This week I’m taking a break from the mountain hiking to do a little urban hiking.
On my first visit to Asheville, I strolled around the River Arts District (RAD). It was a mix of run down, abandoned and graffiti covered buildings. It seemed like a strange place for there to be so many tourists. So I did a little research and found out that beginning in the mid-80s, industrial buildings by the river were transformed and opened as working artist studios. By transformed, I think they mean on the inside because they are still a bit rough looking on the outside, but hey that’s part of the charm. Today the RAD is home to more than 200 artists creating with paint, pencil, clay, metal, fiber, glass, wax, paper and more spread out along a one mile stretch of the French Broad River. This eclectic area has studios, restaurants and street art – it is a treat for all of your senses. As you wander through the various buildings you are likely to find artists at work both inside and out. The price tags on the art made me a window shopper only.
On this visit, I made my way to the Riverview Station area of the RAD, which although it houses the Jonas Gerard fine art gallery, it definitely has an industrial vibe. I began to see more and more street art on buildings, walls and abandoned tractor trailers. But it’s not exactly like the urban graffiti of Dallas, this looks…well professional…obviously edgy and created by multiple artists, but really fun and interesting. Somehow all the different artists have been able to represent their individual styles and yet make collaborative art that really captivated me.
Turns out that in 2016, the Foundation Walls project began in this area of the River Arts District. The new owners of 339 Old Lyman Street could see that this area was already heavily painted and took a different approach by working with the City of Asheville to provide legal space for outdoor muralists, also known as graffiti artists to showcase their art. It is now a place where graffiti artists are encouraged to paint( with rules) some of the old warehouses, which includes the outside of the 4500 square foot building that houses the new locations for two long-time AVL establishments : 12 Bones Smokehouse and the Wedge Brewing Company. These huge canvases with ever-changing designs are spread over 13 acres. This is a place I look forward to visiting as it evolves.
Next stop was to grab a bite to eat. If you love BBQ then you need to check out 12 Bones Smokehouse. They claim everything is made from scratch, and the meats are smoked long & slow over select hardwoods. The recipes are both old family favorites & new ones that are ever changing just like the murals. Of course their bread and butter is their ribs – 12 rib bones in a rack – but even if you are someone like me that doesn’t eat beef or pork, this place can definitely satisfy your hunger. They offer chicken, turkey and vegetarian options. I know it sounds crazy, but I tried the MLT ( smoked portobello mushroom, lettuce and fried green tomato) and it was great. The day I visited the line was out the door, but service was quick, and my meal was in front of me within a few minutes. They even let me order the lemon icebox pie and held it for me in the chiller at the counter until I was ready for it so I didn’t have to go through the line again – great customer service! This is a no frills, funky place with lots of action and noise. It’s rumored to be President Obama’s favorite restaurant in Asheville since he dined there during both of his trips to town! You order at the counter, self-serve drinks and your meal is brought to your table. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. It is also connected via the bathroom hallway to the new Wedge location.
I left full and satisfied. I have already taken several family members to the RAD and no doubt this will be a place that I visit time and time again. Just another funky reason to love this place I now call home.