Located at an elevation of 2,825 feet, with a total area of 1.598 square miles, Burnsville is a relatively small North Carolina mountain town surrounded by some of the largest peaks in the eastern United States.
Standing in the shadow of the 6,684-foot-tall Mount Mitchell and located 20 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Burnsville is more off the beaten track than touristy towns like Little Switzerland and Blowing Rock.
As a result, the area is much quieter, mixing small town Appalachian charm with an arty sophistication fostered by its proximity to the Penland School of Craft in nearby Spruce Pine.
While Burnsville may not have the endless array of great restaurants you’ll find in larger towns like Asheville NC and Roanoke VA, there are a surprising number of good options for a place with around 1,700 residents.
Read on for our guide to the best restaurants in Burnsville NC for foodies, including our picks for the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots in the area.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Burnsville NC
The Best Restaurants in Burnsville NC Guide
- Appalachian Java (Café)
- Cool Catz Candy & Cream (Desserts)
- The Garden Deli (American)
- Homeplace Beer Company (Gastropub)
- Munch Box NC (Sandwiches)
- Pig and Grits (BBQ/Southern)
- Snap Dragon (Bar & Grill)
1. Appalachian Java (Café)
8 West Main St • 828-682-0120 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sat 7AM-6PM; Sun 8AM-3PM
Arguably among the best places to eat breakfast in Burnsville, Appalachian Java is located near the Town Square in the heart of downtown. It’s a great place to fuel up on gourmet coffee before you hit the local hiking trails.
This cozy café can get busy even on weekday mornings, but it’s especially popular for weekend brunch and lunch. When the weather is warm, expect to find all of the tables along the sidewalk on Main Street full unless you get there early.
Their breakfast menu includes bagels, biscuits, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and wraps. But as you wait to order, your eyes will be drawn to the cinnamon rolls, muffins, and other sweet treats displayed by the door.
This is also one of our favorites places for lunch in Burnsville, with lots of tasty sandwiches, salads, and soups to choose from. We especially enjoyed the App Stacker, Chicken Melt, and Ham & Apple Press, which made great use of fruit from NC apple orchards.
We recommend ordering ahead and picking up sandwiches here before hitting the trails to local waterfalls, or having a picnic at Mount Mitchell State Park.
READ MORE: Top 15 NC State Parks in the North Carolina Mountains
2. Cool Catz Candy & Cream (Desserts)
110 West Main St • 828-536-5180 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Thu Noon-6PM; Fri to Sat Noon-7PM; Closed Sun & Mon
If you spend any time walking around downtown on a sunny day, chances are you’ll see dozens of people carrying cones from Cool Catz, the #1 ice cream shop in Burnsville.
This old fashioned ice cream parlor oozes retro-hip style, with a cool Pink Ladies color scheme, pink lion statues beside the front door, and an Elvis-like kitty for their logo.
Open seasonally (typically closing around mid-October), the family-owned restaurant serves up delicious homemade waffle cones, milkshakes, Coke/Root Beer floats, banana splits, and more.
You can also find candy and seasonal specials, such as apple pie a la mode and Huckleberry ice cream, as well as special ice cream treats for dogs.
Locals love them for their deep involvement in the community, including frequent fundraisers for local church youth groups, schools, and more.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants for Foodies
3. The Garden Deli (American)
107 Town Square • 828-682-3946 • Official Website
HOURS: Lunch- Mon to Sat 11AM-2PM; Dinner- Thu to Sat 5PM-8PM; Closed Sundays
Established in 1987, the Garden Deli is one of the oldest restaurants in Burnsville, with a prime location directly across from the Town Square.
It’s widely considered one of the best places for lunch in Burnsville, with an expansive (and covered) outdoor patio as well as indoor seating.
Their lunch menu features typical NY-style deli fare, including homemade soups and chili, 6 different salads, and sandwiches ranging from a BLT and Roast Beef Philly to BBQ Pork, Fried Flounder, and Cordon Bleu.
We visited for dinner, which they only offer three nights a week and seems to draw an older crowd than the other Burnsville restaurants we visited.
Our favorite dishes included the 8 oz Black Angus Flat Iron Steak (served with baked potato and veggie of the day), the Crispy Fried Jumbo Shrimp Basket, and a wonderfully breaded NC Mountain Trout special.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Hendersonville NC Restaurants for Foodies
4. Homeplace Beer Company (Gastropub)
321 West Main St • 828-536-9068 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon 4PM-7PM; Tue to Thu 11:30AM-9PM; Fri to Sat 11:30AM-11PM; Sun 2PM-8PM
Topping the list of our favorite places to eat in Burnsville NC, the Homeplace Beer Co. is a gastropub that easily rivals the best restaurants we’ve visited in tourist-driven towns such as Banner Elk and Blowing Rock.
It’s the sort of place we would probably hang out at a lot if it were in our town. And we don’t even drink beer, so it has nothing to do with the fact that this is considered one of the best breweries in North Carolina.
Homeplace is much more than a typical gastropub. Like the Bold Rock Cidery (near Hendersonville) or Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium (in Asheville), it’s a whole vibe.
There’s plenty of outdoor space, with fire pits, picnic tables, cornhole, live music, and lots of room for the community to commingle while throwing frisbees or playing hacky sack.
But it’s their food that would keep us coming back for more. Their massive wood-fired chicken wings are simply the best we’ve ever tasted. Their huge pretzels are as good as any we’ve had in NYC. And their Hog Hollow Wood-Fired Pizza may be the best I’ve had since my days running a Mellow Mushroom in Atlanta.
Save room for their scrumptious S’mores Dessert Pizza, which has the perfect marshmallow char!
READ MORE: The 6 Best Boone NC Breweries & Brewpubs
5. Munch Box NC (Sandwiches)
112 West Main St • 828-536-5356 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sat 11AM-4PM; Closed Sundays
So what is it that makes any given restaurant “the best” in its town?
In some cases it’s simply about the quality and flavor of the food. In others it’s more about the overall dining experience– a combination of the interior decor, the music, and the mood the ambience creates.
Munch Box NC is all about the fun-filled atmosphere, which is designed to make it as much a family-friendly hangout as it is a restaurant. The vibrant interior has a colorful vibe, with a beach-y theme that includes painted surfboards, water skis, retro hula girls, etc.
Their menu is simple but diverse, offering an array of salads, soups, sensational sandwiches, and fantastic flatbreads with a hint of Mediterranean influence (see: Naan bread, hummus, Italian meats, and pesto).
But what really makes this place unique is the second floor, which is filled with fun activities such as air hockey, mini basketball, darts, foosball, and pool. You can play for an hour for free with any food purchase, but pool costs $5-$7 an hour if you’re not eating.
For a small town with no major kid-friendly attractions nearby, Munch Box NC is a welcome bright spot on the Burnsville social scene.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Blowing Rock NC for Foodies
6. Pig & Grits Restaurant (BBQ/Southern)
620 West Main St • 828-536-0010 • Official Website
HOURS: Tue to Fri 7AM-8PM; Sat 7AM-2PM; Closed Sundays & Mondays
All of the North Carolina Mountain towns we’ve ever visited seem to have at least one high-quality BBQ restaurant. For my money, Pig & Grits easily offers the best BBQ in Burnsville.
How good is it? After tasting their Cherry Bourbon BBQ Sauce, I bought a bottle to take home with us, even though it needed to be refrigerated and we were at the beginning of a 2-week Blue Ridge Parkway road trip!
Established in 2014, the Burnsville restaurant bills itself as “the place where Southern Cuisine meets Southern Hospitality.” That’s as good a description as any for its upscale-meets-down-home vibe.
Their menu isn’t particularly original, but how they do it makes the difference. All of their locally-sourced meats are slow-cooked daily over hand-cut hickory, which provides a delightfully rich, smoky flavor to their brisket, chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and turkey.
They’re served with 5 regional BBQ sauces (including Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee specialties), as well as Signature Seasonal Sauces like Cherry Bourbon, Honey-Sriracha, Applewood Smoked BBQ, etc.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Restaurants in Banner Elk NC for Foodies
7. Snap Dragon (Bar & Grill)
107 Town Square • 828-682-3946 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Thu 3PM-9PM; Fri to Sat 3PM-11PM; Closed Sundays
Owned by Gregory Yuziuk (who also owns the Garden Deli), the Snap Dragon is a nautically themed gastropub named after the ship of Captain Otway Burns, for whom the town of Burnsville was named.
The swashbuckling privateer became NC’s first naval hero during the War of 1812, and went on to serve in the North Carolina State legislature.
And while this bar and grill may not be the sort of place you’d expect a pirate to grab a pint, it’s definitely more lively than its sleepy sister restaurant next door.
Opened in 2015, the restaurant’s menu features burgers, sandwiches, and other traditional pub fare, as well as seasonal specials such as Outer Banks Peel & Eat Shrimp and March Madness Nachos.
We picked up a picnic lunch before a day of hiking to the local waterfalls (Roaring Fork and Setrock Creek Falls). We especially enjoyed their Topsail Fish Tacos (with hand-breaded mahi mahi and cilantro slaw), Cuban Sandwich, and Chicken Carbonara Panini. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted