Lunch in Downtown Asheville: a guide by locals

Where to get the best lunch in downtown Asheville

Though there are so many restaurants in downtown Asheville with great lunch options, the ones mentioned in this guide are our top picks. Each has its own vibe, an interesting menu and represents the Asheville food scene well.

This guide includes everything from a food hall to a taco shop, a fancy French Bistro and the best Middle Eastern food around.

We included upscale lunch options, places that are good for a group, foodie places and everything in between. Whether you are looking for a quick lunch bite when downtown or want to kick back for a few hours over a slow lunch, this article will point you in the right direction!

What you’ll find in this article

See below for an outline of this article. We tried to keep it easy by dividing it into places that offer counter service and those that offer table service.

  1. Map of where to get lunch
  2. Restaurants with counter service
  3. Restaurants with table service

Map of Where To Get Lunch In Downtown Asheville

Counter Service Lunch in Downtown Asheville

1. Baba Nahm

Middle Eastern street food in downtown Asheville!

Baba Nahm is wildly good. It’s super fresh, colorful, healthy, filling and just so darn good. We love their Chicken Shawarma, Tabrizi Meatballs and their Lebanese Platter. For most of their meals you just choose a protein and then pick a style (stuffed pita, fattoush salad, hummus bowl, etc.) You can modify as needed for an additional charge to make your perfect lunch.

Baba Nahm is located at the Grove Arcade. You can access it on the outside of the Arcade and they have both indoor and outdoor seating. It’s one of our favorite places for takeout in Asheville because they have easy online ordering and, well, it’s delicious.

2. Session Cafe

A hidden gem in downtown Asheville

We genuinely can’t mention Session Cafe without following it with the words ‘hidden gem’. That’s exactly what it is. It’s just across from Grove Arcade on the edge of downtown Asheville and has an excellent atmosphere and amazing, gourmet food.

Session Cafe is located inside the Asheville Citizen Times building, along with a viny record press, a plant shop, a print shop and a great bar. It’s such a cool stop! It’s a really great place to work remotely in Asheville.

3. Buxton Chicken Palace (S&W Market)

If you are a fan of fried chicken sandwiches with pickles and fantastic dipping sauce…

Buxton Chicken Palace located in the S&W Market, Asheville’s first and only food hall. The S&W Market is honestly the perfect place for lunch in downtown Asheville. It’s centrally located and makes for a fun stop for a group.

Though we are specifically calling out Buxton Chicken Palace, it isn’t the only place for lunch in the S&W Market. You’ll also find tacos (Farm Dog), bao buns (Bun Intended– pictured above!), empanadas (Mikasa Criolla), ice cream (The Hop) and even a Highland Brewery taproom. Everyone can order from their preferred vendor and eat together in the main dining hall. There’s also seating upstairs at Highland as well as seating outside on Patton Ave.

4. Loretta’s Café

Classic sandwich shop with New Orleans roots

If you are looking for a great sandwich in Asheville, we highly recommend Loretta’s! It’s an order-at-the-counter lunch shop with a ton of great specialty sandwiches. They are known for their Heartbreaker (chicken salad, bacon cheese) and we also really like their Pastrami Carnival sandwich and the classic Club sandwich.

Loretta’s also has a section on the menu dedicated to Reubens, vegetarian options and a few build-your-own hot and cold sandwiches. Apart from sandwiches, you’ll also find salads, soups, sides and even a few combos, like a half sandwich + cup of soup. And, of course, Loretta’s typically has a few baked goods available. What lunch is complete without a cookie!?

5. The Rhu

Part coffee shop, part bakery, part cafe

The Rhu is an excellent and casual spot for lunch in downtown Asheville. It’s a cool spot located pretty centrally but also feels somewhat off the beaten path.

Choose from their all-day breakfast menu or get a lunch sandwich, like a Pastrami Reuben or their crowd-favorite Kale Yeah with roasted pork loin and gouda. And don’t forget to grab something from their bakery case. We highly recommend their brownie, by the way!

There is some seating downstairs at The Rhu (we love the window seats up front!) and a ton of space upstairs. It’s an ideal area to work remotely because they are a ton of plugs and it’s a pretty calm spot.

6. Mamacita’s Taqueria

If you are looking for fast and affordable lunch in downtown Asheville, head to Mamacita’s! It is owned by the same team behind Taco Temple, both of which have some of the best tacos in Asheville. Apart from tacos, you’ll also find burritos, nachos, quesadillas and salads on the menu.

Mamacia’s has a Chipotle-style counter where your lunch is built in front of you. It’s very casual and the food is always top-notch, especially the chile-rubbed steak burrito and the citrus chicken burrito.

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Table Service Lunch in Downtown Asheville

7. Chai Pani

Chai Pani is hands-down one of our top picks for lunch in downtown Asheville.

Not only is it the crown jewel of Asheville dining right now (you know, with the whole James Beard Award winner thing…), but it’s also quick, casual and SO GOOD. It’s always at the top of our recommendations for Indian food in Asheville.

The Butter Chicken Thali is one of our go-to dishes at Chai Pani. It includes basmati rice, daal, raita, masala slaw and papadums. And, of course, you can’t go to Chai Pani and not try their Kale Pakoras and/or the Matchstick Okra Fries.

And we can’t mention Chai Pani without calling out that the Crispy Masala Fish Roll is one of our favorite sandwiches in town. When we asked for a recommendation once we were told the fish sandwich was the staff’s top pick by far. One bite and you’ll know why!

If there’s a wait, you can put your name in and stroll around downtown until a table is ready. They are great about providing an estimated time frame for an available table. You can also monitor your place on the list with the Yelp app. It’s great! Pop over to nearby Woolworth Walk to scout out some local art while you wait.

8. La Bodega by Cúrate

Speaking of crown jewels of the Asheville dining scene…

La Bodega by Cúrate definitely belongs on the list of must-try spots for lunch. It’s by the same team behind the famous Cúrate, which also happens to be Asheville’s other James Beard Award winners.

La Bodega was a product of the changing times in 2020. It was first a grab-and-go market and has now morphed into an upscale tapas bar. Their lunch menu includes croissant sandwiches, a fancy hamburger, flatbread, salads and several other small plates. You’ll also find a great wine menu and a very cool atmosphere.

This would be our pick for lunch in downtown Asheville if you are in town visiting and need a place to spend a few hours enjoying the best food and surroundings.

9. Isa’s French Bistro

Another great fancy-ish place to grab lunch in downtown Asheville

Isa’s is a particularly perfect spot if the weather is nice and you can snag a seat outside. You’ll truly feel transported to France, not just from the sidewalk cafe vibe, but also the French-inspired menu. Isa’s has everything from a Croissant Madame to French Onion Soup, Tartare and even Duck Perloo.

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Disclaimer: Hours, pricing, menus, etc. may have changed since we last updated this post, so make sure to confirm all of this directly prior to visiting any business or attraction listed on our site.

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