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.

Fall is Prime Time to go to Blue Ridge



Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).

The Cabin

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Cloud Nine. It’s the type of name one would expect for a mountain vacation rental home. It’s one of those places that if you try and follow GPS directions you’ll get lost. The rental agency sent a confirmation that stressed the importance of following the turn-by-turn directions provided in the email, including detail you wouldn’t get from a GPS such as “go right when you see a bunch of mailboxes.”

The Approach

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

What it didn’t mention was the very steep and winding one-lane road. After putting my Honda into its lowest gear for the first time ever and having to navigate past an approaching vehicle, I came to the crest of Sunrock Mountain four miles west of Blue Ridge. I saw that Cloud Nine was the type of place I might want to hole-up for a while, but, having never been to Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay before, I came to do some exploring, to find the most beautiful scenery and the best outdoor spots to experience the autumnal ambiance.

The Train

Photo courtesy of @chusion

It turned out the back porch of the cabin was one of those places. In the morning I could see how the cabin got its name. It was literally in the clouds, the surrounding mountain peaks sticking up through a thick white blanket covering the valleys below. Still, I had to venture out. First on my itinerary was the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The major attraction in town, the railway has been in operation as a sightseeing excursion train since 1998 along tracks that have a history going back as far as 1886. The tracks follow the route of the winding Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. They’re essentially the same town with the state line running through the middle. Like a running joke, the line is demarcated by a blue stripe painted on sidewalks, roadways and running through the middle of businesses.

The train rolls at a leisurely pace and the open-air windows are large, making it a prime fall sightseeing adventure with a good dose of history thrown in. Along the way, you’ll see a Native American fish trap in the middle of the river that experts believe is 500 years old, and the old telegraph poles that used to be the fastest form of communication in a bygone era. The trip takes four hours, with two spent in McCaysville/Copperhill for exploring the towns.

McCaysville

If hunger strikes, Burra Burra on the River in McCaysville is near the train station and serves pub fare and local brews. Be sure to ask for outside seating, weather permitting. The real selling point here is the covered deck that overlooks the clear waters of the Toccoa River flowing past the state line where it becomes the Ocoee River after crossing into Tennessee.

Piano Bar

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep

Back in Blue Ridge, the largest patio bar in town can be found at Black Sheep Restaurant, where the seasonal menu leans heavily on seafood. Housed in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the patio overlooks the center of town. It’s a popular place, so make reservations for dinner. Or just have a drink at the bar.

Breweries

The craft beer scene is surprisingly good in Blue Ridge for such a small town that was dry not too long ago. Two breweries — Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing — both have large, inviting outdoor beer gardens where you can play cornhole, meet the locals and catch some live music. Wine drinkers have no shortage of options either, as wineries have been opening at a fast clip in this area over the last few years.

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

Near Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry (pronounced “my-tree”) stands out not only for its wine but also its patio outside the barn tasting room where the rolling vineyards reveal a long-range view of the mountains to the north.At Bear Claw Vineyards visitors can spend the night in the Blue Ridge Treehouse, featured on the DIY Network show “The Treehouse Guys.” The treehouse overlooks the vineyards and contains all the amenities one would expect when staying in a hotel.

Apple Country

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

No trip to the North Georgia mountains during the fall harvest season would be complete without taking advantage of apple country. The pull of a roadside farm store backed by endless acres of fruit orchards is undeniable. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and R&A Orchards outside Ellijay both have roadside markets selling freshly picked apples and other fruits, fresh-baked goods, local foodstuffs and offer pick-your-own days as well as plenty of free samples.

Welcome to the Mountains!

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Lake Blue Ridge is the centerpiece of a scenic drive worth exploring. Stop at the Blue Ridge Welcome Center to pick up a detailed map. Ringed by mountains, the lake has clear, emerald-hued water and a pristine, forested shoreline. The route also runs alongside the tumbling rapids of the Toccoa River, rolling farmland, historic houses, and has many side hikes to cascading waterfalls and other pastoral pleasures. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and make an afternoon of it if you plan to visit all the stops listed on the map. On my last morning at Cloud Nine, I got up early enough to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed on the porch until checkout. Sometimes where you are is the best place to be.

If You Go

Blue Ridge is 92 miles north of Atlanta.

What to see

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. $35 and up. 241 Depot St., Blue Ridge. 877-413-8724, brscenic.com

R&A Orchards. 5505 Hwy. 52 East, Ellijay. 706-273-3821, www.randaorchards.com

Where to stay

Escape to Blue Ridge. Cabins $140-$1,800 per night. 866-618-2521, www.escapetoblueridge.com.

Blue Ridge Treehouse. $234 and up. 2555 Tennis Court Road, Blue Ridge. 706-223-3750, blueridgetreehouse.com.

Where to Eat

Burra Burra on the River. $11 and up. 100 Blue Ridge Drive, McCaysville. 706-400-6660, www.burraburraontheriver.com.

Black Sheep Restaurant. $20 and up. 480 W. Main St., Blue Ridge 706-946-3663, www.blacksheepblueridge.com.

Visitor Info

Blue Ridge Welcome Center. 152 Orvin Lance Drive. 800-899-6867, www.blueridgemountains.com.

Ellijay Welcome Center. 10 Broad St. 706-635-7400, www.gilmerchamber.com.

The Black Sheep



History, architecture, and flavor combine to bring you the most incredible Blue Ridge dining experience at The Black Sheep Restaurant. From the moment you walk up the marble steps, taking note of the pet friendly patio, and the door swings open to welcome you, there is no question that you are about to have a divine experience. From the attentive staff and thoughtful menu items, The Black Sheep is clearly not your average, ordinary run-of-the-mill dining establishment. It is in fact, an elevated, stylish, and classy restaurant that believes in fresh food that’s locally sourced and artfully prepared.

What to Expect

Expect your taste buds to do jumping jacks! Seriously, Executive Chef Greg Cornelius is an absolute master with his culinary talents and abilities.  He specializes in taking your favorite American fares and elevating them about twenty notches. For example, you may think a hamburger or meatloaf is an odd item to find in at fine dining restaurant, but once that first taste of meat crosses your lips, you will become a believer because it will be like no other you have ever tasted! Of course, you will find traditional upscale dishes like rack of lamb or duck breast but add a gorgonzola cream or gorgonzola polenta and we’ve just crossed the line from ordinary to extraordinary!

You know what else you can expect? A Raw Oyster Bar! That’s right, the only one you will find in Blue Ridge. You can choose classic on the half shell oysters or if raw is not your thing, they can be prepared Rockefeller style. On Wednesdays and Sundays, you can select the Three Course Dinner Special. For either $19.99 or $26.99 you can enjoy an appetizer, main course, and dessert! Oh, and we’re not done yet. Saturdays and Sundays now feature a decadent Brunch menu. From 12pm – 4pm you can feast on Crab Cake Benedict or Corned Beef Hash, but the Chicken and Red Velvet Waffle is so good it’ll make your tongue jump out and lick the eyebrows right off your head!

Dine on the Black Sheep’s Pet Friendly Patio!

Happy Hour

The Black Sheep features not one but two bars to enjoy craft cocktails, beer, and wine. In fact, their wine cellar is so superb that they have been recognized by Wine Spectator for their impressive selection of vino. Both the owner, Brandon Lofton, and the General Manager, Patrick, are sommeliers and can help you pair the perfect bottle with your menu selections.

Have you heard of the Blue Ridge Lavender Smash? Made with fresh blueberry, lavender, lemon & Sipsmith London Dry Gin, this refreshing cocktail is the hit of the season! You can order one at the inside bar or step out to the patio and enjoy an adult beverage on the largest outdoor bar in Blue Ridge. Here you can take in the sights and sounds of Downtown Blue Ridge while sampling the Bar Bites like Truffle French Fries or Tuna Nachos, watching the game, and chatting it up with both old friends and new.

Blue Ridge Lavender Smash!

Distinctively Unique

The Black Sheep has been historically known as a place to go for special occasions and while that is still true, their mission is to cater to the every day patron while making each dining experience special. Speaking of catering, you don’t have to be onsite to enjoy the gourmet flavors of The Black Sheep. Treat your corporate partners or family and friends to decadent eats for your meetings or festive celebrations. If you prefer the ambiance of the restaurant, you may choose to make use of one of two private rooms – The Wine Room or The Library Room for large parties, banquets or special events.

Photo courtesy of Candy Murdock-Hagerman’s Birthday Celebration!

Since we’re talking about events, The Black Sheep likes to mix things up and keep fresh ideas flowing along with their fresh cuisine. Last summer they premiered their Outdoor Movie Nights on the front patio under the big oak tree. This year not only will they host Movie Nights, but they will also add Yoga on the Patio. Just picture this: Brunch, Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and Yoga. Oh yeah!  Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for all the latest happenings and upcoming events.

Beauty, Brains & Bayou

Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, a young chef took his passion for Cajun cooking and restaurant management to work for a large restaurant conglomerate in Southern Florida. By chance, Brandon Lofton found himself in an airport in Puerto Rico making conversation with a beautiful corporate executive, Ashlee, also from the Ft. Lauderdale area. Eventually they would marry and purchase a vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Brandon and Ashlee love the outdoor life – hiking, biking, and boating, but after one fateful trip, the whole game changed. The Lofton’s went back to Florida and made the decision to leave Corporate America, become entrepreneurs, and make the move to be full time mountain residents. If you ask the owners of The Black Sheep if they made the right move, you will get an unequivocal..YES! It’s the best decision they ever made. They love being a part of the Blue Ridge community. They also love having the great outdoors so accessible and all the great people they get to meet along the way!

After settling into the mountain lifestyle and getting his restaurant where it needs to be, Brandon wanted to be able to showcase his Cajun side. In partnership with his GM, Patrick, Lulu’s Gumbo Shop can now be seen in their branded tent around town at festivals, during special events with partners like Grumpy Old Men Brewing, and at private events like weddings. Lulu’s specializes in chicken & sausage Gumbo and Jambalaya – a shrimp and crawfish combination, made from old family recipes straight out of LA.

Ashlee has also become a certified yoga instructor. Her business, Yoga Over Blue Ridge, is a mobile yoga studio. She offers private instruction and lessons and destination yoga classes. These are perfect for Girlfriend Getaways, Bachelorette parties, or any private yoga party. Recently she has partnered with Bear Claw Vineyards for a Namaste & Cabernet class. Yoga class + wine tasting? Yes, please! She’s also partnering with local breweries for Bend & Brew events. That’s right, yoga and a flight of beer! Keep an eye on her social pages to find out about future events.

If all of this wasn’t enough, the power couple recently purchased Blue Ridge Brewery in downtown Blue Ridge. Located less than a quarter mile from The Black Sheep, Blue Ridge Brewery is located at 187 Depot Street. You can look forward to new beers crafted by an expert brew master, a new menu designed to delight the taste buds, and a stellar lineup of live music and events!

Up Next For The Sheep

A new menu was just released and includes amazing dishes like an heirloom tomato Panzanella salad and seared diver scallops with lemon risotto and smoked tomato coulis. If you haven’t yet been to The Black Sheep Restaurant, what are you waiting for? Put it on the top of your must do list. If you haven’t been in a while, you need to come back and check it out. The vibe is comfortable and not pretentious, the food is on point, and the atmosphere will make this your favorite downtown spot. If you’ve been there recently, then you know what’s up!

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad topped with Ricotta Salata

As a special treat just for Escape to Blue Ridge Fans, The Black Sheep Restaurant is offering one free appetizer per table if you tell your waiter that you are the “Black Sheep of Your Family”. How cool is that? Now don’t be sheepish, make your dinner reservations today!