As someone who has been reviewing restaurants for 25+ years, I found the quality and diversity of the restaurants in Sylva, North Carolina impressive, especially for a small town with a population of 2,600.
Although the town encompasses just over 3 square miles, there are nearly 40 Sylva restaurants to choose from, including an assortment of high quality international options.
When you add the number of restaurants in Dillsboro NC (6 miles away), Cherokee NC (16 miles), Waynesville NC (17 miles), and Bryson City NC (18 miles), the array of great restaurants near Sylva is downright remarkable.
Our favorite places to eat in Sylva run the gamut from laid-back cafés and pizza places to gourmet seafood, Southern, and Thai restaurants.
And while the restaurants in Dillsboro NC tend to be a bit more low-key, places like the Haywood Smokehouse should be considered a must-try for any Jackson County visitor.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the best restaurants in Sylva NC & Dillsboro NC, including the best BBQ joints, brewpubs, cafes, pizza, and global fusion restaurants.
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Best Restaurants in Sylva NC & Dillsboro NC
- Baxley’s Chocolates
- Creekside Oyster House & Grill (Seafood)
- Dalaya Thai Cuisine
- Dillsboro Chocolate Factory
- Guadalupe Cafe (Global Fusion)
- Haywood Smokehouse (BBQ)
- Lucy in the Rye (Café)
- Lulu’s On Main (American)
- Meatballs Pizzeria (Italian)
- White Moon (Coffee Shop)
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1. Baxley’s Chocolates
546 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 631-3379 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Fri Noon-6PM, Sat 10AM-6PM; Closed Sundays & Mondays
As a North Georgia native I’ve always had a serious sweet tooth, and Mary is a huge chocolate lover.
So whenever we visit a new town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we always search for gourmet chocolate shops.
Baxley’s Chocolates is a family-owned shop in Sylva that opened in 2015. It was inspired by food scientist Russell Baxley, who worked with chocolate makers around the world.
Today his son, Steve, and granddaughter, Lauren, make exquisitely crafted small batch confections, many of which use Russell’s handed-down family recipes.
Their most popular confections include Peanut Butter Meltaways, Sugar Plums, Malted Milk Balls, and Caramels.
But we also loved their decadent Chocolate Truffles, including flavors such as Chai Latte, Lavender, and Bourbon (which is so strong, it tastes like it came straight from local distilleries).
READ MORE: The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit
2. Creekside Oyster House & Grill (Seafood)
219 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 586-1985 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Thu Noon-8PM, Fri/Sat Noon-9PM; Closed Sundays & Mondays
The town of Sylva is located nearly a 6-hour drive from the nearest beach. So it’s a little surprising to see a seafood restaurant in such a small mountain town.
Fortunately, the Creekside Oyster House & Grill (opened in 2013) proved to be one of our favorite restaurants we’ve visited, not just in Sylva but the entire Blue Ridge region.
For one, they’ve got an excellent location, with a lovely outdoor patio right on Scott’s Creek. Secondly, their staff are friendly and welcoming: Our server was a serious foodie who gave us great restaurant recommendations.
Most importantly, owner/Executive Chef George Neslen (who took over the restaurant in 2015) has crafted an excellent menu, with delicious dishes that are sure to satisfy seafood lovers’ cravings.
I’d recommend starting with their award-winning Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese. It boasts exceptional flavors without the heaviness that often plagues the dish, with truffle oil and citrus zest making it a standout.
We also loved their fantastically fresh Chesapeake Bay Oysters on the half-shell and Trout Almandine, which is grilled, topped with bacon almondine sauce, and served with poblano corn and savory collard greens.
For people who don’t love seafood, they also offer Ribeye, Honey-Glazed Pork Chops, Southern Fried Chicken, and an array of soups, salads, and sandwiches (including Po’ Boys).
READ MORE: The 30 Best Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC
3. Dalaya Thai Cuisine
1084 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 477-4945 • Official Website
HOURS: Lunch Tue to Fri 11AM-2:30PM; Dinner Tue to Thu 5-9:30PM, Fri/Sat 5-10PM, Sun 5-8:30PM; Closed Mondays
One of the hardest things about our quest to move from our home in Woodstock GA to the Blue Ridge Mountains is knowing how much we’ll miss the diverse array of restaurants within a few miles of our house.
We’re huge fans of Thai food in particular, and there are 3 excellent Thai places within a 5-mile radius of us. Sylva and Dillsboro, by contrast, only have one!
Fortunately, Dalaya Thai Cuisine outclasses the restaurants near us by a fair margin, offering up an excellent array of traditional dishes from Thailand that you rarely find on the menu.
We loved discovering dishes like Krabong– butternut squash, taro, and banana blossom fritters served with a spicy chili vinaigrette and sweet peanut chili sauce. And Tum Kanoon, which features young jackfruit, house-made spicy curry paste, pork belly, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and fried roselles.
In terms of entrees, I went with the Plaa Muk Yang, remarkably tender grilled squid with spicy naam jim talay and sweet tamarind cilantro sauce. Mary got the Kaeng Hung Leh, a fantastic dish of hearty pork belly and pork shoulder curry, served with grilled salty rib tips, sticky rice, and assorted vegetables.
This is the kind of restaurant we could eat at over and over again if we lived near the town of Sylva. In fact, we’re already planning another visit when we return to the area this summer!
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4. Dillsboro Chocolate Factory
28 Church St, Dillsboro NC • (828) 631-0156 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Thu 10AM-5PM; Fri/Sat 10AM-6PM; Sun Noon-5PM; Closed Mondays
We became familiar with the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory during our second visit to Waynesville NC (the mountain town founded by my ancestor, Colonel Robert Love, back in 1809).
But their original spot in the town of Dillsboro, which opened in 1999, is larger and has been located at its current spot on Church St since 2004.
The Dillsboro Chocolate Factory prides itself on a partnership with El Rey Chocolates, using only top-notch single-bean Venezuelan Cacao to craft gourmet chocolates with an exceptionally robust flavor profile.
From their award-winning Smoky Mountain Truffles & Shooters (flavored with liqueurs) to an array of fudge, hand-dipped chocolates, and chocolate-covered espresso beans, there are endless options to choose from.
They also offer an awesome assortment of sugar free sweets, including Almond Bark, Almond Buttercrunch, Dark Espresso Beans, and Milk Chocolate Cherry Cordials.
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5. Guadalupe Cafe (Global Fusion)
606 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 586-9877 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Fri 11AM-8PM; Sat 10:30AM-8PM; Sun 10:30AM-3:30PM; Closed Mondays
The very first Sylva restaurant we dined at, the Guadalupe Cafe ultimately proved to be one of our favorites for its quirky Asheville-style charm and eclectic menu.
This cafe opened in the Hooper Building (a converted 1920s drugstore/soda shop) in 2004, offering globally-inspired cuisine, craft beers from local breweries, and a diverse array of wines.
Their locally-sourced menu combines a broad variety of Appalachian and Caribbean influences, using fresh ingredients from local farms, beekeepers, cheesemakers, and bakers.
For starters, we recommend the Okra Spears (served with sesame and red chili sauce) and the Samosas (served with Indian-style mango and tamarind sauce), both of which are crispy and full of flavor.
As far as entrees, we went with a mixture of Mexican (a Pork Burrito with your choice of toppings) and Caribbean (a wonderfully spicy Jamaican-style) Jerk Chicken over beans and brown rice with avocado-almond salsa.
With Fried Plantains for dessert, it was an excellent lunch. Next time we visit on a weekend, we hope to try what is said to be the best brunch in Sylva NC!
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6. Haywood Smokehouse
403 Haywood Rd, Dillsboro NC • (828) 631-9797 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed/Thu 11AM-8PM; Fri/Sat 11AM-9PM; Closed Sundays, Mondays & Tuesdays
We’ve had some amazing BBQ during our adventures in the Blue Ridge region, including Farm House Produce in Dahlonega GA, Pig & Grits in Burnsville NC, and the Pedalin’ Pig in Banner Elk.
Haywood Smokehouse is not only our favorite of the Dillsboro NC restaurants we’ve visited, but it also ranks alongside the best BBQ restaurants we’ve been to in the Southeast.
They have 3 Western North Carolina locations (including one in Franklin and one in Waynesville), but the Haywood Smokehouse in Dillsboro is the original.
We love their slow roasted, Texas-style approach to making meat so tender it falls off the bone, giving incredible smoky flavor to premium meats, house-made sausages, and sides like Burnt-end Baked Beans and Collard Greens.
For the best dish Dillsboro restaurants have to offer, try their 3-meat Smokehouse Combo Platter. It includes your choice of meats (Pork, Brisket, Chicken, Turkey, Ribs, or Sausage), two sides, and Texas Toast.
You’ll also love their sumptuous Brunswick Stew, and don’t miss the traditional Banana Pudding for dessert!
READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Banner Elk for Foodies
7. Lucy in the Rye (Café)
612 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 586-4601 • Official Website
HOURS: Wed to Mon 7:45AM-2PM; Closed Tuesdays
When it comes to the best breakfast in Sylva NC, it’s hard to beat this charming café, which feels like a high-end diner with a cool, hippie-like vibe.
It’s located in a historic building in Downtown Sylva. But with its colorful decor, lots of local art on the walls, and a piano in the corner, it feels like the sort of place you’d find in Asheville’s River Arts District.
The service here is phenomenal and friendly. We were seated quickly, and our server was attentive and great at helping us narrow down the expansive menu options.
There are literally dozens of breakfast and brunch options, ranging from Classic Breakfast combos and House Specialties to 7 waffles, 7 biscuits, 8 omelets, vegan/vegetarian options, and more.
Mary went with their Ham Benedict, which features thick slices of ham, poached eggs, and house-made Hollandaise atop an English Muffin.
Feeling more adventurous, I went with the Velt’s Cafe Sandwich, which includes blackened fried egg, smoked salmon, chives, capers, cheddar jack, mayo, pickled onions, and panko-crusted tomatoes on a grilled potato bun.
Both were delicious and thoroughly filling. So we decided to grab some of their fresh-baked goods for the road, and promised to try brunch at Lucy’s during our next road trip to Sylva.
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8. Lulu’s On Main (New American)
678 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 586-8989 • Official Website
HOURS: Lunch Mon to Sat 11:30AM-3PM; Dinner Mon to Thu 5-8PM, Fri/Sat 5-9PM; Closed Sundays
Named “our favorite restaurant in the region” by Southern Living, Lulu’s On Main is widely regarded as one of the best places to eat in Sylva and Dillsboro.
True to the quirky character of the neighboring towns, Lulu’s has an eclectic spirit that combines a sense of retro nostalgia with forward-thinking culinary fusion.
This Sylva restaurant is the passion project of Chef Devin McCardle, who once served as honorary chef for Julia Child’s American Institute of Wine & Food.
McArdle’s upscale menu reflects his French culinary training, but refuses to be constrained by it. So you’ll find lots of Asian, Latin American, and Mediterranean influences as well.
Classic appetizers such as French Onion Soup sit comfortably alongside Pork Tostadas, Vegetable Spring Rolls (with house made kimchi, hoisin, and sriracha), and Mesquite Pork Belly over cheddar cheese grits.
Dinner entrée selections are fairly limited, with USDA Prime Steaks, Atlantic Salmon, and Savory Meatloaf Manhattan among the popular options. But we especially loved the Mixed Grill, which includes a prime steak kabob, gulf shrimp skewer, catch of the day, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables, and chimichurri.
They also have a full martini bar, beer and wine, a covered (and dog-friendly) terrace overlooking downtown Sylva, and a dessert menu that includes their beloved Peanut Butter Pie.
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9. Meatballs Pizzeria
414 W Main St, Sylva NC • (828) 608-0309 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Thu Noon- 9PM; Fri to Sun 11AM-9PM
Confession time: I’m something of a snob when it comes to pizza.
I put myself through college by working at the best pizza places in Atlanta, including Mellow Mushroom (which now has franchises in mountain towns like Asheville, Blowing Rock, and Boone NC).
So when we visit pizza restaurants in the NC Blue Ridge region, I have high standards and very low expectations.
Located next to Innovation Brewing Company, one of the the town’s best breweries, Meatballs Pizzeria (formerly known as Pie Times Pizza Company) offers some of the best pizza in Sylva NC.
They use fresh-made sourdough and an Italian brick oven to craft exquisite wood-fired pizzas topped with house-pulled mozzarella cheese and just the perfect amount of char on the crust.
The Meatballs Pizzeria menu is very simple, with 3 salads, 4 apps (including Hummus with wood-fried bread, Kalamata olives, apples, and feta), and an assortment of pizzas to choose from.
We love their Soppressata (with Kalamata olives, capers, pickled peppers, red sauce, and pecorino cheese) and Roasted Root (with goat cheese, butternut squash, beets, roasted garlic, white sauce, and arugula) pies.
But we hope to go back and try their unique Apple Pizza, which includes olive oil, bacon, gorgonzola, porter, caramelized onions, walnuts, honey, and locally sourced green apples.
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10. White Moon (Coffee Shop)
545 Mill St, Sylva NC • (828) 331-0111 • Official Website
HOURS: Daily 8AM-2PM; Thu to Sat 6PM-Midnight
Calling White Moon a mere coffee shop definitely does not do the artful, eclectic restaurant justice.
Yes, they have an extensive array of gourmet beverages, from cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes to loose leaf teas, Masala chai, and matcha.
They also have exceptional smoothies, and tasty breakfast options ranging from the simple (Smashed Avocado Toast, Lox & Schmear Bagel, Basic Turkey Sandwich) to the unusual (the Moon Bowl with arugula, lemon herb vinaigrette, sweet potatoes, avocado, cabbage slaw, pepitas, and za’tar).
But on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the hipster haven transforms into a bar called “Dark Moon,” offering craft cocktails and a chill vibe unlike anything you’ll find in nearby towns.
It’s the youthful spirit of restaurants like White Moon, Guadalupe Cafe, and Lucy In the Rye that really help make Sylva such a special place.
They not only reflect the open-mindedness of the local community, but they help to define the community with their worldly personality and curious palette of influences. –Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted