[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
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.
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.
For those who pull the dinosaur-shaped handles on the front door of Guadalupe Cafe, a fusion of color awaits. Turquoise, red, and chartreuse walls surround wooden booths and old-fashioned red leather barstools — the same seats that were in the space when it was Hooper’s, a pharmacy and soda fountain. “I want to keep them forever,” says owner, baker, and Executive Chef Jen Pearson. When Pearson opened Guadalupe in 2004, she hoped to offer a different kind of fare. “The community was open and willing to embrace anything,” she says. So she curated a Caribbean- and Latin-inspired menu that uses locally grown ingredients and emphasizes tropical flavors from around the world. The ginger noodle bowl made with locally grown kale and the mango pork tacos with pork shoulder from Worley Farm have become popular favorites.
Don’t miss: Weekend brunch featuring Cuban sandwiches, organic pancakes with fruit or chocolate chips, huevos rancheros, and more.
Enjoy a smoothie, tea, or coffee and then visit the adjoining boutique to shop for home goods, clothing, jewelry, and furniture.
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
Cozy up with a craft cocktail or beer and a sweet or savory snack at the lounge’s street-side patio.
Watch father-and-daughter duo Steve and Lauren Baxley make small-batch chocolates by hand at this family-owned sweets shop.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.