drive to West Jefferson
NC has a rapidly growing wine industry with lots of wineries popping up in the area you'll drive through. One of the best is Shelton, located just off I-77 near the small town of Dobson. Not only are the wines pretty good, they have an excellent restaurant on site.
Once in Jefferson, Glendale Springs Inn is a B&B in the area with a terrific restaurant. Also nearby is Shatley Springs Inn, which serves southern style food (fried chicken, ham, veggies, etc) in an all you can eat, family style format. I've never eaten there, so I have no first hand knowledge, but I've heard its good.
There is a restaurant in town called Michael's that we like. They have a meat and two special every day for lunch (also a full menu) and their biscuits are the best I've ever had. Also check out the coffee house on the back street. I believe it is called West Jefferson Coffee House. They have a good soup and sandwich lunch and great coffee and sweets. I would stay way clear of the BBQ place on the left as you drive into town.........
You're right, West Jefferson is way off the grid. =) I know, because I grew up there. The guy below me mentions skipping a bbq place in town on your left. It's called "Smoky Mtn. Barbecue" and I actually worked there for a summer. It's not horrible, but definitely not outstanding. Their fried chicken is more worth the trip than their bbq. Their ribs are awesome, but they only serve 'em once a week.
Ashe County Cheese Plant will take you all of 20 minutes to visit. Go look in the window and see if anything is going on. When you visit the store, pick up some "squeaky cheese." It's a local favorite.
Definitely check out the Glendale Springs Inn - it's close to the churches of the frescoes, and has a great restaurant. Pres. Clinton stayed there while on his visit.
T. Gray's in downtown WJ is new, and I have yet to eat there.
Where exactly is your cabin located? I might be able to come up with some other stuff to do. You should definitely take a day to canoe the New. Hit up Zaloo's Canoes.
If you want an upscale meal in Ashe County, check out the River House: http://www.riverhousenc.com/cmt/20.html
It's between 20-40 dollars a plate, and is absolutely wonderful. The chef features upscale dishes of game found in the area. eg: plantain encrusted trout, venison, etc..
I will second the nod to Shatley Springs, but I would more recommend going there for breakfast. If you want a real Ashe Co. treat, ask for chocolate gravy. =) It sounds weird, but trust me, it's awesome.
I can't speak to Michael's as it's relatively new. However, Ashe Co. is no longer dry as of this spring, and I believe Michael's has a good bar. Or, it's one of the few places in town with a bar, rather.
The WJ Coffee House is not on the back street, but just outside of town. Similar to Waffle House, they have awesome omelettes.
West Jefferson Coffee House is on the back street...... I was there last week.....it is a small coffee house, not a restaurant....they have a website and are behind Fraser's restaurant. They used to be located at Jefferson Station but relocated to the back street within the last year. I know the one you are talking about just outside of town but have never been there. You are lucky to have grown up there. I love WJ!
I grew up there, too! (on chocolate gravy and biscuits)
Sweet Aromas has reopened somewhere, maybe in Jefferson? And what about Isabell's on New 16? (though I've heard the business isn't as good as it was on Hwy 88 -- there may be a thread here somewhere, and the Independent did an article on Isabell last year:
Isabell's, Shatley Springs and the River House are all on or not far off New 16, you'd typically go through (East) Jefferson to get there.
I believe that Glendale Springs Inn has closed, but Gayle Winston's River House is always a nice experience, sometimes they have music of some sort.
Michaels was okay the one time I was there. I've never been to Fraser's but it's supposed to be good. There's a new pizza place there -- with a bar! -- (who knew we'd ever be able to drink in WJ?) -- it's downtown and is called the Brick Oven or something, it's in the Old Hotel.
Smokey Mtn BBQ is okay, but it sounds like it should be in the Smokies and not the Blue Ridge. It has been mentioned on the Ashe County country ham thread here, you can buy Vannoy's country ham there.