Asheville, North Carolina is a food lover’s paradise. My wife and I love visiting this great little city and make a point of visiting restaurants we haven’t yet been to. There are a few restaurants, however, that we have on our must visit list, no matter how many times we’ve been there. 12 Bones Smokehouse is one of them.
12 Bones came to prominence when then President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama dined at the restaurant not once, but three times on trips to Asheville. We’ve been there three times as well- once to their Arden location, once to the original riverside restaurant and, most recently, to the new location in the River Arts District.
I loved the Arden location, a converted automobile service station, for its funky feel. The now-defunct riverside location had a great outside dining area next to the river. The new location, though, is probably my favorite.
The River Arts District was once a run down industrial area, but it’s been converted into art space for Asheville’s creative community. More than 200 local artists have studio space here and, with the artists, several restaurants have moved into the district. One of the things I love about the River Arts District is that the exteriors of many of the buildings are covered with art. 12 Bones is no different.
Dining at 12 Bones is a little different from most restaurants. First, you have to wait in a queue to get into the restaurant; as the group at the counter places their order and moves into the dining room, the next group moves into the restaurant. Second, by restaurant standards 12 Bones’ hours are unusual. The restaurant is only open for lunch Monday through Friday (it’s actually open for takeout until 6pm, but the dining room closes at 4). If you get there late you’re out of luck.
We got there just before the Friday lunch rush, so our wait outside wasn’t long. We placed our orders and chose to sit outside to enjoy the great weather and the fascinating wall art of the surrounding buildings. We enjoyed watching an eagle soar high overhead against the beautiful blue sky.
The food at 12 Bones is great. Ann Marie ordered their award winning blueberry chipotle ribs with potato salad and collards and I had a pulled pork plate with mac and cheese and collards. I tried several of the barbecue sauces- a vinegar based sauce, a mustard based sauce, and an awesome jalapeno sauce. It’s country cooking, but taken to a whole new level.
There are no secret sauces at 12 Bones. They don’t keep their recipes locked in a safe. If you’re up to it, you can “try this at home.” They’ve got a cookbook with recipes for pretty much everything they serve, including their blueberry chipotle sauce. Ann Marie makes a pretty awesome barbecue, but she’s always looking for new things to try. The cookbook was one we definitely needed. I see blueberry chipotle ribs in our future.
If you make it to Asheville, head to 12 Bones River. You won’t be disappointed.