A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[caption id="attachment_130879" align="alignleft" width="263"] Dennis and Tina Metelski.[/caption] Dennis Matelski still remembers the first time a retired couple from Vermont came into Something Special Gift Shop. As co-owner with his

Madison County Championship Rodeo

[caption id="attachment_130879" align="alignleft" width="263"] Dennis and Tina Metelski.[/caption] Dennis Matelski still remembers the first time a retired couple from Vermont came into Something Special Gift Shop. As co-owner with his

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[caption id="attachment_130879" align="alignleft" width="263"] Dennis and Tina Metelski.[/caption] Dennis Matelski still remembers the first time a retired couple from Vermont came into Something Special Gift Shop. As co-owner with his

A Guide to Downtown Burnsville

Dennis and Tina Metelski. photograph by Jack Sorokin

Dennis Matelski still remembers the first time a retired couple from Vermont came into Something Special Gift Shop.

As co-owner with his wife, Tina — and an unofficial tourism representative — Dennis offered them suggestions for things to see and do in Burnsville. Among his favorites: hiking at Mount Mitchell, the Toe River Arts gallery, and the Yancey Theatre, a 1939 single-screen movie house downtown that still shows first-run films. His passion for Burnsville was so contagious that the Vermont couple “fell in love with Main Street and Burnsville and ended up moving here,” Dennis says. “They still come into the store every time they come downtown, and they bring their visitors here, too.”


Shop

Something Special Gift Shop. A Main Street staple for 35 years, the Matelskis’ shop stocks items ranging from local pottery, candles, and wind chimes to apparel. The Matelskis also own the adjacent Monkey Business Toy Shop, where families can find art and science kits alongside traditional toys like Slinkys and Etch A Sketches. “We’ve had at least three generations of customers shopping with us,” Dennis says.

Magnolia & Wren Boutique. photograph by Jack Sorokin

Magnolia & Wren Boutique. Samantha Robinson opened her quintessential Southern boutique on Main Street in 2018. In addition to offering casual clothing, jewelry, candles, bath products, and antiques, the boutique sells prairie skirts and petticoats made by Robinson’s mother, Zoe McMahan, under the Magnolia & Wren label.

Hammond Antiques.It’s filled to the rafters with great vintage, hard-to-find items,” Dennis says. Proprietor Ralph Hammond can tell the stories behind all of the pieces he stocks.


Drink

Appalachian Java. photograph by Jack Sorokin

Appalachian Java. Dennis is a regular at this coffee shop, ordering a cup of joe or lunch and catching up with his downtown neighbors. “It’s as much a community center as a coffee shop,” he says. The café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside fresh-baked sweet treats.

Homeplace Beer Co. At this brewery, Head brewer Alex Smith uses ingredients from Yancey County and the surrounding area to create “farm-to-pint” beers like Golden Heart American Lager, made with North Carolina corn grits, and Brown Mule English Brown Ale, made with local honey.


Eat

Pig & Grits. “[Chef] Leigh Howell knows his stuff when it comes to Southern comfort food,” Dennis says. Hearty breakfasts like the Eggs Benedict Americana and the buttermilk chicken and waffles are as popular here as Southern fried catfish, molten mac and cheese, and other savory suppers.

The Eggs Benedict Americana at Pig & Grits. photograph by Jack Sorokin

Garden Deli and Snap Dragon. The tuna melt, BLT, and chicken salad sandwiches attract big crowds at Garden Deli. Plus, “It has a wonderful patio for outdoor dining,” Dennis says. Next door, Snap Dragon, owned by the same family, is a kitchen and bar with a nautical theme. Hurricane cocktails, ranked from Category 1 to 5, are the house specialty.

Mountain Chef Bistro. This fine-dining restaurant on Main Street serves up fresh seafood, meat, and pasta dishes — and the wine list was designed for pairing. Dennis calls it “exquisitely prepared” food, adding, “It’s a destination restaurant.”


Play

Parkway Playhouse. One of the oldest seasonal theaters in the state, this nonprofit brings big productions to the small stage. “It doesn’t just bring the theater to our community,” Dennis says. “It also provides opportunities for the locals to get onstage.” The season typically runs from May through October.

Toe River Arts. The arts council gallery downtown showcases the works of some of the hundreds of artists in the area. During the semiannual studio tour, visitors can see artists like Kristen Page of Page Pottery at work.

Kristen Page of Page Pottery. photograph by Jack Sorokin


Stay

Nu Wray Inn. This 13-room inn has welcomed famous guests including Thomas Wolfe and Elvis. “It adds to the charm and maintains a connection to the history of our town,” Dennis says. Sit on one of the rocking chairs on the wide front porch and look out over the Town Square.


A view of Mt. Mitchell in autumn. photograph by Daniel Weiss

A Peak to Be Proud Of

Rising high above Burnsville is the 6,684-foot-tall Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. In 1915, this mountain became the first state park in North Carolina thanks to community efforts to save the land from logging. Today, an observation deck at the top of Mount Mitchell offers a 360-degree view of the Black Mountains — including six of the 10 highest peaks in the Eastern U.S. — and is surrounded by a spruce-fir forest straight out of a fairy tale. — Katie King

This story was published on Sep 29, 2020

Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.