Stepping through the security checkpoint at Asheville Regional Airport now not only means you’re that much closer to boarding your flight, but you’re also about twenty five steps from an incredible new restaurant, bar, and gift shop that opened just today at AVL. We knew this was going to be one of the most exciting airport enhancements in recent years, but as passengers and airport employees milled about the Blue Ridge Trading + Tavern in the post-security atrium this morning, the excitement was almost as tangible as the chocolate croissants in the bakery case. Or the Asheville apparel on the sale table. Or the 80+ magazine varieties spread out on the newsstand racks. You get the idea. And while the lattes could give any coffee shop a run for their money, and the lightweight travel duffels on sale for six to fifteen bucks are irresistible (one person was seen buying three of them), it’s really the variety of choices that have us all abuzz. Three paragraphs and we haven’t even touched on the bar and restaurant! The menu for the Blue Ridge Tavern features the work of a local chef; you may know him—Anthony Cerrato of Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana in downtown Asheville. The food—everything from sandwiches and salads to burgers and fried green tomatoes—is already receiving rave reviews, and you can pair your meal with a locally brewed beer, including selections from Asheville Brewing Co., French Broad Brewing Co., Highland Brewing Co., and Green Man Ales. Domestic and imported beer, wine, and mixed drinks are also available at the bar (which, if you haven’t heard, has a great wide-angle-lens view of the runway). Just as important as what’s on your plate is the atmosphere in which you’ll be enjoying your menu picks. A picture is worth a thousand words (see the snapshot below), but suffice it to say the combination of soothing earth tones, natural rock pillars, and overall upscale feel just might make you forget you’re in an airport at all. Good thing those final boarding calls can be heard in the Blue Ridge Tavern.