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If you follow me Instagram then you might have noticed that lately I’ve been posting Hendersonville food a lot. Hendersonville is getting ready to have its first ever Restaurant Week from March 15th -24.
Laura Huff of Carolina Epicurean invited a handful of Carolina bloggers (including little me, ZOMG!!) to spend three days in Hendersonville/Flat Rock to preview (i.e. stuff our faces) food featured for those 10 glorious days.
If you’re asking what restaurant week is, it’s a chance for restaurants to showcase their offerings with a prix fixe menu. It's also a time to help raise funds for the nonprofit Dandelion Eatery.
The following is a breakdown of the restaurants that will be participating in Hendersonville’s premier Restaurant Week:
Bold Rock Hard Cider: To kick off Restaurant Week they will be donating $1.00 per pint sold on March 14th to Dandelion. Whaa?! How awesome is that?
Waverly Inn will host two events: A Greatest Hits Brunch on March 18, (sign me up for that brown butter raspberry tart); and BBQ Dinners Your Way on March 15 and March 21.
Flat Rock Wood Room: This is one of those restaurants where the staff treats everyone like they’ve never met a stranger. It has lots of parking , big windows, and the walls are lined with competition trophies they’ve brought home. Chef/owner Jamie Guay is a genuine barbecue enthusiast and talked us through their offerings, including the Jumbo Frankenmuth Wings with a swirl of their fabulous competition barbecue sauce, which were gone shortly after the table got their fill of photos. My personal favorite was the lightly smoked salmon served with a lemon dill beurre blanc (and a hint of maple, shh). So delightful. I ended the meal by finishing off half of a crème brulee while nobody was looking because it had the perfect sugar crust. I have no shame.
Old Orchard Tavern is a restaurant located inside of a quirky hotel just outside of Hendersonville’s downtown area. It’s one of those out of the 70’s/80’s very square hotels, with windows that face to the interior, and there is a massive pool with a slide that takes up the center space. The restaurant has some sizable windows that look out onto this scene. It’s peculiar but it works and the food is outstanding. Dinner at Old Orchard Tavern was everything and then some of what I would expect from something with the word tavern in its name. The portions were hearty and comforting, the flavors well thought out. Lamb shank was fall-off-the bone tender, seasoned with soft herbs and served with roasted veggies. Their other offering is a pasta made with smoked trout from Sunburst Farms. It's a creamy yet light dish that reminded me of primavera with a hint of smoky.
Brooks Tavern: It’s the kind of place that just feels like 5 p.m. happy hour. It was a bustling Wednesday night full of the chattering of friends, dates, and strangers when I visited. The bar staff was friendly and made easy conversation that helped make the place feel spacious and comfortable. Most importantly, they had pints of candied bacon and deep-fried cheesecakes.
Postero: We went around lunchtime on a warm sunny day, which highlighted that they have big windows that light up their large, tastefully decorated space. The food they served was playful but not excessively flavored, textures were well thought out, and they seemed to effortlessly blend classic cuisine with an updated flair. Something as basic as potato chips were crispy, can’t-stop-eating bites of happiness. It was so good that I’d dare say you can’t understand how good potato chips can be until you eat theirs with the cloud that they call goat cheese mousse. Every dish they brought out was impressively plated, for color, texture, acid balance, not only does your tongue find joy dining here but your eyes will too. A dish as simple sounding as cauliflower leek soup was elevated by topping it off with a sprinkling of tandoori spice roasted cauliflower florets and Marcona Almonds. Southern staples like fried catfish dishes were some of the best that I’ve come across outside of Louisiana. A pot de crème was made even more perfect by balancing out the sweet with sea salt caramel, pistachios and Sriracha salt (you know this spicy/chocoholic was happy).
Season’s at Highland is a beautiful resort that pulls you into a world that that’s doesn’t feel modern and is maybe more reminiscent of the time pictured in the Dirty Dancing movie. If you have time, I recommend getting there and going for a walk around the property, see their goats and chickens, enjoy swinging on wooden swings or relaxing in a hammock. This will set your mood for the lovely meal to follow. Their Restaurant Week menu was meticulously plated and has a vaguely European essence to it, even their barbecue pork dish seemed not quite Southern. We were served the full Restaurant Week menu full of familiar flavors and familiar dishes, but with the Season’s chef’s own beautiful take. I loved the lamb pappardelle, and the barbecue was colorful and fun. Bacon-wrapped dates and blueberry bread pudding were really beautifully done. We all left with happy bellies and I drove off wondering if the staff has dance offs in a shed after work.
Hannah Flanagan’s an Irish Pub will offer some Irish pub foods and not-so-Irish, but quite tasty, roast pork with pesto sandwiches, grouper tacos, and the table favorite, Shepard’s pie eggrolls. It’s everything in a Shepard’s pie wrapped up and deep fried. It can be dipped in a side of gravy or soy sauce. It’s a classic Hendersonville haunt with a central location, great service and solid pub food.
The Dugout Taproom and Grill: I was most surprised by the food here. This restaurant looks like it’s been around for a long time and it feels like a local haunt with a solid set of regulars. I’d eaten here once before and it was OK. It was a lot of deep-fried foods and I liked the nachos. I had gone in not expecting much. But that meal was long before they hired their new chef, Brooke Crider. She's working to elevate the restaurant from an average sports bar to a West Coast-style gastropub. After tasting her Restaurant Week menu, I firmly believe that she is more than capable of achieving this. In fact, I need a moment to shed a tear of joy for the fabulousness of sweet potato fries tossed with brie and bacon (sigh). Every dish she brought was fun, great, massive and memorable. A fried green tomato stacker was photogenic and delicious because obviously, one can’t go wrong with melted cheese and bacon. I have a hard time picking just one favorite here, but the spicy, crab-stuffed avocado was a fresh bite of healthy awesome that completed me. The mulled wine-braised wild boar ribs were mind-blowing, and the apple bourbon pork chop was leveled-upped comfort food. Don’t forget to save room for cake. Chef Crider once owned her own cake shop. She bakes them all and they are all fabulous. I was full. I still ate at least one bite of each and maybe a few extra of my favorites. Don’t judge.
Never Blue is a hot spot darling in Hendersonville. (Their Instagram game will leave you hungry.) The style is adventuresome. It's modern, melting-pot Americana. They serve a lot of comfort foods spiced with flavors that make America great. They use locally sourced ingredients and pride themselves on delivering an amazing dining experience. Executive Chef Jesse Roque created a Restaurant Week menu heavy with my two favorite food groups: dairy and carbs (they even have lots of gluten free carbs). Candied jalapenos top their pimento cheese dip. I could have eaten a bowl of them. Korean barbecue pork nachos won over everyone at the table. Lump crab cakes brought smiles to full bellied bloggers, and I could have eaten my weight in their fluffy gnocchi. Never Blue’s dairy and carbs are worth the 30-minute or so drive from Asheville. The best part is that for dessert, you get to pick team mermaid or team unicorn.
Mezzaluna joined up after our preview of Hendersonville Restaurant Week’s offerings. However, I’ve eaten here before and I’ve really loved their pizza and pastas. Their Restaurant Week menu was pending as I write this but I’m sure whatever they end up offering will be fantastic.
Black Rose Pub: I’ve never eaten here but the name is great and they’re always packed when I’m wandering around Hendersonville. As of this post the Restaurant Week menu hasn’t posted but keep an eye out.
Final thoughts: Hendersonville has a lot going on for a small town. The town and the food scene is growing and I can see it fast becoming a contender among the food destination spots in the Carolinas. If you haven’t been yet you should check it out. It’s an adorable town where people smile because they are happy. If you’re wanting to go for Restaurant Week, I’d recommend making reservations unless you like to live dangerously.