A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[caption id="attachment_166338" align="alignnone" width="1140"] The Jackson County Courthouse offers a spectacular view of downtown Sylva.[/caption] At the west end of Sylva, the hilly front lawn of the historic Jackson County

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[caption id="attachment_166338" align="alignnone" width="1140"] The Jackson County Courthouse offers a spectacular view of downtown Sylva.[/caption] At the west end of Sylva, the hilly front lawn of the historic Jackson County

A Locals’ Guide to Downtown Sylva

The Jackson County Courthouse offers a spectacular view of downtown Sylva. photograph by Tim Robison

At the west end of Sylva, the hilly front lawn of the historic Jackson County Courthouse beckons people to climb the 107 steps to the top for a spectacular view. Looking out at the town, breathless, they see a steady stream of cars driving down West Main Street. Perhaps those people are going for a scenic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway or heading to catch some trout along western North Carolina’s Fly Fishing Trail. Or maybe they’re just cruising through downtown, looking to browse the shops, eat a memorable meal, and enjoy a warm welcome from the proud locals in this little Appalachian town.

At ILDA, try the mafaldini pasta with lamb Bolognese. photograph by Tim Robison


Locals: Crystal Pace & Santiago Guzzetti

Crystal Pace & Santiago Guzzetti. photograph by Tim Robison

Everything about this Italian restaurant pays homage to the owners’ families. The wormy-chestnut bar and custom stained-glass windows were created by Bob Pace, the father of co-owner Crystal Pace, who ran his own stained-glass shop down the road in Dillsboro for many years. ILDA was named for co-owner Santiago Guzzetti’s 92-year-old Sicilian grandmother, who taught him how to cook. The restaurant’s location is where Pace’s stepmom, Karen, once ran Meatballs, a casual pizza and pasta joint. In 2020, after working in the food service industry in Manhattan for 10 years, Guzzetti and Pace returned to the town where Pace had spent her childhood summers and holidays to open their own restaurant. Now, the couple serves up dishes made with homemade pasta and local, seasonal ingredients, including mafaldini (a pasta similar to fettuccine) with lamb Bolognese, and cocktails made by Antoine Hodge, their bartender and business partner.

Fill your glass: Order a glass of limoncello made in-house by Hodge.

462 West Main Street
(828) 307-2036

Order some java and then go shopping at Farmhouse Mercantile & Coffee Bar. photograph by Tim Robison

Food & Drink

The Farmhouse Mercantile & Coffee Bar

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2023. The Farmhouse Mercantile & Coffee Bar is temporarily closed and will re-open soon with Blue Ridge Bootleg coffee roasters occupying one side of the building. Check here for updates!

Enjoy a smoothie, tea, or coffee and then visit the adjoining boutique to shop for home goods, clothing, jewelry, and furniture.

582 West Main Street
(828) 707-3331

Santé – The Wine Bar

Crystal Pace, trained sommelier and co-owner of ILDA, offers worldwide wine selections that can be enjoyed by the bottle or glass at this bar.

470 West Main Street
(828) 631-3075

The Cut Cocktail Lounge

Cozy up with a craft cocktail or beer and a sweet or savory snack at the lounge’s street-side patio.

486 West Main Street
(828) 631-4795

Baxley’s Chocolates

Watch father-and-daughter duo Steve and Lauren Baxley make small-batch chocolates by hand at this family-owned sweets shop.

546 West Main Street
(828) 631-3379

Innovation Brewing

Cool off with a glass of Soulvation Tropical IPA — one of the brewery’s most popular beers — and relax by the open garage-style doors.

414 West Main Street
(828) 586-9678

Employee Lizzy Moses folds sweatshirts next to a case of antiques, keepsakes from the building’s former life as a car dealership run by the grandparents of Crystal Cogdill and Denna Sherill. photograph by Tim Robison


Jackson’s General Store
Locals: Crystal Cogdill & Denna Sherrill

Crystal Cogdill (left) and Denna Sherill operate Jackson’s General Store with the help of Sherill’s son, Dodge. photograph by Tim Robison

For 23 years, Jackson’s General Store is where travelers have gone to purchase mementos embellished with the town name — T-shirts or mugs or magnets — to remind them of their time in Sylva. Every nook and cranny of the store is filled with clothing, gourmet foods, local honey, gifts, and home decor. It’s hard to imagine the store ever looking sparse, but owner Crystal Cogdill remembers the first few months in business, when she and her sister, Denna Sherrill, tried to spread out their inventory to make the space look full. Today, the shop represents close to 900 vendors, and Sherill’s son, Dodge, helps his mother and aunt run the store. For the past three years, Jackson’s has been located in the two-story building that the sisters’ grandfather and great-grandfather built in 1941 as a Chrysler Dodge Plymouth dealership. “We live in a place where people truly and genuinely care about others.” Cogdill says. “We love being able to provide something for the community so they don’t have to go out of town to shop.”

456 West Main Street
(828) 586-9600

Find your fly-fishing gear at Tuckaseegee Fly Shop. photograph by Tim Robison

Get your gear here!

Tuckaseegee Fly Shop

Go fly-fishing in Jackson County — the trout capital of North Carolina — with the help of a knowledgeable expert. This shop offers full- and half-day float- and wade-fishing trips, as well as fly-fishing lessons.

530 West Main Street
(828) 488-3333

Black Balsam Outdoors

Founded by two Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, this shop has all the gear needed for a day of hiking, camping, running, or simply enjoying the outdoors.

562 West Main Street
(828) 631-2864


City Lights Bookstore
Local: Chris Wilcox

Chris Wilcox. photograph by Tim Robison

Chris Wilcox was 12 when Gary Carden opened City Lights Bookstore on Main Street in 1985. “The town became more interesting to me when there was a place to look at comic books and choose-your-own-adventure books and Tom Robbins books,” Wilcox says. Like most of his Sylva classmates, Wilcox dreamed of leaving the tiny town, but anytime he left, he says, “I felt the tug of this community to come back.” In 1997, he was hired as a bookseller for City Lights by Joyce Moore, who had taken over the store from Carden and moved it to its current location on East Jackson Street. Now under Wilcox’s ownership, the shop has about 15,000 new and used titles spread across several rooms. It’s also become a gathering space for local writers to meet and critique each other’s work. “I’ve got the best job in the world,” Wilcox says. “I’m in a community that has supported not only this bookstore, but also a great public library and several other bookstores over the years.”

Read local: Browse the shop’s regional room, which features books on the history and biodiversity of southern Appalachia and works about botanists’ studies of the area.

3 East Jackson Street
(828) 586-9499

This story was published on Mar 30, 2023

Chloe Klingstedt

Chloe Klingstedt is an assistant editor at Our State magazine, a Texan by birth, and a North Carolinian at heart.