and restaurants. As quickly as this section of part of Asheville is changing, several more establishments have probably opened up in the time it took us to write and post this blog. For more information call the Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast at 828-281-4275.