Thursday, March 26, 2009

Culinary Dispatch from Asheville: Tupelo Honey Cafe

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 5:18 AM

click to enlarge tuphoney.jpg

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Fox family itinerary a couple of weeks ago when I solicited dining recommendations for Asheville, N.C. Here's the first in a series of mini-reviews from the trip.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

The first time I stopped at Tupelo Honey, it was weekend brunch, and the line wrapped around the downtown block. This trip, it was Thursday, and we slipped right into a table in the sunny room, which chirped with late-morning activity. Bathed in amber light and accented with dark woods, colorful oil paintings and tables topped white cloths and paper for crayon drawings, the shotgun room has a well-worn grace, like a large eat-in kitchen that serves a diverse family as it comes and goes in everything from business suits to nose-rings to toddler togs.

Chef Brian Sonoskus mans the open kitchen, where he creates a Southern-infused repertoire of breakfast, lunch and dinner, all of which takes advantage of locally grown produce and meats whenever possible. In Asheville, a city that pulses with an earthy-artsy beat, a restaurant that farms its own produce in nearby fields and serves it on the sidewalks of downtown is about as natural a marriage as pancakes and syrup.

We tucked into bacon, organic eggs, home fries and blueberry-granola pancakes, which arrived with homegrown edible flowers on the plate. Grandma's maple granola was a sweet and crisp medley of almonds, grains and toasted coconut, served with cool vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit. I am still haunted by visions of a candied ginger cornbread with whipped peach butter that I did not see on the menu until we were leaving.

Two adults and three kids ate breakfast for under $50, a price tag that made us consider returning for dinner, when prices top out at $23.95 for shrimp and grits with andouille and a 4-ounce lobster tail. With the bulk of the menu well below $20, including skillet catfish ($12.95), flank steak ($17.95) and baked sea scallops with chorizo ($18.95), Tupelo Honey is just the type of thoughtful, affordable restaurant that Nashvillians persistently cry out for.

Tupelo Honey Cafe is located at 12 College St. in Asheville, N.C.

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