A growing trend, food travel is becoming increasingly popular as travelers seek out the tastiest eateries and dishes across the country. In the towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva, which make up Jackson County, you’ll find a true haven for all things delicious, making it the ideal spot for a culinary adventure. From barbecue to fresh farm-to-table cuisine to handmade chocolates, Jackson County has everything needed for a foodie’s perfect getaway.
Proving that food really is the way to a person’s heart, a recent survey showed that dining at unique non-chain restaurants was the No. 1 activity people said they loved doing while in Jackson County. People value exclusive cuisine you can’t try anywhere else, and, with locally sourced ingredients from area farms, Jackson County is chock-full of options for every palate. Top it all off where every hour is ‘happy hour’ and enjoy our award-winning craft beer along the Jackson County Ale Trail and cocktail lounges. Visitors can find the perfect hand-crafted pairing for every meal.
Where to Go
Plenty of locally loved, award-winning restaurants are found throughout the county. While just a start, the restaurants below can serve as the perfect starter guide on where to dine and what to order when visiting.
Ilda is quickly becoming a staple of Sylva’s dining scene. Opening its doors in 2021, the husband-and-wife team of Michelin-trained Chef Santiago Guzzetti and Sommelier Crystal Pace, brought their love of food and wine to this now popular restaurant. Recently named Eater Carolinas ‘Mountain Restaurant of the Year’, Ilda combines traditional Italian recipes with locally-sourced Appalachian ingredients. Winter hours through Spring are Thursday – Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m; reservations are recommended at ildainsylva.com.
Named Southern Living’s “Favorite Restaurant in the Region,” Lulu’s on Main specializes in items that are both certified hormone-free and humanely raised. To dine like area residents, start with the Szechuan salad and the salmon, then wrap up the meal with the delectable peanut butter pie.
Rated by Gourmet magazine as one of “America’s Best Farm to Table Restaurants,” Guadalupe Café blends Mexican-style farm-to-table cuisine with tropical delights to create entrees such as red curry shrimp, blackened plantains, and mango pork tacos. You’ll always enjoy fresh ingredients from local sources in a cozy laid back atmosphere.
Opened in 1926, The Coffee Shop is a local favorite serving up comfort food and Southern staples. In fact, The Coffee Shop is the oldest county restaurant, and if you want to live like a resident, fuel up with the biscuits and gravy, or the gypsy omelet before setting out on your adventure. Don’t forget to take along a piece of their famous pie for later!
Lucy in the Rye serves up the perfect brunch to help you start your day off right. Located in a cozy spot on Main Street, this local favorite serves up scratch-made baked goods and chef-inspired original dishes all made to order. Favorites include one of the best burgers in town, the Bacon Jam Burger, fluffy Belgian Waffles, and Florentine Benedict.
Named one of Yelp’s “Top 100 places to eat in the U.S. in 2019,” Haywood Smokehouse serves up beef brisket, barbeque ribs and a delectable Sweet Ketchup sauce. You can even grab a bottle to take home with you. Don’t miss this BBQ mecca when visiting the NC Mountains!
Touting a menu of world cuisine with a Southern twist, Foragers Canteen focuses on “farm-to-fork” offerings that result in a menu that changes with the seasons to ensure the freshest ingredients. Think double-cut pork chops, golden-fried, wild-caught Atlantic cod, smoke gouda cheese grits and maple balsamic Brussels sprouts.
Food, brews, live music, and entertainment are always on tap at Rivers & Rails Tavern. Chef Craig Szymanski brings his New York chef experience, love of food, and knowledge of coast-to-coast cuisine adding to Dillsboro’s thriving culinary scene.
For 15 years, Jackson County residents and visitors alike have headed to The Orchard for seasonal menus overflowing with farm-to-table choices like Carolina quail sliders, Continental Divide trout, Dark Cove Garden risotto and Hawkin’s venison filet.
Known as Cashiers’ favorite porch, Cornucopia Restaurant lives up to its name by featuring a varied menu of favorites loved by the residents of Jackson County. Open seasonally, this popular dining spot offers a range of dishes diners can enjoy from the Arabian Club and Black Bean Burger to the Southern-Fried Chicken and “Wade Hampton’s Downfall”.
Michelin Star-Trained chef Johannes Klapdohr brings decades of experience, sustainable practices, and local ingredients to The Library Kitchen + Bar. Located in Sapphire, just a short drive from Cashiers, this iconic restaurant is in what was formerly, you guessed it, an old library. The structure is the oldest building in Sapphire Valley built in 1864 and was once part of a working farm. Since undergoing a full renovation in 2016, the bright ambiance of the restaurant mirrors the flavors of Chef Johannes’ vibrant menu and crafty cocktails.
One of the most exclusive fine dining experiences on the ‘Plateau’ requires reservations… room reservations, that is. High Hampton offers an unparalleled experience including a scenic Tom Fazio golf course, five racquet courts, 15-miles of hiking trails, a 15-acre private lake, and of course, top-notch high-country cuisine. Visitors will have full access to the Club and the Inn restaurants including The Dining Room, The Tavern, Halsted House, Range House, and Mitch’s Lakeside.
Every community has a favorite pizza place. For Cashiers, that pizzeria is Slab Town Pizza. Start with town favorite Schrute Farms Beet Salad, before moving on to the Duke Pizza. This must-try pie is loaded with Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ricotta, grandé mozzarella and red sauce. Afterwards, head next door to Crossroad Custard & Cold Brew to top it off with some delicious Ice Cream.
For Your Sweet Tooth
Speaking of Ice Cream, be sure to leave room for dessert! Jackson County is home to a number of chocolatiers, bakeries and ice cream spots sure to satisfy even the strongest sweet tooth. For instance, choose from an assortment of decadent chocolates at Baxley’s Chocolate in Sylva or Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. Take it a step further and indulge in a chocolate pairing with Innovation Brewing at both of these sweet spots.
Named by Our State as one of their “favorite ice cream shops in North Carolina,” Jack the Dipper is home to the made-to-order vanilla warm waffle cone. In addition to your favorite ice cream flavors, try a sundae, shake, malt, shaved ice or banana split.
Plan Your Trip
With so many dining options to choose from, there is something for every palate in Jackson County. Most of our restaurants offer takeout options, meaning you can dine-in or enjoy your food with a scenic mountain sunset – no fast food required. Many of the area’s restaurants open seasonally or have seasonal hours, so be sure to check online or give the restaurant a quick call before paying these exceptional eateries a visit.
In Jackson County, you’ll find many accommodations within walking distance of the best restaurants in the area, so you can walk off your dinner and dessert – or walk to get more if you please! Download your visitor’s guide today to plan your visit.