It offers close proximity to major tourist attractions ranging from Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area to Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, and some of the best places for snow-skiing in North Carolina.
It’s also close to some of the High Country’s best lakes (including Price Lake and Bass Lake), waterfalls (Elk River Falls, Otter Falls, etc.), and hiking trails (Profile Trail, Boone Fork Trail, Rough Ridge).
Although it’s considerably smaller than those neighboring towns at just 1.92 square miles, there are an impressive array of Banner Elk Restaurants to choose from.
Read on for our picks for the best restaurants in Banner Elk NC for foodies, ranging from longtime favorites such as Sorrento’s Italian Bistro and Stonewalls Steakhouse to newer eateries like Artisanal and Bodegas Kitchen & Wine Bar.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
Best Restaurants in Banner Elk NC Guide
- Artisinal Restaurant (Farm-to-Table)
- Banner Elk Cafe & Lodge (American)
- Bayou Smokehouse & Grill (Cajun/Texas)
- Bodegas Kitchen & Wine Bar (Cuban)
- Chef’s Table (Fine Dining)
- Dunn’s Deli (NY-style Deli)
- LP On Main (American)
- The Pedalin’ Pig BBQ (BBQ)
- Sorrento’s Italian Bistro (Italian)
- Stonewalls Restaurant (Steakhouse)
1. Artisinal Restaurant (Farm-to-Table)
1200 Dobbins Rd • 828-898-5395 • Official Website
HOURS: Opens Seasonally. Call for hours.
Although this elegant, upscale American eatery is only open from early May to the end of October, Artisanal has earned accolades as one of the most beloved restaurants in Banner Elk.
It has garnered a 4.9 rating on Open Table (after 1,164 reviews) and a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and is beloved not only for its excellent farm-to-table food but its gorgeous architecture and interior design.
Designed by Winston Salem’s Harbinson Architects (who also designed the Diamond Creek Golf Club in Banner Elk), the converted barn has a sophisticated lodge-like feel. The high ceilings, gorgeous exposed wooden beams, massive candelabras, and open booths create a warm and intimate vibe that’s perfect for romantic dinners.
Chef Bill Greene and Amy Fielder have an exclusive partnership with Springhouse Farm, creating a “growing calendar” that allows the restaurant to tap into the natural bounty of the North Carolina mountains. You can taste that seasonal freshness in every dish Chef Greene creates.
Starting in August 2021, Artisanal switched to a price-fix menu, offering 3 courses (with 3-4 selections per course) for $95 per guest. But while it is a bit on the expensive side, the exquisite flavors of dishes like Sake-Soy Glazed Seabass, 48-Hour Painted Hills Farm Short Rib Of Beef, and Berkshire Pork are worth every penny.
2. Banner Elk Café & Lodge (American)
324 Shawneehaw Ave S Highway 184 • 828-898-4040 • Official Website
HOURS: Sun to Thu 7:30AM-9:00PM; Fri to Sat 7:30AM-10:00PM
In the 27 years I’ve been reviewing restaurants professionally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a menu quite so expansive as the one at the Banner Elk Café & Lodge.
That’s because this popular downtown Banner Elk restaurant is actually TWO restaurants in one, including two separate kitchens.
The Café menu offers what is arguably the best breakfast in Banner Elk as well as upscale dinner entrees such as Pecan Trout, Honey Garlic Ribeye, Mojito Lamb Chops, and Korean BBQ Chicken. They also offer an array of wines, craft cocktails, and craft beers from both Asheville and NC High Country breweries.
The Lodge menu is slightly more casual and includes coffee drinks, smoothies, pizzas, salads, and subs. They also offer Mediterranean entrees, including Chicken Marsala, Fettuccini Alfredo, and an excellent Greek Pasta with Kalamata olives, feta, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes in a garlic white wine butter sauce.
They also have an awesome outdoor patio that’s a perfect place for brunch or drinks at sunset.
3. Bayou Smokehouse & Grill (Cajun/Texas)
130 Main St E • 828-898-8952 • Official Website
HOURS: Sun to Thu 11:30AM-10:00PM; Fri to Sat 11:30AM-10:30PM
I’m not sure why Cajun and Creole cuisine is so popular in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But from Blue Ridge GA to Waynesboro VA, the New Orleans culinary influence seems strangely prevalent in the region.
Located in the Village of Banner Elk downtown, the Bayou Smokehouse & Grill mixes entrees “From the Soul of Acadiana” with dishes “From the Heart of Texas.” They also have a General Store that sells wine, craft beers, and specialty takeout items.
It’s a lively, laid-back place with a funky vibe, where massive grilled Ribeye Steaks and Fried Chicken sit comfortably alongside spicy Crawfish Etoufeé (my personal favorite), Red Beans & Rice, and Shrimp Creole.
Their House Specialties are excellent, including hearty favorites such as VooDoo Pasta (with shrimp, blackened chicken, house-smoked sausage and penne in a zesty Rosé sauce) and Texas-style Smoked Beef Brisket BBQ.
For a sampling of their best dishes, try the Texas Smokehouse Combo (smoked beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage) or the Cajun Sampler (crawfish etoufeé, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, and red beans & rice with smoked sausage.
They also offer an array of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches (including Po Boys), sides, and dessert options.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Boone NC
4. Bodegas Kitchen & Wine Bar (Cuban)
488 Main St W • 828-898-7773 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Fri 11:00AM-9:00PM; Sat 11:00AM-8:00PM; Sun 11:00AM-3:00PM; Closed Mondays
As diehard foodies who love an expansive array of international cuisines, dining out in smaller Blue Ridge Mountain towns presents some challenges.
Most of the towns we’ve visited in the mountains of Georgia, Western North Carolina, and Virginia have one Mexican restaurant and a sushi joint. But beyond that, traditional food around the world is fairly hard to come by.
So it was a genuine treat to grab dinner at Bodega’s Kitchen & Wine Bar, which ultimately proved one of our favorite places to eat in Banner Elk. Laid-back, but with a touch of swanky sophistication, this excellent Cuban restaurant is a place we would definitely frequent if we lived in the NC High Country.
Their menu is largely comprised of classic Cuban dishes such as Tostones (twice-fried plantains served with mojo criollo), Empanadas, Ropa Vieja, and the ever-popular Cubano sandwich. But their recipes are just as good as any of the Cuban restaurants we’ve tried in bigger towns like Atlanta and Asheville.
We also loved dishes we hadn’t tried anywhere else, including Kickin’ Crab & Street Corn Chowder, Cracklin’ Pork Rinds, and Paulie’s Pork Bowl (mojo pork with rice, black beans, and mojo criollo). Make sure you try some of their craft cocktails, and save room for their Ridiculous Rum Cake for dessert!
5. Chef’s Table (Fine Dining)
140 Azalea Cir SE • 828-898-5214 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed to Mon 5:00PM-10:00PM; Closed Tuesdays
As a longtime restaurant critic, the name “Chef’s Table” brings to mind many memorable meals wherein award-winning chefs brought out plate after plate of their finest culinary concoctions.
Located above Sorrento’s Bistro in the popular Village of Banner Elk complex, this elegant fine dining restaurant allows Executive Chef Nicole Palazzo (the granddaughter of Sorrento’s founders) a chance to do just that.
Their menu is fairly evenly divided between Small Plates, Sushi, and Main Plates, with 10-15 options of each (not including daily and seasonal specials).
Appetizer options include Beef or Home Smoked Salmon Carpaccio, Tempura Soft Shell Crab with sweet chili sauce, a Cheese Board (with fig chutney, almonds, local honey, and crackers), and an exquisite Roasted Beet Tartare with whipped feta, spiced almond dust, arugula oil, honeycomb, and crostini.
Chef’s Table has the best sushi in Banner Elk NC. And Palazzo’s gourmet entrees, from North Carolina Rainbow Trout and Chilean Sea Bass to pan-seared Bone-In Pork Chops and Filet Mignon, make this one of the best Banner Elk restaurants for a romantic dinner or other special occasions.
6. Dunn’s Deli (NY-Style Deli)
134 Main St W • 828-898-6731 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Fri 8:00AM-5:00PM; Sat 9:00AM-4:00PM; Sun 9:00AM-3:00PM
Located in the heart of Banner Elk, The Perry House B&B was built in 1901, then restored in the style of a charming country inn in the late 1990s. We spent a night in their Betsy Room, which offered excellent views of the town, with Grandfather Mountain and Sugar Mountain providing an epic backdrop.
Dunn’s Deli is a NY-style deli owned by Mike and Robin Dunn, who also own the Perry House. Their restaurant has the same sort of nostalgic homespun charm.
But where the B&B’s decor gave us country cottage vibes, the deli feels like a Waffle House-style greasy spoon run by an Irish-American sports fan (there’s even a shamrock in the restaurant’s logo).
Opened in 2001, it’s extremely popular with locals, and offered up our heartiest breakfast in Banner Elk. We loved their Signature Croissants, French Toast, and the Dunn’s Deluxe Breakfast Plate (two eggs, hash browns, choice of biscuits or toast, and two big buttermilk pancakes).
They’re also open for lunch, when they serve burgers, hot dogs, and “Dunn’s Delights” specialty sandwiches. Favorites include the #7 (turkey, bacon, cheese, and jalapeños on sourdough), the Avalanche (roast beef, capocollo ham, mozzarella, cucumbers, and onions on sourdough), and the best Reuben in the NC High Country.
7. LP On Main (American)
171 Main St E • 828-898-5656 • Official Website
HOURS: Lunch- Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat 11:30AM-3:00PM; Dinner- Tue to Sat 5:30PM-9:00PM; Closed Sundays and Mondays
Along with Sorrento’s and Stonewalls, Louisiana Purchase Food & Spirits was one of the three original restaurants in Banner Elk NC. But after 35 years in their original location, Chef-Owners Patrick and Laurie Bagbey relocated to Main Street and shortened the restaurant’s name to LP On Main.
The new location is beautiful, with cream colored walls, wooden tables and floors, lots of greenery, and intriguing light fixtures that give the elegant dining room a warm, natural appeal.
The menu uses seasonal ingredients from local NC farms, including Trosley Farms, Charlotte’s Greenhouse, Springhouse Farms, and Heritage Farms. And while it still offers Louisiana-influenced options such as Fried Oysters and Po Boys, the culinary influence seems to be moving in a more fresh, farm-to-table direction.
Upscale options such as Black Angus Beef Tartare, Stuffed SC Quail Dirty Rice, and BBQ Shrimp with smoked cheddar grits are a few highlights of their Shareables menu. Popular dinner entrees include Braised Short Rib, Scottish Salmon, and Bison Meatloaf served with smoked cheddar mac & cheese and peppadew BBQ sauce.
Do yourself a favor and try the Sticky Toffee Pudding or Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie for dessert.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds In Boone NC
8. The Pedalin’ Pig BBQ
4235 NC Hwy 105 • 828-898-7500 • Official Website
HOURS: 11:00AM-8:00PM Daily
Located on NC Hwy 105, The Pedalin’ Pig was the first of the restaurants in Banner Elk we visited during our 2020 Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.
Opened in 2014, the restaurant’s laid-back vibe and scrumptious hickory-smoked BBQ proved the perfect way to wind down a long day of visiting overlooks and hiking to various waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Their menu is standard BBQ fare, including Baby Back Ribs, Beef Brisket, Chicken, Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage, and Pulled Pork Shoulder smoked over low heat for up to 16 hours until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender.
But they use house-made, hand-crafted rubs and sauces that deliver out-of-this-world flavor. And their sides– including Baked Beans, Collard Greens, Fried Okra, Hashbrown Casserole, and Mac & Cheese– are simply divine for anyone with an appreciation of traditional Appalachian cuisine.
Don’t miss their decadent Banana Pudding and Key Lime Pie for dessert, and check out their sister location in Boone NC.
9. Sorrento’s Italian Bistro (Italian)
140 Azalea Cir SE • 828-898-5214 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon/Tue 4:00PM-10:00PM; Wed/Thu 11:00AM-10:00PM; Fri/Sat 11:00AM-11:00PM; Sun 10:00AM-10:00PM
One of the three original Banner Elk restaurants, Sorrento’s Italian Bistro dates back to 1985, when Anthony Accetturo and his wife moved to what was then a sleepy mountain town.
After their original location was destroyed by a fire about 16 years ago, the Sicilian family moved to The Village of Banner Elk, where they also own Chef’s Table, Prime 21, Barra Sports Bar, and more.
Now run by Accetturo’s grandkids, Anthony and Nicole Palazzo, Sorrento’s feels like an upscale version of friendly neighborhood Italian restaurants, with the best outdoor patio in Banner Elk. The stylish decor, vibrant local art, music, and personable staff all serve to create a welcoming atmosphere that makes you want to linger.
The menu is traditional, and every meal starts with pillowy soft House rolls served with oil, balsamic, and parmesan. Excellent apps include tender Fried Calamari (served with a basil-rich marinara), flavorful Artichoke Francese (sautéed in white wine and lemon butter), and Burratta (like Caprese, but with softer, milder cheese).
They have loads of pizza and pasta options. But we went for House Specialties such as the Chicken Marsala (which was buttery soft and served with sautéed veggies and potato) and the wonderful Mrs. A’s Crab Cakes. Like many of their most delicious dishes, it’s a family recipe that has been passed down through generations.
If you don’t save room for their Bananas Foster for dessert, you’re missing out!
READ MORE: How to Get to Otter Falls Near Banner Elk NC
10. Stonewalls Restaurant (Steakhouse)
344 Shawneehaw Ave S • 828-898-5550 • Official Website
HOURS: 5:00PM-9:00PM Daily
The last of the three original Banner Elk restaurants to be featured on this list, Stonewalls is a classic steakhouse that has been locally owned and operated since opening in 1985.
They’ve got one of the larger outdoor patios in Banner Elk, as well as a fire pit with Adirondack chairs that’s perfect for gathering while you wait for your table.
Like a lot of restaurants we visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2021, Stonewalls was dealing with some staffing issues (including training a new server) on the night we dined there. But our patience was rewarded with delectable food that quickly established this as one of the best places to eat in Banner Elk.
We started the night with fresh raw Oysters, a meaty Maryland Crab Cake with remoulade sauce, and a scrumptious Roasted Beet Salad with arugula, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and cranberry/pear/blood orange vinaigrette.
In terms of entrees, this Banner Elk steakhouse offers an array of excellent meat options, including the 1/2-pound Steak Burger (try it with house-made pimento cheese), 8 oz Filet Mignon (with tasty Béarnaise Sauce), and slow-roasted Prime Rib (with cuts ranging from 8 to 14 oz).
But they also offer several options for chicken, pasta, and seafood dishes, as well as seasonal craft cocktails, desserts, and daily specials. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted