In all our travels way from Cincinnati, we always looked forward to our visits to our favorite Asheville restaurant, Spirits on the River. The food was not your generic America chain restaurant's boring fare. This gave you an unique oportunity to experience outstanding Native American cooking at its finest. The menu was not extensive, but it spoke well for itself and the portions were very generous.The menu included unique items like buffalo, quail, trout, frog legs, gator, pheasant, venison, rattlesnake, quinoa, and squash. The prices were reasonable. The building's plain and unpretenious exterior did not reflect the wonderful food, the welcoming down home hospitality, and tranquil oasis. The plant filled deck setting over the rushing Swannanoa river was beautiful, serene, and peaceful. Gentle flute music played softly in the background. Unfortunately, this did not appeal to mass America's bland taste and fixation with shiny and new. Sadly, in our fast paced world, our politicians do not appreciate uniqueness, creativity, and an opportunity to retreat from the hectic, modern world to enjoy life and beauty. Asheville lost a true gem when this restaurant closed its doors and went out of business in May 2009 (according to Mohican Press). It was closed under the pretense of flood damage control and beatification of the the Swananoa River Road Greenway to rush people from one generic destination to another. In my opinion, I am certain the owners were not compensated for the true worth of the property. Another special landmark, similar to the true history of the Native American Indian, has become a fading and whitewashed memory.
Whenever guests come from out of town we end up at Spirits on the River. The restaurant is in a weird location, but it is definitely worth visiting. The thatched roof restaurant and odd, tired building are different from the our usual dining choices, so I always welcome the plan to go. The inside of the restaurant is not much to the eye and I try not to stare into the kitchen as we walk through to the outside; but the back deck is wonderful! At night, when the torches are lit, it is almost like you have been taken to a different and exotic place. On the weekends they have live music and this adds a great touch. It is pretty romantic torch-lit dining actually.
Rachel Ray made this restaurant popular among my out-of-state foodie friends on her 30 dollar a day travel show in Asheville. Since we all work for that certain food cable channel, this is where we usually end up when they venture to Asheville for a visit.
The menu is Native American in Spirit with items such as rattlesnake, gator, buffalo and fried corn. They have typical un-native American food as well. The tacos are a favorite item. They are HUGE and the flavors mingle in the mouth like a rain dance on Sunday. I find myself ordering the Buffalo burger a lot of the times.....probably because of Rachel, but the burger is flavorful, inexpensive, filling and really delicious! The prices are great and the food is tasty. For the best effect, go in the evening.
Don't go here expecting 5 star dining...go here expecting a 5 star experience.
I think Spirits on the River is one of Asheville's most overlooked restaurants and best kept secrets.
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