CASHIERS, N.C. — Outdoor fun in this picturesque village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina comes with a distinctly playful side. Visitors splash in its streams in summer, hike its trails year-round and turn out to watch the famous Outhouse Races each February, when homemade outhouses — on skis — head down the slopes at Sapphire Valley Ski Resort.
But there's a serious side when it comes to food.
Nick Breedlove, executive director for Discover Jackson, the county's visitors bureau, says the Cashiers area has expanded its culinary offerings in recent years to bring bright and fresh flavors to its visitors and residents.
"Many of our restaurants have been recognized nationally — like Canyon Kitchen, named the 'Most Romantic Restaurant in N.C.' by Travel + Leisure," he says.
In addition to romance, the city and its immediate neighbors offer a wealth of tastes in both casual and fine-dining establishments. Here are just a few the next time you hear the mountains and magnificent waterfalls of Jackson County, North Carolina, calling your name.
Bucks Coffee Café
6 Highway 107 North, Cashiers
Located at the busy intersection of Highway 74 and Highway 107, Buck's is a Cashiers institution. It's the place where locals gather to get their morning jolt of java and a cheese danish, or, at the lunch hour, an iced latte with a tomato-basil-mozzarella on a fresh baguette warmed in the panini press.
Buck's has been under new ownership since late 2021. It once prohibited the use of laptops in the dining area, a common sight in coffeehouses around the country. Now, though, it's a welcoming coffeehouse where you can sit and catch up on the day's news on your cellphone or laptop, or bring a book and relax.
The landscape found inside is strictly casual. Pieces of animal art line whitewashed boards on the café walls. A mounted deer head and vintage barrel chandeliers add to the funky randomness of the coffeehouse décor.
For more information, visit Buck's Coffee Shop on Facebook.
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days.
For more information
To learn more about greater Cashiers and Jackson County, visit DiscoverJacksonNC.com.
217 Sapphire Valley Road, Sapphire, N.C.
In just over three hours, Chattanoogans can be racing down the slopes, tubing down the mountainside or ice skating at Ski Sapphire at Sapphire Valley Resort, minutes outside downtown Cashiers. The resort boasts several restaurants, such as Mica's, with a menu of steaks and seafood; Sapphire Mountain Brewing Co., with, you guessed it, craft beer and burgers, typical pub grub; Library Kitchen and Bar with its farm-to-table fare; and Slopeside, a restaurant at the base of the slopes with a casual menu of sandwiches, salads, wraps and flatbreads.
Come as you are, in ski attire or, when the weather's warm, shorts and flip-flops. Slopeside is strictly casual with a Cheer's-like bar where locals like to gather for a drink and nibbles at day's end. Situated at the base of one of the ski slopes, it's a place where you can ski down for a hot meal.
The menu offers tavern fare, such as burgers and wings, but it also adds a clever twist to familiar favorites, like its Fun Caesar Salad with Funyuns added for a play on croutons, or an appetizer of tortilla chips with Sapphire caviar — black beans, corn and feta.
There's plenty of seating, inside and out with tables enclosed by heavy plastic sheeting to ward of winter's chill, so social distancing is not a problem.
Log onto slopesidetavern.com for the complete menu.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday-Sunday (closed Tuesday).
Whiteside Brewing Co.
128 Highway 107 North, Cashiers
A day in the mountains calls for a cold brew at Whiteside Brewing, Cashiers' stop along the popular Jackson County Ale Trail.
Mat Barnwell and Andrew Eddy purchased an existing brew pub three years ago that had been a number of different restaurants in its near 50-year existence. The partners, though, expanded its footprint, adding a good deal of square footage inside as well as outside which comes alive on summer weekends with music and people, cold beer and food that's well above par for a brew pub.
The inside is warming with a large fireplace and handsome wood paneling. Front and center, though, are the gleaming stainless-steel tanks in which about 10 beers are brewed. Whiteside also welcomes another 10 local guest taps.
The menu is a nice mix of expected beer pairings, like big pillowy pretzels with beer cheese and nachos. The Brussels sprouts, flash-fried and coated with sesame seeds and a house-made stout chile sauce, are a phenom of flavor. Sandwiches, burgers, salads, wings sold by the pound, and, for the health-conscious, grilled chicken or salmon, round out a mouthwatering menu.
Find the full menu at whitesidebrewing.com.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday (closed Wednesday).
48 Village Walk Way, Cashiers
From the outside, Winslow's doesn't look like the kind of place you'd find prime rib so tender you have to give the cook a one-day notice that you'll be ordering it, or French onion soup made from a recipe that's 140 years old. There's that, and more, that comes out of the kitchen housed in a restaurant located in a strip center with neighbors that include a wine shop and consignment store.
Chef Winslow Jones' hidey-hole is well hidden, tucked in behind the Wells Fargo bank, but it's worth the adventure to discover this charming gem of a restaurant. With just eight tables and four seats at the bar, Winslow's Hideaway recommends reservations during the high seasons of spring, summer and fall. But the beauty of visiting Cashiers in winter is that you can get in restaurants with little to no wait or reservations, including Winslow's, where tables are usually in high demand.
The menu has a nice wine list with vintages you'd expect from a restaurant of this caliber. Most are sold by the bottle, and though the list of wines sold by the glass is limited, it's well-rounded enough to find something you like if you don't want to commit to a whole bottle. My Decaro cabernet was very nice. Jones has been a chef in several Cashiers-area eateries before opening his own place with his son, Edgar Jones, six years ago.
Back to that French onion soup. It's a recipe Winslow Jones learned from a chef who learned it from a chef who learned it from a chef, and so on — back 140 years. And the recipe hasn't changed — a well-balanced blend of beef stock and seasonings with tender onions and that yummy cheesy, bready topping. It's the kind of soup that warms the winter chill.
Jones' signature dish, Trout Winslow, is an example of the restaurant's use of local products, in this case, trout from nearby Sunburst Trout Farm in Waynesville. Like most entrees on the menu, the trout can be ordered in half or full size. The trout is topped with lump crabmeat and drizzled with a lovely Bearnaise. Best bets for dessert are Key lime pie or amaretto cheesecake, both made in house.
For more information, visit Winslow's Hideaway on Facebook.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday).
45 Slabtown Road, Cashiers
Like many Cashiers residents, Zookeepers John and Tanya Saparito are transplants from Florida who found the mountains more inviting that the busyness of Orlando. They brought with them more than 40 years of experience working in a resort near Disney World. At Zookeepers, they specialize in breakfast and weekend brunch, expanding into the lunch hour by adding soups, salads and sandwiches with sides of fries, potato chips, pasta salad and coleslaw.
Feeding time at the zoo starts early, but if you sleep in, not to worry. Breakfast is served all day, and there's no better way to break your fast than with a plate of French toast topped with caramel apples and dripping with warm syrup. If something a little lighter is more to your liking, the day's freshly made quiche may be what you need to get your day off to a delicious start.
Lunch options range from colorful salads to heartier fare, such as the Jackson Country Club, Mushroom Swiss Burger or a mouthwatering California BLT with creamy avocado, crisp bacon, lettuce and tomato.
Find the full menu online at www.thezookeeperbistro.com.
Hours: 7:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday).
Cashiers Valley Smokehouse
281 U.S. Highway 64, Cashiers
It's been said that if you don't live in Texas, you shouldn't attempt smoking brisket. Somebody forgot to tell Brien Peterkin. Every day, he's at the smoker outside the door of Cashiers Valley Smokehouse sending smoke signals throughout the valley and giving his briskets that smoky finish and dark outer bark, bringing them to a fork-tender finish.
Peterkin opened his smokehouse in May 2020 with a menu that, in addition to the house-favorite brisket plate, includes all the things that put a smack of Southern in a smokehouse — pulled pork and chicken, smoked turkey, ribs and sides of greens, mac and cheese, slaw, baked beans, and yes, banana pudding.
Or, kick your 'cue up a notch and enjoy it on a Cobb salad, or pile it on a big platter of nachos with wonton chips, black beans, queso and house-made salsa. The smokehouse also offers some interesting sandwiches, like its brisket Philly and a smoked turkey BLT.
Orders are placed at the counter. Take a number and a seat in one of two dining areas, and your barbecue will be delivered to your table.
For the full menu, log onto cashiersvalleysmokehouse.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday).
Slab Town Pizza
45 Slab Town Road
Peterkin and his family don't spend all their time at the Cashiers Valley Smokehouse. Down the road and around the corner, they own Slab Town Pizza. With its family atmosphere, the pizzeria has become so popular they've expanded into the space next door to streamline the guest experience.
There's a science to making good pizza dough, and the Peterkins have mastered it. Build your own pizza from an extensive list of toppings, or order one of several specialty pizzas, such as a white pizza with sausage or chicken, onions, arugula, ricotta and panna sauce, or, another favorite, The Duke, with Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ricotta, mozzarella and red sauce.
Slab Town is more than a place for pizza. It also the place for an excellent fried chicken sandwich; a bowl of homemade meatballs with crispy garlic bread; and a Bolognese sandwich with pork and beef ragu that your Italian grandmother could appreciate.
The decor is crisp and clean — bright whites and teal and lots of wood with batten-board walls and pine floors. Orders are placed at the counter as you enter, then you take a number and find a table or booth in one of two large dining areas inside or at a table outside where the kids can run and play on the lawn.
Fun fact: Slab Town takes its name from one of the city's nicknames, a nod to Cashiers' past as a logging town where freshly cut trees were cut into slabs before being cut into boards.
Check out the menu at slabtownpizza.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 4-8 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday).