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Upscale stay, but missing amenities: My time at The Foundry Hotel in Asheville

Aug. 29, 2022
12 min read
exterior The Foundry Hotel
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Some of the most interesting hotels I’ve stayed in are innovative updates of existing structures that had previous lives. There was the imposing Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki — which once served as the city’s main prison — and The Murray in Hong Kong — one of the city's first skyscrapers, which housed government offices for decades before getting a stunning renovation by Foster + Partners.

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That’s why I’ve had my eye on The Foundry Hotel — an 87-room Curio Collection property in Asheville, North Carolina, that opened in 2018. The Foundry Hotel is housed in three 19th-century buildings that were once home to a major steel mill; the mill turned out the metal from which much of Asheville, as well as the nearby Biltmore Estate, was constructed.

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Workshop Lounge at the Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

When I had the opportunity to visit earlier this summer, I found the hotel's industrial heritage was still evident throughout the historic property, though guests can also count on all the modern comforts of an upscale hotel.

Getting there

The Foundry Hotel sits in a neighborhood known as The Block on the southeastern edge of Asheville’s historic city center. Ubers and Lyfts are readily available from the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Rides take about 30 minutes and cost between $35-$50 each way.

If you drive yourself, overnight parking with the ability to come and go is available for $28 per day.

Booking details

Room rates at The Foundry Hotel tend to start in the mid-$300s, though when I was looking to book in mid-July, prices were in the $550-$600 range.

SCREENSHOT/HILTON.COM

With taxes, my two-night stay would have come to just more than $1,300.

SCREENSHOT/HILTON.COM

Instead, I redeemed 85,000 Hilton Honors points per night. TPG currently values Hilton points at 0.6 cents apiece, which means I was paying closer to $510 per night. However, I had purchased Hilton Honors points for just 0.5 cents apiece during a recent sale, so my out-of-pocket cost was more like $425 per night — a significant saving.

SCREENSHOT/HILTON.COM

As a Hilton Honors Gold elite, I also received $15 per day in food and beverage credits per person … which they took quite literally. Even though my room was booked for two people and could accommodate two, I only acquired $30 total for my two-night stay.

Standout features

The Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

There’s a lot to like about The Foundry thanks to its unique setting and upmarket offerings.

  • Though just blocks from the city center, the hotel complex is a self-contained oasis with plenty of public areas for visitors to relax and soak in the history of the buildings.
  • Guest rooms are spacious and filled with light thanks to the buildings’ original features and huge windows.
  • Historical decor abounds. This includes framed newspaper clippings, old-fashioned telephones and brass cashier tills from the mill’s heyday, which you can find sprinkled throughout the property.
  • Friendly staff members offer helpful advice for visiting the town’s landmarks and goings on, along with welcome glasses of sparkling wine and complimentary bottles of water.

Drawbacks

The Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

The hotel does have a few limitations to be aware of, though.

  • Exposed brick walls and oversized beds in the guest rooms create a cozy feel, but much of the room furniture, along with some of the pieces in the public areas, feel generic at best.
  • Although the facilities are wheelchair accessible, navigating the various public areas and long corridors might present a challenge, especially if one of the elevators goes out of service, as it did during my stay.
  • Not all the hotel’s services seem to be fully functional — calls to room service went unanswered, and the front desk said that it was simply “unavailable at this time.”
  • While the menu at Benne on Eagle, the on-site restaurant, serves intriguing-sounding dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and inspired by African-American cooking traditions, the fare itself falls flat. You might want to skip it in favor of some of Asheville’s other innovative eateries.

The vibe

Pulling off of South Market Street and into The Foundry Hotel’s circular drive feels like taking a step back in time. Visitors are transported to the heady days of the late 19th century when Asheville was fast becoming one of the region’s major metropolises thanks to its mix of industry and society. The Foundry's sprawling complex of brick buildings surrounding a stately lawn and open-air terrace almost feels like a city-within-a-city.

In another echo of the Gilded Age travel that put Asheville on the map, valets spring into action to take arriving guests’ luggage and escort them up a set of stairs to the lobby. The lobby balances the historic — parquet floors and pressed-tin ceilings — with the contemporary — orb-like chandeliers and a self-serve store filled with local goodies such as multi-flavored Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn.

The mostly well-heeled guests appear to be out-of-towners here for romantic weekends and multi-day getaways with family and friends. They congregate in the sprawling Workshop Lounge and cocktail bar, or get some sun outside on the lawn.

Workshop Lounge at the Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Strolls through the public areas and hallways reveal little treasures here and there, such as an antique shopkeeper’s till as well as old-timey, camera-style wall telephones. The details contribute to a charmingly anachronistic ambiance.

The room

Guest rooms sit along lengthy, sconce-lit hallways on the upper floors.

Inside the accommodations, exposed brick walls and enormous windows (not to mention historical newspaper clippings from The Asheville Citizen and vintage prints framed on the walls) are an ever-present reminder of the structure’s heritage. Although, there are plenty of up-to-date touches such as built-in wet bars with Nespresso machines and minifridges as well as bespoke teas created for the hotel by Asheville Tea Company.

The furnishings present a bit like thrown-together Pier One offcasts. There are black-framed hanging mirrors, blockish nightstands, and minimally ornamented wooden desks and wardrobes. The beds feature curvaceous, cream-colored, tufted-leather headboards with only a red throw pillow for color. Plugs and USB ports are built into various lamps, and a 49-inch flat-screen television completes the technology suite (and unfortunately hides a panel set into the wall behind it that controls the window shades).

Bathrooms feature bright, marble-tiles with single sinks and backlit vanities. The walk-in showers offer moisturizing Acca Kappa products that are excellent for preparing for a day of exploring Asheville’s art scene or freshening up after a hike or bike ride through the surrounding mountains.

Food and drink

The Foundry Hotel has two main outlets for dining and drinking. The main restaurant, located across the lawn and driveway from the entrance, is Benne on Eagle. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with short closures between meal services.

The menu updates classic African-American dishes albeit not always successfully. Brunch specialties include a soft egg scramble with roasted mushrooms, garlic and pecorino on toast ($20); and cold-smoked fish from nearby Sunburst Trout Farms with herbed cream cheese and candied lemon over a circular fried potato cake ($23). However, the dishes felt overpriced and ultimately failed to deliver on the promise of bold flavors in interesting combinations.

So, you might want to skip to dinner. A shrimp po'boy with black garlic and lemon remoulade ($21) and catfish in tomato-Bordelaise gravy with collard green kimchi and broken rice grits ($30) sound tempting enough.

Brunch at Benne on Eagle restaurant at the Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Located in the mill’s former workshop and fittingly dubbed the Workshop Lounge, the hotel’s cocktail bar serves food and drinks mainly in the afternoon and evening, with live music some nights. Its expansive footprint accommodates a variety of self-contained seating areas, which include clusters of armchairs, sofas and sectionals.

The space also doubles as a productive road office for some guests, who trundle in with a complimentary coffee or tea from the lobby and set up their laptops for a quick work session at the rough-hewn wooden communal table with built-in plugs.

Those here for libations can enjoy specialties ranging from $12 to $15; one highlight is a smoky Fashion Isn't New cocktail of Old Forester bourbon, demerara sugar, angostura bitters and a waft of smoke.

As noted above, the hotel advertises room service, but it does not seem to be available. An in-room menu mentioned options like a cheese and charcuterie board ($28) and a plate of fruit and berries ($18), among the limited choices.

Room service menu at the Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, a small store next to the reception desk sells various Asheville-themed souvenirs (stickers, cards and art prints) and apparel. Plus, it offers gourmet snacks and candy as well as soft drinks, water and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Amenities and service

The hotel gym sits one level down from reception and, though not large, it does contain cardio equipment including Peloton bikes and treadmills. There are also racks of free weights and a Precor weight machine for various arm exercises.

Aside from the disappointing room service call, the rest of the service experience was friendly and diligent. Check-in took mere moments with a courteous agent who outlined my Hilton Honors Gold elite benefits, and any time I requested housekeeping, it was complete within an hour.

The folks behind the bar at the Workshop Lounge were only too happy to debate the merits of various cocktails as I weighed my options. The waitstaff at Benne on Eagle was equally accommodating, walking me through the brunch dishes on the menu and stopping by frequently to check whether I needed more coffee or water. In short, I experienced Southern hospitality at its best.

Out and about

One of the selling points of The Foundry is it puts guests close to the heart of the action in Asheville. PennyCup, a popular coffee shop in Asheville, is right outside the main entrance; another block’s walk brings you to bustling Biltmore Avenue, which is lined with galleries, shops, restaurants and bars — including the high-end but downhome Japanese-inspired eatery, Ukiah.

Along the way, there's even a small park where folks can bring their dogs to play. Continue south and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by some excellent barbecue joints, including Buxton Hall, housed in a former roller rink.

A park near the Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Head north toward Patton Avenue instead, and spend some time perusing the exhibits at the Asheville Art Museum. From there, it’s an easy amble along Broadway Street to plenty of other restaurants and cafes. Or, you could venture east on Patton to check out the relatively new food hall in the S&W Building.

The Asheville Art Museum. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

If you want to venture farther afield, you can visit the galleries of Asheville’s Arts River District, or head to the baronial Biltmore Estate for a better understanding of the grand home that put Asheville on the map.

Accessibility

The Foundry Hotel has wheelchair-accessible rooms, hallways and elevators as well as clearly marked accessibility routes.

The Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

That said, if you are in a wheelchair, you’ll have to exit your vehicle on the gym level (where the parking lot is anyway) and then take the elevator up to reception and the guest rooms. From the lobby, you would need to travel the length of the Workshop Lounge to a door that has a ramp nearby and then down to the driveway from there.

The Foundry Hotel Asheville. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

The hotel has other standard accessibility features such as braille signs and elevator buttons, visual alarms, audible alarms and audible alerts in the elevators.

Checking out

Located in a historic steel mill, the Foundry Hotel is one of Asheville’s more interesting accommodations, especially if you’re looking for an upscale getaway right in the heart of the city rather than out toward the Biltmore Estate. That said, the hotel is not as luxurious as its price point would suggest, lacking some basic amenities such as room service. Some decor choices seem quirky rather than wholly unique.

If it lies within your budget, the Foundry Hotel is worth a stay, though if it’s a stretch, it might be better to look elsewhere and just come for a cocktail at Workshop Lounge.

Featured image by (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases