6 or 10 Places to Grab a Cheap Lunch in Downtown Asheville


The saddest thing… Google sent me an email recently, the subject of which was “Top suggested Google+ Pages for you.”


I’ve got a top suggestion for you, Google+: Pull the plug. Nobody cares. You’re not a thing. You never were. You’re never going to be. Stick to email and search engines. You’re good at those things. Really good! I like yourrr… Google Dive. I made a spread sheet there once. I liiike… YouTube? You own that too, right? It’s good. YouTube is good. Real good. You’re doin’ great. You don’t have to keep beating your head against the wall with Google+. It’s okay to give up. There’s no shame. It was over before you even started. Zuckerberg for the win. That’s life. Now, move the fuck on.

Anyhoo, here are MY “top suggested” places that the former employees of Google+ can still get what I would consider a “cheap” lunch in downtown Asheville…

Asheville Brewing – An Asheville local fave, and offshoot of Asheville Pizza and Brew (aka “The Brew and View”) up on Merrimon Ave. They brew and serve many of Asheville’s most popular local beers. My five word review of the food menu goes like this: “OK food at OK prices.” The affordability, combined with things like giant jenga, corn hole, lots of outdoor seating, and sometimes a movie projected on the wall outside, make this a very kid and family friendly place.

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria – Pizza, and other standards, tons of beer on tap. A local fave that’s always been an affordable, family friendly place. It’s a large, noisy, but cozy space. Sometimes they have live music and other events. The sturdy furniture, decent prices, and large portions combined with free flowing suds, and the fact nobody gives a fuck if you’re boistrous, make this a great place to bring large, loud groups of people, including children.


Plastic tray, plastic utensils, plastic cup, and a plastic container of plastic slaw at Jackson Underground. At least the sandwich wasn’t plastic. I don’t think so anyways.

Jackson Underground Cafe – I found the food and atmosphere to be horrible, but some downtownies love it. The price is cheap, maybe the cheapest sandwiches downtown? I dunno that for a fact. I just know that I didn’t finish my slaw because it tasted like the plastic container it came in, and I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there. But that’s just me. Like I said, other people seem to love this place, and I think it’s because downtown workers can get a cheap sandwich to go, and bring it back to their office, or other workplace, several times a week, without spending all of their rent money on lunch.

The Mediterranean Restaurant – One for the TRUE downtownies. Open at 6am, and serving traditional diner-style Greek and American food, “The Med” is just about as Olde School as it gets. Very friendly service. Booths and counter seating. The cheeseburger might be the cheapest in downtown, and is definitely a throw-back to a bygone era before burgers had a base-price of $13. I think I paid four bucks for one the last time I went to The Med.  Mmm… hungry now. Gotta go back. Limited hours, no web site, and a FaceBook page that doesn’t have even ONE post on it also contribute to the charm and olde-schooliness of this Asheville classic.

Roman’s Deli Asheville – Another old-school holdout, and one for real downtownies in-the-know, Roman’s has a pretty basic menu, basic seating, basic service, and a basic burger that many big-time foodies claim is actually the best burger in Asheville. My friend, and official co-stalker Rick says “If you don’t love this burger, I’ll pay for it!”

The Soda Fountain – Located inside Woolworth Walk, I personally consider this old fashioned, vintage-yet-modern soda counter to be one of the true triumphs of the downtown renaissance. Back in the day, when downtown was a shit-hole, and the Woolworth’s chain was long belly-up, this giant, ancient, awesome building could have been left to rot and ruin, or been torn down and replaced with a modern monstrosity. Instead it was preserved and nurtured, repaired, enhanced, revamped, and revitalized into the hub of downtown action that it is now. Part of that renovation process was to revive and reactivate the soda fountain, which has been successfully done without making it into something hokey, fake, or “Hollywood.” Instead it has a very authentic, modern-retro, almost punk rock feel to it, with great traditional soda fountain food and affordable prices. It’s my fave place to sit down and eat a hot dog with a milkshake. Also, the most bad-ass chicks in town work here.

Hot dog, pickle, and chips at the Woolworth Walk Soda Fountain. Nuthin’ fancy. Nuthin’ pricey.

I pulled the six venues above from my new “MASTER LIST” of every single place to grab a bite to eat in downtown Asheville. That list is on My own blog, Stu Helm: Food Fan.

Here are four more places from the list that I consider affordable…

Blue Dream Curry House – International curry in the AVL International District. Great people, family friendly, big space, no tipping.

City Bakery – Best house cup of coffee, consistently great sandwiches and other breakfast and lunch fare. Baked goods. Counter service. Fast, reliable.

Mellow Mushroom Asheville – The BEST Mellow Mush in the country, Yo! Our Mellow Mushroom is something special, and for families especially, it wins Best of Asheville with the public year after year.

Twisted Crêpe – Good crepes! Good prices. Kind of a depressing atmosphere, but whatevs. It takes, like 2 seconds to eat a crepe, and then you’re outta there.

See the entire list, which consists of over 100 “brick and mortars” and a bunch of food trucks, by clicking here. I’ll keep adding to and subtracting from the list as places come and go.

— END —

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.

External links:











You Might also Like


  1. Ed Kizer April 22, 2016

    I think Bomba and Jerusalem’s Garden are great values for lunch downtown, in part because they have great patios.

  2. Joe April 19, 2016

    Roman’s is “old school”? I mean, it’s great, but it’s been around for less than 10 years. There are many older restaurants downtown that serve lunch downtown under $10 (Salsa’s, Early Girl, Jerusalem Garden, Laughing Seed, Loretta’s, Mayfel’s, Tupelo Honey, Mamcita’s).

    Also, I know everyone loves the Med, but it ain’t any better than Jackson Underground. Hard to find a review of the place that actually talks about the quality of the food as opposed to “Hey, it’s been here a long time”, and “Hey, it’s pretty cheap”. Although the last few meals I’ve had at the Med have been more expensive than those I’ve had at Jackson Underground, so I don’t even think that’s a useful data point.

    Finally, leaving Bomba off this list is criminal. It’s absolutely incredible, and pretty cheap.

  3. Sean April 19, 2016

    Great bunch of folks still on G+. ;^)

  4. Jan Schochet April 19, 2016

    Mmmmm. The Med. It’s my kitchen away from home. Always open at 6 a.m. Monday-Saturday. Open till 3:30, maybe 4. Not so difficult to grok. The burgers? Pete goes out and gets steaks daily and has them ground fresh so he can make them into the burgers and hamburger steaks. His grits and biscuits at breakfast are the best, real biscuits around. Not non-southern biscuits, not tourist biscuits. Real biscuits.

  5. luther blissett April 19, 2016

    Barley’s weekday lunch food is meh. If you want pizza for lunch, go to ABC on Coxe for the buffet. If you want to stay on Broadway, go to Mamacitas or White Duck.

    And hear me out on this, but… Cúrate. Sure, sit down and you’ll empty your wallet, but they’ll make you a bocadillo to go for around ten bucks, and that’s plenty for lunch. Go and eat it in the park.

  6. Toon Army April 19, 2016

    I am so tired of everyone saying that downtown was a “shithole” back in the day? Did you live here or are you just regurgitating what you have heard?
    As someone who grew up on the outskirts of downtown in the 80’s I can tell you that there was plenty going on in town. And as someone who worked downtown in the 90’s and early 2000’s, it was a hell of a lot more “authentic” cool than the “scene” now going on. For the record there was a city before 2005.

  7. jtroop April 19, 2016

    Of the inexpensives, the Soda Fountain is the simplest, most straightforward lunch spot in town.

  8. Shannon April 19, 2016

    I love your reviews, Stu, but I can’t believe you left out Loretta’s! It is the best, most affordable, awesome food in all of downtown. They’ve been around for like 20 years and continue kicking ass. P.S., there’s an Asheville Brewing Downtown on Coxe Avenue that has an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet! It’s good and very affordable. I would also add my favorite and most incredible Mamacitas to the top of the list. They recently raised prices but for $8 for 2 giant tacos, chips & salsa, it’s the bomb. After working downtown for about 16 years, you learn the best cheap spots. Lastly, City Bakery is not cheap. You’ll end up spending $10 for a BLT, and that’s nuts, even thought I love City Bakery.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Stories