Situated about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge, Georgia, satisfies the soul with a growing menu of options when it comes to dining. A closer look reveals a common ingredient shared by local business owners – a passion for the outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, fresh, historical town – a mixing bowl of opposing flavors that meld just right to create the place these establishments are proud to call home. It’s an ambiance set forth by nature and enhanced by the local people that lures proprietors here; some are retired execs from the ATL beginning a second career and others are establishing roots and raising a family in a simple yet sophisticated community. It’s that kind of opposition – yin and yang – that Blue Ridge embodies, converting visitors to locals again and again as the story goes. If you’re lucky enough to experience Blue Ridge, indulge in these top 13 picks to satisfy the taste buds and soothe the soul.
- Harvest on Main uses seasonal products whenever possible to support the local economy, farmer and artisan. Harvest was listed as one of 11 best restaurants outside Atlanta recently and was also featured in the August issue of “Blue Ridge
- At Farm to Table Camp for Kids, the dynamic duo from Harvest on Main builds on community efforts by teaching local children and visiting kids where their food comes from. The farm is open to the public, but there are no set hours; call (706) 946-3276 for more information.
- So successful, Harvest on Main expanded their offerings in 2013 with the addition of Harvest’s Blue Ridge Grocery offering a from-scratch bakery, deli and café, coffee bar and menu for take-away meals. Again the restaurateurs will soon expand their portfolio with a Mediterranean-style restaurant.
- Cucina Rustica, a local favorite that’s rustic, casual, yet elegant, puts the utmost importance on preserving the traditions of Northern Italian cuisine and delights guests with Osso Buco, shrimp scampi and stuffed veal loin, to name only a few of the must-try temptations. The popular Italian locale also features Cucina Pizzeria for those in search of the perfect pie.
- With thousands of vacation rental cabins in and around Blue Ridge, it’s no surprise Chef Douglas Olsen of Cabin Cuisine has found popularity in his services, creating meals in the comfort of a serene mountain setting.
- Relax, unwind and prepare for one of Blue Ridge’s newest restaurants, Black Sheep, serving Southern comfort food in a historic residence once visited by Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind.”
- Christy Lee’s Courtyard Grille welcomes guests with outdoor fire pits, live entertainment and a menu with temptations like bacon wrapped scallops and cedar plank salmon.
- Top off your feast with confectionaries from The Sweet Shoppe where owners Nikki Gribble and Susan Catron can boast of their win on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”
- For unbeatable hickory smoked meats, including fall-off-the-bone ribs, seek out Joe’s BBQ, featured on TripAdvisor’s list of Top BBQ Joints in the USA.
New to Mercier Orchards, the popular U-Pick produce destination now features a tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Sit for a spell on the deck while enjoying sips and live entertainment on the weekend. Stay for lunch – or, come early for a breakfast fit for a king, complete with local sausage, grits, apple fritters and more.
- Try the Blue Ridge Blood, at Blue Ridge Brewery, along with other handcrafted suds – the Hiawassee Golden Ale, Sandy Bottom and Toccoa Brown. Seasonal beers are featured on a regular basis. Pair sips with upscale eats like shrimp mac and cheese and catch live entertainment on the weekends without ever worrying about a cover charge.
- At Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge’s premier nanobrewery, co-owners Jim McKnight and Steve Weber – fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech in the 70s, embody their business name and tout the motto, “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.” Signature brews include: Aska Pale Ale, Moon over Blue Ridge Wheat Ale, and the soon to be released Hell’s Holler Porter.
Fannin Brewing Company’s motto sums up just about all you need to know: Fresh Air, Fresh Water, Fresh Beer. Started in association with the Blue Ridge Brewery, here you’ll find some of the same sought-after sips like Hiawassee Golden Ale and Toccoa Brown Ale. Fannin Brewing Company’s owner, Tom Fennell, spent a good bit of time in Germany where many of his trips involved a visit to a biergarten or two, sampling a host of German beer styles. He was bitten by the craft beer bug in 2012, when he partnered with Pat Walker at the Blue Ridge Brewery, and by December, the first beer was on tap at the Brewery where the brews, crafted with fresh Blue Ridge water, have been top sellers ever since.
Mom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.