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Tupelo Honey SaltimboccaTupelo Honey’s Southern twists on classic dishes such as Saltimbocca make for dining excellence.
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Piggy's and Harry's ExteriorPiggy's and Harry's Exterior
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Piggy's and Harry's InteriorThe signage and memorabilia at Hendersonsville’s Piggy’s and Harry’s are mid-20th century kitsch classics.
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Piggy's and Harry's PlateThe fare at Piggy’s and Harry’s revolves around burgers, dogs and barbecue.
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Jarrett House PlateThe Jarrett House has been serving boardinghouse-style food since 1884 In Dillsboro, N.C.
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Jarrett House Dining RoomThe Jarrett House has been serving boardinghouse-style food since 1884 In Dillsboro, N.C
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Jarrett House ExteriorThe Jarrett House has been serving boardinghouse-style food since 1884 In Dillsboro, N.C
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Peter's Pancakes and Waffles ExteriorPeter’s Pancakes and Waffles is all about ambitious breakfast foods.
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Peter's Pancakes and Waffles Dining RoomThe view out the windows of Peter’s sometimes includes elk, groundhogs and mallards.
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Peter's Pancakes and Waffles PlatePeter’s Pancakes and Waffles is all about ambitious breakfast foods.
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Pisgah Fish Camp PlateDon’t miss the peppery onion rings with your dish at Pisgah Fish Camp.
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Pisgah Fish Camp DinersPigsah Fish Camp is now welcoming its third generation of diners, as the first continues to visit.
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The Sweet Onion Dining RoomThe Sweet Onion’s architecture may look familiar: It’s housed in a former Greyhound bus station.
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The Sweet Onion PlateThe Sweet Onion offers what the owners call “upscale regional cuisine with a Southern flair.”
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The Sweet Onion ExteriorThe Sweet Onion’s architecture may look familiar: It’s housed in a former Greyhound bus station.
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Tupele Honey ExteriorThe food, the name and the downtown Asheville location make Tupelo Honey a destination for locals and visitors.
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Tupelo Honey InteriorTupelo Honey’s warm interior is augmented with patio dining.
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Tupelo Honey SaltimboccaTupelo Honey’s Southern twists on classic dishes such as Saltimbocca make for dining excellence.
Consider grits with goat cheese. Contemplate fried okra. Those dishes illustrate what the Tupelo Honey Café in Asheville, N.C., is all about. Innovation on an old Southern theme on the one hand, coupled with the realization that the affinity between okra and cornmeal is eternal.
Come to the table at Tupelo and a hot biscuit soon follows, along with a squeeze bottle of the precious north Florida honey for which the place is named.
The Tupelo Honey Café is a bustling bastion of traditional and emerging Southern food, in a city with a wealth of locally owned eateries.
Of Tupelo’s Southern Fried Chicken Saltimbocca with Country Ham and Mushroom Marsala, Chef Brian Sonoskus says, “I’ve always loved the Italian classic Saltimbocca, and I wanted to put my own Southern-inspired twist on it by frying the chicken and using North Carolina country ham instead of prosciutto. The classic version features sage. I switched it up further by using basil.”
Additional proof of Tupelo’s all-encompassing approach to Southern food and drink is a cocktail, Ode to Muddy Pond. It’s a four-state salute to Southern ingredients: sorghum produced by the Guenther family in Tennessee, Maker’s Mark bourbon from Kentucky, and spicy Blenheim ginger ale from South Carolina, blended in a North Carolina bar.
Tupelo Honey Café
12 College Street
Piggy’s and Harry’s in Hendersonville, N.C., represents the high watermark of Southern mountain kitsch. The ice cream half of the business, Piggy’s, opened in 1980. Piggy is owner Sallie Thompson’s nickname. Once the ice cream business caught on, Sallie’s husband Harry talked her into building an adjoining restaurant, but Harry died before the construction was completed. Sallie and her three sons, Jeff, Todd and Michael, named the place in memory of Harry when it opened in 1993, on his birthday.
A Deluxe Burger at Harry’s is dressed with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; an All-the-Way with mustard, chili and onion; and an Everything with all of the above. The chili is house-made, with the same grade of ground chuck used for hamburgers.
“We’re from South Carolina, so we always had chili on hamburgers,” says Sallie’s oldest son Todd.
The line of summer campers and Boy Scouts clamoring for hamburgers, footlong hot dogs, barbecue and other short-order delights circles past statues of Colonel Sanders and Ronald McDonald and underneath a suspended Mt. Olive pickle. A pawn-shop-salvaged Spiderman grips the ceiling above the ice cream counter. Yogi Bear and Boo Boo stand guard outside, rescued from the old Hungry Bear Restaurant in Lake Lure. On top of the Thompsons’ antique shop next door lurks a pink elephant that once marked a Charlotte strip club.
The Thompsons’ neon pig used to light the way into “a barbecue place between Gastonia and Charlotte,” Todd remembers. The Esso tiger from an old gasoline promotion was purchased from Clemson University. The Hooterville Jail was once an attraction at Silver Dollar City. In short, the Thompsons have raided every source imaginable to decorate the interior and exterior of Piggy’s and Harry’s. They’re quick to point out, though, that the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign was not stolen off the road but rather purchased at an auction.
Walk through Piggy’s and Harry’s and you learn that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville once ran a dairy and that Roy Acuff once ran for governor of Tennessee. The Biltmore cow is suspended high over the parking lot, and an Acuff campaign poster is mounted on a hallway wall.
Singer Perry Como was a regular ice cream consumer at Piggy’s, as was early television personality “Howdy Doody,” Bob Smith.
The Thompsons have made Hendersonville food history for more than 100 years. Before getting into shakes and chili-bathed burgers, they ran Thompson Produce and Poultry.
Todd says when the family travels in search of more memorabilia for the walls, roofs and parking lots at Piggy’s and Harry’s, they always stop at restaurants with police cars, ambulances and fire trucks in the parking lot.
“There were 12 Highway Patrol cars in our lot the other night,” he proudly proclaims. As his voice breaks with a recollection of his father, he adds, “There is no way a place like this could ever be duplicated.”
Piggy’s and Harry’s
102 Duncan Hill Road
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Things changed at the Pisgah Fish Camp the day a customer crumbled hushpuppies over spiced apples. The savory take on apple crisp caught on. Hushpuppies, of course, have always been typical fish-camp fare, going back to the days when newspapers covered tables.
At this Transylvania County, N.C., restaurant, spiced apples have a history too. The dish was created by the late Nadine Thomas, who worked the fish fryers in the Pisgah Fish Camp kitchen for 35 years. In fact, owner Dana Hawkins says Thomas “perfected” spiced apples, their color resembling the flesh of pink grapefruit.
The Pisgah Fish Camp opened in 1967. Dana’s father Dan moved from managing a dime store to a bowling alley to a restaurant.
“We’re now seeing the third generation come through here,” says Dana Hawkins.
Considering the variety of fish and seafood and the options for preparing them, Pisgah offers diners more than 1,000 different choices.
A mandatory meal starter is a basket of peppery onion rings. “We use colossal yellow onions and hand-bread them in a special salt and pepper breading, not a typical batter,” says Hawkins. “They’re actually double-dipped. We go through a couple of hundred pounds of onions a week.”
Dining at the Pisgah Fish Camp, you get the feeling that there’s nothing this former Western Carolina University student would rather be doing than frying fish for his friends at the family business. The rewards, he says, are “instantaneous.”
The Pisgah Fish Camp
140 New Hendersonville Highway
Pisgah Forest, N.C.
Water tumbles through the Shining Rock Wilderness area in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, into Lake Logan, then over a dam into the raceways on a family farm near Canton. In that mountain water swim rainbow and golden trout.
Dick Jennings first walked the winding paths in the shadows of Cold Mountain and fished the rushing streams, snagging worms out of a Prince Albert tobacco can, back in 1931. In 1948, he formed the first commercial trout farm in the South, thereby establishing a permanent place for himself and his family among the pioneers of sustainable aquaculture in America.
The business is now in its third generation, run by Jennings’ daughter Sally Eason and her family. Sunburst Trout Farm supplies several western North Carolina restaurants, among them Waynesville’s Sweet Onion. Known for what its owners call “upscale regional cuisine” and “Southern flair,” Sweet Onion, located in the former Greyhound bus station, has been proudly serving Sunburst trout since the restaurant’s opening day in 2007.
Says co-owner and manager Dan Elliott: “Sunburst trout has such a nice flavor, we don’t do a lot to it. We let it speak for itself.”
The fish is pan-seared with salt and pepper and served in a light herb-butter sauce.
The Sweet Onion Restaurant
39 Miller Street
“What would you folks like to drink, sweet tea?” asks the server, in a way that leads you to believe the choice is obvious. And it is. Hot biscuits and honey follow.
Boardinghouse-style food has been served at The Jarrett House in Dillsboro, N.C., since 1884. Owners Jean and Jim Hartbarger say the menu is largely unchanged from that era: fried chicken, mountain-cured country ham, buttered potatoes, candied apples, green beans, pickled beets and chicken and dumplings.
The Jarrett House has been in the capable hands of the Hartbargers for 38 years. Eight members of the family work there. Jim is a former basketball coach at Western Carolina University. Jean taught kindergarten and first grade. For eight years, she was Dillsboro’s mayor, and she is an authority on the history of the tiny town.
“We had no idea what we were getting into,” she laughs, as she recalls the abrupt career changes, moving from education to the hospitality business.
When the Hartbargers bought The Jarrett House, Jean says, “a lot of the older cooks were still here.”
She learned from them, and she preserved dishes like vinegar pie, an everyday offering at he Jarrett House. The contradictory-sounding title puzzles some diners, Jean says. To clear up the confusion, she compares the dessert to chess pie.
“But during and after the Civil War, lemons were hard to come by, so vinegar was substituted as the acidic ingredient,” Jean theorizes.
In 1936, Duncan Hines published the irst edition of his restaurant guidebook, “Adventures in Good Eating.” The Jarrett House is one of a handful of places covered by Hines that still survive.
The Jarrett House
518 Haywood Street
We end this four-part series with a filling meal and a stunning view. Diners at Peter’s Pancakes and Waffles in Cherokee, N.C., often pass up immediate seating to wait on a table next to the windows in the back. Behind the restaurant flows the Oconaluftee River, bordered by a purple-flowering Royal Paulownia tree.
“I’ll get about 10 questions a week about the identity of that tree,” says manager Dwight Ryals.
Peter’s is a laminated-menu kind of place, with a huge array of waffle and pancake choices. Options range from a plain, syrup-topped buckwheat pancake to a strawberry-and-whipped-cream-crowned Belgian-style waffle. The restaurant is located within the Qualla Boundary and is Native American-owned.
For even bigger appetites, Huevos Enrique combines sweet peppers, onions, sausage, diced potatoes, eggs, pepper Jack cheese, sour cream and a side of jalapeños.
The mallard ducks nearby have caught on to the goodness at Peter’s. Ryals says they walk right up to the kitchen door expecting biscuit and toast crumbs. During winter, it’s not unusual to see half a dozen elk exploring the river. And diners who can’t wait on a river view enjoy watching groundhogs cavort on the hillside across Tsali Boulevard.
Fortified with a satisfying breakfast for the next stop down the road somewhere, and inspired by wildlife and water, we close this taste-laden trek along the Blue Ridge Parkway, with gratitude to all the restaurant owners and employees who have opened up their kitchens and their hearts so that we could share their unforgettable stories.
Peter’s Pancakes and Waffles
1384 Tsali Boulevard
And the winner is...
Congratulations to Yancey County, our winning culinary county for Part 3 of this series. Yancey County is now in the running to win a feature article in our Jan/Feb 2013 issue. Final Four voting begins Sept. 24.
Worth a Click: vote for your favorite parkway county for dining
For this issue’s set of Blue Ridge Parkway counties, we are seeking reader input to select a favorite culinary county. Four winning counties (voting for the first three sets of counties has already ended) will then become the Parkway Foodie Tour Final Four, and after voting in the fall, we will present the overall winner in our January/February 2013 issue.
To vote for your favorite dining county for this issue’s six North Carolina counties – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, Jackson, Swain – visit BlueRidgeCountry.com/FoodieBallot. Your vote will also put you in the running for a $250 gift card to be awarded to one voter. The winner will be announced at the end of the Foodie Tour series.
About This Four-part Series
Our four-part Blue Ridge Parkway Foodie Tour features an installment in each issue from March/April through September/October, with each highlighting a food stop in some of the 29 counties the parkway touches.
March/April covered parkway milepost 0-105 and visited the Virginia counties of Nelson, Augusta, Rockbridge, Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt.
May/June covered miles 106-219 in the Virginia counties of Roanoke, Franklin, Floyd, Patrick, Carroll, Grayson.
July/August: MP 220-355. The North Carolina counties of Surry, Alleghany, Wilkes, Ashe, Watauga, Caldwell, Avery, Burke, McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey.
This issue: MP 356-469. The North Carolina counties of Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, Jackson, Swain.
The writer for our series, Fred Sauceman, is head of the Division of University Relations at East Tennessee State University, where he teaches a course entitled The Foodways of Appalachia. He writes a monthly food column, “Potluck,” for the Johnson City Press and authors the “Flavors” page for Blue Ridge Country. His stories about food and Southern culture are heard on “Inside Appalachia,” a radio program produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “Food with Fred” appears monthly on WJHL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Johnson City, Tenn.
Sauceman is the author of a three-volume book series, “The Place Setting: Timeless Tastes of the Mountain South, from Bright Hope to Frog Level,” about the foodways of Appalachia. A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, he is the editor of that organization’s book “Cornbread Nation 5: The Best of Southern Food Writing,” published by the University of Georgia Press.