Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dining at Neo Cantina in Biltmore Village

The Restaurant
Neo Cantina offers handmade Southwestern fare with a “Twist of Asheville”.  Located in the heart of Historic Biltmore Village, Asheville, North Carolina in the old La Paz location.  The twist is that they use fresh ingredients grown locally when available.  They also strive to be conscientious of the extended and immediate environments of the restaurant.  It is a priority to act in accordance with a long term plan towards worldwide sustainability, participating fully in the green revolution in Cool Green Asheville.  This is evidenced by being a Green Restaurant Certified by the Green Restaurant Association (

Neo Cantina is the sister restaurant to Neo Burrito also located in Asheville, NC, made famous for their great fast fresh food and making "the world a better place one burrito at a time."

The Atmosphere
The restaurant is very open and airy but has barriers that create differing sections.  The main dining area is an open area behind the host stand when you walk in the front door.  Next to this are rows of booths to offer a little more privacy with the bar and high tops further in the restaurant.  There is a private dining room for groups and functions as well as a large outdoor patio to enjoy during warmer weather.  Since they were busy we chose to wait at the bar and enjoy margaritas while we waited for a table to open.  The rustic interior with lights hanging from the ceiling provides a beautiful background to people watch and check out what others are ordering.

Wine list presented on a wine bottle
The Menu
There is a lot to choose from so use your time wisely if you have to wait for a table.  The Margarita menu is the perfect place to start to get your favorite flavors margarita style!  Of course there is a full bar, a nice beer selection and wines available.  The wines are printed on a ‘label’ adhered to a wine bottle presenting one of the more unique wine lists that I’ve come across (bonus points for creativity!).  Once you are seated the server brings a basket of multi colored chips along with each a red and a green salsa.  We opted to add house made guacamole for our dipping pleasure as well – loved it.

Food options abound from nachos and salads to start the meal to all your typical Mex style dishes like tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas, burritos and even house specialties.  The variety in each section provides room for everyone’s own taste with many items available gluten free.  My mouth was watering reviewing the menu and since it was my first visit I couldn’t make up my mind what to choose.  We both elected to go with the ‘Make your own combo’ idea and order three different items each.  So with a plate with a taco, relleno and a chimichanga and another with an enchilada, tamale and a burrito we were set to be filled to over-flowing.

We were not disappointed.  They even honored my request of a jalapeno with fresh or pickled – fresh of course!  This is a meal that you need to focus on slowing down to truly enjoy.  I tend to eat too fast from years of working in an industry that requires you to do so to be able to eat.  I wanted to savor each bite and relax over my meal.  Wow, what a luxury.

Don’t worry about over eating too much since you’re in Biltmore Village a stroll around the village seems almost required to genuinely get the most out of the evening.

The History
The quaint and Historic Biltmore Village has had many names since its beginnings as the sleepy crossroads town of Best, N.C. in the 1790's. It has been known as Asheville Junction, Swannanoa Bridge, Best, and Bilton; but it was in the late 1890's that it was given the name Biltmore Village and transformed from a rough framed crossroads town into the beautiful planned community you see today. Created, in the manner of European villages, as a charming entrance to the Biltmore Estate, the Village was not only a place to live for the workers on the Estate, but was also its own community "independent and self-sustaining". 

The history of Neo Cantina's location has evolved with that of Biltmore Village.
The original building on this location was designed by Richard Morris Hunt- (famous Architect that designed The Biltmore House) to be the "Commercial Center" of the village. This location housed Biltmore Estate Industries, which grew into 'the world's largest hand weaving manufacturing plant'. Originally, run by Eleanor Vance & Charlotte Yale at the encouragement of Edith Vanderbilt. This successful woman-owned business operated at this location for 10 years before being purchased by Fred Seely (son-in law of EW Grove) and relocating to Grovewood (home to the Famous Grove Park Inn). In 1940 after 3 major floods, the original commercial buildings that occupied this plaza were torn down and the new Biltmore-Plaza Recreation Center was opened July 3, 1942.

Boasting "dining, dancing & fountain service plus 12 new maple Brunswick bowling lanes". This was the state of the art in recreation at a time when Asheville's communities were experiencing rationing for the war effort; the Biltmore-Plaza Recreation Center provided a much needed place for community relaxation and entertainment.

In the early 1980's the bowling alley closed and the building was redefined once again. The "dining room" was converted into retail space; the bowling alley was transformed into a restaurant.

Contact Information
Neo Cantina
(828) 505.7682
10 Biltmore Plaza
Asheville, North Carolina 28803

Neo Cantina on Urbanspoon

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