As a boy growing up near the North Georgia mountains, I tended to take the Appalachian food of my family’s roots for granted.
Fortunately, traditional Southern food has come a long way over the last few decades, as has the culinary scene in little mountain towns like Blue Ridge, GA.
When Mary and I first visited more than a decade ago, the variety of downtown Blue Ridge restaurants was pretty abysmal.
But during our recent visit, we found dozens of new options, ranging from upscale Southern and traditional country cooking to gourmet Asian, French, Italian, and Norwegian fare.
Some of our favorite restaurant discoveries came via a walking “Fabulous Foodie Tour” with Tammie Mason, the owner and lead guide for Blue Ridge Mountains Food Tours.
Over the course of 3 hours, Tammie introduced us to some of the best restaurants in Blue Ridge, with a good bit of Blue Ridge history sprinkled in along the way.
So join us as we explore the Blue Ridge dining scene and tempt your taste buds with some of the delicious dishes we got to sample!
260 West Main St
After meeting up with Tammie and another couple at the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway depot, we made our way to Mercier Orchards‘ downtown Blue Ridge location. It was formerly the Fannin County Bank, and the private tasting room was actually located inside the old vault.
We started the tasting with the most scrumptious Apple Cinammon Bread you can imagine, bursting with flavors of Crimson Crisp, Fuji, and Pink Lady apples. We washed it down with tastes of their Old #3 and Grumpy Granny Hard Ciders.
We moved onto the Salad Trio, including tastes of Egg, Pimento, and Pecan Chicken Salad. But the real piece de resistance was their decadent Apple Brie Panini, with thin apple slices, creamy brie, and apple butter on cranberry walnut bread. It’s just as fantastic as it sounds!
Given this was the first of 5 stops, we couldn’t possibly eat it all.
So we were given to-go boxes stuffed with their Fried Apple Pie and Apple Cider Donut holes (which were so good, we swung by the orchard and bought a dozen donuts on our way home).
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SOUTHERN CHARM RESTAURANT
224 West Main St
Located just down the block in cute yellow building with two small screened-in patios, Southern Charm Restaurant certainly lives up to its name.
You’re greeted at the door with heaping doses of down-home Southern hospitality, and the smells emanating from the kitchen should bring back flashes of nostalgic memories for anyone who grew up in the Deep South.
There are healthy food options available, but nearly half their menu is fried. So of course they brought out their Fried Green Tomatoes, one of the few Southern classics I’m not a fan of.
But theirs were really exquisite, breaded with a spicy Western Seasoning, fried to perfection, and served with a homemade horseradish sauce. We also gorged ourselves on their piping hot Fresh Mozzarella Bites, which had a similarly spicy kick to them.
We were already too full to do more than taste their delicate Buttermilk Biscuits, which were served with apple butter.
But we plan to return for dinner next time we’re in town to sample dishes like Country Fried Steak, North Georgia Rainbow Trout, and Caramel Bread Pudding.
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MASSERIA KITCHEN & BAR
67 Roberts Way
One of our favorite new Blue Ridge restaurants, Masseria Kitchen & Bar is owned by James Beard Award-nominated chef Danny Mellman and Michelle Moran, the partners behind Harvest on Main, Cucina Rustica, and Blue Smoke BBQ.
Its chic Mediterranean vibe was very different from the previous two places we’d visited with Blue Ridge Mountains Food Tours, but their hospitality was just as warm.
And the food? Well, let’s just say it was in a class by itself!
Our tasting started with a cornucopia of intense flavors. The lemony tang of Zucchini Feta Bruschetta contrasted with the spicy harissa oil of their homemade Hummus, with the sweetness of a mixed citrus Sangria to wash it all down.
But as a 7-year veteran of the pizza business, their Bianco Pizza was the dish that really knocked my socks off. With its garlic oil base, confit garlic, homemade sausage, ricotta, and roasted kale, it was an astounding pie that ensured we’ll be making a return visit.
611 East Main St
Opened in 2005, Danielle’s Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants in Blue Ridge, GA. Drawn by their expansive outdoor patio, my daughter and I ate there on our first visit, back in 2007.
One of the main attractions here is vivacious owner Danielle Coste herself. Though she got her culinary training in Paris, she brings a welcoming provincial conviviality to the restaurant’s mood, decor, and menu. The collective impact makes you feel right at home.
Our tasting began with a sampling of 3 quiches– Ham, Salmon, and Spinach– each rich with gooey Gruyere cheese and served with soup or salad.
They also have a relatively new dinner menu, plus loads of French and NY-style sandwiches, salads, and soups to choose from.
But the must-try dish here is the dessert crepes, which are available in 7 flavors. Our deliciously decadent Caramel Crepes came topped with whipped cream, plus scoops of homemade Belgian Chocolate and French Toast ice cream. I honestly could’ve licked the plate!
MONA LISA’S DESSERT HOUSE
116 W Main St, #1A
There was a bit of a groan amongst our small tour group when Tammie revealed that Mona Lisa’s would be our fifth and final stop.
After all the donuts, hard cider, apple butter, crepes, and ice cream, even the thought of another sweet treat had our blood sugar spiking!
Our stuffed stomachs could barely handle a few bites of the family-owned restaurant’s delightfully artful Key Lime Pie with caramel drizzle. But our quick visit confirmed that this is arguably the best dessert place in Blue Ridge.
The interior is elegant and upscale, designed by the owner’s uncle, with art by Crooked Crow Studio (family friend Connie Wilkerson-Arp). The mood is mellow, from the muted tones of the sophisticated decor to the hip, laid-back music.
In conjunction with their rimmed wines– ours, “The Orchard,” was a Moscato rimmed with rich caramel– it creates perfect place to wind down after a long day of exploring all the waterfalls, hiking trails, and other natural beauty Blue Ridge has to offer. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett