On a recent trip to Asheville, NC, I was on a mission. I mission to eat delicious lactose-free dishes that I didn’t need to modify or ask for items to be left off. I wanted to live just like everyone else who doesn’t have to ask for something special and then critically check the dish before I dug in.
Here are my picks for having a great lactose-free trip in Asheville:
Breakfast – Sunny Point Cafe – This is the MGB (Mighty Good Breakfast) and, yes, it is mighty good. Egg prepared just as you like it, local nitrate-free sausage, herb tossed potatoes and a biscuit. While this meal is not vegan, Sunny Point says they can make any meal fit the bill upon request. With that said, I am happy I’m not vegan by choice. That sausage was incredible! If your breakfast needs to be a lot tipsy try the Mega Mimosa that is served in a pint-glass and is at least half champagne. It got a lot sloshy by the end of this meal even when I chased the mimosa with coffee. Yum, yum!
Lunch - 12 Bones - Now, this is how BBQ should be done. After a year in eastern North Carolina we have sampled a lot of the eastern Carolina vinegar-based pork. It’s good, but nothing tops a saucy, smokey pile of moist pig. Now, you can usually fare pretty well at a meat shack without dairy, the sides can get you in trouble. Beware of some coleslaws because some folks add ranch or other creams to the mix. I usually chance it, but have had painful results. On our maiden voyage to 12 Bones, I got a pulled pork sandwich, the best potato salad I’ve had in a long, long time, and the cucumber salad which I discovered after a few bites was studded with feta and I had to toss it. I also tried the mustard sauce which I would pass on next time. It’s was a grain mustard sauce and pretty strong. The tomato-based sauce that Brian got was sooooo much better!
Lunch – Chai Pani – Tasty, small plates that were not that tiny after all. Chai Pani is a great Indian street food joint with the illusive “v” markings on many of their plates. I find Indian food joints a hard place to find lac-safe foods. Indian dishes are often vegetarian, but also have lots of yogurt, cheeses and ghee to make them tasty which all spell disaster for my belly. Brian loves Indian so we usually go for buffets that I can see the dishes and look for the tell tale signs of dairy. At Chai Pani, I went a bit wild and ordered the vegan feast of behl puri, samosas. corn behl and fried okra which was WAY too much food even when I shared all of it with B. We did wash everything down with delicious Lime Rickys which were TDF (to die for) and the new summer official drink of BC/DC Ideas since it was so hot pink!
Dinner - Laughing Seed – A vegetarian’s paradise, this innovative restaurant does not serve any meat at all. For those that are lactose-sensitive beware of veggie restaurants. There is usually lots of cheese included in these healthy meals. Laughing Seed thankfully had the handy “v” for vegan dishes. I tried a Caribbean Jerk Tofu which was tasty enough, but I wish it had more spice. The beers were really tasty. I had a kölsch that was golden and refreshing!
Dinner - The Admiral - This joint is the possible birthplace of the hipster. This restaruant is tiny, dark and filled with more tight jeans than a Panda Bear concert. Call ahead for reservations and make sure you go early in the evening before they run out of key ingredients (like their famous homemade ginger syrup!). This was a tougher place to be lactose-safe with tempting items like pimento-cheese grits taunting you on the menu. I settled on one of my foodie splurges of duck breast that had a side of a fried duck egg. Rich yumminess. Cut with a rye Manhattan, I felt right at home in this too cool dive.
Dessert – French Broad Chocolate Lounge – If you love good chocolate, prepare to go to heaven. French Broad is one of only two shops in the country that is lucky enough to carry Mast Brother’s chocolate, which my in-house chocolate aficionado Brian says is amazing. The chocolate bars are complex and multilayer experience of dark chocolate ecstasy. Along with the Mast bar, we got the Buddha Vegan truffle collection studded with fig, balsamic and ginger among other interesting flavors. Really amazing stuff. So worth the long line and pretty penny.
Special thanks to Leadership Asheville for inviting me out to speak at your breakfast series, and to my foodie friends Mary, Amy E, Amy B and Arik for your excellent recommendations!