Karen B had said that we absolutely had to try Tupelo Honey Cafe for breakfast while we were in Asheville. She also warned that it was very popular, and that we needed to get there by 9:00 if we hoped to get seated. We arrived in time to get a couple of seats at the “chef’s counter” and proceeded to have a fantastic meal.
The same funky eclectic vibe that tends to pervade Asheville certainly is present here. I saw lots of tattoos on cafe employees, and our waiter had his dreadlocks tied back under a large multi-colored yarn cap. The cafe is located where College St meets Patton Ave, and lots of folks tend to gather and hang out at this intersection.
The cafe is a smallish place that has extended its seating on out to the sidewalk with covered awnings and outdoor tables. Inside local artwork adorns the warm yellow walls, while dark wood finishes complete that decor. There are several antique furniture pieces and unusual ceiling fans.
The crowd seemed to be a good cross-section of young and old, leaning mostly to the young side. As Karen had warned, the place became more crowded and more people were waiting outside as the morning wore on.
Breakfast is available anytime. However, there is a day menu that features sandwiches, soups and salads, and a night menu with larger entree’s such as pork tenderloin and sockeye salmon. Dinner items tend to run from $12 – $20, with sandwiches starting at about $7.50 and hovering just under the $10 mark.
Of course, breakfast is the specialty. There is the standard fare of eggs with various bits of dead pig. They also have omelets made to order, a crab scramble, and perdu, a type of New Orleans French toast. Their specialty is sweet potato pancakes. Breakfast entree’s range from $8 to $12.
As many restaurants as I’ve reviewed you’d think I would have learned. If a restaurant is known for a dish – try that dish. As it was I went with my breakfast default of scrambled eggs, grits, and bacon. However, Laura and I were seated where we could watch everything being prepared, and we saw (and smelled) some astonishing dishes being served up. The sweet potato pancakes looked fabulous, topped with butter, pecans (which Laura wouldn’t have been able to eat) and finished with syrup.
The kitchen was a place of frenetic activity. We marveled over the number of sautee’ pans at the ready, and the coordinated effort it took to get the meals out.
While we were drooling over the dishes we didn’t order, we were served two massive biscuits with a blackberry-blueberry jam. These were incredible, and we ate them in layers, covering each layer with a bit of the jam.
It’s hard to screw up breakfast, but it takes more effort for extraordinary. Even though we ordered something mundane in comparison to all the other dishes we saw being served, our eggs, bacon, and grits were fantastic. The grits had goat cheese, and were much creamier and a bit sharper that just plain grits. They were were also garnished with more edible orchids. All in all it was a great meal to start the day.
Our dreadlocked, goateed waiter never left us wanting for coffee, and kept very close track of us. Despite the frenetic activity we saw in the kitchen, things came out in a reasonable amount of time. Our waiter even provided us cups of coffee to go as we headed out.
I can see why crowds would gather to eat breakfast here. Tupelo Honey Cafe has a good thing going – great food in a cool atmosphere. It’s more than I would normally spend on a breakfast, but for a special weekend away it’s hard to beat. Next time I come back, though, I’m going to try some of those sweet potato pancakes, or perhaps the perdu…