About an hour’s drive east of I-75, the mountains of Blue Ridge, Georgia, beckon with adventure and countless opportunities for escape. Developed in 1887 as a premiere resort town in the North Georgia mountains, Blue Ridge has evolved with the times and still maintains its casual luxury alongside its rugged outdoor appeal. The area has earned its chops as a dining destination as well.
Outside dining on patios, decks and balconies is a draw for visitors enjoying year-round comfortable temps, crisp evenings, amazing views and the refreshing 1,800-foot altitude. Here are some best bets for alfresco dining. Many offer live music and welcome furry friends. Visit the websites for reservations and more information, as each is busy on the weekends and menus change.
Perhaps the most romantic is Black Sheep, featuring a locally sourced, chef-inspired New Americana menu and a Wine Spectator-recognized wine list. Sit on the patio under the 200-year-old oak tree in the shadows of the historic residence once visited by Southern writer Margaret Mitchell. Favorites include Fried Calamari, Cold Water Oysters, Ribeye and Lamb Lollipop Chops, as well as desserts and cocktails featuring house-produced moonshine. Harvest on Main serves Southern-inspired global cuisine, including locally sourced grass-fed beef, seasonal vegetables, local craft beers and an extensive wine collection. Try the Bramlett Farms Rainbow Trout served with Blackened Charred Corn, Lima Bean Stew and Yukon Gold Potatoes.
For rooftop dining with a view, Hook & Eye at Hampton Inn Blue Ridge serves up sophisticated takes on new American fare, a full bar, live music and inside or outside seating. Take the party to the lake: Lake Blue Ridge Marina provides rentals for canoes, kayaks or motor-craft, giving visitors a unique option for exploring the mountain-reflecting waters along with a takeout picnic for pre- or post-dockside dining. Boat Dock Bar and Grill offers a festive atmosphere and lakeside fun food, including Fried Grouper or Fried Shrimp Tacos, Craft Blend Hamburgers, wraps, wings, tenders, wine, beers and specialty cocktails. (Open seasonally)
The Dogwood delights with 150 outside seats, a huge hand-painted mural and 100+ year old trees—a completely unique dining and drinks experience that is ideal for soaking in the beautiful Georgia weather and amazing live music. The Vine and Eatery is Blue Ridge’s original wine bar, serving cheese plates, flatbreads, sandwiches and pours, tastings and bottles to go. The dog-friendly patio, along with a selection of craft beers and even wine slushies, make this Blue Ridge’s go-to place for unwinding. Rin Tin’s Barks & Brews Cantina offers a pet-welcoming deck and a people-only restaurant, bar/ lounge, and a market with fresh meat, breads, dairy items, pastas and more for take-home preparations. Make arrangements to leave your dog for an hour or the day at the dognasium. Find more Fido-friendly listings here.
Restaurants on the river
Take a scenic mountain drive just 15 minutes southeast of Blue Ridge to Toccoa Riverside Restaurant in the Aska Road Adventure area, surrounded by forest. With a dock and steps up from the river, it’s possible to take a kayak and even a furry friend. Choose from 12 appetizers, a respectable beer and wine menu and plenty of entrees and desserts, but don’t pass up the specialty: North Georgia trout served eight ways, including smoked and crab-stuffed.
Under 20 minutes north of Blue Ridge are the charming twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. It is really one town split by the Georgia-Tennessee state line, with its own selfie spot. Drive or take the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway on an hour (each way) excursion to waterside dining on a ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River. Visitors have a two-hour layover with time for lunch or a snack and to shop for unique crafts and antiques.
The Riverwalk Shops at McCaysville offer scenery, shopping and sipping while savoring a view on the deck overlooking the Toccoa River. At Burra Burra on the River dig into fresh seafood, including oysters, clams, crawfish, shrimp and more, or try street tacos or seven styles of burgers. Next door, Twisted Tomato Restaurant serves brick-oven pizza, salads, Italian sandwiches and pasta with a river view. At Happy Bear Café indulge in breakfast, bakery goods, gourmet hot dogs and ice cream treats, such as banana splits and ice cream-topped brownies. For groups, The Very Berry Honey Bowl is a crowd-favorite with 20 scoops of ice cream, blueberries, raspberries, caramel, whipped cream–all topped with a cherry and a honey drizzle for $25. Beer, wine and specialty coffee drinks are also served.
Also along the banks of the Ocoee River on the north end of Copperhill, Tennessee is The Waterfront Bar. It’s a mashup of a honky-tonk roadhouse (12 TVs for sports), a Florida-style beach tavern, and a hipster craft cocktail joint, with a delicious blend of traditional Sicilian cuisine and unique Southern flair.
If checking into one of the many cabins high above the gorgeous green landscape and alongside the rivers and Lake Blue Ridge, Cabin Concierge service delivers groceries and meals from a wide variety of sources around the area, including casual and fine dining. Ten percent of all restaurant deliveries go towards supporting Feed Fannin.
With a plethora of independently owned restaurants, don’t waste part of the getaway agonizing over the choices. To do justice to the palate, an extended stay in Blue Ridge is a must. Peruse the breakfast options at the blog and the three wineries and three breweries in the restaurant listings at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.
Five Sweet Tastes of Blue Ridge
In addition to the delectable desserts served at every Blue Ridge restaurant, several standout sweet shops tempt visitors to indulge all day long. Following are five favorites.
The Sweet Shoppe of the South: A Food Network “Cupcake Wars” winner, The Sweet Shoppe of the South serves gourmet specialties like S’mores (the winner), Chocolate or Coconut Cream Pie, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Lava Fudge and Red Velvet–and yes, you can get many of them as full-sized cakes.
The Chocolate Express: Homemade fudge and hand-dipped chocolates, hand-dipped ice cream, ice cream sodas and floats, 25 flavors of fudge, 60 different gourmet chocolates, a large selection of sugar free candies as well as old-fashioned bottled sodas and unique gift items.
Rum Cake Lady: With locations in Downtown Blue Ridge and in McCaysville, there’s no excuse to pass up legendary and authentic rum cakes, flan, Pastelitos and Cuban coffee. Have a Cortadito or Café con Leche and a mini Rum Cake, then come back for lunch and have a Cuban sandwich and Cuban soda.
Mercier Orchards: Yes, apples can be dessert. But when one of Georgia’s best-known orchards also makes apple cider donuts, fried pies, whole pies and warm cinnamon apple bread? It’s a difficult decision made easier with a side of hard cider. Call their Grab-N-Go bakery to reserve ahead of time. Das Kaffee Haus: For those who believe coffee should be a dessert, this traditional European coffee shop treats coffee like fine wine and also serves the great treats of Germany, Italy and France, including Apple Strudel and German Chocolate Cake. Non-dairy coffee milks and gluten-free options available.
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