Elevate Your Palate in Jackson County

Bacon-wrapped filet mignon, fried Apalachicola oysters, maple bourbon-brined pork chops, jerk chicken and homemade berry pie—is your mouth watering yet? Food is one of the best parts of any vacation, and in the mountain towns that make up Jackson County, the restaurants make as much of a lasting impression as the towering mountain landscapes that surround you. Enjoy big flavors with a small-town vibe at some of these buzzworthy dining spots.

In Cashiers, find pretty porches, apple orchards and country dining. Cornucopia is consistently named as one of the best porches in Cashiers, with a covered dining area that is comfortable no matter the weather, with fans or heaters to please guests. The property has been integral in the Cashiers community since the late 1800s,when it was a general store, school, and post office. The property’s first use as a restaurant was in 1971, where it was an outdoor-style deli restaurant. Cornucopia a casual spot to stop for lunch, or visitors can stop by for the more formal Sunday brunch or dinner. Cornucopia, like the name suggests, features a variety of dishes, tempting to any palate. Locals can’t get enough of the Arabian club, the black bean burger, or the chicken mandarin salad for lunch. At dinner, try an entrée with some local flair, like smoked trout with Sunburst Farms trout or Southern-fried Ashley Farms chicken. (www.cornucopianc.com)

Canyon Kitchen is not to be missed, as it is known as the finest dining in Jackson County. True to its history and agrarian roots, Lonesome Valley’s Canyon Kitchen offers a humble yet extraordinary connection to food, where ingredients are sourced from local and regional farms. Executive Chef Adam Hayes is at the helm of this award winning restaurant. James Beard Award winner John Fleer was the founding chef and ran the kitchen until early 2015 when Hayes was tapped to take over. “My family wanted to be back in the mountains and Canyon Kitchen was a dream job for me,” said Chef Hayes. “It has a great history and I am proud to help push the envelope of what can be done here.” Chef Hayes and the Canyon Kitchen culinary team will return to the James Beard House for a dinner highlighting the ingredients of Western North Carolina in November 2016. “We are excited to return to New York to showcase some of the ingredients we have been growing at Lonesome Valley all year” remarked Chef Hayes. The diverse prix fixe menu at Canyon Kitchen changes weekly based on seasonal ingredients, but you can expect a rich combination of garden goodness and innovative nouveau-southern tradition. Snag a reservation here from May through October and admire the incredible views of Cow Rock and Laurel Knob at Lonesome Valley, known as the largest box canyon east of the Rockies. (www.lonesomevalley.com/canyonkitchen)

A popular destination since 2000, The Orchard is another of the county’s higher-end dining restaurants and event spaces. Set in a 100-year-old farmhouse, the dining ambiance reflects rustic elegance with mountain charm, and features several historical artifacts on display. In cooler temperatures, dine outside on the porch or patio for a view of the apple orchard, lawn and gardens. From trout almondine to bacon-wrapped filet and lamb chops flambeau, The Orchard’s extensive menu touches on American cuisine with Southern flavor. Pair any dish with a bottle from the cellar, which heavily focuses on New World and California wine regions. Note that reservations are required. (www.theorchardcashiers.com)

Randevu is known as “the place to meet in Cashiers.” Its bright red exterior welcomes you into the casual and relaxed space. The bistro-type menu features omelets, waffles and eggs benedict for breakfast, burgers and sandwiches for lunch, and an array of specialty dishes for dinner. Owner Chris McDonald comes from a long line of bakers and chefs, and adds his 30 years of restaurant experience to Randevu. The menu pleases any palate—with bone-in ribeye steaks and lobster tails appealing to the rich appetites, and Gulf red snapper, chicken piccata or black bean burger wraps for a lighter option. (www.randevunc.com)

In Sylva, find the oldest spot in town, locally-sourced food and international flavors. Jackson County’s oldest restaurant has a simple name: The Coffee Shop. For less than $10, you’ll enjoy home-cooked meals in a small-town diner atmosphere. The Coffee Shop opened in 1926, and its menu hasn’t changed much. No matter the meal, the food is served in hearty portions, like biscuits and gravy for breakfast, burgers for lunch, and sweet, crusty pies for dessert. At any given time, you’ll find locals stopping in, and they boast that no matter how many years go by, The Coffee Shop is like a step back in time.

One of the most popular spots in Sylva, rated highly as one of the top restaurants on TripAdvisor, is Lulu’s on Main. The edgy, retro atmosphere is tied together with local art displayed on the wall.See a piece you like? Buy it! Chef Devin McCardle helms the kitchen, and his French culinary training influences the menu, which feature a range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items to suite special diets, in addition to certified hormone-free, humanely raised proteins and fresh North Carolina seafood. Beer lovers will be surprised to find that even in this small-town restaurant, the chef can expertly pair beer dinners with Jackson County’s local Innovation Brewing beers. Make a note to arrive early for dinner, especially on weekends, as Lulu’s popularity shows in the crowds that flock to eat here. (www.lulusonmain.com)

Guadalupe Café opened in 2003, taking over the former home of Hooper’s Drug Store. A piece of the past is still present, where the décor features the checkered floor, antique red bar-stools and the vintage soda fountain. However, the space was transformed, replacing the hot dogs and milkshakes with Caribbean-inspired fusion cuisine, a diverse selection of wines from Spain and Latin-America and micro-brewed beers. Consider this spot a farm-to-table tropical fusion eatery, where most ingredients are organic, fair- trade, and/or natural. Vegetarians have plenty of options, from fried tofu, build-your-own tacos, and blackened plantain bowls, but meat-eaters will have their fair share of options with jerk chicken, BLT rolls, and even curried goat. Guadalupe Café is a little taste of tropical paradise in the mountains. (www.guadalupecafe.com)