photograph by Tim Robison

Above: At The Speckled Trout, a combination restaurant/bottle shop, beers and wines are carefully selected to pair with Appalachian-inspired dishes like blackened mountain trout and Gouda grits and soup beans — black-eyed peas and kale in ham hock stock, served with hoecakes and molasses butter.

The Speckled Trout
922 Main Street
Blowing Rock, NC 28605

(828) 295-9819
thespeckledtrout.com

 

Yonder
FRANKLIN

Hannah and Alan Edwards couldn’t shake the feeling that people, in general, are out of sync with nature, detached from the source of their food. Opening Yonder was a way of changing their corner of the world: Most of their ingredients come from Macon County, from farmers they know, and Hannah cooks everything. (Except the French toast, Alan’s specialty.) Their ideas are big, but far from new. “When you give people a meal, they say, ‘Oh, I remember when food used to be like this,’” Hannah says. “They can remember when food was grown in their garden and cooked with real butter. All of these things are familiar to people because it wasn’t that long ago that people knew how to eat.” That sense of familiarity includes the honky-tonk music and Western films playing behind the bar — a tribute to Hannah’s granny, whose last name was Outlaw, and whose biscuit recipe is the one that Hannah uses today. “Yonder’s deep,” Hannah says. “We’re not just slinging food — it’s a magical place.”

2720 Georgia Road
Franklin, NC 2873
(828) 369-6007
facebook.com/realfolksrealfood

A true classic — like the basic breakfast plate at Yonder — needs no introduction. But you’ll definitely want details on the Southern Benedict (opposite): country ham, local greens, smoky bacon gravy, and a sunny-side-up egg on a scratch biscuit.

A true classic — like the basic breakfast plate at Yonder — needs no introduction. But you’ll definitely want details on the Southern Benedict: country ham, local greens, smoky bacon gravy, and a sunny-side-up egg on a scratch biscuit. photograph by Tim Robison

 

Button & Co. Bagels
ASHEVILLE

A Katie Button bagel is not just a North Carolina bagel — it’s a southern Appalachian bagel, which may seem like a contradiction for a food item more commonly associated with New York City. But Button, a James Beard Award-nominated chef who grew up in New Jersey, had a vision to merge the two food cultures. In 2018, she opened Button & Co. Bagels on a quiet stretch of Lexington Avenue, behind her acclaimed Spanish tapas restaurant, Cúrate. Button infuses her bagels with mountain flavors on an elemental level: The dough is made with flour from Asheville’s Carolina Ground. The cream cheese spread comes from Three Graces Dairy in Marshall. Add figs and sorghum, and — voilà! A North Carolina take on classic cinnamon-raisin.

32 South Lexington Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 630-0330
katiebuttonrestaurants.com/button-co-bagels

North Carolina meets New York at Katie Button’s bagel shop. Try the “Sweet Appalachia” — jam and cream cheese on a fig-and-sorghum bagel — or an everything bagel with ramp cream cheese.

North Carolina meets New York at Katie Button’s bagel shop. Try an everything bagel with ramp cream cheese. photograph by Tim Robison

 

Birchwood Hall
WAYNESVILLE

Growing up in Fairview, Chef Nicolas Peek recalls, there was always something that needed doing at home or on his grandpa’s farm. When he and his siblings saw a pail of green beans sitting on the porch, “we knew a chore was coming.” In the kitchen of his own restaurant, Birchwood Hall, tasks like snapping green beans feel a lot more fun. Every delivery from a local farmer is exciting, an opportunity to combine farm roots and fine-dining techniques. “We’re cooking what’s around us. Taking our past and upgrading it a bit,” he says. “A lot of the menu has family history in it.” Like “Dad’s Tomato Pie”: Peek’s version has diced tomatoes, like his dad’s, plus chowchow, fresh herbs, and Parmesan. “We’re taking his idea and making it fit our style. It’s got his stamp of approval.”

111 North Main Street
Waynesville, NC 28786
(828) 246-6111
birchwoodhall.com

Clockwise from top: Cheddar spoon bread with house-cured bacon; grilled pork chop, field pea ragout, and sautéed kale with Cheerwine redeye gravy; pork belly and grits with a bourbon-sorghum glaze and popped sorghum grain.

Clockwise from top: Cheddar spoon bread with house-cured bacon; grilled pork chop, field pea ragout, and sautéed kale with Cheerwine redeye gravy; pork belly and grits with a bourbon-sorghum glaze and popped sorghum grain. photograph by Tim Robison

 

The Log Cabin
HIGHLANDS

High on a hill and tucked in the trees is a point of pride in this mountain town: a restaurant housed in a century-old log cabin. In the 1920s and ’30s, builder Joe Webb pieced together some three dozen of these cabins using local materials and hand tools. When Jason Cancilla bought the restaurant five years ago, the power of its past wasn’t lost on him. “I’m a curator of something super special that’s been here a long time,” he says. “I think it’s important to the local people that someone is taking care.” He and Chef Jeremy Skipper create a new menu every day, depending on the game, seafood, and produce that’s available, and the dishes fall somewhere between familiar and adventurous. “I don’t want anything on the menu that people couldn’t cook at home,” Cancilla says. “It’s just something simple and comforting — but this will be the best pork chop you’ve had all year.”

130 Log Cabin Lane
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-5777
logcabinhighlands.com

Clockwise from top: Roma tomato and herb focaccia bread; roasted pheasant with broccolini, saffron risotto, and mint chimichurri; bacon-wrapped grilled quail with cilantro-lime barbecue sauce.

Clockwise from top: Roma tomato and herb focaccia bread; roasted pheasant with broccolini, saffron risotto, and mint chimichurri; bacon-wrapped grilled quail with cilantro-lime barbecue sauce. photograph by Tim Robison

 

Smokey Mountain Diner
HOT SPRINGS

In Madison County, up near the Tennessee state line, the Appalachian Trail runs right through the town of Hot Springs. Hikers walk out of the woods and up the street to Genia Hayes Peterson’s restaurant, to the delight of everyone who works there. “My girls so look forward to it because they love to hear the stories,” Peterson says. “And to see how much they can eat.” Peterson grew up helping her father with his wood ministry — which, in turn, inspired a passion for looking after her community, something she’s been doing at the restaurant for more than 25 years now. “It’s a family place,” she says. “Anything from a daycare center to a nursing home.” She’s introduced some healthy changes to the menu, but the recipes, at their heart, are still old-fashioned home cooking: Many have been handed down through generations, especially from Peterson’s great-grandmother. “She was a wonderful cook,” Peterson says. “She could make something from nothing.” Most famous is her spicy-sweet pepper relish, passed on with a winking warning: “It’ll set your fields afire.”

70 Lance Avenue
Hot Springs, NC 28743
(828) 622-7571
facebook.com/smokymountaindiner

One of the most popular dishes at Genia Hayes Peterson’s diner is the “Poorman’s Supper”: pinto beans, cornbread, coleslaw, and potato cakes, crowned with spicy pepper relish.

One of the most popular dishes at Smokey Mountain Diner is the “Poorman’s Supper”: pinto beans, cornbread, coleslaw, and potato cakes, crowned with spicy pepper relish. photograph by Tim Robison

 

Old North State Winery
MOUNT AIRY

For Chef Chris Wishart, cooking in the foothills is the best of both worlds: “We’re part of the mountains and the Triad,” he says. “Our identity is wrapped up in that.” The dishes he’s most proud of are a journey across the state — like Harkers Island oysters (above), prepared with caviar from Lenoir, a quail egg yolk from Pinnacle, and dill flowers grown in Mount Airy. Wishart gets a special opportunity to shine a light on these local ingredients every Friday and Saturday, when he prepares eight-course “Chef’s Table” meals right in front of his guests, discussing farms and food philosophies as he cooks. It’s been thrilling, he says, to bend the rules he learned under the strict French chefs of his early career. “When you don’t have to answer to that anymore, you can apply those techniques to collard greens and beets,” he says. “You don’t have to sacrifice creativity to use what’s in your backyard.”

308 North Main Street
Mount Airy, NC 27030
(336) 789-9463
oldnorthstatewinery.com

Clockwise from left: Harkers Island oyster; lobster dumplings with sea scallop, morels, and nasturtiums; shoulder tender, roasted grapes, grape puree, and pea shoots; terrine of foraged chanterelles, haricots verts, and fennel.

Clockwise from left: Harkers Island oyster; lobster dumplings with sea scallop, morels, and nasturtiums; shoulder tender, roasted grapes, grape puree, and pea shoots; terrine of foraged chanterelles, haricots verts, and fennel. photograph by Tim Robison

 

Grandad’s Apples
HENDERSONVILLE

Honeycrisp, Leslie Lancaster says, changed everything. Her husband, Pat, a fourth-generation apple farmer, is an avid student of new varieties, and when he introduced sweet-tart Honeycrisp 20 years ago, the Lancasters’ orchard really began to blossom. Once, this land with the gorgeous mountain views was Pat’s grandad’s homestead. Pat and Leslie started their orchard business in 1994, and have since added a corn maze, a “cow train,” and a pumpkin patch. “We want kids to remember this experience, coming to the farm with their parents,” Leslie says. A day of apple picking begins and ends with a stroll through the bakery inside Grandad’s barn — and the scent memory of those cider doughnuts may linger longest.

2951 Chimney Rock Road
Hendersonville, NC 28792
(828) 685-1685
grandadsapples.com

“We do everything apple,” Leslie Lancaster says. That means, among other things, apple pie, apple turnovers, apple dumplings, and apple cider doughnuts. “If it can’t be put into a pie or a sauce, it’s going into cider.”

“We do everything apple,” Leslie Lancaster says. That means, among other things, apple pie, apple turnovers, apple dumplings, and apple cider doughnuts. “If it can’t be put into a pie or a sauce, it’s going into cider.” photograph by Tim Robison

This story was published on

Saintsing is an associate editor at Our State magazine and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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