One of the perks of living by downtown Asheville, North Carolina is that I can walk or bike into town in 10 minutes. The sleek Mission Health Hospital cafeteria in the center of town is just a minute’s walk up the hill for me, so when I was babysitting my nephew the other day I asked him if he would like to go see the MAMA helicopter land.
After watching the copter blow up dust in front of 360 blue-green mountain views, we decided to visit the hospital cafeteria for lunch, and it’s a good thing we did, because it happens to be one of the best in town.
Why I haven’t had lunch here more often is a mystery. It feels brand new with a steady flow of hospital employees, relatives, and patients, and I lucked out running into the manager who said, “I thought you were a personal shopper!” We chatted for a moment as I noted that this seemed to be a well-kept secret. He nodded.
It’s an open-choice kind of place with different stations: salad bar, burgers, Chinese, and so on. But unlike many cafeterias, there’s a subdued natural light that didn’t feel artificial and retina-blinding. Low ceilings offer an intimate feel and it’s not too noisy. We could have been in a chic college campus open food court.
I'm always on the search for a solid lunch place. Café fare is often too baked and sweet, and many lunch places can’t seem to get a simple to-go sandwich order correct. I found just about everything I needed here, from full, filling meals to lighter snacks.
In a touristy town like Asheville, where the Blue Ridge foliage, the Biltmore Mansion, and the myriad breweries attract all manner of lost out-of-town drivers, it’s a local treat to walk to get your cheeseburger — and then maybe see the helicopter take off again on your way home — even if it is at a hospital.