5 Perfect Ways to Combine Running and Brunch in Asheville

Warm Oatmeal Brulee, a seasonal offering at Sunny Point Café,  is crafted with organic oats with a rich custard top, served with cream and a side of  fresh fruit.
Warm Oatmeal Brulee, a seasonal offering at Sunny Point Café, is crafted with organic oats with a rich custard top, served with cream and a side of fresh fruit. Alice io Oglesby
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Sweet or Savory? This is the unavoidable dilemma when it comes to dining out for breakfast or brunch. And while you may feel an excruciating sense of ambivalence as you read over the menu, rest assured that if you’ve chosen your dining location correctly, then there is no wrong choice. Furthermore, if you’ve earned your indulgence by putting in a few brisk morning miles, there’s no reason not to choose both. That’s right, if you’ve revved up your appetite and your metabolism with a good cardio workout, why not take your omelet with a side of French toast? We present five perfectly paired combinations of where to run and brunch in Asheville.

1. North Carolina Arboretum and Sunny Point Café

Ripe strawberries adorn the Ricotta Hot Cakes at Sunny Point Cafe. Alice io Oglesby

Flowers and freshness set the tone for this morning’s cardiovascular excursion. The North Carolina Arboretum and Botanical Gardens boasts 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of wooded trails. Wind through the Pisgah National Forest, loop around Lake Powhatan, and take in the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trails are short and intersecting, allowing for an endless combination of routes based on your whim and ambition. The 3.7-mile loop comprised of Bent Creek Road, Rocky Cove Road, Hard Times Road and Owl Ridge Trail makes a lovely morning jog.

Follow your flower-filled run with a stop at Sunnypoint Café, a family-owned West Asheville fixture. During peak growing season, the flowers and produce grown on-site become the ingredients for their hearty, farm-to-table comfort food. Try the crispy sweet potato waffle with amaretto caramel and toasted almonds, or a stack of fluffy organic carrot hot cakes with cardamom cream cheese. If you’re craving something savory, the huevos rancheros and the Build-Your-Own biscuit come highly recommended. (Be warned: With such an extensive and creative menu, the savory vs. sweet breakfast dilemma is particularly strong with this one.)

2. Bent Creek and Biscuit Head

Fried chicken, ham and egg on a freshly made biscuit with a side of house-made gravy. Courtesy of Biscuit Head

Bent Creek Experimental Forest is Asheville’s most popular running and mountain biking destination. This sprawling, 6,000-acre forest is characterized by dense tunnels of mountain laurels, gurgling streams and a sense of peace and seclusion that belies its proximity to town. Take your pick from more than 44 miles of trails, from gentle meandering forest roads to brutally steep hill climbs. For a power combo with a descent that’s gentle on the knees, follow the Ingles Field Gap Trail to the Five Points trail junction, and return via the old forest road.

After you’ve worked up a suitable appetite, head directly to Biscuit Head, the uber-popular (think cult following, featured in The New York Times) southern restaurant that’s guaranteed to have a line snaking around the block on weekends. Their slogan, “Put some South in your Mouth,” is backed up by a menu of fried chicken, country ham and fried green tomatoes. But it’s a new-school, modern variant of Southern culture—everything that’s not edible is either compostable or recyclable, and the ingredients are of the farm-to-table, free-range variety. The potential permutations of sweet and savory (indulge in a flight of different gravies, go for broke at the jam and jelly bar) are of the same caliber as the trail selection at Bent Creek: It’s a bit overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong.

3. French Broad River Greenway and Isis Restaurant & Music Hall

Eggs benedict pair perfectly with a spicy bloody mary. Courtesy of Isis Restaurant and Music Hall

The French Broad River Greenway tells the story of innovation, collaboration, and success for the city of Asheville. The 4-mile, out-and-back trail links up three city parks: Hominy Creek, Carrier, and French Broad River. The Greenway begins as a narrow trail winding through a stretch of creekside forest that feels impossibly rural, given that it cuts through a busy neighborhood. The trail becomes paved when it hits Hominy Creek Park, then continues as a pathway that is at times riverside, at times urban. The flat and friendly nature of the Greenway makes it ideal for beginners.

When you return to the trailhead in West Asheville, just keep running: Isis Restaurant and Music Hall lies just a few blocks away. Isis is a beloved music venue known for creative cocktails and late-night eats, but it also dishes up one of the best brunches in the city. An artesian menu coupled with everyday prices is a marriage made in breakfast heaven. Those who favor a morning libation will delight in a full menu of drinks concocted expressly for brunch. The “Breakfast Shot” pairs well with a half-press of locally roasted coffee, mimosas are prepared with freshly squeezed citrus juices, and the breakfast margarita (that’s right—it exists!) is sweetened with orange marmalade.

4. Richmond Hill and Five Points Diner

A classic diner breakfast awaits you at Five Points Restaurant until 2 p.m. Jo Foodie

Richmond Hill is Asheville’s largest city park, situated in a quiet neighborhood just northwest of downtown. Five miles of singletrack trails loop and crisscross through 183 acres of gentle hills and dense pine trees. From the park’s apex, you can look out over a bend in the French Broad River, the colorful and industrial River Arts District, and an active railroad track. With short, gentle climbs, copious stream crossings and lots of smaller side-trails to get lost on, the landscape of Richmond Hill will capture the attention of even the most hesitant jogger.

Once you emerge from the forest, head over to nearby Five Points Restaurant, a relic from the days before Asheville became the hip, counterculture Mecca it is today. You won’t find soy alternatives or anything free-range, but you will find something so rare in this town it has nearly become extinct: a full breakfast—bacon, grits, eggs and toast—for five dollars. Add in the surly waitresses who refills your chipped white mug with a bottomless supply of coffee, and you have the quintessential diner experience. Breakfast is served until 2 p.m., so if you do end up tangled up on the trails, there’s no cause for alarm.

5. Biltmore Estate and Limones

Two and a half miles of trails run through the ornate gardens of the Biltmore Estate, and another 42 miles course through the grounds. Selena N. B. H.

Considering how expensive the day passes run, it makes sense for locals to purchase a year membership to the Biltmore Estate. Runners in particular will easily get their money’s worth exploring the 8,000 ornate and manicured acres, complete with coffee shops, restaurants, and free wine tasting. Twenty-two miles of trails meander throughout the grounds—two and half miles through the official gardens alone. In the spring and summer, the fields are ablaze with flowers and the greenhouses are filled with rare blooms. But winter may be the most appealing season for Asheville residents: bare hills, empty woods, iced-over streams and far fewer tourists to dodge. The Biltmore is a runner’s oasis all year long.

Your perfectly polished morning run deserves to be coupled with a dining experience that is equally exquisite. Limones is an upscale Mexican fusion restaurant tucked away on a side street in downtown Asheville, just a few blocks away from Pack Square. With colorful windowpanes and gleaming wood tables, the interior glows with a warm artistic charm. Limone’s brunch selection is small but satiating: Smoked Chipotle Chilaquiles, huevos revueltos with wild mushrooms and basil-corn relish and other elegantly creative entrees. And even if you’re a savory person, you must begin your meal with a cup of hot chocolate with churros (you can thank us later). Not a bad way to start a brunch in Asheville.

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