Hands-on dining experiences are sure to satisfy hunger in a casual, playful way. Eating with one’s hands is common in many areas of the world and, finally, restaurants in the United States are ready to forgo fancy flatware and encourage finger feeding fun. Asheville is no exception! We think you’ll give two thumbs up to these hands-on Asheville dining dates.
Can a food really be a natural aphrodisiac? Yup! Researchers recently found that raw oysters contain amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. So, head to a tiki hut, raw bar or seafood restaurant to shuck some oysters with your sweetie! Some great Asheville oyster spots include The Lobster Trap, Oyster House Brewing Co., Bull and Beggar, Nightbell, Vivian, Rhubarb and The Wine and Oyster.
Hands-on cooking classes, including sushi making, have become an appetizing date night trend. Have fun with a sushi making class , or check out Asheville Mountain Kitchen’s other classes. Or, if you’d rather watch the experts roll their magic, opt for an Omakase experience with chef-selected items. Here’s where you can get your hands on some sushi in Asheville: Heiwa Shokudo, Wasabi Japanese, Champa, Zen Sushi, Green Tea Sushi & Japanese or Soba Sushi and Noodles in Weaverville.
Spanish cuisine has a wide variety of appetizers and snacks known as tapas. Some tapas-style bars offer simple nibbles that pair well for a happy hour date, like olives, mini kabob called pinchos and toasted bread topped with manchego, chorizo, cod or other goodies. Tapas restaurants have grown in popularity but menu items remain full of hands-on delights, such as croquetas, gambas (shrimp), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce) and more. Here’s our list of where to find great small plates and tapas in Asheville: Zambra, Curate, Nightbell, The Admiral, Post 70 Indulgence Bar, Little Jumbo, The Imperial Life, Sovereign Remedies, Red Ginger & Dim Sum, Sante Wine Bar and Tap Room, Gan Shan Station, Social Lounge, and En La Calle.
Custom dictates that it’s best to only eat with your right hand when having Indian cuisine as the left hand is commonly viewed as dirty and unsanitary. There is a step-by-step art to eating Indian food but if you are not sure how to handle elements of the meal, try using the bread, like naan, in a scooping manner. Indian fare is packed with aromas of curry, masala and saffron – yum! Chai Pani, BimBeriBon, Mela, Kathmandu Kitchen, Cinnamon Kitchen, India Garden, and Blue Dream Curry House.
Somehow the small size of sliders packs big-time foodie fun, right? Sure, you committed to your partner but you don’t need to commit to one menu item because sliders let you mix up flavors. Maybe try bacon on your first slider, cheese and onions on your second and guacamole with tomato on the third. Sliders are a delish date night pick because they’re easy to share. Plus, you can make just about anything work in this little form… mini meatball subs, slow-cooker pulled pork sliders, mini burgers, etc. Create a Slider Night for a fun at-home date night plan.
When I think of where to get sliders in Asheville I think of The Vault. At Bone and Broth the sliders are on the kid’s menu but don’t let that steer you away, they are worth the snack! When it comes to finding delicious pork sliders, Mayfel’s hit the spot. In West Asheville hit up Universal Joint for the Firecracker Sliders or the Westville Pub for Carolina Bison Sliders, Parmesan Spinach Sliders, or BBQ Pork Sliders.
Fondue definitely makes for a romantic night out, but you can lick your lips just the same with an at-home date night version. Serve cheese fondue (Gruyere melts well) with chunks of bread, apples, carrots and broccoli; for the main course, cook proteins like shrimp and chicken in peanut oil or canola oil alongside potatoes; and for dessert, indulge with milk or dark chocolate fondue with dunkable pieces of bananas, strawberries and biscotti. Be sure to dip safely using fondue sticks rather than your fingers. Fondue is not something you find much of in Asheville but when you do, you better believe it’s gonna be unique. Jargon in West Asheville has Goat Cheese Fondue that’ll knock your socks off!
If interactive dining sounds appealing, similar to fondue, hot pot is for you because it’s all about cooking right at the table. Asian restaurants will have the set-up ready to go but you could also use a portable burner and chopsticks for an at-home DIY attempt. Either way, as the stock simmers in the pot, add ingredients such as seafood, sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings and tofu. The Korean House, Heiwa Shokudo Japanese, The Noodle Shop and Gan Shan Station are great downtown spots, with BimBeriBon and Green Tea Japanese being good West Asheville bets.
Food Truck Grub
Unlike seated restaurants where every date moment demands face-to-face dialogue, a food truck date offers little breaks for munching and wandering. Food trucks events offer a fresh air alternative to standard indoor restaurants, and they’re budget-friendly and laid-back, too. Plus, you don’t even have to agree on the same cuisine as you each can order from different trucks. Better yet, create your own walking tour by sharing a dish from a few food trucks. We have a great round up of food trucks to check out: 10 Ways to Have an Asheville Food Truck Date.
Tacos & Nachos
Tacos are among the most popular hands-on food. There’s no shortage of hands-on taco creativeness in Asheville! Ready for our list? Here we go: White Duck Taco Shop, Taco Billy, Mamacita’s Taqueria, Taco Temple, Zia Taqueria, The Vault has a Pork Belly Taco to die for, The Grey Eagle Taqueria, En la Calle, AVL Taco & Taps, Taco Jalisco, Taqueria Muñoz, Bartaco, Avenue M in North Asheville, Sonora Cocina Mexicana, Polanco, Mountain Madre, Salsa’s, Bomba and last but not least Papa’s & Beer.
If you’re eating pizza with a fork and knife, you’re doing it wrong. So grab a slice and have an epic pizza date night! Buy pre-made dough from West End Bakery, roll it out and make smaller pizza pies, creating a variety of flavors from which to indulge! Unique flavors we like: (1) ricotta, arugula, pear and bacon; (2) chorizo, shrimp, pesto sauce, cheese and cilantro; (3) marinara sauce, mozzarella, roasted red pepper and caramelized onion. Not up for cooking yourself? No worries! Asheville has you covered: Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co., All Souls PIzza, Cucina 24, The Standard Pizza Co., Mellow Mushroom, Del Vecchios, Manicomio, Fresh Wood Fired Pizza West, MOD Pizza, 828 Family Pizzeria, Pizza Mind, Favilla’s New York Pizza, and Pepperoni’s Gourmet Pizza.
A traditional Ethiopian meal is served on a large, circular flatbread called injera. The injera serves as the plate, but you also tear up pieces to serve yourself the food using your right hand. After enjoying spicy meats and vegetables, drink a cup of coffee. A traditional ‘coffee ceremony’ uses a clay pot called a Jebena. The one and only Addissae is the place to get Ethiopian food in Asheville, located behind the Thirsty Monk downtown. Enjoy an authentic Ethiopian meal, then head over to Top of the Monk for rooftop cocktails!
Sure, standard backyard BBQs are fun but heat things up with a low country seafood boil. A boil traditionally has shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, onion and Old Bay seasoning. Customize your boil as you wish by adding lobster, crawfish, butter, herbs, garlic, celery, etc. When ready, the meal is simply transitioned from the pot right onto a paper-lined table. Asheville offers plenty of ways to get your seafood fix. The Lobster Trap and it’s sister seafood eatery The Oyster House Brewing Co. are great picks for an evening of fresh seafood. Jargon in West Asheville offers paella, octopus, calamari, scallops and crab cakes. Check out Bull and Beggar’s Seafood Happy Hour where you enjoy half off their raw seafood bar, Mon-Sat from 5-6pm.
Written in collaboration with Nancy DeVault.