Beer Hunting



There’s no denying it, the craft beer market has grown substantially over the past few years. In 2019 it’s estimated there were over 8,000 independent craft breweries in the United States.  Blue Ridge and the Copper Basin are home to a few of the best!

Taking home a growler to drink while sitting in front of the TV and screaming at the umpire was a favorite pastime for many before the 2020 sports season was pre-empted. Now, visiting craft beer taprooms has become a favorite diversion for many aficionado hopsters. But many more of us barley know the yeast of what goes into a good brew. So before we take you beer hunting in this region, let’s do a very quick primer.

Craft Beer 101

Photo Courtesy of Copperhill Brewery

Where does beer come from?

Barley – mainly used for beer, this is the base ingredient for beer.

Malt – barley by itself won’t make beer.  Barley seeds need to be sprigged to life by malt extract and then roasted and toasted to achieve their distinctive flavors.

Hops – Without hops, beer would be pretty boring.  Hops are the spices of the beer world creating bitter, tropical, and citrus flavors that balance out the sweetness of the beer.  Grown as bines or long vines, you might have passed a hops crop along the roadside and mistaken it for a vineyard.

Yeast – You can’t make beer without yeast, and the yeast plays maybe the biggest part in the whole beer equation.  Pitch too little, your beer is sweet.  If the yeast is not healthy, it will throw off a strange and unpalatable flavor.

Brewing – Oh yeah, that part.  Brewing takes on a lot more than simply boiling the beer.  There is milling the grain to get it just the way you want.  Then there’s the constant cleaning and maintenance of all the equipment, hoses, and fittings to make sure there is no contamination.  Someone must carefully monitor the production to hit all of the right “checkpoints” to ensure that the proper alcohol levels are achieved.  And then there’s carbonating it just right for the style you are brewing.

Beer Styles

Ale – It’s typically fermented warm, using a strain of yeast that rises to the top of the brew. It ferments faster than lager and is more strongly flavored. Esters produced during fermentation lend a slightly fruity and floral taste. Hefeweizen is a wheat beer. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, which long ago was high in hops and alcohol content, to survive a voyage from Britain to India. It still tends to have an intense hop flavor.

Lager – This is another basic type of beer. It’s usually fermented cold, using yeast that sinks to the bottom during fermentation and works slowly. Long, cold fermentation inhibits the production of esters, and lagers have a cleaner, crisper taste than ales.

Hard Cider – Whoa! Where did cider fit into this primer? Well, not everyone likes beer, but they still like the low alcohol content compared to liquor. On a warm summer’s day, hard cider is a great and healthier alternative to beer, especially for those who have to avoid wheat and other grains.

Cliff Notes on Style:

The best ales have intense, complex, and balanced flavors. 

The best lagers are very tasty but they generally aren’t as complex or intense as ales. 

Beer vs Cider – If you are someone who enjoys the distinctive bitterness of beer and enjoys a sugar-free drink made of barley, then beer is the drink for you. If you are looking for a gluten-free, sweeter option, but still want the bubbles and the buzz, look to the craft hard ciders.

You are now ready for our North Georgia Beer Hunt!

Fannin Brewing Company

3758 East First Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-258-2762 | Hours: Friday & Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm

Production at Fannin Brewing Company

This brewing company was founded by someone passionate about starting a winery in Blue Ridge. Plans change. He meets a guy passionate about German beers. They combine their passions and voila! They now have one of the most highly respected craft breweries in the South. Tours of the plant are available on Fridays and Saturdays. BYOP – Bring your own pup. Yes, your canine friends are welcome throughout the brewery.

Our Tasting Room Choice:  Cherry Mitten

Grumpy Old Men Brewing

1315 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-2739 | Hours: Monday – Wednesday 12pm-6pm, Thursday – Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12:30pm-5pm

Beer Selections at Grumpy Old Men Brewing

This is a great hangout for any age brewster. Family friendly, kids will love the GIANT JENGA outside and the games inside, plus there’s craft soda on tap. Open seven days a week. Big screen TV’s throughout. Thursday night is Karoake night and it is well attended and lots of fun. Always 18 different craft beers on tap. On Friday, Saturdays and Sunday’s check out their hot dog stand.  

Our Tasting Room Choice:  Hell’s Holler Porter

Mercier’s Orchards

8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge, GA | 706-632-3411 | Hours: Sunday – Thursday 8am-4pm,  Friday & Saturday 8am-6pm

Blueberry-Apple Sparkling Cider at Mercier Orchards

Mercier’s is the only apple orchard in Georgia that can say they grow, press, ferment, and bottle their product. Their full line of cider seasonally takes advantage of most of the fruits that are grown year-round at the orchard. The tasting room is part of the gigantic market, restaurant, and bakery. You may visit with the intent to pick out your favorite hard cider, but be prepared to spend additional time foraging the whole market.

Our Tasting Room Choice:  Grumpy Granny

Copperhill Brewery

105 Ocoee Street, Copperhill, TN | 423-548-3030 | Hours: Monday 12pm- 6pm,  (Tuesday – Wednesday Closed), Thursday – Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm

Photo Courtesy of Copperhill Brewery

Visit this brewery and you won’t know if you are in Tennesee or Georgia. Located in Copperhill, just outside their tasting room door, you can have one foot in Tennessee and the other foot in Georgia. It’s very cool to straddle the state line! Sample their brews and you’ll wonder if you haven’t traveled to Scotland or Germany. This brewery takes craft beer way, way serious. It’s not a passion for them. It’s an art form. Some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff this side of the Mason Dixon line.

Our Tasting Room Choice:  Ocoee #1 IPA

Buck Bald Brewing

160 Ocoee St, Copperhill, TN | 706-431-7141 | Hours: Monday 2pm-8pm, (Tuesday & Wednesday Closed),  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 12pm-8pm

Photo Courtesy of Buck Bald Brewing

This brewey is a converted gas station with a great tasting room, but an even better outdoor area that, when the weather permits, is just hopping with folks having fun, listening to great music, and some amazing beer choices. You can join the Mug Club and have your picture painted on a mug that’s yours to keep fillin’up with their vast and ever-changing selections. Great fun for the whole family. It’s where the white water rafting crews call “home”. 

Our Tasting Room Choice: Berry My Heart at the Trailer Park

Food With A Brew

Fightingtown Tavern

511 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-2006

The Bar at Fightingtown Tavern

Here you’ll find a chef that makes cheffy dishes all out of locally sourced meats and veggies, rockin’ music, and a great craft beer selection for a cool experience and a taste-bud tripping meal!

Black Bear Bier Garten

500 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-4440

Photo Courtesy of @ancole78

Best known as Blue Ridge’s “Husband Day Care Center”, the Black Bear Bier Garten offers great local music and 19 local, craft & imported draft beers. Pare your brewski with one of 9 varieties of wild game sausages and you’ll be pretty happy you stopped in!

Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill

733 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia | 706-258-2539

Dinner Special at Chester Brunnenmeyer’s

Set in a historic Blue Ridge building, Chester Brunnenmeyer’s delivers not only an elevated food selection, but their adult beverage menu is most robust with signature cocktails like the ESCAPE TO BLUE RIDGE (Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, macerated blueberries, lemonade), an impressive wine list, and regionally crafted beer!

Masters of the Que



Throughout the South, BBQ reigns as the premier cuisine. Though Texas waves their 10 Gallon hats boasting that they are the king of the Que, few know that Georgia is where smokin’ meats all evolved. The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. In 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto’s expedition through Georgia came upon a deserted Taino camp and discovered meat left roasting on a barbacoa, the embers of the fire still warm.

Originally, usage of the verb barbecue meant “to preserve (meat) by drying or slowly roasting”; the meaning became closer to that of its modern usage as a specific cooking technique by the time Georgia was colonized. But barbecue isn’t just a verb, it’s also a noun. It’s something you attend, and going to a barbecue is one of the gatherings we Southenerners just can’t resist. So it’s not surprising that when one vacations here in the north Georgia mountains, BBQ  is the cuisine most sought out. 

Rembrandt, Picasso, and Warhol are all celebrated master artists, putting paint to canvas, yet yielding a different effect. Barbeque in the South is more than just the slow burn of meat, it’s a subculture with wide variations of techniques, seasonings, textures, and sauces.  With well over a dozen BBQ joints in a twenty-mile radius of Blue Ridge, we’ve chosen to highlight three different experiences, much like the three artists we mentioned. They are masters at the Que, but they are different.

Mike’s  Trackside BBQ

Photo Courtesy of Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que

If you agree that what makes the best restaurant experience is great food, atmosphere, and service, then Mike’s has you eating off his black checkered lined metal trays. With only 5 tables inside and 4 more on the porch, this tiny place packs a huge punch! Let’s talk about the atmosphere first. It starts with that 1939 Chevy pick up truck parked outside. Walk around it and imagine hauling around the dirt mountain roads of eighty years ago in this prize jalopy. This is just the beginning of your museum tour. The porch and the whole indoors is covered ceiling to floor with tons of fun historical memorabilia.

Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que 1939 Chevy

 If you can manage to take your attention away from the décor and turn it to the menu, you might find it difficult to decide what to order before they close.  With their meats selection, they more than have you covered. There’s the traditional smoked brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs. Add smoked chicken wings, smoked sirloin, pulled chicken breast, and their famous all-beef “Kiolbassa”  and your decision becomes even tougher. 

Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que Brisket

Though the protein is usually the main event at a good BBQ, the sides complement the fare, and Mike’s has some very noteworthy offerings.  We recommend the Mountain Dew stewed apples with walnuts, an old fashion fresh-squeezed lemonade, and the Texas toast. Yes, even their Texas Toast is called out as the best in Trip advisor reviews.  All this is served up with a friendly, helpful staff, and if you decide to get it to-go (check out these picnic spots) you’ll find it will be packed up with TLC and everything you need to dig right in once you get to your destination.

Mike’s Trackside BBQ
Open Monday through Thursday 11-6 and Friday-Saturday 11-7. Closed Sundays.
3950 E First St, Blue Ridge, GA |(706) 258-2533

Carroll’s Barbeque

Up the hill and across from the Blue Ridge Post Office is a small, unassuming strip center. On the facia, in large block letters, it reads “ Carroll’s Barbeue”. The size of the letters matches the Que experience diners get here.  Walk inside and you’ll get the old country jive. Not only are the optics there, but you’ll get that smell of smoke rendering the fat that emanates from the real wood-fired pit, and the hunger pains spike the brain and you gotta have everything on the menu. 

3 Meat Combo Plate at Carroll’s Barbeque

This is some of the most tender and tasty of briskets you’ll find in these parts. The ribs are “fall off the bone” good!  They have pulled pork, pulled chicken, and smoked wings. But the one meat that they are legendary for is their smoked turkey, available on a plate, stuffed in a large sandwich or covering up a fresh salad for those who eat just a little lighter. They also have a few unique items on the menu that, when dining with a group, are great sharing treats. The BBQ Burrito (baked beans & shredded cheese in a flour tortilla, topped with Brunswick stew) is stuffed with your choice of pulled pork or pulled chicken. Then there’s “Tater Hill”. Carroll’s takes a large, classic baked potato, covers it in their white sauce, pile it mountain high with pulled pork, mac & cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw and then drizzles it with mild & sweet sauce.

Stuffed Potato at Carroll’s Barbeque

All servings are generous, as is the hospitality at Carroll’s. Only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for lunch and dinner, you want to plan a trip here with plenty of time to chow down your main plate, and then rest up a little before you indulge in a couple of their famous desserts, including homemade banana pudding served warm with a meringue topping or their show stopper, the Skillet Brownie Sundae. 

Carroll’s Barbeque
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am – 8pm
39 Lance St., Blue Ridge, | GA 706-946-1126

The Pink Pig

Combination Plate at The Pink Pig

This smokehouse has been an institution in these mountains for over 50 years, and it is still cared for daily by the family of Granddaddy Holloway who first manned the smokers. Just down the road from Blue Ridge, in Cherry Log, GA, The Pink Pig stands out from the roadside. The Pink is not a subtle hue, but then every artist has its shade. And speaking of shade, The Pink Pig is one of our favorite places to outdoor dine, especially with kids. Lots of places to spread out as a family while eating succulent ribs with sauce all of your face and fingers.

The Pink Pig’s Garlic Salad topped with Fried Chicken

The Pink Pig’s menu has some twists to it that you won’t find at many other  Que’s. They receive five-star reviews every day for their garlic salad (it’s the garlic brine the lettuce is soaked in- yet stays crunchy- they keep coming back to devour). You can get this salad veggie style or top it with grilled chicken, fried chicken, smoked pork, or brisket. Signature offerings like Bubba’s Brisket Nachos and SJ’s Brisket Tacos are the distinguishing brushstrokes that make this a Picasso of fine BBQ dining.  The entrée menu includes a mouth-watering Ribeye cooked perfectly on the grill. Sandwiches and burgers can be topped with peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We like that you have a choice in the size of your sandwich, too. Those with a hearty appetite won’t be disappointed. 

Apple Cobbler & Ice Cream at The Pink Pig

You might want to leave room for dessert because the Holloway family has a way with a cobbler that is served warm with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream all cuddled up next to that fresh seasonal fruit and topping. And note: they are open on Sundays and also stay open till 9 pm.

The Pink Pig
Open Thursday through Sunday 11am – 9pm
824 Cherry Log St. Cherry Log, GA | 706-276-3311

Your Furkids are Welcome Here



Bringing your dog with you on your Blue Ridge mountain vacation can enrich a trip in so many ways. You’ll meet and talk to dog-loving strangers who otherwise would have passed right by you. You’ll travel to dog-friendly parks and other places that wouldn’t ordinarily be on your itinerary. You’ll have a built-in reason to go outside, exercise and have fun. Most meaningfully, you’ll have your best friend at your side. We are glad that you and your four legged pooch have decided to stay with us, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some of Blue Ridge’s favorite canine and people friendly spots.

Let’s Get Our 20,000 Steps In

Photo Courtesy of @celine_celeste_great_danes

Fido isn’t wearing a Fitbit, but he does have twice as many legs that welcome the fresh air and exercise that come as a vacation bonus here in the foothills of the Appalachians. The Chattahoochee National Forest is dog-friendly. When combined with the Oconee National Forest, the Chattahoochee National Forest spans nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties and features thousands of miles of clear streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, picnic areas, and areas rich in natural scenery, history, and culture. Hikers bringing their dogs on the trails must keep them under verbal or physical restraint at all times—using a leash in crowded areas is highly encouraged.

If your dog loves to socialize with her canine counterparts, then a visit to the Humane Society of Blue Ridge Dog Park is a must. An off leash park there offers both Big dog and Small Dog areas. There are toys to play with or you are welcome to bring your furkids favorite fetch toy. Clean up bags are provided, but you need to do the heavy lifting and disposal into the litter cans. The park is open sun-up till sun-down, 7 days a week.

Shopping is GRRRRReat

Watson greeting customers at Blue Ridge Cotton Company

Blue Ridge Cotton Company is a dog-friendly clothing store, located in downtown Blue Ridge. Inside the store, you’ll find an extensive pet section, including gifts, books, leashes in a variety of colors, treats, and more. There’s even more irresistible human stuff, too. Additionally, Blue Ridge Cotton Company donates one percent of every purchase to a number of animal charities in the local area.

If it’s a girls day out, then the two of you need to head over to Humble Pie Ladies Boutique. A pet-friendly ladies outfitter in Blue Ridge, the clothing they stock is Bohemian-style, unique, affordable and comfortable. Dogs are welcome to join you in the dressing room as you decide which flowing dress or headband best suits you.

Love Dogs and Cats Too is a pet-friendly store full of items for Fido and Fluffy. They stock everything from healthy treats and snazzy leashes to plush toys and comfy beds. Dogs are welcome inside to sniff out their birthday gift or drop some hints as to their favorite kind of toy to take home.

Drinking out of a bowl, frosted mug or goblet

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards & Winery

Eventually you and your pet are going to get thirsty. Though your four legged friend isn’t old enough to legally indulge in liquid spirits, he/she will still love to socialize with you as you test out some of the finest in craft beers and wines produced in our region. Hanging out on the patio seating at Grumpy Old Men’s Brewing will actually put you all in a good mood. Fannin Brewing Company is another favorite for Fido travelers and the Ale beer connoisseur on the other end of the leash. Just up the road from downtown Blue Ridge is Bear Claw Vineyards & Winery, a boutique farm winery with vineyards where production of handcrafted wines are offered in the tasting room which also includes a dog friendly patio. Salud!

This Movie Rates 5 Bones

Photo Courtesy of Kaysi and Grey Darrah

When was the last time you took your pooch to the movies? Here in Blue Ridge you can bring Chunky with you to catch Call of the Wild (or Lady and the Tramp if she’s into chick flicks) on the biggest screen she’s ever seen – at  the Swan Drive-in Theater. Screening since 1955, this drive-in features 1st run blockbusters & an old-school snack bar with burgers. You’ll love the nostalgia, your pet will dig the burger bar outdoor patio and you’ll both enjoy the movie.

French Fries to Fine Dining

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep

It’s vacation, and McDonalds isn’t going to do for either of you. It’s time to try new gourmet delights, something that didn’t come out of a can. Toccoa Riverside Restaurant, located in Blue Ridge, GA, is a casual eatery that serves up a variety of delicious American fare. Best known for their local trout dishes, it’s best not to mention to your pet that there is also catfish on the menu. Spot is welcome to join you at one of their pet-friendly outdoor tables while you enjoy your meal. (They even offer a special menu just for pups with options like hot dogs, burgers, chicken, rice, and more!) And there is live entertainment for your pet too, as they quack up watching the ducks waddling along the river bed. 

Photo Courtesy of Toccoa Riverside Restaurant

You don’t have to be a Polish Greyhound to enjoy the patio dining at Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Margo makes everything fresh daily, and Cuddles will appreciate that she refers to her famous steamed weiners as sausages, not hot dogs. If you are both preferring something more like a pizza than a pierogi, upstairs from Margo’s is where Blue Jeans Pizza is located. Rated #1 Blue Ridge Pizza on Trip Advisor, this Italian-American eatery also serves up menu options like appetizers, salads, burgers, pizza, strombolis, calzones, subs, pasta, wraps, and more. And your furry bambino is welcome to join you at their outdoor patio seating.

When the palate calls for something more upscale or a certain date night ambience, then be sure to sniff out these two places. Harvest on Main has comfortable seating on their patio under the porch for both you and your furkid. Don’t share the menu though. Cuddles will have you ordering the Smoked Duroc Bone-In Pork Chop served with Red Skinned Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Pork Collard Greens, topped with Mushroom Ragout. Guess who wants the bone? 

And talk about the right canine atmosphere to indulge in culinary perfection, check out the 200 year old tree that Cuddles can rest under while you indulge in what’s been voted the best weekend brunch in Blue Ridge at The Black Sheep, just a short walk down Main Street. 

Did someone say walk?

Adventure Awaits in Aska



Nestled only a few miles outside of downtown Blue Ridge, the Aska Adventure Area is packed with plenty of activities for visitors. Whether you are hoping to explore the serene North Georgia Mountains or grab a bite to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant, you’ll have a blast in the Aska region of Blue Ridge. The Toccoa River, Appalachian Trail, and the Benton Mackaye Trail all intersect through the Aska Trail System. When you are ready to make your Escape to Blue Ridge, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, load up the bicycle and get ready to have some great outdoor fun!

Eat Off Aska

Photo Courtesy of Toccoa Riverside Restaurant

If you’re looking for a tasty meal without breaking the bank, Van Zandt’s Riverwalk Grill & Grocery is a country diner serving breakfast and lunch. Their shelves are stocked with basic groceries and a gift shop with goods crafted by local artisans.

The Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is a true ‘taste-and-see’ spot, as this eatery sits alongside rushing river waters. Here you can feast upon fresh local trout prepared several different ways or choose from the finest and freshest steaks, seafood, ribs, and signature pasta dishes. Pets are welcome and Fido can even enjoy some canine cuisine from the Pooch Porch Goodies menu!

Play

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Williams

Channel your inner child and get ready for a day full of fun and adventure at the Lilly Pad Village. Explore the two acres of picturesque land and choose to go gem mining, fishing, and mini-golfing! You are sure to get lots of smiles out of your little ones, and who knows, you might end up having more fun playing along with them!

Roll up your sleeves and get ready for an entertaining and educational gem mining experience. Once you’ve discovered some shiny treasure, head over to the fishing pond for some peaceful relaxation. The fishing hole, sitting on one-third of an acre, is stocked with catfish, bream, and bass. Fishing tickets and rental equipment are offered on-site. End your trip at Lilly Pad Village with a competitive game of mountainside mini-golf. The nine-hole mini-golf course takes players through tall trees with sounds from a variety of birds and frogs at the lily pond. The best part about Lilly Pad Village is that your activity ticket lasts all day so you can stay as long as you would like!

Explore Trails

Map Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Ranger District Office of the US Forest Service

Because of its mountainous terrain, hiking is one of the main reasons that travelers add Aska to their must-visit list. The Aska Trails Area consists of a 17-mile trail system where hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels can explore. This trail system highlights the landscapes of North Georgia by revealing mountain peaks, shorelines of Lake Blue Ridge, and a series of hardwood trees among thickets of Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons.

A few of our favorite hiking and mountain biking trails include:

  1. Long Branch Loop (2.3 miles round trip)
  2. Green Mountain Trail (2.8 miles round trip)
  3. Flat Creek Loop (6 miles round trip)
  4. Stanley Gap Trail (9.5 miles round trip)

A River Runs Through It

Photo Courtesy of Dell Neighbors

The Toccoa River flows parallel to Aska Road and is at the heart of outdoor activities in this idyllic mountain region. The 93-mile-long river journeys through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Ocoee River Basin and is one of the South’s few north-flowing rivers. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful Toccoa by their choice of tubing, kayaking, rafting, or fishing.

Photo Courtesy of the Toccoa Valley Campground

A tubing trip down the Toccoa River is a popular activity that allows visitors a simple way to capture the river’s beauty. Depending on the drop-off site, you can float on your river tube for an hour or close to four hours. The Toccoa Valley Campground, Shallowford Bridge Tubing, and Van Zandt’s each offer tube rentals, life vests, and a shuttle trip.

Rafting and kayaking allow you to embark along the Toccoa River at your own pace. If you’re looking for a route alone or with a guide, both options are available in Aska. Pack a lunch and enjoy cruising along the mountain waters. Kayaks and rafts can be rented at the Jon Ron Toccoa Outfitters.

Photo Courtesy of Cohutta Fishing Company

Fishing in the surrounding Aska areas provides peace and relaxation for all outdoor enthusiasts. Sandy Bottoms is an excellent spot to splash in the swimming hole or catch fish on a hot summer day. Another great fishing location is at the Shallowford Bridge. Underneath the steel one-lane bridge, fishermen (and women) can set up their line and patiently wait for a bite. Private guided trout fishing tours are also available through companies like Cohutta Fishing Company.

The breathtaking scenery and endless adventures are waiting to be explored off Aska. This adventure area is rich in history and wildlife, and it will be a trip that you won’t forget. Hop in the car and Escape to Blue Ridge to explore the Aska Adventure Area!

Provisions for Your Great Escape!



I’m not sure if I was in my right mind when I let my two cousins convince me to spend a week with them in the cabin they rented in Blue Ridge last September. It started as friendly banter between us at the annual 4th of July family reunion. My Aunt asked me about my love life, and my cousins snickered. They accused me of being a workaholic. I assured them that was not the case. They asked me how much vacation time I had accrued at my job. I admitted to three weeks (It was actually 5). They challenged me to join them on their annual fall fishing trip, promised me the master bedroom, and said that if I’d agree to cook the fish they caught, they’d foot the bill for everything, all week. That included my choice of wines.

I contemplated.
I made them pinky swear to the wines of my choice.
My Aunt chided me when she kissed me goodbye that evening. “I look forward to hearing all about you great escape adventure”.

Happy friends travelling together by a car

Ten weeks later I was in the back seat of a jeep sans shock absorbers, my suitcase stuffed with ten books I had been collecting to read on the vacations I had never found time to take and my cast iron frying pan (because frying fresh trout in anything else would be a crime).

That evening when we arrived at Eagles Landing, all my trepidations about the “deliverance” experience were evaporated. This cabin was gorgeous. And true to their word, they dropped my bags in the upstairs master suite. I decided to explore the kitchen to see what might already be there to help me execute my “duties” in the next six days. I was impressed with the tools of the trade and took out my tablet to start to create my menu.

My cousins, Jake and Jeff are twins. My Aunt and her sister (my Mom) were pregnant at the same time. I was born a mere 34 hours after they were. At family reunions, we were referred to as the triplets. Growing up we lived just two blocks away from each other until we all left for college. Our families took summer trips together for as long as I can remember. Vacationing with these guys wasn’t going to be a new journey. In many ways, I was hoping it would be a rekindling of such joyful past adventures. While deciding on the culinary options, I knew what they’d eat, what they’d abhor, and what would make them gastronomically delirious.

The next morning I woke up to find the car keys on the counter and a credit card. The note from my cousins said their guide picked them up and I should feel free to take the jeep into town and shop for whatever was needed to keep us all well fed and hydrated.

I had done my internet research on possible provisions before our arrival. My first stop that morning: Out of the Blue. This is one of the finest gourmet shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping, and now, on my cousin’s tab, I was going to indulge for all three of us.

Photo Courtesy of Out of the Blue

Sara, Out of the Blue’s founder, who travels all over the world to select wines from small producers, asked me my vin likes and dislikes. We also discussed my menu ideas for the next week. I settled on wines from three countries, craft beer for the boys from the region as well as from Europe, and a selection of cheeses that she packed on ice for me so I could continue on my shopping adventure. I left feeling accomplished and I also bid farewell with a promise to revisit before heading back to the city.

My next stops were Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. and Tupelo Tea, two sister stores that abut one another. My morning rituals are always accompanied by at least one cup of freshly brewed tea so the first door I chose was Tupelo Tea. It was amazing; a “candy store” for tea drinkers. I browsed and sniffed and tasted. After having indulged in a cup of MOCHA NUT MATE, I left with pouches of PU-ERH HAZELBERRY and CHINA MILKY OOLONG, as well as a pump jar of honey. 

Photo Courtesy of Tupelo Tea

Next door, I found the Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. to be more than irresistible. I wanted to taste-test every one of their 65+ olive oils and balsamic vinegar from around the world, but alas, the day was short and my palette overwhelmed. I had two salads and two appetizers on my menu that needed the right dressings. Two bottles of olive oil and two of balsamic seemed a bit excessive, but it was my cousins’ nickel. I added a small bottle of blood orange olive oil to the purchase and made a note that I was going to have to make a dessert with this that both of the guys would adore (recipe below).

Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company

While downtown, I found my way over to Huck’s General Store. I nearly didn’t find my way back out of there. This is the kind of place that our parents would find on past summer trips, knowing that we kids would be occupied for at least an hour deciding on how we were going to spend the five dollars they gave each of us. Then we’d negotiate with each other for the rest of the trip, swapping pieces of candy and taking turns wearing the raccoon hat.  Even though the barrels of candy were overwhelmingly nostalgic, my adult tastes led me to the outstanding selection of rubs, sauces, jellies, pickles, and other canned delicacies. I took a long time deliberating before making my choices: pickled okra, habanero pickled garlic, and Huck’s sweet potato pecan butter. (recipes below).

Photo Courtesy of Huck’s General Store

Man (or in this case “men”) can not live on just fish alone, so it was off to find some scrumptious protein. I knew that easy grill meats were in order this week. These guys were going to want to just kick back with a beer (or 3) after trolling the fishline all day. I needed to keep it simple but succulent. I wanted a variety of sausages so my research took me to Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Not only did I find a great selection of European weiners and sausages, but she also carried locally raised beef, pork. chicken and free-range eggs.

Photo Courtesy of Margo’s Bistro & Deli Polish Restaurant

Now it was time to take a lovely drive out to Mercier’s Orchard. Mercier’s started over 40 years ago as an apple orchard, but the second and third generations of the Mercier family have developed an amazing farm to table experience that draws visitors twelve months of the year, seven days a week, and from all over the world. I decided that I would have lunch in their café, and stuffed myself with a delicious salad and a fried peach pie. That gave me all the energy boost I needed to continue on my shopping throughout their huge market for the best of provisions.

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchard

Ladened with Mercier’s fresh produce, homemade cheese spreads, and a hefty selection of hard cider, I had just left myself enough time for my last stop of the day, Ingles Supermarket, Blue Ridge’s large grocery chain store. Trip Advisor reviews gave Ingle’s nearly 5 stars. It didn’t disappoint. I found all the rest of the staples on my list and made it home in time to sip a glass of fine wine while I read three chapters of my first vacation book before starting dinner.

The First Night’s Menu

Hordourves and Spirits

Snakebite Cocktail: Mix the following in a chilled mug: Six ounces of a dark German Guinness ale from Out of the Blue. A pinch of salt. A tablespoon of liquid from the jar of  Huck’s General Store pickled Okra. Stir.
Now pour six ounces of Mercier’s Sneaky Jack Hard Cider over the beer mixture. Serve with Huck’s Pickled Okra, (slit down the middle and scoop out the seeds)  stuffed with Mercier’s Pimento Cheese Spread. Shake a dash of Cayenne pepper over each filled okra.

Dinner

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: I cheated and bought Bob Evans family size at Ingles. You can’t tell the difference after I spiced them up with three minced cloves of habanero pickled garlic from Hucks and drizzled with Garlic Olive Oil from Blue Ridge Olive Oil.

Trout: What can one do to fresh trout besides adding a light dusting of flour, salt, and pepper then pan-fry in a hot cast-iron skillet and a large slab of Amish Butter? Well, I topped each filet with a tablespoon of Sweet Potato Pecan Butter from Huck’s General store. The guys devoured it all.

Vegetable: Steamed shredded red cabbage with a side of  Spice Apple Chutney from Mercier’s.

Dessert

Blood Orange Olive Oil Pound Cake

INGREDIENTS (Makes one 9 inch loaf)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of Blood Orange olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons brandy (or bourbon)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup of grenadine (maraschino cherry juice)
Frosting Ingredients:
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup of orange juice

PREPARATION
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk in the olive oil, milk, brandy, lemon zest, orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. The batter is wet. It’s okay.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. You will smell the cake when it is done. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool enough to handle, then flip over onto a rack to cool thoroughly.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup orange juice. Turn the cake right side up. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the cake. Allow the glaze to harden some before serving.

Not a cook? Call the Chef!

Local area professional chefs will come to your cabin, prepare an incredible meal suited to your tastes and dietary needs, and the best part is they clean up all the mess! We recommend you consider one of these amazing options (listed alphabetically because we love all 3!):

Blue Duck Eats

Photo Courtesy of Blue Duck Eats

Steven Lash is a veteran of the the restaurant world having worked in some of the top kitchens in Atlanta for over 15 years. Steven’s food is best described as “inspired American cuisine” combining fine dining with local influence inspired by his extensive travel, passion for the outdoors, and hunger for understanding cultures.

Chef Jeff Servin

Photo Courtesy of Chef Jeff Servin

With over 15 years of restaurant experience, this 33 year old Executive Chef takes pride in sourcing his produce from local farmers, and bringing the best quality to the table for every plate he delivers, so you know it’s fresh!

Trey Griffith, cheftreygourmet

Photo Courtesy of Trey Griffith, cheftreygourmet

Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey will create an imaginative menu for your family or fiends, all in your kitchen. Giving consideration to food allergies or dietary restrictions is something he takes into account when writing the menus.

Rampin’ It Up In Spring



The ramp is an early spring vegetable, and one you might never had heard about. A perennial wild onion with a strong garlic-like odor , it has a pronounced onion flavor. It’s horticultural title is Allium tricoccum and a.k.a. spring onion, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic. It grows wild in the Appalachian forest beds, and the North Georgia Mountains is about as far south as you’ll find them. Quebec is the northernmost vicinity where these delicacies can be found roaming the Canadian countryside.

History Lesson

Ramps were first introduced to Britain in 1770 and to Appalachia in the 19th century. Their high vitamin content and blood-cleansing properties meant that the ramps were highly prized by the American Indians for their nutritional value. Native American tribes such as the Iroquois and Cherokee have traditionally used ramps to treat cold symptoms .  Because they were one of the first greens to appear in spring, ramps were considered an important “tonic” by providing vitamins and minerals that had not been available during the winter. Both the Ojibwa and Menominee dried and stored parts of the ramp to be used in the winter months. The Chippewa decocted the root to induce vomiting, while the Cherokee consumed the ramp to treat colds and made a juice from the plant to treat earaches. 

Modern Day Uses

Two centuries later this amazing spring vegetable has emerged in the nouveau culinary scene with even more gusto than pungency. Yet, there’s the distinct possibility you’ve gotten to this stage of your life never even having heard of a “ramp”.

Their harvest season is short — just a few weeks from late April to early June. You won’t find ramps at the grocery store. Though growing ramps from seed are possible, it can take five to seven years until harvest time, too long to tie up land by commercial farmers.  That’s not to say that you can’t find it to harvest yourself. Put on your hiking boots in search of this green leafed perennial and head out into almost any forested area up here in our spring green mountains. 

A Foraging Adventure

Ramps are easily recognized by their 1 or 2 broad leaves measuring 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long. Because deer avoid eating ramps you will find these plants in large clusters, with the surrounding area already chewed down.  Ramps like shade and being covered up with leaves, but they don’t like pine, for some reason, so you won’t find them at the base of pine scrub. The plants favor sandy, moist soils and are often found near streams, though you might also find them carpeting the forest floor where poplar and maple trees are found.

Eve Fox writes in her blog The Garden of Eating, “Ramps are such beautiful plants. I think they look just like a cross between a Lily of the Valley and an onion. Strong but slender with green leaves and a beautiful purple stem, they have a “seam” that runs partway up the leaves.”  If you see such a plant and you are still not sure, pull a leaf and tear it. Take a sniff. Debating if it is onion or garlic? You most likely have found a ramp.

Taste Test

If your hike has produced a bounty of ramps, you might just be wondering how to best prepare them. Historically, the Cherokee boiled or fried the young plants, while the Iroquois consumed them seasoned with salt and pepper. The ramp’s bulb and its leaves are consumed when the plant is still young.  The ramp is similar in taste to the spring onion, but with an aromatic pungency closer to garlic. Here in these Appalachian hills, they are commonly consumed by frying them in butter or animal fat, though they are also consumed raw in salads. They can be pickled and are delicious just beer-battered and fried, similar to an onion ring. They are frequently consumed with potatoes or scrambled eggs and used in soups and other savory dishes. 

Make It!

Here are three easy recipes that we think you might enjoy, using your foraged plants. 

Ramp and Apple Quesadilla

8 six inch flour tortillas
2 Granny Smith apples – thinly sliced
1 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 cup of chopped ramps
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter – room temperature

Butter one side of each tortilla and set aside. Heat olive oil in pan. Sauté the ramps until they are tender, even caramelized. Place 4 tortillas butter side down on a cold grill pan. Next spread ¼ of the apple slices on each one. Top each with ¼ of the ramps. Cover each with ¼ of cheese, then place a tortilla, butter side up over each. Turn the heat on to medium and cook till side one is nicely toasted and then flip and do the same to other side. Cut in four to serve as a lunch portion and cut into eight pieces to serve as an appetizer.

Black Bean and Ham Ramp Chili

1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup of chopped celery
1 large sweet onion chopped
1 cup of ramps chopped
¼ cup of olive oil
1 ½ lbs of ham, chopped
3 cans of black beans
2 can of diced tomatoes with peppers
1 packet of McCormick original Chili mix
Sour cream for serving

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add ramps, carrots and celery and sauté until tender, stirring often. Add chopped ham and sauté till ham is heated through. Add beans, tomatoes and chili powder and stir all together, well. Simmer for 30 mins. Serve with a healthy size dab of sour cream (not low fat) in each bowl.

Spring Salad

1 lb of fresh asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into two inch pieces
½ cups of ramps, finely chopped
1 lb of fresh snap peas
¼ cup of dried cranberries
¼ cup of chopped walnuts
1 bag of fresh spinach and baby kale mix
¼ cup of your favorite vinaigrette

Steam the asparagus and snap peas. Run cold water over them to cool them before tossing in your salad. Add them to all your other ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. Toss well with the dressing. Serve immediately.

7 Family Friendly Diners



In Blue Ridge there is an amazingly diverse, reasonably priced, restaurants designed with families in mind. It’s not all just chicken fingers, tater tots, and buffet lines. Dining out with children, especially if you’re on a budget, is tough. But if you approach things differently, and look at it more as a family outing, you will be much more satisfied, and to be honest, so will the kids.

You might be surprised by the variety. You might also be surprised at the way in which many restaurants have managed to cater to families’ needs, including recognizing that, with all there is to do in Blue Ridge, dining out is an important part. So, in addition to providing good food at a good price, their approach is more – “ya’ll take your time, enjoy your meal and plan your day”; or “don’t worry about a thing, we can move things along quickly to get you out there enjoying your day”.

In the end, it all comes down preferences and choices, and Blue Ridge has many choices to choose from. Sample traditional Southern cuisine, classic barbecue, or everyone’s favorite – pizza! The following is a list of tried & true places to go that your kids (and Mom) will like, but that won’t break the bank.

Southern Charm

Photo Courtesy of Southern Charm

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually, when you can simply say what you are. Southern Charm is Southern and it is charming! But it’s location, in the heart of Blue Ridge, makes this a great starting spot that will appeal to all members of the family.

This is traditional family style dining, featuring Southern cooking in a casual setting. Biscuits and apple butter? Yup. Fried chicken? Of course. Collards? Need you ask? Expect to be called “honey” or “darlin” by the attentive staff. Reasonably priced and worth every penny!

Sue’s Burgers

Photo Courtesy of Sue’s Burgers

How can you be so bold as to pronounce, in large block letters, on the front and side of your building, on your website, and in your advertising that you have the “Best Burgers in Town”? Well, it seems when you have testimonial confirmations online, in local “best-ofs” and random people-on-the-street recommendations for where to go for a great burger, and it all comes back to “Sue’s Best Burgers in Town”. Sue’s is most loved for their crispy, crinkly fries and fabulous desserts.

Affordable? Yes. Fast food burger prices? Sue’s Burgers is the oldest restaurant in town, family owned and operated since 1976, and will settle for nothing less than the best in food quality, service, and friendliness!

The Trailer Drive-In

Photo Courtesy of the Trailer Drive-In

When was the last time you ate at a place that accepted cash-only? Now that is indeed old school. And this throwback Trailer Drive-In diner is old school. It’s actually exactly what you expect – delicious food, large portions, outdoor picnic table seating, monstrous breakfast biscuits, a chicken sandwich that can’t be beat, and ridiculously good sweet tea! This is one of those under-the-radar kind of places, but your kids will love it! They can be sloppy outside, if you decide to dine outside, and it’s decidedly dog-friendly.

Mystic Mountain Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Mystic Mountain Pizza

No list of family-oriented, affordable restaurants would be complete without the obligatory entry from the pizza category. In this case, Mystic Mountain is not your ordinary pizza joint. It comes with extra sauce – live music! Plus it’s Blue Ridge’s “grooviest pizza parlor”. But seriously, folks, Mystic Mountain is family-friendly, relaxed, trendy, and colorful. Oh, and by the way, they also have great pizza, cooked in oak-fired brick ovens, unique hot dogs (like a Deep South Texas Dog), and crazy tasty wings, plus sandwiches and salads. It’s a great place for a family to be laid back. Like totally, man.

Mike’s Trackside BBQ

Photo Courtesy of Mike’s Trackside BBQ

You knew we’d get there. You just knew it! After all, who doesn’t like barbecue? You are in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Georgia!! And you deserve some great barbecue. Which is why we are recommending Mike’s Trackside BBQ. Mike’s is another one of those tiny places with a big heart for food and great service. Although barbecue is in the name, you might want to be adventurous and try their extraordinary, fall-off-the-bone ribs or the chunked smoked chicken.

Mike’s is located exactly where it says it is – trackside. That doesn’t mean you can bet on the ponies from there. It means you’ll hear that lonely train whistle loud and clear, and you might even be inspired to load the family onto the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway after lunch for a ride that will be long-remembered.

Pete’s Place

This is an American-styled restaurant that’s rustic and homey, and it’s Southern enough to have great grits. We recommend you trying the delicious, locally-caught, and freshly-prepared trout, but any of their classic choices like chicken parmesan or pecan chicken salad will delight your palate. At Pete’s Place the prices are reasonable, the service is great, and not only do they welcome your children, but they also welcome your furbabies to dine on the patio!

Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café

Photo Courtesy of @gluten.freed

And now for something completely different. Okay, calm the kids. We’re gonna get a little crazy here. We’re moving off into something far, far away from hot dogs and brown beans. But we will survive, and maybe even thrive. Besides, the name of this restaurant has “cake” in it so that, kids, is a good thing, because, very likely, there is dessert at the end of this meal!

Indeed, the Blue Ridge rum cakes are amazingly delicious. But so are the sandwiches, plantain chips, and the Cuban food bowls. This is called adventure. Striking off into the wild Cuban yonder to discover new foods. Try it. You’ll like it!

High Class in the High Hills²



(If you haven’t had the chance to read our Part I blog, we encourage you to click here and see what indulgent amenities the North Georgia Mountains has to offer in the way of pampering services and adventure experiences! Now we’d like to take you to other areas of resort vacationing that you might not expect to find here in a 30-mile radius of your luxurious cabin rental. )

Outdoor Fun and Entertainment (Including Spirits)

“Wine is the only artwork you can drink” 


Luis Fernando Oliverri
Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

If this quote is accurate than the North Georgia mountains boasts over 20 “museums” or vineyards. With its high elevation, warm temperatures, sandy red clay and aged granite soil (which soaks up extra moisture that could potentially affect proper grape ripening), this region is ideally suited for producing varietals more often associated with France – Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Malbec – and other parts of Europe (Touriga, Sangiovese).

Nearly every one of these vineyards has a tasting room, and all are picturesque. Yet the disadvantage of visiting these wineries on your own is the need for a “designated driver”.  Now everyone in your party can partake with the lavish way to tour and taste your way through some of the region’s finest vineyards and wineries. VIP Southern Tours has different wine tours available to their clients, but they also will help you build your own personal winery tour based on your vino preferences coupled with their years of experience touring North Georgia’s wine country.

Mountain High

Photo Courtesy of Wing-N-It Seasplane Tours

In Part 1 of our High-Class blog we covered adventure by land and by sea, but we didn’t mention the thrilling adventure of seeing the mountaintops by air! It was 60 years ago when TV’s Lloyd Bridges took his seaplane up in every episode in the 1960’s show “Sea Hunt”.  More than a half-century later you can charter your own Seaplane just 30 miles up the highway in Hiawaseee on Lake Chatuge. Wing-N-It Seaplane Tours has air tours of all the regional lakes, including Lake Blue Ridge. We suggest you also sample the mountainscape tours which are particularly breathtaking in the peak of Autumn or customize your own tour package.

Par!

Photo Courtesy of Old Toccoa Farm

Is it the trails or the links for your vacation? Old Toccoa Farm , in neighboring Mineral Bluff, GA, is one of the courses that has shaped the golf world in 2019. This 18 hole course is the most attractive and challenging course in the North Georgia Mountains and selected as the 4th Best Golf Course in Georgia by Golf Advisor! The course winds through 125 acres of ridges and meadows, featuring over 280 feet of elevation change with spectacular views of the Chattahoochee and Cherokee National Forests and surrounding valleys. You’ll be more than smitten with the spectacular views, lush fairways and the immaculate condition of the greens and bunkers. Oh, and did we mention we have a cabin rental located between the 6th and 7th holes? Ambleside is a 5-bedroom cabin that looks like the elegant homes in “Southern Living” magazine!

Trail

Photo Courtesy of Appalachian Trail Rides at S&T Stables

If you feel more like donning Hoss’s 10 Gallon cap than Payne Stewart’s scally cap, then a trail ride on horseback is in order. And there are no friendlier and knowledgeable trail guides than the staff at Appalachian Trail Rides at S&T Stables.   This 250 acre privately owned mountainous farm features a large stable facility, pasture, scenic trails, private lakes, and creeks.  There is a full menu of trail rides to take advantage of, but they also will provide a private trail ride for just you and your guests. 

Epicurean Fantasies Become Reality

“A great meal is an experience that nourishes more than your body. “


Ruth Reichl
Photo Courtesy of Treo

When the sign suggests “steaks, seafood and pasta served here”, in a small downtown underground tuck-away, one doesn’t expect too much more than average. Treo is anything but average! Though they say they are casual dining, you might want to dress in something that makes you feel as special as the wait staff is going to treat you. There’s your choice of seating in the main dining room, outside patio, or the old cellar. Even if you don’t choose the cellar, be sure to ask for a tour, for here is where the finest wines and the most amazing bourbons are kept, waiting for the next indulgent guest to order up. A bourbon flight includes a choice of three from a list of 35 of the world’s best bourbons.  Wine flights are four samplings, with a choice from an international wine list you’ll be hard-pressed to find at most five-star restaurants. Sit back and enjoy your flights with a charcuterie and artisan cheese board while you contemplate your next move. Will it be the Lobster Mac and Cheese?

You can also choose to eat at higher elevations. Cucina Rustica is located just down the road and up a wooded hill in neighboring Morganton. Upon entering this rustic dining experience you will find yourself transported to an established trattoria on a Tuscan hillside. The finest of dining experiences features the Italian cuisine of Chef Danny Mellman. This highly reviewed establishment is a true farm-to-table experience, with Chef Mellman growing many of the vegetables and herbs on his own organic farm. His interpretation of Old World Italian foods range from Sicilian fish dishes to Northern Italian pasta and succulent roasted meat dishes has a bountiful loyal patronage, so be sure to call or make online reservations. 

Concierge Services at Your Fingertips

Part of our amazing Escape to Blue Ridge team

We hope we’ve helped you consider another opulent option to that oceanfront resort you head to each year. When booking your cabin with Escape of Blue Ridge you also have available to you our knowledgeable concierge team.

We can connect you with most any experience you want to try (i.e. fly fishing guide, whitewater rafting etc).  Share with us the type of experience that you are looking for and we will offer suggestions on where to go and what to do, and then enlist us to book the experience.

Fine Dining in the Mountains



Fine dining is different at every restaurant, but there are common threads woven through all of them. First, there is a Chef-inspired menu, with his or her signature, stamped on each offering. Unlike casual restaurants, fine dining service usually includes eating utensils that are a matched set, and have more weight than your summer camp mess hall offered you. Generally, there is a linen napkin to lay across your lap, water served in a glass vessel sans the local bank logo and the table legs have been leveled to assure your plate doesn’t travel across the tabletop each time someone rests against it. There’s also the expectations of the staff. When visiting a fine dining establishment you expect the staff to deliver you a  higher standard of service, where they understand the menu and can assist you with accurate answers and solutions to your dietary concerns and preferences. Blue Ridge is proud to be home to many of such dining establishments. Let us introduce you to a small plate offering of eight of our favorites.

Bin 322 Wine and Tapas Bar

116 W. Main St. Suite 1-D – Blue Ridge, GA  

Photo Courtesy of Bin 322 Wine and Tapas Bar

We choose this as one of our favorite “wining” experiences.  Bin 322 isn’t your richest of decor settings, but it’s charm lies in it’s comfy, cozy atmosphere with many choices of seating including wing back stuffed chairs or around a game table playing checkers. You pick your ideal spot before choosing your sips from an exceptional wine menu. If you like to accompany your spirits with well prepared and incredibly tasty food, you will find just that at Binn 322. The menu includes tapas (salmon nduja), platters (Italian, French, Spanish or Mediterranean), salads, sandwiches, entrees (duck confit) and indulgent desserts (Crème Brulee) that team up perfectly with a sweet wine to complete a choice encounter with your lunch or dinner companion.

The Black Sheep Restaurant

480 W. Main St., Blue Ridge GA 

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep Restaurant

This stylish, and classy restaurant believes in fresh food that’s locally sourced and artfully prepared. Set in a historic house (circa 1814) you have your choice of pet-friendly patio seating under a 200-year-old oak tree, the enclosed porch with its flaming heaters, up at the beautifully appointed bar or in the main dining room, where service is second to none.  Start with an appetizer of pork belly and marmalade, add a perfect beet salad and eventually savor the lamb pappardelle. We can’t forget to mention that The Black Sheep offers a killer Brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 4pm. The Sunday paper, an inspired Bloody Mary and a chicken & red velvet waffle. Who can resist? Reservations are recommended.

Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar & Grill

733 E. Main St. Blue Ridge, GA 

Photo Courtesy of Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar & Grill

Everyone just refers to it as “Chester’s”, and it’s Blue Ridge’s answer to “Cheer’s”, where everyone knows your name, or at least it feels like they do. But don’t let this friendly bar atmosphere fool you. The dining experience at Chester’s is so noteworthy. The amazing craft beer selection shakes hands nicely with signature appetizers like chili and beer cheese nachos or deep-fried sticky ribs. The soup, salad and sandwich menu all have a plethora of delicious, inspired choices, but if you have a heartier appetite, dig into the entrees like the 14 oz blackened ribeye, cooked to perfection and served with herb roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic broccolini and finished with fresh herb butter. This is fine……real fine.

Cucina Rustica

76 Forge Mill Rd, Morganton, GA 

Photo Courtesy of Amy Walker Price

Chef Danny Mellman takes Italian fare to a new level at this fine-dining Ristorante. This is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends. Start out with a plate of Frito Misto (flash-fried calamari and fish with artichokes and lemon and charred tomato-lemon aioli). The salads are shareable in size. The Treviso is a patron favorite, w/ bacon, balsamic, fresh pear, walnuts, and Gorgonzola. A myriad of pasta, risottos, and polentas, with fresh roasted vegetables, compliment delectable fresh sauces, meat entrees, and the finest of seafood. This is Old World Italian cuisine served mountainside. On Friday and Saturday nights the chef offers a veal Osso Bucco that will transport you across the Mediterranean Sea without the jet lag. Reservations are recommended.

Harvest on Main

576 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA 

Photo Courtesy of Harvest on Main

This is the second of three Chef Danny Mellman eateries to make our list of eight. This was his first establishment in Blue Ridge and it has become what all its competition aspires to be.  You might think that it would be the service, the menu, the wine and beer selections that would put this place over the top. Not to minimize any of these, because they are all worthy of five stars, but it’s the rustic appointments of the décor that nails it. Every moment you are being treated to a dining experience at Harvest on Main you are made to feel you are dining at the most affluent of ski resorts, high up in the Grand Tetons when actually you are smack in the middle of downtown Blue Ridge. Make a reservation. Spend the evening. Know that you’ll be back to try every item on the menu. It’s that good.

Masseria Kitchen + Bar

67 Roberts Way, Blue Ridge, GA 

Photo Courtesy of Masseria – Kitchen & Bar

The third of Mellman’s family of restaurants to make our list, Masseria mashes together Mediterranean countryside food and infuses Appalachian sensitivities into the recipes to share food so fresh, so earthy, so flavorful and dare we say, healthy, that you will feel like you are eating in a Grecian farmhouse the evening of their best harvest.  Is pizza fine dining? Absolutely when it is topped with baked bourbon apples, raisins, gorgonzola cheese and ricotta. Couple that with a salad of kale, grilled chicken, couscous, quinoa, lemon vinaigrette, craisins and walnuts and you can see why they made our list.

South of North

257 East Main Street, Suite A Blue Ridge,GA 

Photo Courtesy of South of North

Forget your past Asian experiences when you ordered by the number next to the dish pictured on your giant menu. South of North dubs itself as “a counter casual establishment serving up a chef-driven twist on classic Vietnamese fare”. If you think that description is a mouthful, wait till you taste the Bún Chả (meatball)  with Snake River Kurobuta pork belly blende with a Joyce Farms filet mignon, house fermented mustard and infused chili oil. Menu items such as sticky buns, shrimp rolls, spicy noodle bowls , steamy buns, lettuce wraps – all elevated to a culinary height you’ve never quite experienced before. We carnivores love this place, but you vegans will be particularly in awe of this gastronomical voyage.

Treo Blue Ridge

588 E. Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA 

Photo Courtesy of Treo

When the sign suggests “steaks, seafood and pasta served here”, in a small downtown underground tuck-away, one doesn’t expect too much more than average. Treo is anything but average. Though they say they are casual dining, you might want to dress in something that makes you feel as special as the wait staff is going to treat you. There’s your choice of seating in the main dining room, outside patio, or the old cellar. Even if you don’t choose the cellar, be sure to ask for a tour, for here is where the finest wines and the most amazing bourbons are kept, waiting for the next indulgent guest to order up. A bourbon flight includes a choice of three from a list of 35 of the world’s best bourbons.  Wine flights are four samplings, with a choice from an international wine list you’ll be hard-pressed to find at most five-star restaurants. Sit back and enjoy your flights with a charcuterie and artisan cheese board while you contemplate your next move. Will it be the Lobster Mac and Cheese?

That wraps up our Top 8 Fine dining reviews. Did you really think that Blue Ridge was just about train rides and waterfalls? We are happy to share that we are fast becoming the culinary capital of the Appalachian mountains.

Escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains



Guest Blog by Forever Freckled.

If you haven’t already experienced the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, you should! Our families have been visiting this area for the last 6 years. Each time we return, it becomes even more special. There is something so incredibly quaint and peaceful about the small town of Blue Ridge.

Growing up in South Florida, we do not get to experience the amazing change in seasons. If you know us sisters, we are always talking about “sweater weather” and how badly we want to see the leaves change colors.

Well, we’ve teamed up again with Escape To Blue Ridge who always help us experience incredible family trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains! As we gear up for our next trip, we are excited to share information about Escape to Blue Ridge, the company we rent the cabins from, as well as some of the best activities and spots to hit up on your journey. If you love a vacation with a small town feel and views to die for, this trip is one for you.

We also want to lend you some pointers for traveling with a ton of kids! You may deal with plenty of tantrums, tears, accidents, and fights along with the fun. But if you’re well prepared, you’ll make it out in one piece.

Escape to Blue Ridge

For the past 6 years, we have reserved our mountain family cabin with Escape to Blue Ridge. The most amazing part about this company is that they have hundreds of homes you can reserve, making it easy to choose the cabin that best suits the needs and preferences of your family.

The trip we took a couple of years ago was AMAZING! We want to share those adventures with you again, so let’s get started!

The Cabin

We love a cabin with mountain views and a great outdoor space that’s big enough for our three families. We could not believe our eyes when we arrived on this trip. The kids were in heaven, and the views were spectacular!

There are no words to describe this place.

The name of our cabin was Falling Waters Lodge, named after the two small waterfalls running down the front yard. Let me tell you, the house was spotless, at least in the moment we all arrived. The details and decor that went into creating this home were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The cabin had a large open kitchen with top-of-line appliances and large windows to look out over the Blue Ridge Mountains while you cook.

There was also a hot tub on the downstairs patio to enjoy the few cold mountain nights. The bottom floor had a media room for movie nights with the kids and a play room with ping pong, billiards, and air hockey. There was a large open fire pit in the front next to the waterfalls where we made s’mores every night.

And even with all that, the most incredible part of this home was being able to wake up at 7am (before the kids) to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise and seeing the most amazing fog spread across the mountain tops.

That view was worth the entire trip for us!

Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

On this particular trip, we spent 6 event filled days in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Here are some of our favorite activities from the trip and our top must do activities when visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Atlanta Aquarium

This aquarium is amazing, and the kids will love it. Take some extra time after flying into Atlanta before heading to Blue Ridge, or before you head home, check out this great aquarium.

Mercier Orchards

For us, this stop is one of the most memorable stops in Blue Ridge. There is something so special about visiting an orchard. We took a hay ride with the kiddos up to the orchard fields where they let you roam around picking and eating apples. The kids had a blast, and Mason even lost a tooth biting into an apple!

After picking apples, we walked around their enormous shop trying homemade foods and buying tons of their famous maple syrup and homemade fried apple pies. The fried apple pies disappeared before we even made it back to the car!

Burt’s Farm

What is fall without a pumpkin patch? This day was so much fun! Besides a few major temper tantrums, we managed to have a really great time. The ride around this property on the tractor was so much fun, and the kids had a blast. We got to see how the pumpkins grow and some of the biggest pumpkins we have ever seen! And of course, they had fun Halloween decorations to give us some good decorating ideas for home!

Hiking

The parents decided that one afternoon the guys would get some alone time, and the ladies would get to do the same the next day. Our husbands went fly fishing in the Toccoa River (please see the hilarious, yet handsome, photo below), and we went hiking.

We made videos on toddler bathroom accidents and literally almost peed our pants laughing so hard!

Everyone was in full hiking gear, but we were probably the least prepared on our trail! We hiked at Springer Mountain, which is the very beginning of the Appalachian trail that leads north all the way up to Maine. There are so many great hikes and waterfalls around the Blue Ridge Mountains, even ones that are less challenging and more kid friendly.

Lily Pad Village

This spot has the cutest little fishing pond and gem mining spot that you ever did see! The kids loved spending the morning here. They sorted through their rock buckets full of soil, mining for gems and keeping some of the cool rocks and gems they found. We spent some time fishing by the pond using live bait. They also have a mini-golf course built into the side of the mountain!

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

This trip was very cool for the kids and great for the parents, especially if you go during the fall when the leaves are changing. The scenery on the ride is beautiful. The hour-long train ride on Blue Ridge’s old train cars takes you to a quaint town in Tennessee where you can shop the general stores and enjoy some southern food.

Our kids enjoyed riding the train and sitting in the open cart! Also, close to the train station in Blue Ridge is an amazing public park for the kids. We spent a lot of time there, until one of the kids had an accident in his pants, and we had to leave!

Three Sisters Fudge & Das Kauffee Haus

All day, every day! We ate so much fudge and drank so much coffee, and I am not upset about it! These are just two of the many perfect little shops you can stop at for fudge and coffee in downtown Blue Ridge.

We are obsessed with walking around main street going in and out of all their great shops.

BBQ and S’mores

Do not miss out on BBQ and s’mores – you don’t even have to leave your cabin! Yes, going out to dinner is fun but not always with 6 kids in tow. So we cooked at the cabin most of the time, and it made things a lot easier. We ate dinner outside and built a fire for the kids to make s’mores.

Some of our best memories from this trip were made staying home at the cabin!

Once the kids were in bed by 8:30pm, the parents enjoyed alone time and even some of our own s’mores, too!

Black Sheep Restaurant

Hands down, Black Sheep is the restaurant you want to visit in Blue Ridge. We were lucky enough to have one parent’s night out during the trip and decided to head to the main street of Blue Ridge and try this raved about dinner spot. This place is an historical home converted into one of the coolest restaurants we have ever seen. In the past when we visited Blue Ridge, we heard about this place but we didn’t feel like it would be family friendly.

But on this trip, new owners had completely revamped the restaurant in the best way possible. The ambiance and atmosphere are comfortable and casual, but it still has that fine dining feel we were craving.

We were lucky to be seated outside on the patio where the guys could watch their football during the meal. They even have an old-school movie night on the front lawn, which is such a great touch for bringing families and children to the restaurant!

Our meal was amazing, and the food was top notch. Seriously, everything was delicious, but we must say the crab cakes and the lamb bolognese were our favorites. For dessert, we had the most amazing pumpkin cheesecake ever…a slice of heaven.

Tips on Traveling with Kids

Oh man…before you do anything else, read this article Katie wrote on traveling with kids.

Now, for the tips. Our first tip is simple – just don’t take the kids with you!

Just kidding!

We were all nervous before we left, but I have to say, the kids were great. We had a few tantrums and one nasty cold that spread around fast, but we did well. The one thing that helped us immensely was preparation!

For the airport, make sure you stock snacks, iPads, movies, games, and whatever you can stuff in your bag. Entertainment and distraction are key! We had some really fun travel games that the kids LOVED playing.

The looks we got boarding a plane with 6 kids were laughable. But never say you’re sorry as a mom. We realized we were apologizing for having kids on the plane…that’s ridiculous, right? This is life. Kids fly, and we will do our very best to keep them happy, but sometimes, kids will be kids. Luckily, ours all behaved pretty well, and we didn’t get too many dirty looks.

A great tip to keep your kid busy and interested is to let them oversee their own suitcase. Each kid had their own personalized suitcase that they were responsible for. It was so cute how much they loved having matching luggage with their cousins, and they were proud to show off their bags!

We also brought nap mats which the kids used for movie nights in the media room. Sleeping bags would be fun, too!

Final Thoughts on Traveling to the Blue Ridge Mountains

All we can say is that Blue Ridge is a magical escape that takes you to a different world. It’s a great place for families or for couples.

Blue Ridge has it all!

We are so happy we discovered this amazing vacation spot, so we can create more memories over the years. All the cabins from Escape to Blue Ridge are incredible. We have stayed in a few cabins now, but if you need a 4+ bedroom home, and it is available, we highly recommend you book the cabin Falling Waters Lodge. It has that special, warm feeling of home you long for on family vacations. We most certainly will go back!

Thanks Escape to Blue Ridge for having us and letting us experience this amazing trip with our families!

Love,

Carrie, Katie, and Alison

*This trip was sponsored but all opinions are our own! We mean it!