For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to
For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to the readers who inspire us, offering a taste of our earliest recipes, and revisiting old stories with new insights. Follow along to find out how our past has shaped our present.
Away out here in the Smokies — past Lake Junaluska, past Fontana Dam — is Robbinsville, population about 600. Here, most folks eat at Lynn’s Place, right on Main Street, every week. The restaurant is homey, with wood-burned signs and enough red leatherette booths and tables to seat 80. It’s full for both lunch and dinner, serving homemade egg, tuna, chicken, and macaroni salads; burgers; and meat ’n’ two meals like the country-style steak and mashed potatoes special on the menu today — a favorite of the judges and attorneys who walk across the street from the courthouse.
Owner Lynn Brown met her future husband, Billy, in fifth grade. “Billy was funny and a cutup, and all my girlfriends loved him,” Lynn says, “so I didn’t have a chance.” She got her chance, though, 15 years later, when, each with a marriage behind them, the two got reacquainted at — where else, in small-town North Carolina? — a homecoming football game. Billy “lacks this much,” he says, holding two fingers an inch apart, from being a full-blood Cherokee. They live on the reservation, in the Qualla Boundary, and their three children identify as Native Americans. “I’m lost,” Lynn, who is white, says with a laugh.
Well, not exactly “lost.” In 2003, she opened Lynn’s Place, making this year the 20th anniversary of the restaurant. Along with Robbinsville residents, Lynn’s Place serves motorcyclists who’ve come to experience the Cherohala Skyway and the twists and turns of the Tail of the Dragon, a white-knuckle stretch of U.S. Highway 129 through the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains. “Last week, we had three people from California who’d ridden cross-country from L.A.,” Lynn says. Never mind folks from far-off countries who fly over and rent motorcycles. Several weeks earlier, she’d handled 50 Ferrari drivers. Fifty. And then there are the fall foliage fanatics, who live in Tennessee but head over to do their peeping at our leaves. “October is our busiest month,” Lynn says. Which is why the Brown children often help out in the restaurant, including the oldest, Austin, who — by the way — got his MBA from Harvard online while also helping Cherokee students navigate their own college applications.
It was while waiting at the bank 20 years ago to meet a loan officer to open Lynn’s Place that Lynn came across her first Our State. “I’d never seen it before. I just loved it,” she says simply. “Loved it. Came right home and got a subscription.” The Browns think about retiring, but, she says, “people in Graham County don’t want us to. People are good to us.” No surprise: Lynn and Billy Brown are good people, too.
Away out here in the Smokies — past the Tuckasegee and Nantahala rivers — Lynn opens the restaurant doors at 11 a.m., ready for another day of feeding folks dressed in fishing gear, hunting gear, motorcycle gear, and business suits. Lynn’s a lifelong hometown girl who claims she can’t cook, who’s married to a Cherokee cutup who still makes her giggle, and who was in Massachusetts this year when her son graduated from Harvard. And she’s an Our State reader.