Restaurants & Bars

Asheville, NC: Spirits on the River-- very nice indeed

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Asheville, NC: Spirits on the River-- very nice indeed

Missy | Jul 28, 2004 04:21 PM

I had a very pleasant dinner at this low-key Native American restaurant in Asheville last week, and I'd like to pass along my recommendation. I think most Hounds would be delighted to eat in a place like this: rustic, charming atmosphere, fantastic outside deck overlooking a rushing creek, and really reasonable (verging on cheap) extremely tasty food.
The single-story building is fashioned to look like abode and has a fake (I'm assuming) bark-shingle roof. Inside follows the same theme - vaguely Southwestern. There are a number of American Indian artifacts displayed, some of them quite antique, from all regions of the U.S., including the Cherokee Nation that once occupied North Carolina's mountains. The place to be, at least in nice weather, in the back deck that overlooks the Swannanoa River (we'd call that a creek up here in Virginia) The deck hangs right over the water, which rushes musically by. There's so much greenery overhanging the creek that it's hard to believe a sizable town lays just outside the other door. They put out tiki torches at night, and combined with those HUGE fireflies and candles on the tables they have down there it's quite magical. Romantic, even!
The menu is built almost exclusively on native foods from various regions: wild meats, native veggies (corn, squash, beans, wild rice, and potatoes (OK, native South American) They serve buffalo in several ways - as steaks, as braised burrito filling, burger, and in the incredibly succulent barbecued sort ribs. Pheasant, alligator, quail, trout, crab, and even rattlesnake are also available. Elk is sometimes on the menu.
For an appetizer, my husband and I shared an order of blue corn chips and a snappy fresh tomato salsa with onions, garlic, jalepeno and cilantro. I saw a number of diners getting "Raven's Reward," a sampler platter of wild meat (buffalo, alligator, rattlesnake, pheasant). Buffalo chili looked like it was high on the list of favorites, too.
For dinner, I really enjoyed my barbecued buffalo shortribs and grilled quail. The ribs were meltingly tender, just fat enough, and slathered with a delicious tomato-based sauce. The quail was marinated in something really yummy then grilled to perfection. It was moist and tender and a lot of fun to eat. This came with a side of grilled squash and something I've never had before: fried corn on the cob. They take a whole ear and cook it in boiling peanut oil, which must be the only way in the world to make a fresh ear of sweet corn taste even better. It was still sweet but had a chewy firmness that was quite different from fresh corn. This was a HUGE plateful of food for 19.95.
Tim opted for the quail dinner. He had two of the little guys, with the grilled squash and a side of pure wild rice. We also ordered a side of Anasazi beans - these look a lot like the ones we call bird egg beans or cranberry beans - cream-colored with red mottling. Tim's meal was priced at 12.95
I had a delightful berry-flavored iced herbal tea and Tim had “natural" root beer, not sure what that meant but it tasted good anyway.
We were WAAY too stuffed for dessert, which the staff was bringing out in boatloads - a round of fry bread topped with berries and vanilla ice cream.
I noticed a lot of people groaning (in pleasure) over the enormous buffalo burrito, which was also stuffed with wild rice. The place also offers quinoa, that South American super-grain that has become so popular recently. They use it as a pasta with a number of different sauces and with either gator or shrimp.
We were lucky enough to be present for a Bill Miller concert on the back deck, which really added to the ambiance. But I would recommend this place with or without the music. I will definitely be back next time I'm in town, and I think anyone who lives in or travels to Asheville should try it out.
The address is 571 Swannanoa Rd; phone 828-299-1404
Give it a try!!!

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