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destination dining in western NC or VA?

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Planning a trip to either Western NC or Western Virginia, and need to decide what towns we want to visit. Basically, we want to hike and bike all day and eat great at night, without too much unnecessary driving once we get to the area. A lake in the vicinity would be a plus but is not mandatory.

Oh, and my girlfriend does not eat meat, so I must decide this on some grounds OTHER than proximity to great barbecue. Sorry 'hounds!

People keep mentioning that Blowing Rock and Asheville, NC have a number of well-liked places to dine. Any other towns or locales that would fit the bill?

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  1. I'm going to sound like I'm channeling the Asheville , NC chamber of commerce here....

    Sounds like Asheville was built for you and your girlfriend. I ride my mountain bike every week in Pisgah, it never gets old. Best MTB trails east of the M. river, most people agree. If you are talking about road biking...that's pretty great too. The Blue Ridge Parkway is realtively bike-friendly, except you must have lights in the tunnels. If you want more cycling specific info , let me know and I'll hand over my e-mail.

    As for Chow, Asheville is very "progressive" compared to other southern towns, and there will be LOTS of vegetarian options. While Laughing Seed stands out as a purely vegetarian restaurant, almost every good rest. will have vegetarian options.

    Salsa (Carribean casual rest.) is a destination IMO, and if you search the south board for Asheville, you'll find a jillion other opinions and suggestions.

    Personally, I went to Blowing Rock once, and was horrified to find a tacky little tourist town, like Gatlinburg with better views. We searched for restaurants by walking around town and looking at menus (admittedly no recs from hounds) and still wound up with mediocre food. It is possible that we just totally missed all the charming places and great food in Blowing Rock, but that's my .02 worth.

    1. I agree with Dana that Ashville in a true gem. My husband is a vegetarian and we visit often. Laughing Seed, Salsa, Zambra are all great. We enjoyed a Thai restaurant located near Earth Fare market as well as an early breakfast at Earth Fare. Early Girl also serves a good breakfast. The area is biking and hiking friendly.

      I gasped when I read Dana compare Blowing Rock to Gatlinburg. Blowing Rock is a small village with one road running through 3-4 blocks of downtown shops. They have concerts and art fairs throughout the summer in the downtown park. There is a small lake with patio dining options as well. Since it is just one road in and out with many weekend visitors, the traffic can jam up during peak summer weekends.

      Also nearby Blowing Rock (area is known as "The High Country") is Banner Elk and Grandfather Mountain. My suggestion would be a casual evening dining on tapas at Zuzda's in Banner Elk at the base of Beech Mountain. While Lance Armstrong did much of his training in the area, it is not biking terrain for the weak of heart/legs. There are many outstanding hiking trails on Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding area.

      You may want to check out the tempetures of the two areas before you leave on your trip as well. The High Country (especially Banner Elk) will often be 10-20 degrees lower than Asheville during the summer and likewise cooler other times of the year. It possibly could be 90 in Asheville and in the low 70's in Banner Elk on a warm summer day.

      I adore both areas and am currently debating about selling my home at almost 5,000 ft. elevation in Banner Elk and moving to Asheville. The Asheville area has year round activities with tons of outstanding dining options. The High Country is much more of a summer and winter mountain getaway destination with a collection of several villages, small university towns and golf and ski resorts...luckily with a handful of good restaurants tucked in.

      Enjoy your visit to Western NC!
      Windsor

      1. Asheville, Waynesville, Brevard, Blowing Rock, Black Mountain....with the most variety in restaurant choices in Asheville.

        1. Twenty minutes east of Asheville is this great town called Black Mountain. We stop by there once a year on the way back from the mountains.
          The Green Light Cafe is a GREAT vegetarian place. The BM Chamber of Commerce describes it as "Black Mountain's only vegetarian restaurant. A full menu featuring locally grown produce. All items made from scratch. Serving lunch dinner & Sun. Brunch."
          Pepper's Deli is a fun, casual sandwich place, with Dr. Pepper kitsch up the wazoo.
          The Dripolator Coffeehouse makes a mean cuppa fair trade joe.

          Have a great visit!
          Sheehan

          2 Replies
          1. re: veggiemoore

            I agree - Green Light Cafe is really good. Not one of those super-ambitions frou-frou veg places, just really good quality everything I've eaten there.

            Windsor - you're not the only one to think I was crazy w/ my take on Blowing Rock. I dunno. Fudge shops, hot rods cruising main street...I think we went on a holiday weekend, maybe that was the problem. I am very tempted to give Boone a shot, I've never been there, and we want to ride some of Lance's routes. Where should we eat? Is Zuzda's clse to Boone? Thanks

            1. re: danna

              now see I tried Green Light once and just thought is was ok...but it has been a couple of years ago. Crippen's in Blowing Rock was very good - but again - a couple of years. Up in Boone there was a place with the word "onion" in it that I really liked - maybe Pickled Onion??

          2. Red Rocker Inn in black Mountain is a great dining experience. Blowing Rock has several quality eating places and is by no means a tacky little town. Twigs is my favorite but there are several quality places. I am a native of Banner Elk and for its size in NC has many great eateries, Louisiana Purchase, Morrills, Stonewalls, Zupda's Best Cellar (in Linville) Mountain Tavern. These restaurants serve some of the most affluent people in the US who retire to their summer homes nearby and they deliver the quality that these residents require.

            1. Banner Elk, NC is a quaint little town with some good restaurants. If you wants sophisticate Italian in a mountain town, try Sorrentos..good pizza, too, and you can get a good glass of wine. Up the road towards Beech Mountain is a neat little place called Jackelope's, part of the Archer Mountain Inn. Don't eat there, but have a drink and an appetizer...great view and nice little bar.