The Admiral in Asheville: A Dive Bar with Gourmet Food

You won’t have a problem finding a place to eat in Asheville, North Carolina. I didn’t. The town takes you by surprise (unless you’ve already heard of it). With a population under 100,000 people, you might expect to find your standard run of the broken mill dining establishments. A diner. A choice Mexican place. A choice Chinese place. A bunch of Bars’n’Grilles downtown. Fortunately, Asheville is a special small(ish) town. It goes beyond the culinary scope of every other small town. There are attractively painted restaurant fronts framing the streets of downtown. They’re complemented by chocolate shops and brick streets and mountains peaking along the horizon. Asheville is, if anything, too adorable. So where do you go to dine if you’d like to eat well but dodge the so-cute-you-might-puke-rainbows downtown? The Admiral.

I heard about The Admiral because the innkeeper at Asia Bed & Spa went there the night before I did. He described The Admiral as a dive bar across town he’d been hearing about–a dive bar with delicious food. He had me at dive bar. Ben Britz and I drove across town the following night partially because we’d been genuinely interested in The Admiral and partially because we’d arrived downtown too late to eat (ALL the restaurants seemed to close at 10pm. We’re not used to that). The Admiral serves a special late night menu for the hungry in town who won’t be happy, at least not the following morning, with Taco Bell.

On the outside, The Admiral could have been a trailer. Maybe it is. Maybe it was. On the inside, The Admiral could have been one of Pete Wentz’s famed Angels and Kings bars–dimly lit and draped in red velvet. It was late at night on a Wednesday night and the bar/restaurant was packed. The music was flawlessly GOOD across the board (and not good in a “Hey Guys! They’re playing Smells Like Teen Spirit!” kind of way, but more so in a “Hey Guys! They’re playing Rape Me” kind of way).

With Champagne cocktails on the list and bacon cheeseburgers (Applewood smoked bacon, mmmm) alongside Vietnamese Hoagies–we were not only hungry, but particularly interested to see what kind of food would come from this impressive menu, the kind of menu you don’t normally find in a dive bar… or a biker bar… or a used-to-be-a-trailer-home bar… or an across-the-street-from-a-giant-billboard-of-Obama’s-face bar…

Once all was said, done, and eaten, the food was really, and I mean REALLY, freaking good. Mouth-watering. We couldn’t believe it. For all of the tempting restaurants in Asheville’s downtown (there are over 50, just downtown), this gem is a few miles away. It’s a locals’ hideout, a traveler’s treasure, and lame-ass tourists haven’t ruined it. It’s perfect.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz