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 seven of our favorites.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That wraps up our Top 7 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.
The summer season has arrived! Here in Blue Ridge and the surrounding areas we have plenty of events happening to help make this summer the best one yet! If you’re escaping with us this June just know you’ll have plenty to keep you busy!
Picnic beneath the apple trees all through spring and summer at Deep Roots Orchard! Bring your closest friends and family to relax under the trees. Deep Root’s will provide you with everything you need; the picnic basket, blanket, and food. All you need to bring is your wonderful self! Be sure to check out Deep Roots’ other group experiences like the “Special Occasion Picnic” and “Food, Folic, and Flow”. Prices start at $27 per person; call 706-492-7753 to book your picnic today!
Every Thursday night at 6pm, May – September visit Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville, GA for live music and picnicking by the Toccoa River. Picnic tables are available but feel free to bring a picnic blanket and lawn chair as well. Admission is free so bring the whole family to enjoy!
Partake in a fun run every Thursday night at 6pm from now till July 29th. You’ll leave from the Burra Burra, and the 3.1 mile run will take you by the Toccoa river and through town. You’ll get to run through 2 states and cross the famous steel bridge! After the run stay for drinks at the Burra Burra overlooking the Toccoa River. Don’t walk, RUN to this great event!
Visit the winery at the beautiful Paradise Hills hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The tasting room offers Paradise Hills wine, a selection of craft beers, hard cider, and wine slushies as well as cheese and charcuterie boards, tapas, and shared platters. You can enjoy your drinks and snacks on the patio as you listen to local artists perform every Friday night from 4pm – 8pm.
For award winning wine, live music, and food truck Bear Claw Vineyards is the place for you! Join them every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for live music and food trucks. Kids and dogs are welcome too! The live music schedule for each weekend is shared on their website each Thursday so be sure to check back!
June 4th: Hunter Flanagan: 3pm – 7pm June 5th: Travis Bowlin: 1pm – 8pm June 6th: Gabe Meyers: 1pm – 5pm June 11th: Lindsay Beth Harper: 3pm – 7pm June 12th: The Shetlands: 1pm – 8pm June 13th: Hunter Flanagan: 1pm – 5pm
Bring the family to Hiawassee, GA for the night for an open-air night artisan market. The market goes from 5pm – 10pm and will be filled with live music, food trucks, fresh produce, games, and art. This monthly market is great for some outdoor family fun!
Look around and stock up on beautiful, hand-made arts and crafts from local artisans! You’ll find pottery, candles, soaps, paintings, jewelry, signs, knitting, and so much more! You’ll come home with bags full of hand-made treasures. The event runs all weekend from 10am – 5pm daily, and tickets are $5 a person and children under 12 are free!
Enjoy classic rock groups Atlanta Rhythm Section and Orleans live in concert at Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds! Hear their most famous hits and other favorites in person! The concert goes from 7pm – 10pm and is sure to be a great time. Get tickets online or call the office at 706-896-4191!
Enjoy this wonderful market every Saturday from 8am – 12pm now till November (weather permitting) right in the heart of Downtown Blue Ridge! There will be all kinds of vendors offering food, artisan goods, arts & crafts, furniture, and more!
Sip on delicious wine surrounded by the North Georgia Mountains! Enjoy live music Saturdays & Sundays from 1:30pm – 5:30pm. Listen to the music of local artists while enjoying your wine outside either on the Chimney Patio or the Tasting Barn’s covered porch. Live music, good wine, and beautiful mountain scenery; it doesn’t get much better than that!
June 5th: Rusted Melody June 6th: Sarah Forde June 12th: Johnny Summers June 13th: Second Helping Duo June 19th: Gregg Erwin June 20th: Gabe Myers June 26th: Timothy O’Donovan + Autism & Art Pop Up event – 1pm to 6pm June 27th: Ryan LittleEagle
On Sundays from 11am – 3pm enjoy live music and a delicious brunch at The Black Sheep in Downtown Blue Ridge. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere that is dog friendly and take advantage of the brunch drink specials!
Tails and Tales June 7th – June 30th Location: Towns County Public Library & Mountain Regional Library
The local libraries “Tails and Tales” Summer Reading Program is going all out with the animal theme! There will be a petting zoo, Tall Tales of Georgia, Project Chimps, and many opportunities for students to engage with summer reading. Each event will also have hand-outs or take-and-makes as well. Students can also play games and attend events to be entered in a weekly prize drawing! Prizes might include, books, waterbottles, puzzles, toys, t-shirts, cups, bookbags, Splash Island passes, movie tickets, and so much more! “Tails and Tales” takes place daily June 7th through July 30th! For more information contact (706) 896-4966 or toll free 1 (800) 984-1543.
Check out live demonstrations from artists all weekend from all over North Georgia! Just follow the Art Tour signs in Union Towns, Rabun, White, and Habersham counties in GA + Clay Co., NC. The event runs from 10am – 5pm each day. You’ll see artists creating beautiful paints, pottery, folk art, jewelry, glass, photography, handcrafted furniture, and so much more. Maps are available at local Chambers or you can get them from www.ArtsTour.org
Hiawassee, GA’s Artworks Artisan Center is finally reopening at its new location at 243 Big Sky Drive. This weeklong celebration will run daily from 10am – 5pm. There will be a Make-and-Take demonstration, refreshments, and various guild members demonstrating their work. And on June 15th at 4:30pm there will be a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony! Come on down to support the grand reopening of this special business!
Head on over to to Tooney’s Music & Bar in McCaysville, GA right by the Ocoee River for a night of fun! Select Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm – 11pm you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer and listen to some of the best live music that McCaysville has to offer! Want to do some of your own singing? Every Thursday night is open mic night from 6pm – 10pm; so, grab the mic and show off those singing chops! Enjoy a night filled with good drinks and music at Tooney’s Music & Bar!
June 11th: Shannon York with River Dixon June 12th: ShuffleJunkies
Where else can you find regional wines from all over the world, tapas and other delicious international platters, and live music!? At Bin 322 Wine & Tapas Bar! Drop by Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm – 9pm to enjoy live music from local artists and choose from their great wine selection.
June 11th: Topper Acoustic June 12th: Zack Alexander June 18th: Jess Goggins June 19th: Heidi Pollyea and Johanna Millin June 25th: Jazz Jones Legacy June 26th: George St. John
Relax on the shores of Lake Blue Ridge from the Boat Dock Bar & Grill at Lake Blue Ridge Marina. There you’ll have a beautiful view of the lake, delicious entrees and cocktails, and live music on the weekends! Live music is 6pm – 9pm Fridays and Saturday and 1pm to 4pm Sundays. You’ll feel relaxed and renewed in no time!
June 11th: Danny Rhea June 12th: Travis Bowlin June 13th: David Welch June 18th: Gerry Herndon June 19th: Shannon York June 20th: Buck & Oz June 25th: Danny Rhea June 26th: Travis Bowlin June 27th: Gerry Herndon
Misty Mountain Hops is a music-centric restaurant and pub so it’s only fitting that they bring in live music. Stop on by Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm – 9pm now till July 10th for great food and great live music from local artists!
June 11th: Hush Money Band June 12th: Dave Flowers June 18th: High Beams Band June 19th: Catfish Hill Roberts June 25th: Travis Bowlin June 26th: Canon Tyler
Bring your family, friends and pets to Hiawassee Square Saturday at 7pm for live music from Gnarly Fingers! There will be chips, hot dogs, and sodas available to purchase as well. Relax for the evening and listen to some great local music!
Visit the winery at the beautiful Paradise Hills hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The tasting room offers Paradise Hills wine, a selection of craft beers, hard cider, and wine slushies as well as cheese and charcuterie boards, tapas, and shared platters. You can enjoy your drinks and snacks as you listen to local artists perform every Saturday from 1pm – 5pm.
June 12th: Dr. Paul June 19th: Trailer Hippies June 26th: Curtis Jones
Throughout summer be sure to visit the Riverwalk Shops in McCaysville on the second Saturday of each month. The shops will be open late that night! There will be fun shopping, great dining, free gifts, and special offers. For a fun late night shopping experience this event is for you!
Looking for something to keep your kids busy and entertained this summer? Sign them up for the Summer Youth Arts Camp! The Art Center offers three weeks of full day camp with wonderful art classes like clay, painting, and much more! Choose to sign your child up for one week or all three! Your creative and artistic child will come home with new skills and techniques and an even greater love for art in no time!
The Christian Motorcycle Association is a motorcyclist friendly fellowship who love their bikes and Jesus Christ. Their Eastern National Rally takes place from Wednesday, June 16th – Sunday, June 20th. CMA rides for Christ!
Stop by Grumpy Old Men Brewery Fridays from 3pm – 6pm and Saturdays 4pm – 7pm for great drinks, great music, and a great time. With indoor and outdoor seating available you can even bring your dog to join in the fun! Enjoy a delicious hotdog from Jeff’s Hotdog’s while you listen to some fantastic local artists!
June 18th: Dave Dale June 19th: Highbeams Music June 25th: Gerry Herndon June 26th: Hayden Miles Band
Watch a free movie under the stars at Deep Roots Orchard. The movie is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and starts at 8:30pm. Bring blankets and pillows and get comfy as you enjoy your movie. And if you’re in the need for movie snacks concessions will be sold as well!
Come on out to Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds for the annual summer British in the Blue Ridge Rally! This is THE premier British motorcycle rally in the southeastern United States and has been held every year since 1985. The event will have a motorcycle show, vendors, field events, mountain motorcycle rides, and camping! All makes and models are welcome to join and campsites are available as well!
Pickin’ For Patton is a star-studded Bluegrass Festival! This all day event goes from 11am – 10pm. Many famous Bluegrass stars will be attendance including Patton Wages! There will be great music, great food, and a great time! Even bring your own instruments if you want to for some awesome outside jamming! Get tickets online or call the office at 706-896-4191!
Make your way over to the beautiful INOLA Blue Ridge for Blue Ridge’s annual Wine and Jazz Festival! There will be great music, delicious wines, beautiful art, tasty food! The food is prepared locally and the jazz performers are some of the top in the region. Some of the great performers will be Fred Johnson, Rhythm Jets, Roman Street, and Kharisma Jazzmatic Funk. Come on out and enjoy this wonderful event! The festival is on rain or shine!
If you’re ready to shop for thousands of items made right here in Georgia then check out the Made in Georgia Festival! You’ll be able to shop at over 100 vendors who offer a wide variety of products made, grown, brewed, harvested, stitched, crafted, or inspired by Georgia. Take home fashion accessories, home décor, health and beauty products, and so much more! Even enjoy gourmet food and treats from some of Georgia’s top chefs! The event runs Saturday from 10am – 5pm and Sunday 11am – 4pm. Entry is $7; children 14 and under are free!
Even on vacation sometimes you may just want a night in to relax. We totally understand! So sit back and do just that; while others prepare your hot, fresh meals for you. All you have to do is be ready to eat! Instead of cooking for hours, enjoy that extra down time with your friends and family and then come together for a delicious meal. Your taste buds and your tired feet will thank you!
You can now enjoy meals from the comfort of your own home away from home thanks to take out and delivery options. When you don’t feel like cooking in the cabin you can order food from many of the favorite Blue Ridge restaurants to-go. You can even order meals from some of our favorite local chefs! Here’s a list of 6 Blue Ridge restaurants, shops, and chefs that are helping to make mealtime easy!
Mercier Orchards has a variety of pre-made, ready-to-cook meals to choose from. They’re made right on the farm and with fresh ingredients! Each meal serves two people and includes step-by-step instructions for preparing in under 30 minutes. They have a variety of options for you to take home including; Chicken Parmesan, Savory Pot Roast with Gravy, Stuffed Pork Chops, Local Trout wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon or topped with Lemon & Dill, and Chicken Cordon Bleu; and each come with a delicious vegetable side of your choosing! New meals are added weekly, so there will always be something fresh and new. To place an order email at email@example.com or call at 706-632-3411.
Mercier’s also has a Grab-N-Go Bakery where you can pick up all your favorite sweet treats like fried pies and apple cider donuts! Even pick up a bottle of their famous hard cider or wine while you’re there to bring home for a night in at the cabin. With so many delicious meals and treats to bring back, you won’t need to cook a thing!
Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill in Downtown Blue Ridge has take out! That means you can take any of their delicious meals home and enjoy them in the comfort of your own cabin. Bring Chester’s incredible wings home with you to share with the whole family; choose from 10, 20, or 50 wings. Or bring home a delicious burger and fries or for a fancy meal in go for the Blackened 14oz Ribeye Steak. And don’t forget to take home the dessert of the week too! Choose anything off the menu and enjoy a night in your home away from home!
With two locations to serve you, Rum Cake Lady in Downtown Blue or in McCaysville/Copperhill makes it east to order anything off the menu for take out or delivery! If you’re feeding a large family or group, the Party Sandwich Platters and a handful of different Bundt Cake flavors are the perfect fit. Or order a bunch of Cuban Food Bowls to fill you up with a mix of rice, meat, and beans. Bring the taste of Cuba home to your cabin and some desserts that everyone will enjoy!
Cabin chefs are great for making preparations at mealtime a breeze, and Chef Jeff Servin & Company is one of our favorites! You can order a private chef to come in and give you a fine dining experience, cater in, or use their cabin concierge service to bring in groceries and packaged, ready to cook meals before you even arrive. Chef Jeff & team makes it easy for you to relax and enjoy your time with your loved ones. For meal selections, enjoy delicious choices like Heritage Pork and Georgia Peaches, Beef Wellington, New York Strip, and so much more. Chef Jeff Servin & Company bring the fine dining straight to you! In fact, they will create a tailor fit menu based on your preferences, allergies, and dietary restrictions. Trust us. You will not be disappointed with this company, this service, or their food!
Stock up on all things pasta at the Pasta Market in both Downtown Blue Ridge and McCaysville/Copperhill. Pick up all kinds of pastas, sauces, spices, flatbreads, desserts, and more then bring them back with you to prep an easy meal at the cabin. You’ll love their large selection of imported Italian goods that will make you feel like you’re dining on a delicious, authentic Italian meal at a Tuscan villa. Even when you’re not in Blue Ridge you can order online to have your favorite Italian goods delivered right to your door! Take the taste of Italy with you, wherever you go!
Ingles Market is a great place to stock up for your week in Blue Ridge. You can find all your basics here like bread, cereal, meat, and more but you can also find a wide selection of local goods that you wouldn’t be able to find at the bigger grocery stores. Not only can you stock up on your usual groceries here but you can also order catering from The Chef’s Kitchen to serve your family and guests at your cabin. They have everything you could imagine from hors d’oeuvres, party platters, ready to eat boxed meals, soups and salads, wraps, bakery items, and hot buffets. Ingles is great for everything you need whether you plan on cooking up fresh meals in the kitchen or having them catered in; you can do it all easily!
Cover Photo of delicious meals courtesy of Chef Jeff Servin
Fine dining is different at every restaurant, but there is something magical about having a fully prepared gourmet meal in the privacy of your luxurious mountain cabin. Lucky for us, so many of the finest award-winning international chefs have found their way to the Appalachian mountains, tired of the hassle of metropolitan restaurant life, and a few special ones chose to settle right here in Blue Ridge to share their talents.
These 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! The surprising part, is this 5-star service is much more affordable than you might think. Seriously. It is! We recommend you consider one of these amazing options (listed alphabetically because we love all 3!) on your next Escape to Blue Ridge.
Steven Lash is a veteran of 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.
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! He puts his entire heart, passion, and skillset into dinner parties, family dinners, or an exotic feast for two. He also offers packaged meals that are ready in minutes, so you don’t even need to leave your cabin!
Featured blog cover photo courtesy of Chef Jeff Servin.
Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey is passionate about sharing the experience of fine dining with his clients. His services include initial client consultation, a customized menu plan, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and kitchen clean up!
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
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.
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!
3758 East First Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-258-2762 | Hours: Friday & Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm
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.
1315 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-2739 | Hours: Monday – Wednesday 12pm-6pm, Thursday – Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12:30pm-5pm
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.
8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge, GA | 706-632-3411 | Hours: Sunday – Thursday 8am-4pm, Friday & Saturday 8am-6pm
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.
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.
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
500 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-4440
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!
733 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia | 706-258-2539
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!):
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.
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!
Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey will create an imaginative menu for your family or friends, all in your kitchen. Giving consideration to food allergies or dietary restrictions is something he takes into account when writing the menus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Blue Ridge there are 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.
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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!