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Asheville Dinner Help (requirements: vegetarian-friendly and okay for children)

We have a group of 6 adults and 2 children coming to Asheville in early October for a week from Florida. I have been to Asheville numerous times and love the food scene, but haven't been there since 2011. I know you have some excellent new restaurants that have opened up since that time. From our previous visits, our consistent favorites have been the Admiral and Curate for nice dinners and Homegrown and 12 Bones as more casual options. Since our last visit we now have some vegetarians in the group and two small children.

I know Seven Sows is supposed to be great from all of the posts on this site, but it seems very meat-based and not too many vegetarian options. Does anyone have any different experiences there where you think that there could be some flexibility from the kitchen for a vegetarian meal?

Same goes for the Admiral, I have heard rumor that the kitchen would make a vegetarian dish even though none are listed on the ever-changing menu, but does anyone have any idea if that is actually true or not?

I know Curate has plenty of options for vegetarians and omnivores alike, so I'm not worried about that.

Lastly, since we will have two young children on board we would be dining at some early hour like 5:30-6pm. Do you ever see young children at Seven Sows or the Admiral? I know well-behaved children is a must, but I wasn't sure if having children there is frowned upon regardless of good behavior.

I'm not expecting Rosetta's or Plant in terms of restaurants being vegetarian-friendly, just some places that have one or a few vegetarian options would be nice. If I'm missing anything that would be considered a must-try we are open to suggestions. Thanks in advance for any help or advice you can provide!

Sep 11, 2013
sspharbor in Southeast

Vegetarian in St Pete and Tampa, Florida

Taco Bus has locations both in Tampa and downtown St. Pete and is very vegetarian friendly, as well as cheap (lunch and dinner) - I have loved their burritos with a combo of tofu and rajas con queso. In downtown St. Pete you also have Meze 119 which has more TVP products as fake meat, but it is pretty tasty if a little heavy - pretty casual both in atmosphere and price point. For dinner, the Refinery on Florida Avenue in Tampa is one of the best places in terms of vegetarian options for dinner in apps and entrees - they put a lot of thought into their vegetarian offerings and it is very good most of the time. For a higher end vegetarian dinner, there is Sideberns in South Tampa, which offers vegetarian dishes on their regular menu (entrees around $20) or the vegetarian tasting at $55/person. Good luck!

Apr 08, 2013
sspharbor in Florida

I've researched but still need some dinner suggestions

After doing research on this board etc., I'm trying to fill our food itinerary for a 4 night stay at Mandalay Bay for the end of January and would appreciate any feedback you could give.

Our first dinner that I have booked is Sage. For a tasting menu, but not in the e budget and not Raku due to my SO's ambivalence towards sushi, is Sage a solid choice?

We are doing Firefly on Sunday because we have to do a ridiculously early dinner (around 4PM) due to an event starting at 6PM and there aren't too many options at that hour on a Sunday - unless I'm missing something?

Besides those two dinners, the only other meals I feel sure about are LOS for lunch, Eat for lunch, Hash House a Go Go for breakfast, and Bread and Butter for breakfast.

I wanted to find a quality lunch spot for take-out during our stay (going to Red Rock Canyon a few times and wanted to bring some food along for the day) and was considering Pura Vida.

For one dinner, I am looking for a place that pairs good food with a really good beer selection, therefore I was thinking Public House at the Venetian. The beer selection at Aces and Ales looks good, but I wasn't sure about the food. Is Public House the way to go or is there somewhere else I should be looking at?

Finally, we have one last dinner. I was thinking Forte Tapas or Honey Salt. I know they're wildly different from eachother, but is one a better choice than the other? We are pretty open in terms of cuisine (except for the aforementioned ambivalence of my SO to sushi beyond the typical tuna and salmon rolls) and would like to keep the price point at below $150-ish for 2, in case there is a better option out there.

Thanks in advance for anyone out there that has suggestions or recommendations.

Jan 08, 2013
sspharbor in Las Vegas

Grass fed beef in Florida

If you go to they have a directory of farms for grassfed meat and dairy. I personally get my grassfed black angus beef from Deep Creek Ranch near Orlando (I live in Tampa) and when they deliver to some of the local restaurants here I can meet up with them without having to drive up to Orlando. Even if I did have to make that drive, it is well worth it. You can buy select cuts or buy in bulk (always cheaper in bulk of course ~$6-7/pound in take home weight). I know Deep Creek Ranch supplies beef to Michael's Genuine Food and Drink in Miami in case you are that far south. In my experience unless you're willing to drive directly to the farm you're dealing with, the best chance you have of getting grassfed beef in Florida is when the farm supplies a local restaurant and you can meet up with them that way. Good luck and happy eating!

Oct 26, 2011
sspharbor in Florida

Favorite markets in Tampa

No you don't have to be a member to purchase individual cuts of their rabbit. I don't know what hours they are open each day of the week for sales, but I do know they are open Saturday for most of the day. You should call ahead to make sure they have whatever individual cut you want. Their phone number is 352.796.0459 and the address is 16362 Wilson Blvd. in Masaryktown. They sell loin, legs, liver, and a 2lb. package of rabbit sausage for around $10 each. I've had all of the above and while I don't have many other rabbit experiences to compare it to I think all the cuts were very good. Make sure you specify you want it fresh and not frozen because they usually freeze all cuts (besides the liver) before giving them to their CSA members. Good luck!

Farm's website link -

Jul 20, 2011
sspharbor in Florida

Favorite markets in Tampa

Regarding CSA's, in Tampa there is Sweetwater Organics which does Nov-May produce only memberships. I have heard great things about them and they post their harvest list by week for previous seasons on their website in case you want to see what they usually offer. I personally use a year-round CSA up in Masaryktown that has organic produce, pork, chicken, rabbits, lamb and eggs, but it would be a hefty drive for you. For beef, the only good grass fed beef provider around that I've found that has multiple cuts besides just some sirloin or ground beef is HoWa Farms. They harvest their black angus cattle every few months but the smallest order you can place is a 1/4 of beef, which comes out to being well over 100 lbs. so depending on your freezer capacity that may not fly with you. Good luck!

Jul 18, 2011
sspharbor in Florida

Week in Asheville - Admiral, Blackbird, Curate, Homegrown

Hopefully someone else can reply to your question that has more experience, but from my point of view of the small list of restaurants we tried - I would say The Blackbird. They have a sunday supper from 5-8PM and although they don't post that menu online, it is very straight-forward fare with some flourishes that make it worth it. I saw a few families in there the night we dined and I think they have a little something for everyone (i.e. a burger with pimento cheese, fish and chips, etc.). You could do a little walking around in that shopping area of Black Mountain and they have seating inside and outside, so weather permitting you could enjoy the fresh air. The Admiral isn't open on Sunday. Homegrown was very good, but very casual in terms of atmosphere (you order at the counter and they bring the food to you, you take your own plates to the cleaning area) - so it just depends on the atmosphere you are going for.

Jun 07, 2011
sspharbor in Southeast

Week in Asheville - Admiral, Blackbird, Curate, Homegrown

While I know I'm not necessarily telling you anything you didn't already know, but after spending a week eating in Asheville I have realized how lucky the locals are to have regular access to these great restaurants and food scene. We are from Florida, which isn't necessarily the hot spot of the locavore movement and is more of a chain restaurant market with a few local bright spots. We chose these restaurants by lurking on the Southeast board for a while and seeing what you guys thought were the positives and negatives of your current dining options. So thank you to all of you who contribute to the board and write thoughtful postings about what is going on. Warning - this review is long, so avert your eyes if you easily tire by long-winded write-ups.

We had two dinners at The Admiral over the course of the week - it was that good! Of course the menu changes daily, but we did love all the salad options and had each variation of the mussels both times we were there. We also had veal schnitzel and duck breast small plates - both of which were just perfect portion sizes and delicious! It was our preference to graze through small plates in order to be able to sample as much as possible, and the portion sizes were definitely large enough that between the two of us we were stuffed by splitting 3 small plates and a dessert each night. One item to note that I haven't seen mentioned about The Admiral - the homemade ginger ale is the best ginger beverage you will ever have, truly amazing, spicy to the point that it reminds me more of a ginger beer rather than a ginger ale. I really appreciated such a tasty non-alcoholic beverage option. Also, I have seen reviews that complain about the service. We went on a Friday night and a Saturday night. The Saturday night was during Memorial Day weekend and somewhere along the way there was a miscommunication about our reservation and it was no longer on the books come that Saturday (which was completely booked from open to close). Drew helped us out and reserved seats at the bar for us at the time we requested and truly worked hard to make sure we had a great evening. They didn't have to do that and could have just said the reservation is not there, period. The service was warm, comfortable and spot on, which definitely matched the quality of the food. Each night our dinner ranged from $40-50 with tax and tip - a ridiculously low price for the quality of food and service we received.

Before going to a bluegrass concert at Pisgah brewery we stopped by The Blackbird for their Sunday supper. We split their homemade sausage with creamy grits, catfish, and coconut custard cake. The homemade sausage was juicy and had the perfect snap. Of course creamy grits are delicious when done well, which usually seems to mean loaded with butter and cream, and this small plate of them didn't disappoint. The catfish was brightened by a good lemon and herb seasoning. The coconut custard cake is what took home of the prize of best dish of the night though, it was huge and one of the best versions that I've ever had (and at $7 it could feed a family of four easily). The Blackbird is a really beautiful restaurant in a very picturesque part of Black Mountain. The atmosphere and food makes for a nice night out and worth the drive from Asheville.

We had a small dinner at Curate, so we didn't necessarily sample enough to give a true review of the overall menu. We had the charcuterie, pan con tomate, gazpacho, and fried eggplant. The charcuterie was delicious and I felt was definitely a good value at $12. The gazpacho was solid, nothing great and seemed kind of small for $5. The fried eggplant was very tasty, perfectly fried without being greasy - which is hard to do with eggplant. The rosemary and honey was a perfect complement to the eggplant, and really elevated the dish. Wasn't too excited by the dessert options so went around the corner to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge - so happy that we did - had the chocolate olive oil cake that was to die for! I think there are some things on the menu that are good values at the price, and some items that may not be, but for a light dinner Curate hit the spot and didn't break the budget.

Went by Homegrown for a casual quick dinner after going to the Botanical Gardens and was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. I loved the farm-to-table menu and we decided to try the best of both worlds by getting the blackened sunburst trout and fried chicken breast. Had some collard greens, cheese grits, and the farmers salad as sides. The chicken was so juicy, seemed to have been brined, and was perfectly seasoned. I'm not one to order fried chicken much, but this was definitely one of the best fried chicken dishes I've ever had. The trout was awesome as well, great seasoning, not overcooked and nicely brightened by the vinegary radish slaw on top. With a sweet tea, all of that came out to $25, which made us appreciate the dinner even more. They serve solid tasty food in a casual atmosphere at great prices, and they source food that you can feel good about eating (which is becoming a rarity these days). If I lived in that area, I would definitely make Homegrown part of my regular restaurant rotation.

Overall we loved the food in Asheville. The atmosphere is laid back and casual, but that doesn't mean the food is dumbed down. There are places there doing very creative food at reasonable prices and not acting pretentious about it. The farm-to-table movement there seems like a genuine attitude and not just a tag line to get people in the seats. We really appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into many of the dishes we tried and loved the variation. The food there really does southern cuisine proud and we felt really lucky to be able to experience it.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Asheville, Asheville, NC

Jun 07, 2011
sspharbor in Southeast

Restaurant that serves alligator in tampa bay? or at least exotic meats?

In addition to the gator burger already mentioned at the Cajun Cafe, they have a really good alligator sauce piquant, which is tail meat in a dark and spicy roux-based sauce. An interesting alternative to just the usual fried tail meat.

Oct 13, 2010
sspharbor in Florida

Trying to find Ginger Beer

I don't know where you can find that specific brand, but Total Wine & More does have ginger beer brewed by Saranac, which is pretty tasty.

Oct 01, 2010
sspharbor in Florida

Where to buy fresh local eggs in Tampa?

You say that St. Pete is too far for you, so this may be too far as well. I am a part of a CSA located just north of Land O'Lakes off of 41 and they have fresh free range organic eggs there. You can buy them for about $3/dozen. I'm not sure if they sell at any of the farmers markets around here, but their farm is open Monday through Saturday 9AM-5PM. You can always call if you are interested - their website is listed below:

To Mild Bill - In case Eddie's Duck and Poultry Farm doesn't work out - We buy our organic free range chickens for $10 from this CSA, which comes out to about the same total price as Murray's Chickens out of PA (the only certified humane all-veggie diet chicken producer I have found in our grocery stores). They also have cornish hens.

Sep 08, 2010
sspharbor in Florida

Toasted Pheasant Bistro (Carrollwood)

I have been seeing a lot of advertising for the Toasted Pheasant Bistro (in Carrollwood) and was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the place. I checked out the menu online and it seems like pretty straight-forward French bistro fare, nothing out of this world but comfort food at decent prices. I was just curious if anyone has had a positive experience there before making the jaunt from Pinellas. Any love it or hate it recommendations would be great, thanks!

Toasted Pheasant Bistro
14445 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33618

Aug 05, 2010
sspharbor in Florida

Free Range Chicken/Grass Fed Beef/Farmers: Windermere or Winter Garden area?

For grass fed beef, there is a farm called HoWa in Spring Hill, which is 2 hours west of Windermere, and I know it is pretty far but the cows are Black Angus and the quality is great. They just finished a harvest and will have more available in late August. You can sign up for their e-mail list at the website below and they will send out an e-mail when they are ready for reservations on the next harvest. You have to respond pretty quickly because they sell out very fast due to the fact that there aren't many grass fed beef farmers around here. The cost is $4.75 per pound (hanging weight) for a quarter or a half, and $4.60 per pound for a whole.

As far as everything else goes, I used Local Harvest to search for my CSA (Rabbits, etc. near Spring Hill). The website link is below, and the search engine helps you look up farmers markets, farmers, CSAs, etc. nearby.

My CSA is year-round, but a lot of the others only go during the November - May season, so it just depends on the farm. Good luck and welcome to Florida!

Jul 21, 2010
sspharbor in Florida