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It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The original plan was international and exotic but life is life and changes had to be made. The best part was our discovery of the best things to do in the North Carolina Mountains, which in our case was the food. We found the best restaurants in the North Carolina Mountains yet it was because our first plan derailed.
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As soon as the words "food tour" left my mouth, my husband was in. For our second anniversary, my husband and I planned a cruise. We just wanted to relax, eat good food and sunbathe, so we booked a typical Caribbean cruise, with the exception of one port stop: Havana, Cuba.
Wanting to stay away from the overpriced cruise excursions, we did our research and found a local food tour company. We were beyond excited. I even made a calendar counting down the days until we were sipping Mojitos - REAL Mojitos, and eating Ropa Vieja in sunny Havana.
And then, like a bad nightmare, my husband had a simple outpatient surgery a week before the cruise and the recovery time took longer than anticipated. Much longer. Just like that, our Mojito sipping, Ropa Vieja eating dreams were shattered. We had to cancel our cruise while my poor husband recovered. We were heartbroken. Not like, "heartbroken, heartbroken," you know - but the kind that made you want to close all the blinds, wrap up in a blanket, cry your eyes out and eat a gallon of ice cream for three days straight. Not saying we did that or anything…..
After a week or so passed and we were out of our funk, we decided to take a couple days vacation to make up for the canceled trip. We already planned to visit my parents over the July 4th holiday, so we tagged on a couple vacay days beforehand. With it being short notice and a holiday week, we ended up booking a place in the cozy town of Cashiers, N.C. - right outside of Highlands, N.C. Neither of us had been there, it was a two hour drive from Atlanta and a couple hours from my parent's place. It wasn't our tropical cruise but it sounded relaxing and folks from Atlanta escape to Highlands all the time to avoid the summer heat. So, we packed our bags and headed to the mountains.
Besides taking our bikes to ride around, we didn't really plan much. We only knew on the first day we'd stop in Highlands to explore and get the lay of the land. We'd eat some lunch and possibly do some shopping before heading over to Cashiers to check-in to our condo.
Right away, we noticed the temperature was a delightful 20 degrees cooler than it was in Atlanta! Did I mention Atlanta is sweltering in the summertime? Because it is. We strolled, without breaking a sweat, looking for a lunch spot. While there were some big name spots to dine, such as Old Edwards Inn or Wolfgang's, we wanted something more unique to the area.
Nestled in a corner off the main road, we found a charming American/Asian fusion restaurant, Wild Thyme Gourmet. While enjoying a glass of rosé on the patio, we sipped on the soups of the day: a wild mushroom bisque for me and a seafood stew for my husband. We both felt as though we were sitting on the banks of the Mediterranean, only instead of ocean views, we were gazing upon the Appalachian mountains. We polished off lunch with the salmon BLT, the perfect gate-way sandwich for someone like me, who was just starting to like fish, and a burger for my husband. I promise, the man will never turn down a burger when presented the option!
Thinking our lunch at Wild Thyme Gourmet couldn't be topped, the next day, we headed out to the Cashiers Farmers Market, a quaint market featuring local produce, canned goods and freshly baked goods. We searched out a highly praised BBQ joint appropriately named On the Side, since we found it on the side of a building. On the Side serves take-out only, with picnic tables adjacent to the parking lot. Offering delicious sides such as mac-n-cheese and baked beans, with chips and a drink, the BBQ pork sandwich was as tasty as they come! After browsing through the farmers market, which created quite the appetite, BBQ was the perfect meal - in a restaurant that shouldn't be missed.
While it seemed like Mountain Fresh Grocery & Wine Market was another specialty grocery store, I soon discovered it was anything but. So many pizza boxes left the store during the lunch and dinner hours, you'd think it was a pizza place! Plus, a line wrapped around the building waiting on their breakfast. Stationed on the outskirts of downtown Highlands, this grocery store offers a variety of specialty goods and wine, as well as a full breakfast/lunch bar plus breakfast and grill menus. We heard great things about the breakfast there and it did not disappoint. Not one bit. The waffles were outrageously huge and had the perfect balance of crispy-ness on the outside with a soft interior. The oatmeal, while a healthier option, combined flavors of nuttiness from the pecans and walnuts as well as sweetness from the fruit toppings and maple syrup drizzle. While the line for breakfast was long, it was most definitely worth the wait!
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On our last night, we decided to have an early dinner at a tapas place around the corner from where we were staying. Expecting to have a good meal, we were pleasantly surprised when we had one of the best meals we've ever experienced. I'm sure I gained 10 lbs from that meal alone. Located within a strip mall known as Sapphire Valley Village Shoppes, Table64 is a tapas and wine bar with a fine dining experience. According to our waiter, the owner / chef was born and raised in the Cashiers area, went off to school at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, returned home after graduation and opened Table64. Lucky for us! Some of our favorites of the night included: Duck Confit Egg Rolls, Shrimp & Corn Beignets, and Smoked Pork Belly. I'm drooling just thinking about them!
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While we may not have been jet setting to Cuba or the Caribbean, we still had a great time and enjoyed some really delicious food along the way. What was once undiscovered territory in our eyes, the picturesque towns of Highlands & Cashiers, N.C. are now at the top of our weekend getaway list!
The picturesque towns of Highlands & Cashiers, N.C. are now at the top of our weekend getaway list!
From Los Angeles, you can fly into major airports in either Atlanta, GA or Charlotte, NC. From Atlanta, it is a 2.5 hour drive north and from Charlotte, a 3.5 hour drive west. There are also smaller, regional airports located in Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC. Both of which are just under a 2 hour drive.
Fina a private home to check out the prices on nearby hotels with this interactive map below. Just throw in the dates you want to visit and see what's available.
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