A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

[caption id="attachment_159979" align="alignright" width="300"] Our guide: Josh Choi.[/caption] As the son of Korean immigrants who moved around a lot, Josh Choi was used to being the new kid at school.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

[caption id="attachment_159979" align="alignright" width="300"] Our guide: Josh Choi.[/caption] As the son of Korean immigrants who moved around a lot, Josh Choi was used to being the new kid at school.

A Guide to Downtown Fayetteville

Our guide: Josh Choi. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin

As the son of Korean immigrants who moved around a lot, Josh Choi was used to being the new kid at school. But after his family arrived in Fayetteville when he was in middle school, things were different. Because of Fort Bragg nearby, people were continuously moving into and out of town. “There was always a new kid coming here,” Choi says. “[They were] people that you might not normally be friends with, but because they’ve all been displaced by the military, you get this lovable band of misfits together.”

Choi brought his idea of the “City of Misfits” with him when he opened his teahouse and bar, Winterbloom, in downtown Fayetteville, where he put the slogan on a limited-run of T-shirts and on travel cups that customers could buy. Like Choi, many of the business owners downtown aren’t from Fayetteville originally. “When you can bring different factors from different cities and states, it helps bring the perspective from those areas,” he says. “As downtown becomes more diverse, people are more drawn to it.”


Grab a cup of joe at Rude Awakening Coffee House. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin


Rude Awakening Coffee House. In 1996, Molly Arnold bought a downtown building destined for demolition and opened a coffee shop that’s become a community staple. She now owns another multi-unit building downtown that she rents out as a small-business incubator. At Rude Awakening, Choi says, “people come in and out, in and out, for the brown-bag lunch” — a $6.50 sandwich special that comes with chips and a fresh-baked cookie.

Huske Hardware Restaurant & Brewery. The 1903 Huske Hardware building became Fayetteville’s first brewery in 1996. The space maintains its industrial feel with its 15-barrel brewing system set in the center of the restaurant. There, customers order a variety of craft beers (plus wine and cocktails) to pair with out-of-state favorites like poutine and Wisconsin cheese curds, or Carolina classics like barbecue and burgers.

The Coffee Scene. Located in what was once the bottom of the historic Prince Charles Hotel, this two-story coffee shop offers good refreshments amid a rich arts community. Visitors can listen to singers and poets perform on open mic nights from the enclosed front porch, couches, or tables. While there, try a scoop of chocolate hazelnut gelato or Turkish coffee with a slice of baklava.


At Circa 1800, try the Southern egg rolls. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin


Circa 1800. Named for the time period in which the building was constructed, Circa 1800 serves Southern cuisine with a twist. The menu changes with the seasons depending on what can be sourced locally, but a few staples — shrimp and grits, filet tips, and Southern egg rolls — remain throughout the year.

Blue Moon Café. This trendy, eclectic restaurant opened in 2004 and is known for its tacos, its TAB sandwich (turkey and avocado on a baguette), and a growing selection of vegan and vegetarian options. “They do really cool things with jackfruit,” says Choi, who has collaborated with Blue Moon on late-night tea dinners.

Banana pudding cupcakes and Fruity Pebble macarons are among the best sellers at The Sweet Palette. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin

The Sweet Palette. Patsy Crawford, her husband, Del, and her son, Adam, renovated an abandoned 19th-century building to house the bakery that she and Adam opened in 2014. The Fayetteville natives and self-taught bakers make nearly everything from scratch, and they love to experiment: The banana pudding cupcakes and Fruity Pebble macarons are among their best sellers.

Antonella’s Italian Ristorante. “I thought I knew what Italian food tasted like until I came to Antonella’s,” Choi says. “You can taste the authenticity.” Chef and owner Antonella Scibilia’s parents moved to the United States from Sicily. Nearly 30 years later, Scibilia uses some of her father’s recipes — traditional dishes passed down three or four generations — but most of the entrées are her own creations, cooked with fresh ingredients and sauces that are made in-house daily.

The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop. Who says a sandwich made with leftover turkey is a treat reserved for the days following Thanksgiving? This shop offers their Turkey Day Sandwich — made with turkey, stuffing, cranberry, and gravy on Texas toast — year-round. Other specialties include a variety of salads, wraps, and turkey snacks — and all turkey is fried in-house.


The MacPherson House Bed & Breakfast is filled with historic details. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin


MacPherson House Bed & Breakfast. When Katy and Michael Stevick renovated the 1920 MacPherson House into a six-room bed and breakfast in 2020, they preserved as many historic details as they could, from the original hardwood siding to the 1926 claw-foot tub in The Campbellton room. Each room’s name has a local connection — The Saint Avold is named for Fayetteville’s sister city in France. Each morning, the Stevicks serve breakfasts tailored to their guests: Offerings might include a savory quiche or crème brûlée French toast.


Shop for artisan soaps and more at Turner Lane. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin


Turner Lane. Named for owners Elaine and Jack Kelley’s son, Turner, this shop highlights local makers and delights the senses: artisan soaps in 50 different scents, hands-on terrarium-making workshops, jams and jellies, their own brand of olive oils and vinegars, and muscadine slushies that customers can sample while they browse home decor and specialty gift items.

Back-A-Round Records. There could be anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 vinyl albums at Back-A-Round Records, covering just about every genre. Shawn Adkins started the shop — tucked on the second floor of a building on Market Square — in 2018 with 10,000 items from his personal collection, including records, CDs, cassette tapes, and turntables.

A Bit of Carolina. Robin Matthews’s store features 60 consignors, 57 of whom are from the Fayetteville area, including makers of specialty foods, jewelry, clothing, and wreaths. She curates custom gift baskets around different themes — like a “hot” basket with habanero cheese balls — and ships them all over the country.

Stevies on Hay. Stevie Aubrey spent years traveling around the world as a military attaché, designing themed displays. At her store in Fayetteville, she uses those skills to create elaborate seasonal window displays. “You should see how many people take selfies in front of her window display,” Choi says. Inside, she sells items that remind her of her family’s travels, including chocolates from the U.K., Surfer’s Salve from Hawaii, and bohemian clothing and jewelry.

The Reverie Goods & Gifts. Owner Meghan Reed opened this shop in 2021 with the goal of creating an accessible alternative to ordering from chain stores while supporting small, local business owners. Browse online or in-store for quirky souvenirs and novelty items, such as sun-catcher stickers, themed birthday cards, and state-inspired children’s books like Night-Night North Carolina.


Explore the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin


U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. Through engaging exhibits and personal artifacts donated by veterans and their families, “ASOM” tells the story of Army Airborne and Special Operations forces. About 150,000 visitors a year follow these soldiers through history, from the first test platoon of paratroopers in 1940 through operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Make your own candle at Hummingbird Candle Co. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin

Hummingbird Candle Co. All of Hummingbird Candle Co.’s 30 or so signature candles are handmade. Customers can choose from scents like vanilla sandalwood and “State Fair,” which has notes of popcorn, or they can make their own candle with a goal, wish, or dream handwritten on the wick.

Greg’s Pottery. Greg Hathaway has had a studio downtown since he was a graphic designer in 1991, and he was later awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his efforts in revitalizing the area. He continues to work on his own paintings and pottery here. And for the past 17 years, his daughter Kelly has owned and run a paint-your-own-pottery studio in that same building. “It’s one part art, one part therapy,” Choi says.

See a film at Cameo Art House Theatre. Photography courtesy of VisitNC.com

Cameo Art House Theatre. Since it opened in 1914, the space that currently houses the Cameo has been home to several different businesses, but back then — as it is now — it was a theater. Architects Chris Kuenzel and Eric Lindstrom and Chris’s wife, Nasim, tried to preserve that history when they purchased the building in 1998 and opened it as the Cameo in 2000, primarily showing newly released independent art films.

The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. Housed in the circa-1910 County Federal Post Office building, the Arts Council features rotating exhibits that are free and open to the public. With the goal of increasing art education, this gallery provides resources such as regional conference opportunities for artists and art-based workshops throughout the year through their subsidiary “We Are The Arts.”

Segra Stadium. Take yourself out to watch a baseball game or reserve a batting cage of your own for a practice session at this stadium that’s home to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. Although it mostly hosts the minor league team’s games, the stadium also holds seasonal events, including the annual beer festival, Pecktoberfest, the Eastern NC Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and Fayetteville Holiday Lights.

This story was published on Oct 11, 2022

Katie King

Katie King is a managing editor at Our State.