Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tupelo Honey Cafe - An Asheville Tradition of New Southern Cuisine

It seems like everyone has heard of Tupelo Honey Cafe.  They have been a downtown Asheville tradition for years with a line of folks at the door just waiting to get in and enjoy their cooking!  Combine a favorite dining spot with a 'new' location (relatively new that is, its been open for the past couple of years) in South Asheville, a recently released cookbook that offers Tupelo recipes along with Asheville history and photos and a popular online store where there is a host of items available to purchase including preserves, pickles and pies and you have an Asheville food brand that is second to none.

Steve Frabitore leads the Tupelo team as owner and visionary also serving on the Board of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association and the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.  He seems to be constantly active and is responsible for creating the strong Tupelo name and brand.  Chef Brian Sonoskus, a graduate of Johnson and Wales, has been Executive Chef at Tupelo Honey since 2001. His attention to fresh, local and imaginative cuisine is inspired, and locals and visitors alike enjoy his take on breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Round the team out with Elizabeth Sims who compiled and published the Tupelo Honey cookbook as well as assist with the restaurant's marketing efforts.  They are a strong team and have created a wonderful experience for which the rest of us can take advantage.

I've been to both restaurants and have tried many of Chef Sonoskus' recipes.  I've always left with a happy tummy and usually have over-indulged a little too much because of his culinary skills.  I visited with a friend over lunch recently at the South store and remembered that I have yet to write a post and tell the world about this popular local dining spot.

Oscar Wong (friend, fellow beer drinker and owner of Highland Brewing Company) and I met for lunch to catch up with each other and decided on Tupelo South.  It was a Monday and the week after Thanksgiving so we didn't have to fight a line of folks at the door.  The host sat us as soon as we arrived.  The dining room is much more spacious than the downtown location.  Old timey windows and doors and hung to separate and booths and tables which gives a modern twist using some older classic props.  It gives you a bit of a clue as to what the menu is like as well.
Blueberry Margarita
Our server told us the specials and assisted with our decision on what to drink.  She recommended Highland's Gaelic Ale and a couple of questions from me into it, we were convinced that she had no idea the owner of the brewery was one of her patrons.  But we passed on beer and both elected to have the cocktail special of the day, a blueberry margarita with a lime salt rim.  Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.  The tequila is infused with blueberries inhouse.  Tupelo has a very creative drink menu, be sure to ask about it if the server doesn't bring it up.

We ordered and while we waited for our appetizer, our server brought us each a biscuit and some blueberry preserves.  A nice Southern amuse that I thoroughly ate up.  Be careful not fill up on the biscuit though, you will want to save some space.  After all - you've only just begun (oh no, the Carpenters again!?).

Sheer Bliss Tupelo Burger with Fried Okra
We shared the Fried Green Tomatoes ($6.95).  They were a perfect golden brown served over goat cheese grits with julienned basil topping it.  Very nice combination of flavors that we both devoured.  I keep thinking I need to save space, but apparently I'm horrible at practicing this.

Oscar ordered the Sheer Bliss Tupelo Burger ($10.95).  A half pound of house ground beef that the menu says will leave you 'speechlessly happy'.  Well they were pretty accurate.  He wasn't quite speechless but he also didn't have a whole lot to say with that burger in front of him ... and he did seem fairly happy!

Southern Fried Chicken BLT
My sandwich choice was the Southern Fried Chicken BLT ($9.95).  Another great decision!  Perfectly fried free range chicken breast with amazing maple peppered bacon with dijonnaise and of course the L and the T.  I love food.  This simple yet delicious sandwich is one more reason why I love food so much.  You put some basic flavors together and viola! you have a memorable meal.

Don't just stop in for lunch.  Tupelo has some wonderful Breakfast and Dinner selections.  Check out the Tupelo menu and you decide which meal to try first or which meal to try all over again!  It always seems to be worth the visit.

Contact Information

Tupelo Honey Cafe Downtown Asheville
(828) 255-4863
12 College Street
Asheville, North Carolina 28801

Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tupelo Honey Cafe South Asheville
(828) 505-7676
1829 Hendersonville Road
Asheville, North Carolina 28803

Tupelo Honey Cafe South on Urbanspoon

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