[Updated February 11, 2023]
Compared to burgeoning mountain towns like Asheville NC and Roanoke VA, Bryson City is a fairly small town encompassing just 2.3 square miles, with a population of around 1800 people.
But the town, which is known as “the Gateway to the Great Smokies,” offers an exceptional array of things to do, with numerous nationally-known Bryson City attractions.
There’s the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Fontana Lake (one of our favorite lakes in North Carolina), canoeing and kayaking on the Tuckasegee River, and whitewater rafting the Nantahala River, for starters.
It’s also a great base for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the Deep Creek waterfalls, the Road to Nowhere, and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center all less than 15 miles from downtown Bryson City.
But what surprised us most about the town was just how many fantastic Bryson City restaurants there were in the immensely walkable downtown area.
Read on for our guide to the best restaurants in Bryson City NC, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner options ranging from fast casual to gourmet fine dining.
READ MORE:The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit
Best Restaurants in Bryson City Map
Best Bryson City Restaurants Guide
- The Bistro at the Everett Hotel (Fine Dining)
- Everett Street Diner
- 4 Queens Mexican Grill
- Fryemont Inn Dining Room (American)
- High Test Deli & Sweet Shop
- Honey Bear’s Cupcakery & More (Bakery)
- La Dolce Vita Bakery (Coffee Shop)
- La Poblana Mexican Restaurant
- Mountain Perks Espresso Bar & Cafe (Coffee Shop)
- Nate & Nicks Pizza Restaurant (Italian)
- Pasqualino’s Italian Restaurant
- The Rice Wagon (Food Truck)
- Rivers End Restaurant (Gastropub)
- Sandra D’s Fried Pies
- The Snak Shak (American)
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County
1. The Bistro at the Everett Hotel (Fine Dining)
16 Everett St • 828-488-1934 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed to Sun 5PM-9PM; Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Our picks for the best places to eat in Bryson City NC are listed alphabetically, but The Bistro at the Everett Hotel also happened to be our favorite of the many Bryson City restaurants we visited.
The Everett Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Bryson City, located right next to the Swain County Visitor Center & Heritage Museum.
The Bistro’s interior is country chic, with hardwood walls/floors/ceilings, wrought iron chandeliers setting an intimate mood, and the tasteful rustic decor. In short, it’s arguably the most romantic restaurant in Bryson City.
The chef-driven menu focuses on organic, sustainable, and seasonal fare, with many of the ingredients sourced from local North Carolina farms.
Everything we tried was delicious, including Trout Cakes with Cajun remoulade, Bacon-wrapped Medjool Dates stuffed with blue cheese, and Open Range Meatloaf made with four regionally-sourced meats (beef, bison, lamb, and pork).
They also have a full bar with craft cocktails and wines from local NC wineries, and serve a complimentary daily breakfast for hotel guests.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary
2. Everett Street Diner
126 Everett St • 828-488-0123 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed to Mon 7AM-2PM; Closed Tuesdays
Where the Everett Hotel Bistro shines with refined elegance, the Everett Street Diner won our hearts (and our stomachs) with its homespun Appalachian charm.
This family-friendly restaurant does a great job of evoking a sense of place, with decor ranging from photographs of local waterfalls and an amazing mural of the Blue Ridge Mountains to artwork colored by local kids.
The staff (including owner Mike Shakar) practically drips with welcoming Southern hospitality. but not the forced kind you find in some of the more touristy mountain towns. It feels genuine, like being welcomed into someone’s home.
The menu emphasizes hearty fare, such as “The Mountain Man” (3 eggs, 2 bacon, 1 sausage, biscuits n’ gravy, pancakes, and hash browns or grits) and the “Bubbarito” (flour tortilla with extra scrambled eggs, extra sausage, peppers, onions, and cheese topped with sausage gravy, served with salsa, sour cream, and hash browns or grits).
We went for lunch after a morning on the local hiking trails.
Mary loved her Diner’s Club sandwich, but the best dish we tried was the scrumptious Brunch Burger, which featured cheese, bacon, hash browns, and an over-medium egg.
READ MORE: 10 Best Cherokee NC Restaurants for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
3. 4 Queens Mexican Grill
1101 Main Street • (828) 488-0099 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Thu & Sun 11AM-9PM; Fri/Sat 11AM-10PM; Closed Mondays
One of the newer restaurants in Bryson City, 4 Queens Mexican Grill opened in 2022 in an unassuming strip shopping center on Main Street.
The colorful interior includes vivid green, orange, and yellow walls lined with traditional Mexican folk art, including some beautiful Dia de Los Muertos sugar skulls around the full bar.
When the weather is warm in summer, we love dining on their outdoor patio, which offers exceptional views of the Tuckasegee River.
Their extensive menu focuses on Tex Mex fare (including burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas), with just enough traditional Mexican cuisine to keep things interesting.
House Specials such as the Texas (grilled chicken or steak with roasted corn, mushroom, onion, squash and zucchini) and Volcan (grilled chicken, ribeye, chorizo, shrimp and onions) pack incredible flavor.
They also have popular Mexican favorites such as Jalisco Chicken, Mole Tradicional, and Chile Rojo. Pair your entree with a margarita and a table overlooking the river for a taste of paradise in the North Carolina mountains!
READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina
4. Fryemont Inn Dining Room (American)
245 Fryemont St • 828-488-2159 • Official Website
HOURS: Daily Lunch 8AM-10AM; Dinner Sun to Thu 6PM-8PM; Fri & Sat 6PM-9PM
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this beloved Bryson City hotel was designed by Biltmore architect Richard Sharp Smith, and built in 1923 for local lawyers Amos and Lillian Frye.
The inn was constructed using wood from what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which the Fryes owned logging rights to), including American Chestnut, which was was being devastated by a fungal disease at the time.
After Lillian died in 1967, the Fryemont Inn remained empty for so long, rumors spread that the place was haunted. But subsequent owners did renovations, and Sue and George Brown of Atlanta bought the property in 1982.
Though semi-retired, Sue still cooks breakfast often, while son George Jr. is the Executive Chef and his wife, Monica, is the Hotel Manager. Their daughter Kathryn, a UNC student, also works in the restaurant when she’s not in school.
The Fryemont Inn Dining Room definitely has a warm, welcoming family vibe, with a laid-back sort of elegance (including a huge stone hearth fireplace constructed by Cherokee stonemasons).
The menu focuses on upscale Southern cuisine. We loved the Fresh Rainbow Trout (which is prepared 5 different ways), the Grilled Chicken, the side dishes (which change seasonally), and the decadent homemade desserts.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals in NC & VA
5. High Test Deli & Sweet Shop
145 Everett St • 828-488-1919 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Sat 11AM-3PM; Closed Sundays & Mondays
Formerly known as the Filling Station, the family-owned High Test Deli & Sweet Shop opened up shop in downtown Bryson City back in 2006.
Their attempt to open an Asheville location in 2019 didn’t work out long-term. But the Bryson City location (which is takeout only, but had a few sidewalk tables) remains as popular as ever. Expect lines out the door during lunch rush.
The decor and menu both speak to co-owner Barry Tetrault’s love for cars, from retro automotive signs to sandwiches with names like Fill’er Up (Virginia Ham, Turkey & Swiss) and Timing Belt (a BLT with Egg Salad added).
We opted for their specialty sandwiches, including the High Test (a Cuban with Pork, Ham, Genoa Salami, Swiss Cheese, Pickles & Spicy Mustard) and the Italian Turbo (Ham, Salami, Pepperoni, Provolone & Italian Dressing).
Both were excellent, hot pressed on fresh bread, with lots of meat and perfect seasoning. Try the Onion Rings and Sweet Potato Fries on the side, and don’t forget to save room for dessert!
READ MORE: The 20 Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants for Foodies
6. Honey Bear’s Cupcakery & More
138 Everett Street • (828) 707-9946 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed/Thu/Fri 7AM-4PM; Sat 8AM-5PM; Sun 9AM-4PM; Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Another new restaurant in Bryson City, Honey Bear’s Cupcakery & More was opened in 2022 by Florida transplants Kim and Jeff Johner.
The couple formerly worked in healthcare– he was a nuclear medicine technologist, she was a registered nurse/admin– and co-owned two physical therapy clinics before moving to Bryson City.
Interestingly, neither of them had ever owned restaurants before, and Jeff had no experience as a professional baker. But after renovating a dilapidated 1940s shop, he began experimenting with recipes.
So it was a surprise to realize that theirs is one of the most impressive bakeries we’ve visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with stylish decor, excellent customer service, and some of the tastiest treats in town.
They’re best known for their outstanding cupcakes, which come in fantastic flavors such as the Mucky Tuck (vanilla cake with Ghirardelli Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Rocks & Drizzle), Maple Bacon, Nanners & Cream Pie, and the Blueberry Ridge Parkway (named after the Blue Ridge Parkway).
But the Bryson City bakery also offers Glazed Donuts that taste like pillowy clouds of sweet goodness, ridiculously good Honey Sweet Tea, and an extensive array of gourmet coffees and lattes.
READ MORE: The 13 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Campgrounds to Visit
7. La Dolce Vita Bakery (Coffee Shop)
191 Everett St • 828-488-5888 • Official Website
HOURS: Daily 7AM-5PM
One of our favorite things about our rental loft from Aloft in the Smokies was the proximity it offered to many of the best downtown Bryson City restaurants.
This bakery/coffee shop was just down the block, tempting us with the sensational smells of their house-roasted gourmet coffees from all around the world. Their delicious coffee drinks quickly became a daily indulgence.
It quickly became our favorite place for breakfast in Bryson City, offering an array of muffins, scones, and other baked treats that satisfied our sweet tooth after rafting the Nantahala River and exploring nearby hiking trails.
Their Signature Plates were especially tasty. I loved the Nantahala, which featured Sunburst Farms smoked trout dip, mixed greens, tomatoes, pepitas, cucumbers, and cilantro lime dressing over biscuits or a bagel.
We also enjoyed the Clingmans Dome, which included a fried egg, pimento cheese, sausage gravy, bacon, tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeños over biscuits or a bagel.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Cabin Rentals in Bryson City NC
8. La Poblana Mexican Restaurant
1341 Main St • 828-488-1701 • Official Website
HOURS: Daily 11AM-9PM
In smaller NC mountain towns such as Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, and Burnsville, it can often be difficult to find the eclectic international cuisine we prefer back home.
So it’s always a delight when you stumble upon a place like La Poblana, which offers an extensive menu that easily rivals our favorite Mexican restaurants in Georgia.
Located on the banks of the Tuckasegee River just outside the heart of Bryson City, the restaurant features a full covered patio in the front, a drive-thru in the back, and a full bar inside.
Their menu is a mixture of Traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex favorites, including 10 Vegetarian Delights and tons of Combo Platters. Tortilla chips and salsa are brought out immediately, and service was impressively fast.
At just $10-$14, their Fajitas are a great deal, served on a sizzling skillet piled high with meats and veggies. But our favorite dish was the tacos, including Asada (steak), Carnitas (pulled pork), and Lengua (beef tongue), which paired perfectly with their tasty Margaritas.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Maggie Valley NC
9. Mountain Perks Espresso Bar & Cafe
9 Depot Street • (828) 488-9561 • Official Website
HOURS: Thu to Mon 7AM-3PM; Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays
One of the most popular coffee shops in Bryson City, Mountain Perks boasts a prime location directly across from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot.
So it’s a convenient place to stop in for breakfast or lunch before riding the railroad on their Tuckasegee River, Nantahala Gorge, or Polar Express Christmas Train excursions.
Beyond the view (and excellent people-watching), Mountain Perks ranks right alongside La Dolce Vita among our favorite places to get coffee in Bryson City.
Their delicious Cappuccino and Frappuccino specialties include unique offerings like the Nut N Honey (espresso, honey & hazelnut syrup), Peanut Butter Caramel (espresso, chocolate, and peanut butter with half and half), and Raspberry Cream (espresso, dark chocolate, and raspberry syrup with half and half).
The Mountain Perks food menu features an array of specialty bagels and croissants (including a build-your-own option), wraps, salads, Soup of the Day, and Quiche of the Day.
Our favorites included the Angel Bagel (sundried tomato cream cheese, tomato, provolone & oregano), Kerby Croissant (sriracha mayo, turkey, bacon, swiss, avocado, lettuce & tomato), and the Yogurt, Granola & Fruit Parfait.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina
10. Nate & Nick’s Pizza Restaurant
225 Everett Street • (828) 488-0500 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sat 11AM-8PM; Sun Noon-8PM
After working my way through college at various Italian restaurants in Atlanta, I will readily admit to being something of a pizza snob.
When you’ve spent years learning how to make your own pizza dough and sauce from scratch (not to mention reviewing restaurants for 25+ years), it’s difficult not to compare every pie you taste to your own.
While Nate & Nick’s isn’t the fanciest of the countless pizza restaurants we’ve visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a strong contender for the best pizza in Bryson City NC.
Just how good is it? If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice we greedily devoured half the Nathan’s Favorite Pizza (with meatballs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and extra cheese) before we even remembered to take a pic!
The crust was chewy and perfectly charred, the sauce had a great balance of sweetness and spice, the toppings were fresh and plentiful, and the whole milk mozzarella was rich and stringy.
Nate & Nick’s menu also includes an array of appetizers, salads (we enjoyed the House Salad), Firehouse Wings, and pasta dinners. But trust me when I say that the pizza is far and away the star of the show.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
11. Pasqualino’s Italian Restaurant
25 Everett St • (828) 488-9555 • Official Website
HOURS: Thu to Tue 11:30AM-10PM; Closed Wednesdays
In our opinion, Pasqualino’s Italian Restaurant ranks right behind Nate & Nick’s in terms of the best pizza places in Bryson City NC.
But if you’re looking for traditional Italian pasta served in an elegant, romantic atmosphere, this is the perfect place for a nice dinner with friends, family, or that special someone.
The refined interior is warm and inviting, with wood floors and tables offset by red tablecloths and walls. Intimate lighting and music help to set the “date night” mood.
We recommend starting your meal with appetizers such as Calamari Fritti, Crab Cakes served with a tasty horseradish sauce, or Artichoke & Prosciutto baked with garlic and white wine.
Our favorite entrees include the hand-tossed Four Cheese Pizza, Blackened Shrimp Pasta, Seafood Fettuccini, and Spaghetti Carbonara with egg, prosciutto, and cream.
They also have a full bar and an impressive wine list (including domestic and Italian wines).
READ MORE: The 15 Best Romantic Getaways in NC (Cabins, Inns & Resorts)
12. The Rice Wagon (Food Truck)
90 Everett St • 828-593-9931 • Official Website
HOURS: Vary (Check Facebook page for updates)
While it can be difficult to find one exceptional international restaurant in smaller Blue Ridge Mountain towns, finding two in one town feels like something of a culinary gold mine.
This one, located behind the Mountain Layers Brewing Company (an award-winning NC Brewery), happens to be a food truck. But it’s arguably the best damn food truck we’ve visited in the state of North Carolina.
Owned by Jeremiah Chatham, The Rice Wagon is one of several Bryson City food trucks that helped to keep the town fed when COVID-related issues forced many local restaurants to close (or severely limited their hours).
Chatham’s menu offers an innovative fusion of Hawaiian and Asian influences. Popular favorites include traditional dishes such as Garlic Chicken, Ahi Tuna Bowls, and tender Hawaiian Kalua Pork.
But they also feature intriguing specials, such as Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwiches and Black Balsam Porter beer-braised short ribs. All in all it’s a fantastic find, and one of our favorite places to eat in Bryson City!
READ MORE: Hiking the Deep Creek Trail to 3 Waterfalls in Bryson City NC
13. Rivers End Restaurant (Gastropub)
13077 US 19 • 828-488-7172 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Wed 11AM-8PM; Thu & Sun 8AM-8PM; Fri & Sat 8AM-9PM
Celebrating its 50th year in 2022, the Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the best places in North Carolina for river rafting tours, offering trips through Class II and III rapids in the Nantahala National Forest.
They also offer a world class kayaking course, river tubing, a kid’s adventure area, ziplining, and a top-notch Outfitter’s Store selling all the water sports gear you could possibly need.
Their Bryson City campus is also home to the immensely popular River’s End Restaurant, which is located on the banks of the Nantahala River next to a bridge that is part of NC’s Appalachian Trail.
So not only is their food as fantastic as the view, but there’s also some pretty spectacular people-watching, with colorful AT thru-hikers, tourists, and locals all around.
That being said, this place can get very busy at times. But the gastropub’s menu– hearty burgers and sandwiches, terrific pizzas, world-famous Sherpa Rice, and lots of vegetarian options– is totally worth the wait.
READ MORE: Kayaking in North Carolina: The 10 Best Rivers to Paddle
14. Sandra D’s Fried Pies
MRKT on the Square, 164 Main St • 828-488-2390 • Official Website
HOURS: Sun to Thu 8AM-6PM; Fri & Sat 8AM-7PM
Sandra D’s Fried Pies was one of the most frequently recommended restaurants when we asked around about the best places to eat in Bryson City.
It was still a food truck when we visited in May of 2022, but has since relocated to a permanent “brick and mortar” location inside Bryson City Outdoors’ MRKT on the Square.
You can’t swing a stick at an apple orchard or farm market without hitting a fried pie vendor. But Sandra D’s goes beyond the typical fruit options to offer tasty savory pies with an exceptionally crisp, flaky crust.
The BBQ & Gouda and Pepperoni Pizza Pies were our favorites, but they also offer Brunch Pies (including a delightful Pimento Cheese & Bacon) as well as Raspberry Cream Cheese, Triple Berry, Boston Cream Pies, and more.
The shop also carries an awesome array of coffee drinks, fresh baked goods (cinnamon rolls, scones, donuts, muffins, cookies, brownies, etc.), and nostalgic candy.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Waynesville NC & Haywood County
15. The Snak Shak (American)
125 Everett St • 828-341-1999 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Thu 11AM-6PM; Fri & Sat 8AM-6PM; Closed Sundays & Mondays
Formerly known as Loretta’s Snak Shak, this tiny Bryson City restaurant is located next to the similarly retro Soda Pop’s Ice Cream shop.
The tiny space is barely large enough to squeeze a half-dozen tables into it (about the same size as a single-wide trailer), but the kitchen conjures up fantastic flavors that prove big things can come in small packages.
The Snak Shak menu is as simple as it is classic, with burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, French fries, and chicken wings among their most popular dishes.
So why is this “fast casual” restaurant a perennial “Travelers’ Choice” on TripAdvisor, with a 4.7 rating on Google? Because it’s fast, it’s fresh, it’s affordable, and the service is simply sensational.
In short, it’s everything you could want from small town “mom & pop” restaurants! –reviews by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett