According to Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss, Asheville, North Carolina, is the happiest city in the U.S. Coincidentally, just after reading his book, I read Serena, a fictional tale of a timber empire in the mountains of North Carolina, near Asheville. So, on our recent trip through North Carolina, it seemed logical to stop in Asheville. No matter how brief.
The rain and winter evening skies prevented us from seeing what must be beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains on our drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Asheville. As we drove, I read about the Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate and tourist attraction located just south of Asheville. With its size and opulence, the Biltmore sounds like a southern version of one of the East Coast’s Newport mansions or the West Coast’s Hearst Castle.
We arrived late in the evening, in time to sleep at a nondescript hotel before catching a glimpse of Asheville on our way out of town the next morning. It was Sunday, our hotel did not provide breakfast, and we were hungry. My son and I checked out Yelp. We chose the restaurant with the highest ratings, the earliest opening, and a few gluten-free options. We were not disappointed.
Sunny Point Cafe is located in West Asheville, just a few miles from downtown. Although we arrived when it opened, at 8:30 a.m., there was already a line out the door. We waited our turn on the protected and heated outdoor patio (it was 20 degrees outside), before being seated at the last inside table. Within minutes, even the tables on the patio were full, and the line stretched around the building outside. This place must be good.
Healthy yet trendy with a southern flair, Sunny Point’s menu includes grits and biscuits alongside its tofu or local bacon options. We pondered our choices. Steak and potato hash. Creamy chipotle cheese grits or biscuits.
I chose the breakfast salad, leaves of arugula tossed with honey hemp vinaigrette provided the bed for maple black pepper bacon, a poached egg, warm herb tossed potatoes, and tomatoes.
Other choices included oatmeal or cornmeal hot cakes, huevos rancheros, or omelets. The gluten-free diner? She was happy with her Mighty Good Breakfast (MGB): two free range eggs, local nitrate free sausage, potatoes, and the chipotle grits.
We all shared a side of the gluten-free organic cornmeal hot cakes.
Our tummies full, we drove through Asheville slowly, noticing the mountain feel, the lack of chain stores, the small but inviting downtown with plenty of shops to peruse. We read about the seasonal outdoor pursuits, including zip lining and hiking and kayaking, and the Asheville’s proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail. Asheville looks like our kind of place. We’ll have to make it a destination. And next time, we’ll allow plenty of time to tour the Biltmore.