My Town: John Fleer’s Asheville, NC

We asked the chef to design his perfect Asheville day—from first light to lights out

After fifteen years in Tennessee as the head chef at Blackberry Farm, John Fleer and his wife Katy, both North Carolina natives, were eager to return to the Tar Heel State. “We’d had our eye on Asheville for a long time,” Fleer says of the Blue Ridge boomtown. “When we lived in Tennessee, we’d always stop on the way home to Winston-Salem. And over the years we watched it change and grow into this really vibrant community.”

Last October, after a seven-year break to spend more time with his family, he ventured back into the kitchen full-time, opening Rhubarb, his first Asheville outpost, on Pack Square at the center of town. Now firmly entrenched in the community, we asked Fleer to design his perfect Asheville day—from first light to lights out.

8:00 a.m.
Rise and Shine: “It’s Saturday, so I can go to the farmers’ market. But first I go by Dough, one of our local bakeries, for coffee and monkey bread—my first breakfast. Dough is on the way from my house to the North Asheville Tailgate Market. We’re lucky to have more than one farmers’ market, but North Asheville is closest to my house, and my favorite.”

9:30 a.m.
Market-to-Market: “At North Asheville, I pick up my CSA box and shop for the restaurant. Then order a berry bomb from Farm and Sparrow. Made with croissant dough that’s packed into layers with chocolate chips and berries and baked into a small loaf. It’s rich and sugary and good—really something to share.”

11:00 a.m.
Get Outside: “North of town, Craggy Gardens is great for hiking and a good spot if you’re bringing the dog along. Way up on the parkway, it’s got some really great vistas of the Blue Ridge. Or DuPont Forest. Down near Brevard, DuPont is more of a local’s spot. They filmed some of The Hunger Games here, but it’s still a relatively undiscovered place with tons of waterfalls.”

2:00 p.m.
Refuel: “Get lunch at one of the picnic tables at All Souls Pizza, down in the River Arts District. They do great brick oven pizzas made with first-class ingredients.”

3:30 p.m.
Afternoon art walk: “There are all kinds of art galleries around the River Arts District. Just wander in and out.”

7:30 p.m.
Dinner is Served: “I’d head to King James Public House for dinner, located just north of downtown. Steven Goff is a really talented chef who does a lot of very creative gastropub-type food—great pâtés and headcheese. A skilled fermenter and pickler, he usually has a pig brain jar on the menu, which is way less scary than it sounds and a go-to for me.”

9:30p.m. – until
Night Cap: “Grab a drink at One World Brewing. It’s the newest brewery in town and is right out the back of Rhubarb. It’s pretty nice to have a little brewery right next to the restaurant. I’ll close the night hoping there is some great live music at the Grey Eagle. One of my old cooks is running a taqueria down there, so I’ll swing by there before heading home.”