This past Friday I flew into Houston only to be picked up and driven through nine states all the way back to DC. I was helping my best friend move her Trooper full of cowboy boots and travel books from Texas to the capital. On the way, we stopped in Asheville, North Carolina. Because, well, it’s adorable. And my mother lives there, so … visit with Mama Love!
If you haven’t been to Asheville, let me enlighten you. It can be described in just a few words: an enclave of hippidom in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s nothing but art galleries, vintage boutiques, cafes, and head shops; and it’s the perfect getaway from DC. I frequently hop over there when I need a quick detox: cell phones off – hiking boots on – fresh air – home-cooked meals – sleep – repeat. Plus, my mom has a lovely little house right next to the University of North Carolina campus (a quick walk into town), and she seems to know almost everyone in town, providing interesting conversation wherever we go.
It’s become a tradition of sorts that when I visit, Mama Love sends me packing back to DC after a brunch at Café Ello. Possibly the best breakfast in town, it’s owned by Lorne Richman, who renovated it from a wine bar into an “urban eatery and teahouse.” Indeed, there’s organic and fair-trade tea lining shelves along the wall, but you can also choose from a selection of locally roasted coffees – and refill yourself to your caffeinated heart’s content. Heaven.
Richman is the staple of Cafe Ello; he personally waits on tables and greets everyone who walks in. He’s made it the comfortable breakfast spot for Asheville’s locals. If you don’t have a breakfast date, you can sit at the counter and rub elbows with another resident; everyone seems to know each other. Even local artists make sure the walls are filled with photography and art.
The focus on all-things-local seeps all the way to the food, which comes from local suppliers. The eggs are free range, the bread organic, and there’s a big selection to choose from: eggs, omelets, granola, bagels, oatmeal brulee—you name it. Plus, lots of standard breakfast sides. The food is prepared fresh and served with care, and it’s not enormous dishes of greasy grub. It’s the perfect amount.
I’ve tried lots on Ello’s menu, but this past weekend we went with the breakfast sandwich on sourdough (standard but delicious); an omelet, which came with a lovely side salad; and a bagel with lox. I was a little nervous about the lox (we’re in the mountains, right?), but it was fresh and ever-so-tasty. We nibbled on our entrees, saturated our bodies with tea and coffee, and then waddled off to explore more of Asheville.
After brunch, I always nip across the street to Malaprop’s, which might just be my favorite bookstore in the world. One day, when I have pots of money and time to kill, I’d like to open a bookstore/café like Malaprops. It’s full of local literature, banned books, and anthologies by small, independent publishers from around the country. Instead of New York Times’ best sellers, its staff personally recommends their top reading picks, which make for some pretty eclectic selections. Plus, it sells the most beautiful (and funny) calendars and hand-made cards. Every time I go, I stock up, because who knows when someone I know will have a baby, which obviously requires a card that says “Good Job” with an illustration of a large screw. I mean, really, Asheville. You’re so cute.
64 Haywood Street
Asheville, N.C. 28801