The Admiral in Asheville, N.C. #1 Food Restaurant Review

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  • February 17, 2024
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The Admiral: A Global Culinary Adventure in Asheville, NC

Nestled in Asheville’s vibrant core, The Admiral isn’t your average restaurant. Housed in a humble cinder-block building, it boasts a reputation for innovative global cuisine, a lively atmosphere, and a commitment to fresh, seasonal ingredients. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious tourist, The Admiral offers a dining experience that tantalizes the taste buds and warms the soul.

A Hidden Culinary Gem in West Asheville

The Admiral emerged in 2007 as a distinctive dining spot nestled in West Asheville, transforming a former cab drivers’ bar into a cozy, maritime-themed restaurant. With its unassuming exterior, The Admiral belies the culinary delights that await inside. Its ambiance is a blend of intimacy and nostalgia, featuring a low ceiling, subdued lighting, and vintage music that sets a relaxed and welcoming tone. The interior boasts bare blond-wood tables and an open kitchen, complemented by a full bar and both enclosed and open patio sections.

Innovatively, plastic partitions installed above booth backs enhance privacy and conversation, making it an ideal setting for a comfortable dining experience. Seasonally changing menus offer a variety of dishes, from house pastas and sharing plates to hearty mains, solidifying The Admiral’s reputation for exceptional food, drinks, and service. Its location outside the bustling ‘hot’ areas of town adds to its charm, offering ease of parking and a sense of discovery for those who venture to this not-so-hidden culinary gem.

The Visionaries Behind The Admiral

When Drew Wallace and Jonathan Robinson opened The Admiral in 2007, their vision was to establish a dive bar that defied expectations, nestled within what they referred to as the “wage-earning side of town.” Their goal was not just to create another neighborhood tavern but to cultivate a unique dining experience that blended the casual with the sophisticated. The Admiral has undoubtedly exceeded their expectations, evolving from a local watering hole into a destination restaurant that continues to enchant locals and visitors alike. Despite the transformation and the blossoming of West Asheville around it, The Admiral has managed to retain its essence as a wonderfully hidden gem. This evolution speaks volumes about the vision and commitment of its owners, who have successfully balanced growth with maintaining the restaurant’s original charm and appeal. The Admiral stands as a testament to their dedication to offering an unexpected oasis of gastronomy in an unpretentious setting, making it a cherished spot for a memorable dining experience.

A Feast for the Senses

At The Admiral in Asheville, the menu is a testament to the art of culinary exploration, inviting diners on a global journey through flavors meticulously curated by Executive Chef Matt Dawes. This dining haven masterfully combines the essence of global cuisine with the freshest local produce and coastal seafood North Carolina has to offer, creating a dining experience that transcends the ordinary. The menu, ever-evolving and dynamic, promises a new adventure with each visit, while seasonal specials pay homage to the region’s rich agricultural and maritime heritage.

The small plates at The Admiral are nothing short of spectacular, providing an opportunity for diners to embark on a gastronomic exploration of textures and tastes. Imagine the delight of tasting crispy Brussels sprouts drizzled in a sweet and savory glaze or savoring the delicate flavors of octopus carpaccio, enhanced with a hint of citrus. These dishes, perfect for sharing, foster a communal dining experience, encouraging guests to indulge in a variety of flavors and engage in lively conversation.

The Admiral’s commitment to culinary excellence is evident in its frequent menu changes, adapting daily to incorporate the freshest available produce. This approach not only showcases the best of what the season has to offer but also introduces diners to innovative presentations of classic ingredients. The restaurant’s array of appetizers and small plates, designed for sharing, includes enduring favorites that are subtly transformed according to seasonal availability. Among the must-try dishes is the crispy pork belly, a harmonious blend of textures and flavors, paired with earthy vegetables and tangy pickles. The mushroom toast, another standout, celebrates the natural simplicity of fresh local mushrooms, complemented by sheep’s milk cheese and a perfectly cooked sunny side-up egg.

Highlighted dishes such as the housemade charcuterie board, fried oysters, and beef tenderloin tartare exemplify The Admiral’s culinary prowess. Each dish is crafted with precision and care, offering a unique taste experience that leaves a lasting impression. While the restaurant also features large-format dishes, the small plates alone are often enough to satisfy the culinary curiosity of its guests.
Given its popularity and intimate dining space, securing a reservation at The Admiral is highly recommended, though walk-ins are welcome at the bar where the full dinner menu is available. The restaurant’s cozy and timeless ambiance makes it an ideal spot for both casual dinners and special occasions, ensuring that every visit is a memorable one.

In summary, The Admiral’s menu is a celebration of global flavors and local ingredients, presented with creativity and flair. Its ever-changing offerings, emphasis on small plates, and cozy yet chic atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for food lovers in Asheville and beyond. Whether you’re looking for a casual meal or a sophisticated dining experience, The Admiral promises an unforgettable culinary journey.

Beyond the Plate

The Admiral’s ambiance is as captivating as its cuisine. The exposed brick walls and warm lighting create a casual yet chic atmosphere that melds effortlessly with the eclectic spirit of Asheville. The open kitchen allows diners to witness the culinary artistry firsthand, providing a glimpse into the passion and precision that goes into every dish. The lively buzz of conversation adds to the energy, making each meal a vibrant social occasion. In warmer months, the outdoor patio invites guests to soak up the Asheville sunshine and enjoy the bustling street scene, further enhancing the dining experience with a sense of connection to the local community. This seamless integration of environment and gastronomy makes The Admiral not just a place to eat, but a destination to experience.

Culinary Mastery Behind The Admiral’s Success

The Admiral’s kitchen has been a crucible of culinary talent since its establishment 17 years ago, significantly contributing to the transformation of West Asheville. The restaurant has been a pivotal stepping stone for notable chefs like Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall and Drew Maykuth of Stanbury in Raleigh. Richard Neal, with his experience from Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia, previously led the culinary team as the executive chef. In October 2019, Matt Dawes, already a celebrated chef at The Bull & Beggar, another esteemed eatery under the same ownership, took over the helm as The Admiral’s executive chef. Chef Dawes, known for his adventurous palate and dedication to locally-sourced ingredients, has solidified The Admiral’s position as a culinary leader in Asheville.

This transition underscores The Admiral’s enduring commitment to culinary excellence and innovation. For diners, this change signifies a continuation of The Admiral’s tradition of boundary-pushing cuisine, characterized by months of creative brainstorming, meticulous menu development, and relentless pursuit of perfection in every dish served. The press release hints at the dedication to offering superior products and a unique dining experience, reaffirming the commitment to excellence. With a menu that constantly evolves and an atmosphere that embraces both comfort and excitement, The Admiral promises to continue delighting diners for years to come. The Admiral’s journey from a neighborhood gem to a nationally recognized destination speaks volumes about its influence on Asheville’s food scene. Despite the increased polish and popularity, The Admiral remains committed to providing an experience that is at once welcoming, consistent, and comforting, ensuring every guest leaves with memorable culinary impressions.

Patron Review Praise: The Admiral’s Dining Delight

Visitors to Asheville have consistently lauded The Admiral for its exceptional dining experience, earning it a stellar 4.5-star rating on Google Maps. Renowned for its inventive menu and vibrant atmosphere, this global cuisine hotspot stands out for its use of fresh North Carolina produce, coastal seafood, and imaginatively crafted small plates. The Admiral’s charm extends beyond its food; patrons are equally enchanted by the restaurant’s dynamic yet cozy ambiance, making it a perfect spot for both lively gatherings and intimate dinners. Reviewers frequently highlight the friendly and attentive service, noting that the staff goes above and beyond to ensure a memorable dining experience. Additionally, the value for money is often mentioned, with diners appreciating the reasonable prices for the high quality of food served. As a testament to its popularity, tourists recommend making reservations well in advance to secure a spot in this coveted Asheville establishment. In summary, The Admiral is celebrated not just for its culinary excellence but also for creating an atmosphere that blends fun, intimacy, and exceptional service, marking it as a must-visit destination for anyone in Asheville

For the Discerning Traveler

If you’re looking for a restaurant that embodies the spirit of Asheville – artistic, innovative, and deeply connected to its local landscape – The Admiral is a must-visit. Come prepared for a flavor adventure, a welcoming atmosphere, and an experience that will linger long after your last bite. Remember to make a reservation, as this hidden gem often fills up quickly!
Bonus Tip: The Admiral takes pride in its cocktail program, featuring unique creations that complement the food perfectly. Don’t hesitate to ask the bartender for a recommendation to complete your culinary adventure. To add one more tip, the restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Asheville, so there is plenty of parking and things to do nearby. The dress code is smart casual.
So, it’s high time to go forth and explore the delicious world that awaits at The Admiral!


The Admiral in Asheville, N.C., is more than just a restaurant; it is a testament to the power of vision, adaptation, and community. Its journey from a simple dive bar to the #1 food restaurant in Asheville encapsulates a story of transformation and excellence. Due to its commitment to quality, community engagement, and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances it has become a pillar of Asheville’s dining scene, continuing to thrive despite the challenges faced by the hospitality industry. The restaurant has also embraced sustainable practices, further solidifying its reputation as a forward-thinking and responsible establishment.
As The Admiral sails forward, it continues to set the standard for culinary innovation and exceptional dining experiences, firmly anchoring itself in the hearts of all who dine there. So, for anyone seeking a dining experience that combines inventive cuisine with a warm, welcoming atmosphere, this restaurant remains a must-visit destination, firmly anchored in the fabric of Asheville’s vibrant culinary landscape.

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