A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Welcome to the “Biggest Little Town on Earth,” as the Mebane locals like to say. Here, the motto is “Positively Charming,” and for good reason: A sign on a coffee

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Welcome to the “Biggest Little Town on Earth,” as the Mebane locals like to say. Here, the motto is “Positively Charming,” and for good reason: A sign on a coffee

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Welcome to the “Biggest Little Town on Earth,” as the Mebane locals like to say. Here, the motto is “Positively Charming,” and for good reason: A sign on a coffee

A Daytrip to Downtown Mebane

Welcome to the “Biggest Little Town on Earth,” as the Mebane locals like to say. Here, the motto is “Positively Charming,” and for good reason: A sign on a coffee shop on downtown’s Clay Street says GOOD PEOPLE, a mural celebrates dreamers, and church steeples punctuate the low skyline. Beyond the fortress of outlets on the highway, the town of Mebane tucks its locally owned stores, cafes, and restaurants into a positively charming downtown.

Mebane’s pleasures reach outward from its center like gentle hands, offering joys from the natural world, too. Ready to explore? Read on for our favorite way to spend a day here, from sunrise to sunset.



Filament Coffee & Tea

Filament Coffee & Tea on Clay Street is the perfect place to spend your morning. Here, you can sip one of more than 20 fair trade and organic teas or locally sourced coffees while you chat with friends, read a novel, or people-watch. “At Filament, it’s more that we are all family here, whether we’ve met you or not,” says barista Makayla Parker. “We want everyone to feel welcome.” Settle into one of the shop’s velvet chairs or take your perch at a sidewalk table. And don’t leave without browsing the gifts and handmade essentials, from jewelry to locally made drink mixers.

At Filament Coffee & Tea, you can sip one of more than 20 fair trade and organic teas or locally sourced coffees while you chat with friends, read a novel, or people-watch. photograph by Filament Coffee & Tea

 

Curious Peddler

It only takes a few steps into the Curious Peddler, housed in an historic 1920s building on Clay Street, to see why people come from far and wide to check out their selection of Craftique furniture. “Craftique was actually built just a mile down the road in Mebane,” explains owner Teresa Dallas. “It’s the best mahogany to enter the U.S. The company closed its doors in 1989, and today, The Curious Peddler is the last showroom anywhere in the world.”

Dallas also carries the Gat Creek line, which she believes has a similar philosophy: “Start with the best wood to get the best furniture.” Alongside Craftique and Gat Creek furniture, The Curious Peddler sells estate jewelry and unique gifts — like a lamp made out of an Elk leg. “If you want something special that you won’t see at your neighbor’s house down the street,” Dallas says, “come see us.”

 

2 Twelve Seasonal Kitchen & Bar

Everybody knows your name — or they will soon — at this Mebane restaurant that at once feels cozy and upscale. Take a seat at the beautiful granite bar and order a Crantini cocktail and an appetizer — owner Will Davis recommends the pimento cheese hushpuppies served with jalapeño jelly and bacon jam. From fresh salads to mouthwatering burgers to inventive entrées, like the shellfish and grits with a smoked Gouda cream, 2 Twelve’s menu offers a little bit of everything. But don’t skip dessert: their chocolate crème brûlée is sweet perfection.

 

The Go Girl Shoppe

The name of Meghan Wagner and Anthony Santucci’s gift shop was inspired by its first home: a 1976 Shasta Camper. “We were always on the go!” Wagner says. In 2019, The Go Girl Shoppe outgrew the camper, settling into its permanent home on the corner of Clay and North Third streets in downtown Mebane. “We decided to come here because Mebane has its own unique charm and personality,” Wagner says. “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘up and coming’ because it’s always been quaint and charming, but people are starting to discover us.”

From home decor like colorful pillows (Wagner’s partial to the one that says “Someone in Mebane Loves You”) to clothing, gifts, and accessories, The Go Girl Shoppe’s inventory is designed to make people happy.

From home decor, like colorful pillows to clothing, gifts, and accessories, The Go Girl Shoppe’s inventory is designed to make people happy. photograph by The Go Girl Shoppe

 

Mebane Train Layout

When Tommy Long passed away in 2004, he bequeathed Mebane a large but unusual gift: $250,000-worth of model trains and accessories. Today, the Mebane Train Layout has turned Mr. Long’s gift into pint-size cities open to the public. Step inside the unassuming Jackson Street building, and find a world where life happens in miniature — hot air balloons the size of your arm buoy little onlookers, surveying towns where sleepy trains snake through buildings, past fire hydrants, and gas stations. During the winter holidays, volunteers decorate a tree with Mr. Long’s gifts, and a locomotive zips up a track that winds around the Tenenbaum.

 

Muffin’s Ice Cream Shoppe

Ready for an afternoon pick-me-up? For eight and a half years, Mebane folks have been going to Muffin’s to get their scoops and catch up, rocking their way through their cones in the rocking chairs out front. Owner Ross Poore originally visited North Carolina from Melbourne, Australia, with the idea that he’d stay three months — and that was 50 years ago. Muffin’s has plenty of nearby Hillsborough’s Maple View Farm flavors to choose from, but Port believes most folks come for the friendly faces. “People love the employees here the most,” he says. “We love talking to people.”

Muffin’s has plenty of Maple View Farm flavors to choose from, but most folks come for the friendly faces. photograph by Muffin’s Ice Cream Shoppe

 

Lake Michael

Just a few miles north of town, the 235-acre Lake Michael is stocked with carp, brim, and largemouth bass — the lake record weighing in at 12 pounds. People like to hike around the lake under a canopy of trees, or fish from their own canoes or kayaks, says Aaron Davis, Mebane’s Recreation and Parks director. “The best thing about Lake Michael is it’s so scenic and beautiful,” he says. “No matter what you’re doing you’re going to enjoy the view. From time to time, I’ve seen eagles swooping across the lake.”

Whether you’re fishing, hiking, or paddling, you’re going to enjoy the beautiful views at Lake Michael. photograph by Mebane Recreation and Parks

 

Bright Penny Brewing

Celebrate your trophy bass with a pint of beer and a pizza at Bright Penny Brewing. Of the 16 taps, one is reserved for Island Time, a pineapple-mango cider resulting from a special collaboration between Bright Penny and Flat Rock Cider Company. “Another is a sour beer option we source from North Carolina breweries, and the rest are made on-site by our brewmaster,” says Tory Williams, who’s been with Bright Penny since it opened in 2019. “Fog Watch, a hazy IPA, is our top-seller, and people really love our County Line Light Lager and Buena Onda Cerveza.”

Now for dinner: Start with a flight (yes, a flight) of deviled eggs, and then get down to the business of ordering pizzas. “My favorite is traditional: the Family Friendly, with local sausage, pepperoni, and a Bacio mozzarella,” Williams says. More adventurous diners may opt for the Sweet and Salty, made with a garlic-oil base, shaved prosciutto, sliced figs, crumbled goat cheese, and finished with arugula and a balsamic glaze.

Bright Penny’s secret ingredient? It’s actually the oven, Williams says. Made in Italy, the pizza oven — covered in brass tiles resembling bright pennies — gets up to 650 degrees and can cook a pie in 150 seconds. So go ahead and have another slice. Here in the Biggest Little Town on Earth, everybody comes back for more.

Bright Penny Brewing not only has 16 taps of beer and cider, you can also dine on a delicious pizza baked in their Italian pizza oven. photograph by Donald Komondy Photography

This story was published on Apr 06, 2021

Eleanor Spicer Rice

Eleanor Spicer Rice earned her Ph.D. in entomology at North Carolina State University. She is the author of Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City.