Where to Get Coffee in Asheville
Perhaps my favorite thing about living in Asheville is the coffee. If you ever come here, I would strongly encourage you not to drink coffee at Starbucks. You'll get to see all the crazy people who live here, you'll be helping the local economy, and the baristas all really know their shit.
The places listed here are not the only ones in Asheville, just all the ones downtown. They're all locally owned, and most of them serve fair trade or organic coffee. I visit each one on a regular basis and they're definately worth your time if you're ever in the area.
Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe
Location: Haywood Street, next to the Library
The Once-over: This is where respectable people generally go for coffee. The coffee is served in attractive, bright-colored mugs. The staff tend to be friendly, squeaky-clean college students and there's always someone sitting by the window, working on the best-selling novel that will make him so famous he'll never have to work again.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $2.50. You get one free refill.
Nibbles: Nothing you'd write home about. Choices tend to be things like stale cinnamon buns, vegan muffins, and cookies. You can get a decent slice of quiche, too, and the staff are always happy to heat things up in the microwave before serving them to you.
Great because: You get to choose between at least five different varieties of coffee, ranging from a typical French Roast to fancy flavors like Butternut, if that's your thing. There's a counter by the front window so you can watch the world go by, which is an essential feature of a good coffee place. They have computers, too, but you have to pay extra for that.
The Downside: It's usually hard to find a seat. And $2.50 for a cup of coffee?
Bonnie's Little Corner
Location: On the corner accross from the Vance Memorial (the great big obelisk that marks the center of town).
The Once-over: This is actually a tobacco shop that sells coffee on the side. The tobacco here is good, the man behind the counter is friendly and knows his business, and I have never once been carded.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $1.50
Nibbles: None, unless they're selling snack crackers.
Great because: They let you smoke. This is really its only virtue as a coffee place.
The Downside: The coffee is weak, so I usually get the hot chocolate instead. Crazy people like to come here off the street to panhandle, and they will try to talk to you. You can always foist them on the nice man behind the counter. He's used to them.
Location: Battery Park Avenue
The Once-over: Dark, broody, and quite fancy. They serve coffee in an ornate white teacup on a saucer with a doily. The people who frequent his place tend to be well-dressed and in their late twenties/early thirties. It probably gets a fair number of tourists, too, as Battery Park Avenue is cram-full of the sort of shops tourists like. You know, the ones that sell fake bohemian jewlery and handcrafted yard ornaments at ridiculous prices.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: $1.40 for a small, $1.87 for a large
Nibbles: Sumptuous confections like cheesecake and rasperry torte that cost more than the coffee itself. Great if you're feeling a little wealthy and like to eat sweet things with your coffee.
Great because: It makes you feel like you're sitting in a cafe in 19th century France.
The Downside: The food is really very rich, in every sense of the word. This is not the place to come if you're looking for a croissant or a muffin.
Izzy's Coffee Den
Location: Lexington Avenue, just past all the head shops
The Once-over: A cozy little hole in the wall with squashy armchairs and free reading material. Lots of racy abstract art. Coffee is served in slick black mugs. Preferred by freaks, punks, anarchists, and all five of the goths who live in Asheville.
Price of a single cup of house coffee: At $1.25, it's the cheapest coffee I've found in downtown Asheville. Refills are fifty cents.
Nibbles: Your typical muffin and coffee cake fare. They also make a mean bagel sandwich.
Great because: It's cozy. The coffee is both cheap and delicious. It's a prime place for people-watching and eavesdropping. You can usually find a tossed-off newspaper if you're too poor to buy one.
The Downside: Most people I know are scared off by the clientele, and the people behind the counter can get cranky. Wear a black hooded sweatshirt if you don't want to stand out, but I've seen old men and sweet old ladies come in without fear.
There are a couple more that I need to investigate further; I'll add them as soon as I can.