The recommended maximum on some tiki drinks is two and that's really all you need to know.
Downtown Asheville can be a difficult spot to seek out a nice, dusty dive bar as the city has exploded with upscale dining and drinking options. Swanky cocktail bars exist about every other storefront in the heart of the city’s small urban core, but there are a handful of exceptions, Asheville Yacht Club one of the starkest. Hidden away down one of the downtown area’s side streets lies this divey tiki hut complete with fantastically potent drink options.
Opened in 2007, Asheville Yacht Club is young as far as dive bars go, but the vibe is well crafted and a welcome change from some of the other nearby options. As with many downtown bars, the reasonable Asheville weather means large open windows and a short patio with simple drink rail to give the feeling of Asheville Yacht Club drinking spilling out onto the sidewalk. On weekend evenings, this is a packed outdoor area without a ton of actual square footage, sometimes creating an intimidating exterior look despite a little wiggle room inside.
The party starts inside, where an abundance of Christmas lights has created a kind of dive bar glow difficult to recreate any other way. It should come as no surprise that photos taken inside inevitably look like they’ve been dipped in daquiri given the pervasiveness of multi-colored string lights throughout the space. The Yacht Club theme is robust here, every available square inch occupied by something vaguely nautical. Pufferfish, spiders, fish skeletons, and that’s just the first ledge over the bar closest to the front door.
The surfaces here are wood, brick and then more brick and then some additional wood. Behind the bar that runs along Asheville Yacht Club’s righthand wall, thick wood shelving houses the bar’s liquor and provides a platform for all manner of knick knack. Bowling pins, painted skulls and a large Easter Island statue can be found here, enough visual stimulation to last at least a drink or two while sitting at the bar. A selection of glassware sits on a wood slat that hangs over the bar, yet another well-decorated surface home to another raft of ambiance-aiding items.
Booths run opposite the bar providing a bit of secluded drinking during times when the Asheville dive bar isn’t completely slammed (try a little day drinking). Tiki-themed statues serve as the pillars separating each booth, all of it capped with corrugated metal roofing that again plays well into the theme Bingo card adhered to by Asheville Yacht Club.
With a tiki theme comes tiki drinks, the selection extensive here though some of it requires a little bit of prior knowledge during heavy activity times when the bartenders aren’t flush with time to explain them all. Sitting at the bar and witnessing tiki drink after tiki drink dispensed, know that these are strong, layered drinks in the tiki style where moderation isn’t just recommended but probably a requirement to make it home. One remedy comes in the form of late night food available until midnight on weeknights and 1 AM on weekends, a simple selection best used as either foundation for or panicked response to an evening of drinking.
And for those uninitiated to North Carolina drinking regulations, bear in mind that all bars require a membership be paid, typically a $1 fee good for multi-year access to that particular bar. What looks like a cover at first glance is actually a quirk of North Carolina law and no reason to seek drinking elsewhere as all bars follow the same guidelines (and use the same technology to regulate entry).
After a heavy meal at one of Asheville’s great downtown restaurants, Asheville Yacht Club is the spot to settle the stomach. Stiff drinks, good vibe, tiki theme, enough to look as you coast into the evening, maybe a taco to cap everything off, among drinking options in the city’s urban center, Asheville Yacht Club serves a much needed and much appreciated purpose.