There are so many reasons people love to visit Asheville. Its tranquil natural beauty, thriving arts scene, picturesque architecture, and good old-fashioned Southern hospitality make Asheville one of North Carolina’s must-see cities.

Any good taste of the city must include a detour to sample the food Asheville is known for—without spending a fortune. Check out our suggestions for some of the best cheap eats in Asheville.

1. 12 Bones Smokehouse

North Carolina takes pride in its barbecue. What makes Carolina barbecue unique is its sauce, which tends to be mustard-based and tangier than the ketchup-based sauces found elsewhere. At 12 Bones Smokehouse, they serve up different homemade rib flavors daily. As a bonus, most of the items on the menu are gluten-free, too. Dive into a plate of ribs without stressing about your budget.

2. HomeGrown

Few foods have as deep a Southern-fried reputation as fried chicken, and there are plenty of places to try this down-home delicacy in Asheville. The aptly named HomeGrown, which promises “slow food right quick,” is a must-eat Asheville restaurant for its affordable prices and great selection of quintessential Southern cuisine. Here, you can get fried chicken on a biscuit, drenched in gravy, or on a sandwich.

3. Harbor Inn Seafood Restaurant

Asheville may be inland, but North Carolina is a coastal state, and some of the best food in Asheville can be found in its seafood restaurants. Harbor Inn Seafood Restaurant is extremely affordable and serves up its seafood a number of ways: raw, broiled, fried, and as part of surf & turf plates.

4. Biscuit Head

Biscuits are a classic Southern comfort food, and it’s not hard to see why when you dive into a fresh, hot biscuit at Biscuit Head. With a handful of gravies to choose from and even a gluten-free/vegan biscuit option, Biscuit Head serves pure and simple happiness. Try the gravy flight for a taste of several house specialty sauces at once, or order a side—maybe grits, brisket, or pimento cheese—from the extensive, and inexpensive, side menu.

5. Sovereign Remedies

Sovereign Remedies is an award-winning restaurant that serves delicious foods and handcrafted cocktails using local, organic ingredients. Despite its quaint interior and inventive menu, few items exceed $20, making Sovereign Remedies a great choice among Asheville restaurants downtown. Must-try selections include the house sarsaparilla soda, a seasonal gin & tonic, and bone marrow tater tots.

6. Vortex Doughnuts

North Carolina has a deep history when it comes to doughnuts—after all, the first Krispy Kreme started in the nearby town of Winston-Salem. While you should absolutely stop by the Asheville Krispy Kreme for a fresh-off-the-belt hot doughnut, you should also try a single-shop doughnut seller like Vortex Doughnuts. This bakery serves high-quality, handmade doughnuts made from regional growers and suppliers. Classic flavors such as vanilla glazed and apple fritter are on the menu, as well as innovative flavors like sour cream cake and blackberry chocolate.

7. Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits

Looking for good places to eat in Asheville, NC when you’re in a rush? Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits is your answer. This Southern favorite was founded in North Carolina in 1977 and has grown into a substantial chain throughout the South. The menu features low-cost meals and sides, such as savory biscuit sandwiches, crispy fried chicken, and “fixin’s” like dirty rice and coleslaw.

8. Laughing Seed Café

When it comes to places to eat in Asheville, NC, many of them serve meals that are meat or flour based. Fear not, vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free gourmands! Laughing Seed Café is a vegetarian restaurant “with an international flair,” as they proudly claim. Delicious, satisfying, unique (and affordable!) dishes, safe for people with dietary restrictions, include jalapeno onion fries, Thai green curry, and even fried green tomatoes.

9. O’Charley’s of Asheville

If you’ve been searching for a spot where kids eat free in Asheville, you can stop looking. O’Charley’s, a chain restaurant, has an Asheville location where kids meals are free with the purchase of an adult entree. Children will love the chicken tenders, mini corn dogs, and cheeseburgers on their menu. Their parents will love the ribs, pasta dishes, and seasonal selections on theirs.

10. French Broad Chocolate Lounge

There’s no better way to end the day than indulging in a sumptuous, locally-made dessert, without breaking the bank. French Broad Chocolate Lounge is packed with artisanal truffles, brownies, cakes, and chocolate-based beverages. Indulge in a cup of their Liquid Truffle hot sipping chocolate (you can even add a flavor like rose or maple + smoked salt) or a rich slice of olive oil chocolate cake.

With eats for every budget, palate, and dietary need, Asheville might be your new favorite city for food tourism. But don’t leave town without exploring some of the other amazing things to do in Asheville:

Come to Asheville hungry: hungry for natural beauty, for a vibrant art and culture scene, and, most of all, for all the amazing cheap eats you’ll find in town. It’s easier than you think to experience Asheville on a budget!

Header image: Via Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com