Tuesday, February 21, 2023

A Short Visit to Asheville North Carolina (II)

…continuing with the short visit we made to Asheville North Carolina at the very end of September 2022.  Laurie’s sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill joined us for this little adventure.

I’ll start this segment with yet another historic building in downtown Asheville…

The name, Battery Park Hotel has been given to two hotels in Asheville.  The first version, built in 1886 on the same spot, was a Queen Anne style hotel that was 125 high.  In 1924 it was replaced by this 14 story structure.  It was built by Edwin W. Grove, the same wealthy entrepreneur that built the Grove Arcade, which is right across the street from the hotel.  The name of the hotel, “Battery Park”, came from the fact that Confederate forces used this hilltop site as the site for batteries of artillery during the American Civil War.

Historically, the tourist business boomed after 1880, when the railroad reached Asheville.  The mountain town attracted 20 passenger trains every day, especially in the summer.  They came from America’s largest cities.  Located in the mountains, Asheville was much cooler and less humid than those cities along the coast or along the piedmont area.  The clean mountain air also helped people with health problems, such as tuberculosis.  Actually, many fine hotels were built in and around the city. 

The Battery Park Hotel had 220 rooms.  It was built with reinforced concrete, brick, limestone and terra cotta…and that Mission Revival roof provided a dining area.  The hotel closed in 1972 and it was taken over in 1979, by Housing Projects, Inc.  That organization kept the historic exterior with the aid of preservation tax credits…and the rooms were converted into apartments for senior citizens.  Today the property is owned by National Church Residences.  To learn more about the apartments, just go to: https://www.nationalchurchresidences.org/communities/battery-park-senior-apartments/#affServices.

I borrowed this photo of a corner of the Grove Arcade in Asheville.  It gives a nice view of part of the building as well as of Carmel’s Kitchen Restaurant, where we stopped in for lunch.  There are 11 places to eat along the Page Avenue side of the Arcade…ranging from fine dining to casual restaurants, wine bars and ‘grab and go’ establishments.

Carmel’s Kitchen and Bar’s mission is to provide “exceptional contemporary southern cuisine along with imaginative specials using the freshest ingredients.  Options include a bar area, a very large outdoor dining patio and an intimate dining room.

Carmel’s Kitchen has 9 items listed as appetizers…and we ordered 6 of them!  The Fried Green Tomatoes were accompanied with fresh mozzarella, arugula, balsamic vinaigrette and they rested on a bed of basil aioli. ($15) Beautiful presentation indeed and this appetizer was well received by everyone at our table.

Our next appetizer was the Feta Stuffed Shrimp. ($15) As you can see, the stuffed shrimp were wrapped in bacon and then they were broiled.  Finally, they were served on a bed of greens with a sherry lemon drizzle.  Shrimp with feta cheese and bacon…hard to beat this one!  The only problem was that one shrimp per person left me wanting more...

Bread service, i.e. the rolls shown above in the first photo, is listed as an ‘appetizer’. ($6) I fondly remember the days when bread on the table was part of the meal without ordering it or having it priced separately from the meal.  In this day and age, the norm in many restaurants is no bread unless its requested...  

The ‘Soup du Jour’, aka the soup of the day is also part of the appetizer menu.  I don’t recall what it was but no one said they didn’t like their food and it did come with that crostini. ($8)  

Continuing with the appetizer theme, Laurie ordered the Creamy Tomato with Goat Cheese and Basil Soup as her main course. ($8) She liked it but she had expected more of a ‘pop’ of flavor from the goat cheese…

One of the entrees/mains we ordered was the Catfish Reuben with French fries. ($17) This sandwich consisted of fried panko crusted catfish, Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing and coleslaw…all on marbled rye bread.  The sandwich was well enjoyed and the fries were better than average.

Of course this sandwich begs the question…when is a Reuben not a Reuben?  A true Reuben is made with thinly sliced corned beef and it’s layered with sauerkraut...plus the 1000 island dressing and Swiss cheese.

Another sandwich/main course was Carmel’s Kitchen version of a BLT Sandwich. ($15) It was served on grilled wheat berry bread with Duke’s Mayonnaise, apple smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, green leaf lettuce.  It was a very satisfying sandwich.

Duke’s mayonnaise is a southern thing that has slowly spread around the country.  For Laurie and me, it’s just too sweet but it worked alright with the other sandwich ingredients.  As for Bonnie and Bill, Duke’s is their ‘go to’ mayonnaise...

I was really surprised that Laurie and Bonnie didn’t order and split the Mushroom Pizza. ($18) It is described as being covered with locally cultivated mushrooms, roasted garlic and smoked cheddar sauce with spinach, shaved parmesan and a truffle oil drizzle.

Carmel’s Kitchen and Bar has a modest menu as regards the number of selections available for its patrons.  It is imaginative though… There are 3 salads (with added meat options), 5 sandwiches, 3 pizzas and 6 entrees plus 3 desserts.  The biggest bargain price wise was the beer at $4 each.  To learn more and to peruse the menu, go to https://www.carmelsofasheville.com/.

As we headed back to our hotel to pick up our car so we could visit yet another shopping destination, I noted this little building facing Asheville’s Pack Square.  This handsome Romanesque Revival structure with its rock faced arch windows is quite appealing…at least to me.  I did learn that the store front was modernized ca. 1910 but the building was completed in the 1890s.  Today it is the home of Rhubarb, a fine dining establishment with a very interesting menu.  Learn more at https://www.rhubarbasheville.com/.

The Tobacco Barn Antiques Store was only a mile or two from our hotel.  Both Laurie and I were a little disappointed to see that it wasn’t a classic tobacco barn but rather more of a big metal structure where bales of tobacco were once auctioned off to buyers.

Tobacco Barn Antiques is huge, definitely not your modest local antique store or antique ‘mall’.  Instead it is an ‘antique mall’ on steroids.  This building houses 70,000 square feet of furniture, lamps, dinnerware, clocks and weird items plus, plus… More than 75 dealers have their collectables and antiques for sale on display.

Stuff everywhere!

I 'had' to take this photo of old Montgomery Ward catalogs.  First of all, the contrast in women's fashions between the 1950 and the 1965 catalogs is pretty remarkable.  Secondly, I worked at MW headquarters for many years until the Company closed in 2001.

Perhaps you need a nice buggy to drive into your village for groceries?

What the heck?!  Perhaps that big fellow by our front door!  Weird fits!

Rather than try to explain the types of items on display at Tobacco Barn Antiques, I thought that photos would be more appropriate.  Weird, collectable and wonderful might best describe the selection.  Some areas are well organized and others are just ‘there’, looking like they haven’t been rearranged anytime recently. 

As per a review I read about the Antique Tobacco Barn, visitors should keep in mind that it isn’t air-conditioned.  Temperatures inside in the summer can be sweltering so early morning or evening visits during hot weather might work best for most folks.

For us, we like more organization and the size and mix of items for sale was a bit overwhelming.  As the saying goes, ‘different strokes for different folks’.  To learn more about the Antique Tobacco Barn and its offerings, you can go to https://www.atbarn.com/.

Following a long day of walking up and down hills…no, downtown Asheville isn’t flat…and shopping until the guys were ready to drop, we headed back to The Loft Hotel where we were staying…for a little break before dinner.  Part of the package deal that Bonnie had found for us at the hotel was a free cocktail for everyone!  After a little relaxation, we headed out for dinner…but that’s another story.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Both appetizers from Carmel look really delicious and moreish. I would love to visit that Antiques Store!!

  2. More good info for our rally. I hate that restaurants are bastardizing our language by changing the meaning of things. A Reuben can only be as you described and anything else should have a different name such as a catfish sandwich with Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing or a Rachael for the turkey version. Sorry for the rant about a pet peeve.

  3. I liked the look of those appetizers more so than the entrees that were ordered, Dave, especially those shrimp wrapped in bacon 😋 I agree that what you showed definitely did not look like a traditional Reuben to me. That antiques place was overwhelming.

  4. I'm not an antique-er. So I have driven by the Tobacco Barn many times, and have no urge to stop. Glad to know what you found. Your Carmel food does make my mouth water!