A Taste of Hendersonville: The Rhythm and Brews Festival

The winding road seemed to be jutting around every hill in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. Erica, with her fresh Connecticut license plate, grabbed the wheel and whipped through the roads like a champ and jack lay asleep in the back seat. We had been on the road for almost 3.5 hours and Hendersonville was only a few minutes away after we cleared through the woods and started seeing more signs of civilization. 


We were traveling to Hendersonville of this random Thursday to visit the Rhythm and Blues Festival, a locally thrown event that was highlighting local artists, chefs, and brewers. We found this event and thought it would be a perfect snapshot of the town and a perfect opportunity to engage with local vendors and ask questions about production and climate resiliency. We arrived in the downtown area around 5 and the festival wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes, which gave us time to explore downtown and drive around the small city just several miles south of Ashville. 


Our initial interpretation of the area and the locals was surprisingly similar to the more outdoorsy and rustic vibe that Ashville is typically credited with. There seemed to be a shift in this area that felt different than the people we ran into just a few miles east on Highway 64, who seemed more classically North Carolinian. These Hendersonville festival people in attendance wore hiking boots, colorful flannels, beanies, and were covered in Carhart. Although our sample was likely skewed towards people willing to go to a local festival, Hendersonville residents seemed to be revealing a shift from the Foothills and into the mountains. 


While we were waiting for the festival to begin, we found colorful bear statues that seemed to be a mark of Hendersonville and was a great way to support and showcase local artists. We also found an art show happening where women displaying their handmade crafts and paintings. But after walking around downtown, we entered the festival and started talking to vendors. We talked with a lady selling handmade juice and she talked with us for a while about this season and her crop yield. She did make a few comments about the earliness of the apple festival and claimed that it was due to the “weirdness” of the season, which implied changing farming and crop production that can point to climate change. We tasted some of her jams and chatted with her more about her process in creating these processes and at the end of the conversation we all bought some juice for the 3.5 hours drive that was awaiting us after the festival. 


We then decided to give the band, who had been playing this whole time a closer listen. The opener was Kenny George Band and there were dressed in almost costume like North Carolinian and Appalachia attire, with overalls with no t-shirt underneath and multiple banjos and straw hats. Their music was very Americana and folk-like and the audience seemed to be enjoying it, even if there were more people sitting on the grass than actually dancing by the stage. Due to the long drive ahead, we had to leave after the first song of the headliner, The Colby Dietz Band, who played more southern rock. 

After taking a solid lap around the festival, we decided to get sustenance, aka dinner. Jack and I used our drink coupons to get a local IPA from a vendor in a booth near the music and all three of us decided on a woodfire oven pizza from a vendor that brought their own portable oven to the festival. After a short line and a quick wait, we each took our personal pizzas and sipped our drinks while listening to music and taking in the mountains that were all around us. 


Hendersonville was the furthest point west in our journey through the foothills region on Highway 64 and this town gave us a new perspective on North Carolinian culture and the intersection of farming and mountain life vs. city life. Although Ashville always gets the credit for being the fun, hip city in North Carolina, I would recommend taking a trip south and visiting the beautiful and unique town of Hendersonville. 

Written by: Abby Fuller

Never Blue

By Jenny Kane

Hendersonville is a lively town home to a variety of shops and restaurants that line the downtown streets. Arriving on a beautiful Friday afternoon in October, we were able to witness the hustle and bustle of the throng of tourists and locals as they sat out sipping drinks at cafes or browsed the shelves in the locally owned shops. Smiling faces greeted us everywhere we went, providing a warm sense of welcome.


The streets of Hendersonville at night are much emptier than during the daytime hours. However, the people that once populated the streets are now seated in the various restaurants enjoying a delicious and filling dinner. With the amount of options available in the town it’s amazing anyone is able to come to a decision. There are restaurants for those craving a quick bite in a casual setting, for those hoping for a longer meal with multiple courses, and for those looking for something in between.


Jenny and I spent our night at the bar of Never Blue, a restaurant known for their offerings of tapas that feature a variety of cuisines from around the world. And honestly, I don’t think there is enough buzz surrounding this place. We ordered an assortment of tapas so that we could experience the many tastes they claim to offer. We started with the hummus plate that came with fried naan bread, carrots, celery and house pickles, and the chili-garlic shrimp, which consisted of mini shrimp swimming in a spicy-sweet house-made chili garlic sauce. The hummus, while still good, was nothing special and tasted like something I could have picked up from the grocery store. The shrimp, however. Oh, the shrimp! Now I’m a huge shrimp person as it is, but the sauce was just the right amount of spicy and sweet and had the perfect mixture of chili and garlic. It was my favorite dish of the entire trip.


From there we ordered separate dishes based on our own interests. Jenny got the beans and rice and the tuna poke. I got the eggplant fries and an al pastor taco. The eggplant fries were nothing like what I expected them to be, but that was probably because I was expecting something similar to a real French fry. The consistency, however, was very different. These fries were much softer and mushier, which left a weird texture in my mouth, almost like baby food. And you definitely have to enjoy the taste of eggplant in order to enjoy these fries. The taco, which had pork and onions and a pineapple salsa on a corn tortilla, was another one of my favorites from the weekend. I am a huge fan of incorporating pineapple into as many dishes as possible (yes, this means I like pineapple on pizza), so the fact that this ingredient was a factor in the taste just made it all the better.


The friendly atmosphere of Never Blue only added to the feast we enjoyed that night. Sitting at the bar allowed us to converse with other restaurant patrons, something that helped us gain valuable knowledge about not only Hendersonville, but also some of the other towns on our itinerary. But out of all the places we traveled to that weekend, our experience at Never Blue is the one that I value the most. My stomach will eventually lead me back to Hendersonville and the exquisite cuisine at Never Blue.

Black Rose Public House: An Irish Pub in the Heart of the Foothills

By Jenny Kane

Our stomachs were growling as we arrived to downtown Hendersonville at around 3pm on a Friday afternoon in the middle of October. In spite of this ravenous hunger, we searched for the nearest sports bar we could find. What we encountered was an Irish pub called Black Rose Public House right at the center of the downtown area, only about 20 yards from the city courthouse. Looking at their menu, the pub seemed to offer a variety of both American and Irish dishes as well as a full bar with 24 hand-picked beer and cider taps. The bar looked newly renovated and was preparing for the Halloween festivity as seen by its intricate decorations. There were a few parties sitting both in and outside, enjoying the sunny fall afternoon. We decided to sit at the bar and immediately began scanning the menu for the heartiest dishes they served. I also took a chance to look over the list of beers they had on tap, and was appreciative to see that a majority were from local Hendersonville and Asheville brewing companies. Looking up from the menu I saw four flat screen TV’s, playing both the local news and the golf channel, which gave me a feeling of surprising comfort in this new place after driving three long hours and not having eaten anything since the early morning.


When the bartender suggested the Black Rose Burger, I knew I had to try it. Leaving my usual picky tendencies behind, I told the bartender to load the burger up with whatever came on it and tested my fate. What came from the kitchen only a short fifteen minutes later was a massive black angus cheeseburger with white cheddar cheese, freshly slices pickles, onion, and tomato on a brioche bun, and on the side, beer-battered French fries. I was in heaven. Taking the first bite I thought I would never be able to fit the entire thing in my mouth, but I managed. Next was an explosion of savory charred flavor with a background of acidic pickle that complemented each other magnificently. I housed it down in 5 minutes and washed it down with a cold Hendersonville Pale Ale. Not only was the bartender extremely friendly, but the entire atmosphere of the pub was emanating with warmth and comfort. Before leaving, I made sure to ask what led upstairs when first walking in the door. Surprisingly, the restaurant expands into an upstairs dining and bar area for large sporting events or holidays. Although it was a slow time of the day, it was hard for me to imagine a completely full house in a relatively small, cozy place in Hendersonville, who’s population hardly exceeds 13,800 people.

West Wood Fired Grill & The Poe House

By Maggy McGloin

Arriving late to Hendersonville on a Saturday night, the limited options of open storefronts left us with one mission: find the perfect eatery and bar. After some online research, supplemented by searching around the downtown corridors, we stumbled upon West Wood Fired Grill, an apparent town favorite. The restaurant describes themselves as an establishment that “create(s) handcrafted food with a Mediterranean aesthetic, and feature whole-wheat thin crust pizzas, organic pastas, rustic salads and soups, desserts and breads” (West First Wood Fired Pizza). When we walked in, we were immediately transfixed by the scent of smoky pizzas, fresh vegetables, and a warm aesthetic. The dining room and bar area were bustling with business, so with a wait-time of 45 minutes, we decided to take a few minutes to explore the town and its surrounding shops.


After walking outside into the brisk cold of Foothills October, we stumbled into the nearest bar we could find to escape the weather. Little did we know that this would be one of our favorite spots along  Highway 64. The Poe House sits around the corner from West First Wood Fired Pizza, with an inconspicuous basement entrance framed with crows and purple lights. The entrance opens into a warm, inviting room equipped with an acoustic guitar player, racks of wine hung clumsily on the wall, and a dim ambiance created by candlelight. The Poe House was a rustic alterfullsizerender-2native to the usual bar we had become accustomed to college towns. The bar describes themselves as “coming off somewhere between English Pub and trendy wine bar. The Poe House is a legendary hangout for locals and visitors alike. A cozy place to enjoy live music, a craft beer from our ever-changing draft list or a flight of hand selected wines.


The drink menu incites a debate between ordering a classic IPA or going for something a bit more local to Hendersonville and the surrounding area. Surprisingly, the bartender recommended the best drink to be the “cookie dough beer.” This beer was brewed specially in North Carolina and had a cookie dough aftertaste due to a manipulated brewing process–inspired by the flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. While we enjoyed our drinks, taking photos and recording notes of the experience, another patron of the Poe House approached us to ask what we were doing. We explained to him the Highway 64 project, capturing culture along North Carolina’s most historically rich highway. He said in return, “What a fun class that must be; you all should cherish not being stuck in a classroom.” After enjoying our beers, a small appetizer of Apple Brie Crostini, and some good conversation with both Henderson locals and visitors alike, our buzzer for West First signified that it was time to move upstairs.


After being seated at West First, we ordered a caprese plate and three different craft pizzas–including unique toppings such as honey and goat cheese–to share. The restaurant was dimmed; everyone feeling as if they belonged to a similar jovial fellowship. “An imposing glass mosaic tiled oven stands like an altar at the center of a dynamic open kitchen where cooks rhythmically perform the culinary rites and pizzas are tossed, pastas are sautéed, and homemade desserts are carefully plated,” says the restaurant’s website. We learned that all of the grains for pasta and pizza are hafullsizerenderndmade in the early morning and served up until dinner time. The produce and cheeses are outsourced as locally as possible, giving business to the booming farms of local Hendersonville.


The rest of the night was filled with warm exchanges, delicious Italian food, and reflections upon our trip thus far. Getting a legitimate taste of downtown Hendersonville only encouraged us to take a deeper look at what the small, yet bustling town has to offer.


Mikes on Main

By Kate Flinn

Mike’s on Main, a small family-owned diner, operates like a perfectly preserved time capsule of quintessential Hendersonville at the height of the 1950s. At 9:00am, only a few people had begun to occupy the restaurant’s eclectic selection of mismatched wooden tables and booths. A long marble bar with metallic stools spans the right wall, accentuated by a large antique cash register fashioned from brass. While its shape and intricate design aligned with the vintage façade, the contraption still functioned as the restaurant’s main casdsc_0561h register. A young waiter dressed in a light blue bow tie and old-fashioned paper hat hurries past, his arms precariously balanced with food. He smiled and sent off a, “Sit where you like,” in passing.

The strong presence of antique Coca-Cola memorabilia is immediately noticeable. Somehow the knick-knacks and wall adornments give the place a sense of authenticity. A woman approaches the booth in full 1950s attire, poodle skirt and high ponytail included. With a warm greeting she says, “Now where are you girls from?” This has become a pattern throughout our journey in the Foothills; wherever we went, people quickly knew we were outsiders. We politely list off our respective hometdsc_0553owns and put in orders for some piping hot coffee.

Flipping through the extensive menu, it became clear that Mike’s offerings cover any desire that a breakfast-lover could think up. Pancakes, waffles, crepes, and a generous selection of home-style omelets–this place had the works. A feature of the menu was the “Southern Style Breakfast Bowl” section of the menu, the accompanying pictures worthy of a stomach grumble. Despite the waitress’ warning that the breakfast bowls were spilling, a side of pancakes are added for good measure.

The meals arrive adsc_0540fter a short wait, while no room for disappointment. The general concept of Mike’s breakfast bowls begins with your choice of a hash brown or grits base. Next comes two eggs prepared to your liking, fried comes highly recommended, and then finally a last layer of whatever toppings come with the bowl of your choosing. The Denver bowl is garnished with ham, tomatoes, green pepper, onions and a whole lot of cheddar cheese. The flavors of the dish are perfectly proportioned, neither too overpowering or understated, achieving a perfect point of content fullness–that is, pre-pancakes, browned to perfection and fluffy like you can only find at a diner. A return visit to Hendersonville Mike’s pancakes will definitely be at the top of Hendersonville’s to-eat list.dsc_0557

Aside from the excellent food, superb service and eccentric décor, part of what makes Mike’s so unique is its history. Mike’s is the most-photographed building in Hendersonville, and with good reason. Between the candy-striped awning and hand painted Coca Cola mural outside, this corner shop is an iconic spot for documenting your trip to the quaint little town. Originally built in 1900, what is now Mike’s on Main was once Justus Pharmacy. As was true back in 1900, this building still houses the only soda fountain in Hendersonville. Many of the trinkets and artifacts you see lying about date back over one hundred years to the original pharmacy. Filled with good food and people and history, Mike’s on Main is a must for any Hendersonville visitors.dsc_0575

Finding Our Way to Jump Off Rock

By Dustin Swope -2014

Driving on public roads might be one of the ultimate ambiguous activities. For some people, driving means mind-numbing boredom and shifting around in the driver’s seat trying to figure out which butt cheek is more asleep. For others, driving isn’t just boring, is a stress-filled chore that took all the fun out of their sixteenth birthday. I don’t fall into either of these camps. To me, driving is something that I like to do. I volunteer to man the helm all the time for road trips because I find a strategy game in it. It’s a challenge to see which drivers can predict the ebb and flow of traffic best, stuffing one another in the slow lanes and surging ahead one car link at a time. On surface roads, I paint smooth lines and clip apexes through turns, take the longer way home for the high-speed S-curves, and I think any driver with a pulse likes to let their car clear its throat every now and again.

Road to Jump Off Rock

But alas, I do the heavy majority of my driving at home, in central Florida, where speedbumps pass for changes in elevation. Here in North Carolina, I don’t usually have an excuse to take my car much farther than the grocery store. Every once in a while I’ll get a taste of what real elevation feels like when I make the drive down I-40 to Raleigh-Durham International, but it’s all bittersweet to me. I know that this state has roads that dip, climb, and pivot with the best of them, but I’ve never had the opportunity to experience them first-hand. That is, of course, until my fellow travel writers and I scheduled a visit to Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Finding our way off of Highway 64 and through Hendersonville to the local inn that we’d booked for the night, I was already having a good time behind the wheel. In the part of Florida that I’m from, there just aren’t many reasons to not lay the roads out in a clean, systematic, boring fashion. Growing up in that driving climate for twenty years, I was having about as hard a time playing it cool in the foothills of North Carolina as my co-pilots were trying to understand why I was having such a good time with it. We arrived late at night, and at the tail-end of a four-hour haul, there was only so much enthusiasm I could muster for the roads that brought us off the highway and into town, but I was enjoying myself.


Our morning started at 6:30am, dead-set on making it up to the top of Laurel Park’s Jump Off Rock to see the morning sun wake the valley up. The crisp mountain air and a supreme home-cooked breakfast courtesy of the Cedarwood Inn had our travel writing team in high spirits, so we plugged in “Jump Off Rock” in the GPS and took off. The drive started out innocently enough. We make our way North towards Hendersonville, realize we’re going the wrong way, spin around, and now there’s a little excitement in the car. We needed to make it back into Hendersonville by 8:00am to stay on schedule, but we didn’t want to tag the precipice and immediately leave – That just isn’t what travel writing is about. To be honest though, this whole ‘Jump Off Rock for not-sunrise’ plan was my idea, and my teammates had been good sports waking up early enough to make it happen. Now I was feeling the pressure to see that it wasn’t for naught, and that meant making up for lost time.


Just a few minutes into our 20-minute drive, we get clear of traffic lights and it’s just us, the road, and the rare stop sign. We start climbing, slowly at first, but then the road does a few dips and lifts that cut our line of sight to less than a hundred yards. A few more minutes of driving and the road comes to hug the side of the mountain. A few lofty banked turns, and now I’m awake. Climbing and winding, I’m powering through hairpins and letting the back tires slide out just a little at the exit because I know the elevation will cause a compression effect that’ll bring the car back under control. I catch hear door handles being grabbed, bags shifting around in the back seat, and a hushed “Oh! Okay.” I check myself, remembering that I’m driving with two other students that’ve never been in the car with me before this trip. They’re nice girls and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable, so I apologize. I lie and say that that was all I wanted to do. But then, another happy surprise. The girls say that it was fun, just that they weren’t ready for it. With their blessing, I dropped back into a low gear and resumed my waltz with the road to Jump Off Rock.

Jump Off Rock Sign

Don’t get the wrong idea, this drive wasn’t about speed or fishtails, leaving smoky rubber scars on the mountainside, and it wasn’t a race. From Cedarwood Inn to the mountain top, I always left 10% of what the car could’ve done untouched. As far as I’m concerned, roads this pretty deserve only smoothness and composition to match. I wouldn’t take my dad’s birthday bourbon to a frat party, and I wouldn’t waste that trail pretending I was a stunt driver in the next installation of the Fast and the Furious series. No, a road like the one to Jump Off Rock can only really be appreciated by drivers offering grace and emphasis to match, and that’s exactly what I aimed to do.

Meeting Artists in Hendersonville

By Miranda Allan – 2014

Let me preface this profile by saying that we happened upon Hendersonville’s 55th Annual Art on Main Festival unintentionally. That’s not to say that we didn’t do our research before donning our backpacks and slinging our cameras around our necks, because we did. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, but in this case it was a happy accident that we turned a corner onto the right street on the right day and found the fair. In that way it seemed all the more lovely, as if Hendersonville had given us a gift.

It was a cold, bright Saturday morning that we explored the town. On either side of Main Street artists had set up white canvas tents, hunkered together to block the wind like penguins. Over seventy artists had gathered from all over the southeast region to display their work. The tents had three sides, with the open fronts facing the sidewalk. I took a certain pleasure from approaching a new tent, not knowing what type of art it might contain. The artists specialize in materials ranging from glass, ceramics, wood, fiber, paint, photography, jewelry, and mixed media. It was a treat to see a tent filled with supple wooden kitchen utensils next to one that sells glass planters shaped like diamonds. More than a few items caught my eye as possible holiday gifts (wouldn’t my mom be pleased with a left-handed spatula?) but I resisted. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t.

Scattered among the tents were fiberglass sculptures of bears standing six feet tall. Each bear is molded and painted differently by the individual organizations that designed them. The bears are part of a public art display called “Bearfootin’ in Hendersonville.” Each year, locals and visitors alike enjoy the hunt for that cherished hokey photo with their preferred bear. Hendersonville radiates creativity, from the gorgeous murals on brick walls to the colorful displays in shop windows (such as a skeleton bride riding a wicker motorcycle).

After ducking into a few tents, I found a favorite in the work of Joey Sheehan. Joey is a ceramics artist. I have to say, I’m a sucker for homemade pottery. I live for the day that I will fill my perfectly up-cycled farmhouse with locally made tableware and vases. Joey’s pieces fit perfectly with this vision. On a simple wood shelf he had laid out his mugs, bowls, plates, jars, pitchers, crocks, teapots, serving plates, and vases – each more impossibly beautiful than the last. I find ceramic art so appealing because every piece is organic in both form and design. You can’t replicate the same cup twice, but a set of four cups is consistent in their inconsistencies. Joey’s pieces feature two motifs: a spiral much like a nautilus shell, or a tapering zig-zag which is sometimes incorporated into the rings of the spiral design. He displays complete control of his glazing, and sometimes allows different hues within a color family to drip and meld together until the viewer cannot discern where the colors and patterns diverge. The effect is stunning.

I spoke with his wife, Mandy, about his process. Joey uses high-fire clay and stoneware. Typically, he throws onto a wheel but does venture in hand building methods on occasion. After constructing the form of the item, he paints on a white porcelain slip for the first firing. The slip allows him to build designs into the clay that will later be pulled forward with colored glazes. After the initial wood fire, he applies five to ten coats of glaze using a spray-gun. For the second firing, he uses a gas-fired reduction kiln that makes the glaze melt faster. Joey has been creating pottery full-time for about eight years. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Ceramics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, with accolades to spare. In XX he renovated and founded a co-operative art gallery. The Asheville Ceramics Gallery co-operative consists of local artists in the River Arts District of North Carolina. Joey’s own shop is called Melting Mountain Pottery.

Though I was reluctant to leave Joey’s art behind, I ventured onward to a tent manned by George Getty, a retired seventh grade math teacher turned woodworker. He told me that he got into woodworking because he was worried about “dying of boredom.” His shop, Mountain Creek Woodworks, is certainly creative. Like most wood shops, he sells tables, chairs, and cutting boards, but he also has a few specialty projects like lollipop trees, wine racks, and “the world’s most comfortable Adirondack.” George boasts that he has found the perfect proportions in his Adirondack chair – neither too low nor too wide.

I’m a tactile shopper – I run my fingertips over surfaces and around edges as if to get an understanding of the object’s physical essence. George’s art was no exception. I was drawn to his tent by the way the morning light was reflected so evenly on the matte surface of the unstained wood. His pieces felt as soft and warm as they looked. I can easily understand why George was compelled to take up woodcraft in his retirement. He listens to the aromas, colors, and textures of the wood to hear what it wants to become.

“Some want to become a table, some want to become chairs. You have to feel and listen to what the wood wants to do.”

Last, I spoke with Paula Marksbury of Buckhorn Ridge Studios in Athens, Tennessee. Paula specializes in kiln-formed glass works. She started in blown glass in her 20s, and began working as a glass artist fulltime in 2000. Like Joey, her process requires several firings. She uses dichroic glass that is particularly eye-catching in the way it scatters light using two or more colors. She achieves this result by layering the glass three times. The first fire melds hand-cut pieces of glass together; the second fire is used to create texture and expand on the depth started in the first; and the last fire gives the glass its final shape. After the glass has cooled, Paula typically frames the piece in wood or copper of an organic shape.

I was fascinated to learn that the dichroic glass Paula uses was originally developed by NASA. Apparently, this glass is the most reflective type of glass because it uses gold and silver flakes, as well as other metalloids. NASA used the glass in its space shuttle programs to make reflective shields, but eventually switched media because the glass is very expensive. Paula used to go to a manufacturer for her materials but now has her supplies trucked in wholesale from Denver.

Each artist I spoke with differed wildly in their trade but together they shared a common bond: their art and philosophies are influenced directly by nature. Against the backdrop of the mountains, Hendersonville felt invigorated by the crisp air and the vitality of people whose life centers on creation.


Finding a World of Art & Coffee

By Gina Apperson – 2014

A good adventure can only be fueled by coffee. As Dustin, Miranda and I began our journey in the foothills of North Carolina, inspired by the views of Blue Ridge Mountains and the changing leaves around us, one of our first stops in downtown Hendersonville was the coffee shop, Jongo Java. Coming off of Highway 64, we arrived on Main Street, where people were setting up tents for farmers’ markets and Hendersonville’s 55th annual Art on Main festival along the road. Jongo Java was easy to spot, with its lime green signage. We parked right in front of the shop, and walked in to get our first taste of the town.

I first started drinking coffee six months ago when I studied abroad in Spain and traveled around Europe. Since then, as quite the newbie coffee drinker, I tend to equate travel with coffee. I was excited to start our Highway 64 trip with a latte or mocha at Hendersonville’s first environmentally-friendly coffee shop. From what I discovered, Jongo Java not only had a good menu, but also an upbeat community vibe. From the outside, you could tell it was where the locals go.

Jongo Java Hendersonville

When I first stepped into the shop, I was immediately inspired. Hand painted art dotted the walls, which were painted with different swirls of green, purple, orange and blue. Several groups of people sat at wooden tables, surrounded by different types of chairs including a yellow salon chair with a hair dryer attached. We first walked around the shop, which was pretty large with two main sections, one up at the front by the counter and one section in the back, where people were quietly working on laptops or reading. A large sculpture of a swordfish hung on a back wall with a stack of used books on a nearby shelf.

Jongo Java Hendersonville

After taking a look around, I decided to try some coffee. Jack and Mariah were the two employees working behind the counter. Since I was unsure what to get (like I am at most coffee places), Mariah asked me what kind of flavors I liked. I told her anything with coconut, and then I found their “Tarzan” drink, a chocolate & coconut latte. I ordered it with almond milk, and Mariah looked for coconut shavings in the back of the store to place on top of the whipped cream foaming in the to-go cup. We chatted a little bit, and I learned more about the history of Jongo Java, which has been open for almost five years. Along with its fair trade, naturally grown coffee and espresso, Jongo Java also offers organic yogurt and smoothies made with local fruit. This appealed to me, and looking around the coffee shop, I also realized that the coffee and food isn’t the only fuel at Jongo Java.

Its atmosphere cultivates creative thoughts and a creative community. While Miranda and Dustin explored other spots in downtown Hendersonville, I felt content to sip on my coffee and talk to a retired couple from Florida in Jongo Java. Jack comes by to give them their regular Saturday morning breakfast order. They mention how they love the friendliness of Jongo Java-Jack always remembers their order. Not to mention, the dog-friendly outdoor seating area is perfect for them. This also means the world to Caroline, a young pet boutique owner, who sits at the bar area and orders a small dark coffee that morning.

Jongo Java Hendersonville

Caroline is also a regular at Jongo Java, which is two blocks away from her business, Wag! Pet Boutique, which she started after college at Virginia Tech. She tells me about the other regulars at Jongo Java. Rachel is an artist. Tom is a writer. Bill is a musician. And Bob is a Wells Fargo financial advisor. They frequent the coffee shop and chat about all things from religion, to politics, from jokes to pure existence. Caroline notes the diversity in the group and the diverse culture of Hendersonville in general: people are from rural countrysides to suburban areas or southern cities. As we chat in Jongo Java, dads with their young kids come into the shop and older couples enjoy sitting in the sun by the plants in the window.

This may be my favorite thing about exploring Hendersonville: its authenticity. I felt welcomed in the coffee shop, into this community without borders, that embraces the unique, the different and out-of-place. This is the place where customers hang their personal coffee mugs on the wall. Art is accepted, whether its a drawing of coffee on a sheet of loose leaf paper or a canvas painting of bright honeydew-colored combat boots. Jongo Java is a jungle of stories, art and ideas that not only brighten the room, but energize its people. Spun in its web of artful treasures and coffee masterpieces, I not only sit in Jongo Java, I feel all of Hendersonville.

Jongo Java Hendersonville

I leave Jongo Java empowered for the journey ahead. Dustin, Miranda and I take to the streets of Hendersonville, passing by multiple bear sculptures decorated for a charity auction. We see the streets full of art pieces as the cool wind blows. Then we get back into the car after we finish touring the farm and art markets. But before we head out of town, we drive two blocks away from Jongo Java to stop in the middle of the street in front of Caroline’s pet boutique. I jumped out of the car to take a peek inside. While I am not a pet person, it was interesting to see how Caroline set up her business out of college and to see how she turned a passion into a living community. A man named Ben was supplying homemade pet treats for the store and a variety of unique collars and pet accessories lined the walls inside. I thanked Caroline for all her help in making Hendersonville feel like home for the short time we were there.


Tarzan Latte Jongo Java Hendersonville

Getting back in the car, I finished the last of my coffee and plugged in our next destination into the GPS on my phone. As we drove towards Bat Cave on Highway 64, my thoughts still lingered with scenes from Hendersonville. I found myself missing the coffee shops I discovered in Europe. Jongo Java would fit in perfectly with them. Its coffee served with a side of stories was my catalyst for living openly on our Highway 64 trip, welcoming the day to come.

A Night at Cedarwood Inn

By Dustin Swope – 2014

Just five minutes south of Hendersonville proper and tucked away in a network of quiet residential backroads, a collection of homestyle cottages await discovery by the weary traveler searching for a more authentic lodging experience. Plenty of people have a favorite lodge that they return to every season, but I’m here to say that the Cedarwood Inn and Event Room should be everyone’s first choice. I only had the pleasure of one night’s stay at Cedarwood Inn, but I can already tell that the mass-produced franchise lodging with towering neon signs just can’t compete.

Cedarwood Inn Lodge & Event Room

The Inn sits on a plot of land about three acres large and features thirteen spacious rooms and five full-kitchen cottages, each with their own carport right outside the room’s door. On our visit, my two colleagues and I stayed in one of the regular rooms with a rollaway bed delivered for yours truly. We enjoyed a moment on the porch in front of our room before turning inside to find a delightful marriage of cleanliness and simple comforts.


Cedarwood Inn Lodge & Event RoomThe beds – all three of them – felt genuine and cared for, like that of a guest room in a home rather than overnight lodging. Coupling that with A/C that actually does what you ask it to (I’m looking at you, Holiday Inn) and the natural silence of mountain country, I dare say that I slept more peacefully at the Cedarwood Inn than I do most nights in my own apartment. Technology takes a supporting role rather than center stage, consisting of a modest, but modern mounted television, mini-fridge, and microwave – unless you also count the wi-fi, which you should because it’s shockingly fast and included with your room! Personally, we barely used the wi-fi because Cedarwood makes it so easy to have a perfectly nice time offline, but it was nice to know that it was there if we needed it.


Stepping out of your room at the Cedarwood Inn first thing in the morning is an experience all of its own. The wind rushing through tall trees and songbirds calling out to one another take turns breaking the sleepy quiet of the country. Crunch across the gravel to “the event room” where the front desk is and you find the shining star of the Cedarwood Inn – and no, I’m not talking about the exceptional home-cooked breakfast spread. Karen Orbaugh, the proprietor of the Inn, is one of the most sincere people one could ever hope to rent a room from. She spends 30 minutes or so preparing breakfast before it officially opens, but after that she spends the rest of her time sitting down and sharing breakfast with her guests. Forget comparing her to other lodging owners, Ms. Orbaugh is an exceptional hostess who completed my experience of Cedarwood as a home away from home… just a little better.

Whether it’s in-season or off, the Cedarwood Inn should be at the top of your list when visiting the Hendersonville area. True to their claim, my stay left me wishing I could come back “again, and again, and again.”

Cedarwood Inn Lodge & Event Room

Mezzaluna II in Hendersonville

By: Anna Mokas, 2013

Traveling to Hendersonville was a breath of fresh air. Hendersonville was much more city-like than any of the other towns we visited on our trips. The town is centered on main street, and the side roads are where many visitors park. It was a Saturday night, so the streets had lots of people and were a busy place to be. I could feel the sense of weekend excitement from the smiles on people’s faces and the slow pace they walked on the sidewalks. This town had many shops and restaurants, many of which seemed to have costumers. A few stores on the mains street closed at 5pm, which seemed odd since it was a Saturday night. I would say that this was one of Hendersonville’s flaws, since the town could get even more business if all of its shops stayed open later on weekend nights.

There were many owners walking their dogs on the sidewalks, adding even more life to the streets. Even horses were roaming the streets, either leading people in carriages, or being showed-off by their owners. There were multiple street performers playing music with each other, creating these makeshift bands whom sang, and played guitars and harmonicas. This town had a friendly vibe that made you not worry about your safety one bit. There were multiple bear sculptures along the main street, and each one was painted in different, vibrant colors. I assumed that the bear is Hendersonville’s mascot since it seemed like such a prominent figure in the town.

Taylor and I went to Mezzaluna for dinner, since it seemed enticing when we were looking in from the window, and we were eager to eat some delicious Italian food. This beautiful restaurant was one big room, with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting displayed on the back wall. It became very busy around dinnertime so we were lucky that we came around 5:30pm. Since I am a vegetarian, I ordered the kale salad and a side of pasta. I couldn’t have been happier with my decision since they executed the meal so wonderfully. We began our meal with a warm basket of bread and homemade garlic and herb butter that we quickly devoured. The kale salad was fresh and delicious, while the spaghetti was warm and its sauce was so yummy and on the sweeter side. I wasn’t planning on eating the whole side of pasta, but found that I was scraping the bowl for more pasta and sauce. I definitely left Mezzaluna with a full stomach and a smile. The waiting staff was polite and managed the large crowd of dinners very gracefully. I could tell that they were used to having large crowds on the weekends, which shows how popular a restaurant they are.

As Taylor and I walked down the street, we were drawn by a sweet smell of brownies that led us to a quaint candy shop. This shop had lovely fudges, caramel corn and ice cream to satisfy any sweet desire the costumer might have. Many families swarmed the store as the kids scavenged for what their mouths watered for and what their parents would allow them to eat. I too felt like a child in this store, and got chocolates for the ride home, which were just the perfect treat after my scrumptious dinner. The sweet shop was a little too crowded to walk around, but there was a bench that we could sit on until there was more room to look around. I will always remember Hendersonville fondly because of that complete and decadent meal, as well as the friendly vibe I got from the town’s people and shops. Hendersonville proved to be unique since it contained so many different cultures, types of people, and provided a very welcoming place for people to enjoy. For more information about Hendersonville, visit there the town’s website: http://www.hendersonville.com/