Chestnut’s shrimp and grits make news in this Boston Globe article about how Asheville is cooler than Brooklyn.
Dusty afternoon sunbeams splash down on a half-dozen performers plucking, strumming, and singing old-time Americana in the corner of a cozy pub. It’s a fittingly unpretentious spotlight for this casual weekly jam session, a decades-old tradition at Asheville’s cozy Jack of the Wood (jackofthewood.com, 828-252-5445). But as in the city outside, the mellow mood in here too easily belies the profound artistry before me: These are impeccable musicians.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, there’s a lot to love about Asheville, from the local-first food scene to its Brooklyn-in-the-mountains sense of style to the warm welcome you receive in a city that loves you back. But art comes especially easy here; it’s everywhere I turn. Music fills the bars, but also the streets, where buskers entertain tourists and lunch-hour diners. There’s art on the walls of its galleries, working studios, coffee shops, and a lot of the building exteriors, too. And in autumn, nature is doing her part, painting the surrounding mountains in Impressionistic blots of red, orange, and gold.
The last time I visited Asheville, I reveled in the restaurants and street performances, an overfed spectator dazzled by musicians’ sidewalk shows. On this trip, I still intend to eat too much — the abundance of nearby farms and award-winning chefs makes it impossible not to, and hiking in the mountain air works up a worthy appetite. But I’ve also brought my guitar along, hoping to become a small part of this city’s big arts scene, if only for a moment.