What to do? What to do? Winter can seem like an interminably long period between beautiful fall and warm spring. It’s cold. It gets dark earlier. It’s cold. While it’s tempting to lay low (and under a few layers of blankets on the couch), getting out and exploring the best of downtown will wake you up from hibernation. Here are some of our favorite winter bars in Asheville, NC. Put on your hat and mittens, and let’s go.
We know you’re going to end up at Off the Wagon, but try these places before you join us:
32 Broadway St
No, it’s not a bar; it’s a cafe. But, it’s a cafe with the best Bloody Mary in town. You can fuel up for the day ahead with a fantastic breakfast or lunch; Over Easy is committed to sourcing as much of their ingredients locally as possible, and you’ll taste the difference in the free-range eggs and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats. If you have dietary restrictions or needs (e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free), this is the place to go.
Try: The Bloody Mary or award-winning bartender and bar consultant Joe Nicol’s favorite: fresh-pressed beet, apple, and ginger juice with tequila.
15 Eagle St
En La Calle is the “little sister” of Nashville's favorite Mexican restaurant, Limones. At this “In the Street” location, you can find delicious tapas (lobster nachos!), as well as a wide menu of reds, whites, and specialty cocktails.
Try: The Margarita. There’s a reason this is a classic - and En La Calle makes a mean one. If you’re feeling feisty, order a Mil Noches Margarita: it has Patron Reposado, Patron Citronge, jalapeno, cucumber, lime, cilantro, simple syrup, and ice.
140-A Roberts St
Crucible has cultivated a dive bar atmosphere. The exterior is unassuming, but inside is not only some gorgeous local art - but some of Asheville’s best drinks. Co-owner Anna Toth and her partner like to showcase local “makers,” and, says Anna, “We want to offer a good drink without the pretentiousness of a lot of craft cocktails.” Mission accomplished. This is one of our fave Asheville bars.
Try: Whatever’s good when you go. Crucible changes their menu quite often, and we’re here for it.
195 Hilliard Ave
Many people know - and love - Ben’s for its terrific urban garden. We do too - but they also offer a full-service restaurant, sake breweries, and sake tasting room. Sate your appetite with small plates, salads, sandwiches or entrees like Thai Basil Chicken, Pad Thai, or tofu udon. So good! Ben’s features live music most days - and it’s dog-friendly!
Try: Sake. Ben’s brews a variety, from traditional “nigori” to blueberry lime and lemon ginger. Unlike most sake available in the US, Ben’s is hyper-local and unpasteurized for a unique experience that is both traditional and entirely fresh and new.
48 College St
This “inspired and intimate” cocktail bar and lounge is just upstairs from Table Restaurant (speaking of which, plates from Table are available at the Imperial Life from 5:30 - 9:30 PM). The Imperial Life is a funky, creative place that has perfected the art of the cocktail.
Try: The Bold. The name says it all: it features vida mezcal, rye, vermouth, nardini, sal de chapulin, and chocolate. Another interesting choice, the Daybreak. It has applejack, ramazzotti, maple, fresh orange, angostura bitters, salt, and a whole egg.
22 N Market St
An Asheville institution, Off the Wagon is more than just a bar to warm up on a winter’s night. Dueling pianos played expertly by skilled musicians who have downloaded an unbelievable number of songs into their brains, will keep you entertained all night. It’s an all-request format, and our musicians can tickle the ivories, making pretty much every upbeat song from the past 50 years come to life.
Yes, up-beat. This is a party, y’all. We want to keep it lively and fun, so we skip the melancholy songs that are good for rainy days and introspection.
Try: The Jet Fuel is a shot made of rum, Fireball, peppermint, and pineapple juice. It’s served in a real 30mm shell (enjoyed only at the bar). For a sipping drink, Come Sail Away with us. This cocktail has island spiced rum, amaretto, and ginger beer.
Looking to beat the winter doldrums? Hit Asheville’s best winter bars! We’ll see you out there.