We found ourselves in Highlands, NC for a wedding of a close friend. Since we lived in Charlotte, NC for years, we thought we knew about the mountains. We’d hiked Grandfather Mountain in Blowing Rock and drank all the beers in Asheville. Highlands was something different though.
Smaller, further from everything, Highlands has a main street of shops with only a few retail names you would know. There is this distinct feeling Highlands isn’t going to roll out the red carpet for the out-of-towners. I loved it – just the right amount of Southern Hospitality. The place is an escape and they are doing a beautiful job of preserving that quality. There are still locals, there are seasonal homeowners, and the drop-in tourists who have proven themselves by making the 90-minute drive from any major airport. We were really impressed by the quality of food for such a small town. We ate and drank wonderfully all weekend long. This little town tucked away in the western corner of North Carolina was worth the (very scenic) drive, especially this time of year.
HOW WE GRUBBED:
Bake My Day
An unassuming “Whattayahavin’ little lady” type of place. Coffee is served in styrofoam cups but the biscuits are homemade. All the syrup is the real stuff that actually came from a tree, and I was the only customer that morning who didn’t know the waitress by name.
Buck’s Coffee Café
This place was our coffee haven for the weekend. Exactly what I wanted in a small-town coffee joint. The locals are discussing local things in mountain clothes and southern accents. The staff is super friendly and I’m pretty sure the owner never leaves. The best part – the coffee. It was freakin delicious – pulled espressos, fancy drinks, whatever you want. They’re selling local fine art along with local free range eggs from the same counter. Great find on the main drag.
Wild Thyme Café
We came here for a relaxing lunch. I had a glass of bubbly and this beautiful open-faced goat cheese sandwich. It was topped with fig preserves and pecans and came with a side of sweet acid-y wild rice salad. Everything on the menu looked like a win.
Mountain Fresh Grocery
Grab a basket and choose from about a dozen counters of amazing eats. They have a full restaurant where you order at the counter. Another counter was self-serve blueberry cobbler and banana pudding. Basically this is all you need to know about this place. Just go.
We went for the biscuits and gravy – the biscuits are organic and the sausage gravy is spicy. So southern and so good.
Old Edwards Inn – Wine Garden
This hospitality group owns a handful of properties around town. Beautiful properties and all the food hit the mark. We couldn’t get into the main restaurant, so we ate outside in the wine garden. Delicious meal all around. We ordered this goat cheese tart with rhubarb preserves. (Yes, I consumed about a pound of goat cheese that weekend. Stop judging.) The tart was listed as a shareable appetizer, but we went for it as a dessert. Very comfortable with that choice.
The Farm at Old Edwards
As it were, I was a wedding and event planner professionally for a few years. I loved it and still help with friend and family events. That fact paired with the sheer number of weddings Dan and I have been to – across the country and the world – means we are super judgmental about weddings. (Yes, even more judgmental than we are normally.) This place was an absolute DREAM as a guest. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the bride about the planning experience, but if there were any hiccups, we had no idea. The wedding took place in an actual orchard. We were outside on benches in the fall haze peeking through knobby branches to the watch the happy couple. The cocktail hour that followed had the tallest heaping raw bar I’ve ever seen. I’m allergic to shellfish so I just stalked from a healthy distance with my camera of course.
From there we entered the most beautiful lodge with long wood farm tables and huge roaring fireplaces. Great dance floor, endless configuration possibilities, and cozy little corners to explore. This property is the kind of place where you could have 50 people or 500 and everyone would be comfortable. Turns out all the huge floor to ceiling windows retract to make it more of an indoor-outdoor venue if you want.
The food was absolutely delicious – duck and gorgeous fish and biscuits and cornbread and beautiful sides. Nothing about it was hotel food. Rightfully so, I was too busy dancing, drinking, and stuffing my face to take too many pictures. The point is – don’t pass up the chance to go here if invited. It will be one to remember.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The whole town is walkable and tucked into the hills. The only reason anyone was in heels was for the wedding.
There is one regular grocery store in town, not walkable and tucked up into a corner of town. Don’t expect any frills, but they have whatever you forgot to pack.
Bring good walking shoes. There are great waterfall hikes that just require a good pair of sneakers. There are of course bigger hikes requiring the real gear.
Typical of small-town North Carolina, the one bar in town is closed on Sundays. It’s not a bad idea to have a stock in your room for late nights and Sunday mornings.
There are more churches per capita in this town than in Italy. (That is not a verified fact but it sure felt like it.) If you are walking around town on Sunday morning, and you don’t look like you just attended said church, you should be prepared for looks of judgment – you sinner.
If you ever find yourself in this corner of the world, we hope you soak up every last drop of peppery sausage gravy.
We showed you ours, now show us yours. Tag your foodie travels @properlyforked OR #properly forked
All listed establishments tested by Properly Forked.