Get Going to Jackson!
By Hope S. Philbrick
Nestled among North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, Jackson County boasts scenic beauty, vibrant communities, peaceful forests, delicious cuisine and lots of fresh air.
Founded in 1851 and named for President Andrew Jackson, Jackson’s 491 square miles boast some spectacular mountain scenery with elevations from 2,000 to over 6,000 feet. It’s also home to more than 40 miles of the Tuckasegee River—which is one of the best whitewater rivers for beginners and one of the state’s best trout fishing streams—more than 20 dramatic waterfalls, and Lake Glenville, with 26 miles of shoreline and depths of up to 150 feet.
Jackson County’s townships include Sylva, Cullowhee, Dillsboro and Cashiers, each with unique shopping, dining and lodging options—from cabin rentals to boutique inns, family-friendly resorts to camping.
It’s a place to enjoy rafting, hiking, fishing, golfing, skiing, boating, tasting craft brews, and much more.
If you can’t find a way to burn calories here, it’s your own fault.
When it comes time to eat, here are five fine options:
Buck’s Coffee Café
Skip the national near-Monopoly and opt for this casual, local coffee house that’s a social hub of Cashiers. Spoiler Alert: Specialty coffees like lattes arrive with foam designs—even if served in a to-go cup. Fun! Specialty coffees can skew sweet; if that’s an issue for you, order the coffee black and add cream or sugar to suit your personal palate. Teas are also available and all drinks can be served hot or iced. Pastries like cinnamon buns, scones and muffins can be warmed for a just-out-of-the-oven sensation. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches are also popular.
Odds of Encountering Children: Varies, depending on the day and time you go. If annoying kids abound, take your order to go.
Now in its sixth season, Canyon Kitchen is open late spring to early fall, Wednesday through Sunday, which alone seems to say it’s a special occasion destination, though a fine dining experience here will make even the most mundane evening seem special. At the helm is Executive Chef John Fleer, who has been named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the prestigious James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” Award. The restaurant boasts a spectacular setting: It’s framed by trees and meadows and faces a dramatic 1,000-foot granite cliff. The airy dining room sets the stage for a memory-making meal. Menus change frequently, but whatever is on it will boast beautiful presentations and layers of flavor.
Odds of Encountering Children: Slim.
From the street, the 36-year-old Cornucopia looks like it’s a quaint little house, but once inside you’ll discover a large dining room, bar, screened porch, and even gourmet cheese shop. The metal-topped tables may have you mentally renovating your home table, but once the food is served upon it you’ll single-mindedly chow down on simply yummy, homemade fare. The lunch menu offers a range of soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetarian options and hamburgers while the dinner menu is an eclectic mix of Southern dishes with chicken, beef, seafood and pasta. Don’t miss the Sunburst Farms smoked trout dip or the black bean burger. One meal here and you’ll wish a copycat would open up close to wherever you call home.
Odds of Encountering Children: Likely, but it won’t matter: The dining room volume is generally loud enough to drown out children’s chatter, so you shouldn’t have to hear “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy? Can I have a pony?” Your only real concern is if her “No!” leads to screams and wails.
The Gamekeeper’s Tavern
A three-time winner of the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, The Gamekeeper’s Tavern showcases fresh, local product, with a preference for organic. Though Chef Allen Spivey and Sous Chef Allan Mustarde change their farm-to-table menu seasonally, the menu focuses on fresh game and fish—though even the most squeamish of diners will find something satisfying among the options. The dining room is rustic yet sophisticated, the servers attentive yet discreet. If you eat red meat, this is a place to indulge. Whatever you order, trust your server’s wine pairing recommendations.
Odds of Encountering Children: Moderate. It depends on the day of the week and time of year you visit. We saw none during a dinner service in late spring.
High Hampton Inn
Featuring seasonal ingredients and traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations, meals in this dining room are at once casual (served buffet-style) yet refined (men are asked to wear a jacket and tie). Popular favorites include fried chicken, local rainbow trout, herb-crusted prime rib and New York strip steak. Locally grown vegetables and homemade breads are served alongside. Wine and beer are available during midday and evening meals. If you went to summer camp as a youngster, the dining room here may feel a bit reminiscent with its rustic décor and lively chatter. The view is spectacular: Hampton Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains set the stage for this 1,400-acre resort that has lured guests since the 19th Century.
Odds of Encountering Children: Guaranteed!
Road Tripping? Jackson County is 50 miles from Asheville NC, 111 miles from Knoxville TN, 50 miles from Gatlinburg TN, and 150 miles from Atlanta GA.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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