Right Place, Right Time: Lake Lure has a lot to Offer

By Claire Gaskill

        Along the winding road of Highway 64 lies Lake Lure. This small town is known for its parks, historic landmarks, and, as denoted by its name, winding lake. Lake Lure is not vast in size, with a population just shy of 2,000 people, but it’s landmarks cannot be missed during a journey down Highway 64. When traveling from the west, you will first stumble upon the grand entrance to Chimney Rock State Park. A quick turn in will lead you through a tree lined climb up to the state park entrance. The road, which is surprisingly wide enough to fit two-way traffic, is a difficult drive. However, the clearing at the top that houses the Chimney Rock entrance is a welcome surprise. The entrance is home to a guardhouse that must be passed through before being admitted into the park. While waiting in line to speak with the park guard, the view is incredible. You can see Chimney Rock and the hike up along with a beautiful blue sky and autumn leaves if you, like us, visit on a clear October morning. Be advised, however, that admission into the park is not without cost. At a rate of $13 per adult and $6 per child, tickets to this unique experience can be purchased both online and at the park entrance gate. This seemingly steep admission cost caught us by surprise. As a result, we turned around and braved the treacherous drive once over to see what else Lake Lure had to offer.

            Suffering from car sickness from the windy drive along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Beach and Water Park was a welcome sight. This park was not only beautiful, but it was free.  A small information building sat just beyond the parking lot as the first stop in the park before venturing beyond to find basketball courts and grassy fields, each leading to Lake Lure. Sitting down a hill, the lake, which is the namesake for the town, can easily be confused for a river. Its narrow and winding path is home to docks and boats, and its shoreline is fairly undeveloped beyond a smattering of houses. The public access to the lake’s beach is free of charge and full of outdoor resources. We were not alone on our early Saturday morning visit: a pick-up game was taking place with children on the basketball court, locals were walking along the lake, and families were enjoying a picnic breakfast on the park picnic tables. That being said, just driving through, there was not much to do at the lake beyond enjoy the much need fresh air to settle sick stomachs. After an enjoyable walk, we once again piled into the car in search of our next destination.

            Lucky for us, the next destination was right across the street. Upon pulling out of the beach parking lot, we were shocked to see what appeared to be a village of tents, especially so early on Saturday morning when the rest of the town appeared to still be sleeping and store fronts were closed. We were eager to park and see what all the excitement was about. To our thrill, we had lined our trip up perfectly with the bi yearly Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival happens each year for two days during a weekend in October and for three days during Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the fair, read For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times by other student visitors that also experienced the Festival. As fans of soaps and candles, we were beyond impressed by the offerings of this festival.  With rows and rows of vendors as well as a few food trucks, the over 60 artisans presented their homemade creations under white tents.  Their work ranged from fairly expensive pottery to more unique homemade dolls and children’s toys.

We were first attracted to the candles at the Fresh Scent Soy Candles booth. The Spains, an outgoing and friendly husband and wife duo that run the business, educated us on their products, associated benefits, and the creation process. As we smelled all of their unique candle flavors, they were thrilled to share a detailed account of what differentiates their product from candles sourced from stores. Each soy candle is sold in a glass, mason-like jar and priced at $10. We were so impressed by the candles and their maker that we collectively purchased two. After walking around and fully immersing ourselves in all the festival had to offer, our final stop was Bully Bites. Attracted to their tent by their bulldog mascot, this homemade, all natural dog treat vendor was a great end to our visit. After chatting with the baker, we learned that although these dog treats rival their store-bought competitors, they are very different. They are fresh, meaning they either need to be refrigerated or frozen, and contain ingredients that contend with human food. Creating these treats is an effort to make dogs healthier; only wholesome ingredients are used and preservatives are omitted for a high-quality product. Excited by the healthy differences in these dog treats, we bought two unique $10 bags to bring back to our pups. As we paid with our credit cards, we were surprised by the connectivity of such a remote event. Although it took a second to load the Square app due to minimal internet service, it was fairly common to accept credit cards at the festival.

After a successful stop and multiple purchases, we headed back towards the car. Fulfilled by our time in Lake Lure, we were excited to get back on the road.

Roanoke River- National Wildlife Refuge

By Andrew Scott

Leaves of red and gold fell slowly down from the tree tops to the watery ground of the Roanoke River. The cool fall wind wisps and bites at the neck as one walks along the boardwalk and trails of the wildlife refuge. Regional birds chirp in the distance. The movement of the leaves in the wind haunt the otherwise silent forest ecosystem. The leaves drift down the slowly moving river, meandering across the flooded coastal plain toward the great release of the ocean. The scene here in Williamston is much like the rest of the coastal plain, swampy and wild.


North Carolina has a large tributary system that dumps a variety of rivers into the Atlantic Ocean up and down the coast. While these rivers may gush and flow frantically in the mountainous and piedmont regions, they alter their path drastically when they get to the coast. They ease their way into the ocean, creating seas of swamp land, maritime forests, and transportive ecosystems. One can easily image Native Americans and colonists traveling up and down these maze-like systems. The rivers slow to almost a lethargic halt, yet are more alive than ever. Some of the most abundant wildlife in the state can be found in these flooded refuges, giving off an almost otherworld affect. Kin to the Everglades or the Bayou of Louisiana, the Roanoke River and the greater Dismal Swamp area distinguish this area of the state from the others.


The sandy beaches and barrier islands of North Carolina play a huge role in the tourist interpretation of the region, but the clear majority of the region is haunted and founded on these traditions born in the swamps. The region is established on a vast habitat for animal life and human interconnectivity with the environment. The colonists had to accept these harsh terrains and find a way to survive in them, knowing that beating Mother Nature isn’t an option. The same rings true today, with the smaller coast plain communities bending to the will of the river systems. Adjusting to the flooding and movements of the environment, living off the land, and a disappearance of much of the modern essence of life takes place in these small towns. Highway 64 itself bends and flows with this land to create a seamless ecosystem. The protective services of the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge are a major part of that. 


Protecting the “219 birds, 33 mammals, 37 reptiles, 39 amphibians, and 59 fish” different species is critical to the environmental survival of the area. Without these foundational citizens of the waterways, the system would crumble. The current Roanoke River refuge contains around 20,978 acres of land protected; however, expansion of the park area is up for proposal. In this proposal, the National Wildlife Refuge tries to incorporate the members of the community into the act of saving the ecosystem. They additionally, look at the situation from a climate change viewpoint and a rapid urban development projection. All in all, much like other environmental pieces the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge is an essential region of North Carolina heritage that is in danger of elimination.

Seeking Historic Sites in Franklinville, NC

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After driving for 45 minutes past green fields and farms that seemed to belong in a Western film, we parked beside the Deep River and set foot on Franklinville soil for the first time. There was no one in sight and it was extremely quiet despite it being a Wednesday afternoon. Oh well, we had known this would happen. It’s common, after all, for people in small communities to commute onto other places like the nearby town of Ashboro to work. And it’s not like Janee, Cassidy, Laura and myself minded having the town to ourselves for a bit. We were on a mission to find all of the town’s official historic sites.

Trudging through the vast expanses of grass and pebble roads that bordered the clay-colored river, felt almost like walking through a giant farm. And, more due to desire to enjoy the pleasantly sunny weather than to the utter lack of signage, it took is a while to find the first historic landmark in our list: Faith Rock, a huge bluestone outcrop which marks the setting for Randolph County’s most legendary Revolutionary War incident (May 2, 1782). The Andrew Hunter Bridge, a few feet away, was not hard to find after that. And from atop its metal structure we could easily spot out second historic landmark; Island Ford.

A link to Franklinville’s prehistoric origins, the silted-up peninsula is -to this day – still surrounded by the four stone pillars that once anchored the ends of Franklinville’s previous iron bridge (built in 1906, demolished in 1969). But one still has to keep their eyes peeled when looking for it, or else the vines covering the pillars will convince you there’s nothing there to be seen.

Once across the river, we came upon a short nature trail. A cute little thing, with not much else but a campfire-ish alcove at its end. So we backtracked across the bridge and walked back to the car, hoping to find other landmarks a we drove through the town. Which is when we saw the iron locomotive.


Very well-preserved, and mounted like a statue it was. And, though at first it reminded me of a hand-made, oversized toy, for a second there I think we all could not but feel sorry for it. Its age had passed, and there it was; still standing. Still a miracle of engineering. Why wasn’t it on our list? A thing to ponder indeed. Especially knowing that the rail road had helped keep the town alive since it reached Franklinville around the 1890’s

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Anyhow…we kept driving through the town and finally found our third landmark: Hank’s Lodge. The sophisticated, white, wooden, Greek revival style building was the first Masonic Lodge in Randolph County (1850). And, near it, we found Franklinville’s Restaurant (the only existing place to eat local food), but it was already closed. So we looked around some more and left the town, hoping to find a few more items to our list before it was time to leave.


The Franklinville Roller Mill was not hard to find once we drove out past the old rail road. The three-story brick building’s ruins are still there – and in pretty good condition, if I might add. It was built in 1913, when the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced the antique grist mill with a completely new, greatly enlarged operation to process locally-grown wheat. And, unlike its predecessor, which used grinding stones, the new Roller Mill used steel rollers grind the grain. Some very old, clearly abandoned silos were seen nearby, later on. But they did not seem to be in any way related to the Roller Mill and we quickly moved on.

What else was there for us to do? Many places were clearly off limits – marked as the way with Private Property signs. Which meant that surely a few historic landmarks were out of our reach. And the other ruins we had stopped to look at earlier could not be identified properly. The spindles filled with yellowed yarn on the floor told us only that they belonged to either the Franklinville or the Randolph Manufacturing Company.

And so we left to town behind, having identified 4 (ish) landmarks out of 14.

Not bad, right?.

Not bad, indeed.



Saxapahaw General Store

By Jordan Stanley

Driving just off Highway 64, the road turns rural and winding, running flat against open fields and old farm homes. It feels, in many ways, that the road is taking you nowhere–until the car turns left around a wide bend and suddenly catapults you into the culturdsc_0362al oasis that is Saxapahaw, North Carolina. For tow  n locals, as well as residents of Chapel Hill and Burlington in search of a liberal community, Saxapahaw provides a transport away from daily life. For Amidst a historical brick complex consisting of a local brewery, butchery, The Eddy Restaurant and Pub, and the Haw River Ballroom, there lies today’s destination: a yellow and red gas station and one-room general store.


The Saxapahaw General Store is even more than its slogan: “Your local five-star gas station.” While there are gas pumps outside–located at a cross section of the Saxapahaw Museum and the Hawbridge School–a fuel-up is not typically the primary draw for customers. Upon entering what might otherwise look like a typical brick-plaza exterior, visitors quickly realize the niche experience that the General Store has to offer. One might not even notice upon first glance that the store doubles as a restaurant, as the eye moves across the unique and ecdsc_0376lectic expanse of merchandise. The three aisles in the store include a nice selection of local and nonlocal wines, beers, and kombucha; select grocery items such as pet food; and a plethora of artisan goods–ranging from organic name-brand snacks, to homemade chocolates, to all-natural soy candles and homeopathic lotions, oils, and hair products. The display of local products is frequently rotated, featuring different self-made t-shirts, hand-knit mittens, or personalized keychains. Despite artisan prices, it is easy to find small treasures that are special and worth the purchase.


Beside the aisles of shelves is an open seating area consisting of a series of booths and a long communal table. This is where restaurant patrons indulge in one of the many well-loved General Store menu items. The kitchen itself is visible from the counter where customdsc_0388ers place their orders, built into view as part of the minimalist and transparent cuisine mission. If eaters come to dine on a sunny North Carolina day, they may eat outside on the terrace beneath vine-covered pergolas, sharing a bottle of wine or old-fashioned sodas while they wait for their server to bring out their meals.


The General Store menu is diverse, as well as reasonably priced taking into account the restaurant’s commitment to use farm-to-table and local ingredients whenever possible. By partnering with local farms, such as Benevolence Farm and the Saxapahaw butchery, all of the General Store’s food tastes fresh and (typically) healthy. The store serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday, adding a special brunch menu for Saturday and Sunday mornings. This includes specialties such as the “Eggs Parma: two toasted English muffins beneath thick slabs of mozzarella cheese, two eggs of your choice, and topped with a light tomato sauce, reminiscent of a vodka sauce-gone-breakfast.”


The daily menu, while large, is punctuated by customer favorites. Catering to the bohemian traffic and atmosphere within the restaurant, the General Store offers a myriad of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Some favorites include the Avocado-Mater sandwich, which includes avocado, veggies, and cream cheese on multigrain bread; the eggplant parm sandwich combats its typical reputation by being both light and flavorful; the vegetarian pad Thai made specially in house with a secret ingredient; and show-stopping sides such as the garlic-y brussels sprouts and mashed rosemary sweet potatoes. Even the omelets, filled with your choice of additional components–(suggestion: roasted vegetables, fresh tomato, and avocado)–set themselves apart from the meals of most breakfast joints. While the General Store seems to thrive on cooking simply and with the right combination of ingredients, it is this flavor that builds a unique and satisfying experience. Other favorites for meat-eaters include the brisket sandwich and duck fries, potato skins friend in duck fat. The Store also serves full dinners and offers many specials, written daily on the chalkboards by the counter.


In essence, the Saxapahaw General Store facilitates an experience that marries simplicity and indulgence. The order-counter, farm-to-table cooking, three-aisle merchandise, communal tables, and gas station setting brings a casual tone that welcomes any and all visitors. Yet an alternative atmosdsc_0384phere–from the people, to the artisan goods–allows customers to feel like they are on a quick vacation from the typical Piedmont North Carolina lifestyle. The General Store warrants a strong recommendation to visit for those who want to diversify their impression of North Carolina culture and who wouldn’t mind a short, worthwhile detour off Highway 64.


Burgess Produce

By Kate Flinn

Burgess Produce is one of the Foothills’ hidden gems, nestled right off the shoulder of historic Highway 64, just outside of scenic Lake Lure. Like us, if you aren’t looking for it, you are likely to zip right past this charming little produce stand. Winding along the highway, our interests were piqued by the small structure’s hand painted sign and the display of fruits and vegetables out front, so we pulled a U-turn and headed back to see what we had stumbled upon.

Pulling onto the road’s dirt shoulder, which doubled as the parking lot, we hopped out and approached the small wooden structure that houses Burgess produce. The building’s exterior was eclectically decorated with wind chimes, dream catchers and various tin and copper pots and kettles. Though none of the items seemed to go together, each somehow belonging, and creating a visual backdrop for the spread of produce before us.  Bins of onions, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes with the varied color and shape, guaranteeing authentic freshness, piled in and around the wide, doorless entrance.

Stepping inside the building, pots and pans of various styles line the ceiling, sometimes substituted with the occasional woven basket. The right corner of the room is filled with busheldsc_0605s of apples, each labeled in the same cursive handwriting. Above them lies an entire wall of cowboy hats in every color you imaginable. To the left appears about every type of butter and jam known to man, each in the same gold-lidded mason jar. The place gave me that same feeling I get in my grandmother’s attic, cluttered yet somehow everything seems to hold some sort of memory or value.

A young girl, no more than 8 or 9 years old, stood behind the counter, soon joined by an older woman coming in through a back entrance. She gave the young girl an affectionate pat on the head and offered me a “let me know if I can help.” I approached the counter in the hopes of learning a bit more about the stand. All it took on my end was a “so how long have you been here?” and the woman was happy to oblige.

“This is has been the family business for over 100 years,” the woman replied. Looking down at the young girl, she continued,“my daughter right here is the 4th generation since we started the shop.”

A slender elderly man strolls in through the same back entrance, garbed in a worn-out hat and camo puffer jacket, and does not hesitate to jump into the conversation. Pointing at my own Cubs hat, he begins to search his pockets, eventually revealing a laminated postage stamp. He passes it to me, the tiny face of a baseball player, and leads with an abrupt, “You know who that is right?” I didn’t. “That’s my great-grandfather Smoky Burgess,” the man said matter-of-factly. He explained that Smoky Burgess, was one of the few ball players to ever play for both the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox–a genuinely surprise for a dsc_0606Chicago local.

The man who had just schooled me in Chicago sports history was Donald Burgess, patriarch of the Burgess family and current owner of Burgess Produce. His great-great-grandfather had founded the stand, and the business had been passed from generation to generation ever since.

Donald proceeded to whip out his smartphone and scan through photos of each of his four children. Pride glinted in his eye, a quiver sneaking into his voice as he described the different cities each of them had moved and what job they were working now. Once Donald moved to help another customer, it appeared time to untangle from the branches of the Burgess family tree and return to the road. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I purchased a large jar of “Homemade Amish Peanut Butter,” which turned out to be the best peanut butter I’ve ever tasted.

The John C. Campbell Folk School

By Samantha Lubliner, 2016

unspecified-2Past a gas station screenshot from the ‘60s was the town of Brasstown. Composed of a mail center, library, and gas station, the surrounding hill was a collection of homes bordered with signs encouraging the election of Trump/Pence.

The John C. Campbell Folk school lays just beyond the town with an old fashioned white sign marking its emergence beyond the trees. We parked in a full parking lot and walked toward what looked like a visitor center.

Branded with Danish vowels and values, the trip to the Folk School was grabbing onto the threads of Danish education systems. We started in the history center and were able to speak with Matthew Brose, a folklorist who specialized in Anthropology.

unspecifiedEmbedded between conversations of life and relationships, he spoke about the history of the Folk School in milestones. Between the dedicated commitment to working the land and building a new system of education was a history of community. His work focuses on documenting the stories of the people who populate the folk school. He mentioned that his interviews from the past few years have been especially interesting since he is recording and telling the story of the grandchildren he originally spoke to in the formation of the folk school in the 1920s. The motto of the folk school, as seen by the countless signs and embossing is “I sing behind the plough.”

We asked the vendor in the craft store about the meaning. As he pulled out an old piece of paper, a poem written in the ____, he offered to make a copy for us. The line of the poem reads “I sing when the impulse comes to fly light and free. I sing behind the plough and to the sound of mowing.”  The man told us that the motto serves as a constant reminder to find joy in the land and within daily tasks.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-9-35-50-pmThe crafts of the folk school were varying in discipline and medium. Kaleidoscopes, mosaics, and pottery sprinkled the wooden show room with color. Their craft store was composed of aisles of colorful art crafted throughout North Carolina. Each stand of work had the name of the artist and the home of the craft on a small paper in front of the pieces.

Scenic barnhouses and gardens escalated the beauty of the grounds from a North Carolina town into a community.

Shadow of the Bear

By Samantha Lubliner, 2016

Shadow of the Bear is cast by the mountain.
Shadow of the Bear is cast by the mountain.

A few weeks every year there is a mountain off of Highway 64 in Cashiers, NC that casts the shadow of a bear onto the surrounding hills. Obviously, it is called Shadow of the Bear and found off of Bear Shadow drive.

After discovering the existence of such a shadow and learning that September is the time of the year the shadow hits correctly; we were on a mission.

Would we miss it? Would it be there? Would we see it? Is it on the right or the left? “A few miles” out—how far is that? But there’s no cell service out in the mountains so how can we find it…? Is it dangerous to stand on the side of highway?

Our endless questions were put to an end by the mass of 100-200 people standing on the edge of a highway all looking into the valley. We were quick to join in and do the same.


Professional tripod photographers and children alike enjoyed the view of the Shadow of the Bear. The shadow stood starkly against the foliage. Unfortunately, if you miss the shadow or do not see it at precisely the right time, the shape begins to stretch. The shadow is only in its best bear form for around 5 minutes.

To us, it resembled a mouse. But a highway called Mouse Shadow drive doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. Once the shadow began to stretch, the crowd dispersed in minutes and the highway became a mish mosh of people dodging cars in the dark.

The moment was fleeting but the feeling of being crowded along others to see a rare natural occurrence was so special. It was beary to say the least.

Befriending a Stranger in Buck’s Coffee

By Samantha Lubliner, 2016

Located in Highlands, NC, Buck’s coffee sat isolated from other buildings. Across the street from the welcome sign, the coffee shop was a staple of the town and a buzzing place filled with people of all ages. The decor was trendy with a country finish, and the people were from all walks of life. The room in the back was for “stuff” and antiques ranging from lamp fixtures to deer horns.

The armchairs were big and looked comfortable next to the fireplace. The windows gave excellent natural lighting to the whole room, and the attention to detail and design lent to an ambiance of __. People sat both alone and in groups to enjoy their coffee or treat.

Inside Buck's Cafe.
Inside Buck’s Cafe.

I ordered a Chai Tea Latte with a shot of espresso. Distracted by the delicate jewelry on display, I missed when my name was called. I traipsed over to the biggest, comfy leather chair I could find unoccupied. The five chairs surrounding a coffee table were inviting, and I asked the one man sitting in the circle if he minded if I sat.

Before long my three group members joined me—and there we were, having a group meeting with a stranger. He was curious in our conversation of town hopping and pumpkin rolling and asked what we were up to. I explained to Matt the mission of our trip and the inquiry we were practicing. He showed interest and mentioned that he’s been to all the towns we had mentioned. When prompted he then discussed how he’s been to the many towns ranging North Carolina–all to capture the beauty of waterfalls.

Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.
Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.

Matt began to tell all about his passion of photography and his strong convictions toward travel for a bigger global understanding. He explained that materialism and big homes don’t make happiness but travel and making a bigger world are more important. He spoke about his plans to travel to Japan to visit his college roommate and his plans for travel and photography fitting in with his day job of IT. He showed us his Facebook page, his pictures of the Amsterdam canal and wished us well on the remainder of our journey through North Carolina.

Originally from Charlotte, Matt has big dreams and wishes to continue pursuing photography and travel. He gave us his Facebook page and advised us about the seasonal shadow of the bear that he had traveled to capture. Since the shadow bear was only visible for a few minutes during dust, we said good-bye to Matt and hurried out of Buck’s Coffee to catch the sight.

Review of Willy’s Diner: Franklin’s Most Popular BBQ Joint

By Christian Kowalski, 2016

Christian shows off the Willy's BBQ t-shirt.
Christian shows off the the logo t-shirt of Willy’s Diner

Willy’s Diner is a small, family-style BBQ restaurant in Franklin, North Carolina. Located a few minutes outside Franklin’s downtown area, Willy’s is home to a variety of Southern style cuisine. Our concierge at the hotel recommended the restaurant, commenting that their fried catfish “melts in your mouth” and that the ribs have “meat that just smoothly falls off the bone.” With these glowing reviews in mind, we made our way toward Franklin’s most popular BBQ joint.

Upon entering the restaurant, which is situated upon a hill overlooking the town landscape, one is welcomed to a traditional scene for many Southern, family style restaurants. Glossed over wood covers the building end to end with a variety of pictures and signs covering the walls that seem fitting on shows like American Pickers. Once finished, customers pay up front where they can view the strung-up t-shirts and merchandise with the Willy’s logo. Our party of four had a waiting time of about ten minutes, and at first glance, the restaurant seemed to be a popular family dinner spot. We were eventually seated in at corner wooden table with an assortment of sauces to choose from.

Willy’s BBQ diner prides its on the being “Franklins Best Bar-B-Que Restaurant.”

The menu was organized in much the same way as traditional BBQ joints: you had your platters and the bevy of sides to choose from. Some of these were classic side staples like fried okra, coleslaw, and baked beans. Others were refreshing spins on traditional sides like squash bites, which were a blend of fried cornmeal and squash that had a moist texture most cornmeal based dishes lack.

The platters were also classic features of southern style cooking: catfish, barbeque and ribs were the centerpieces of their menu. I ordered a fried catfish platter with sides of potato salad, coleslaw and fried okra. I was forewarned by our waitress of the magnitude of this platter that many people don’t finish it do to the sheer amount of fried catfish they serve on the plate. Not phased by such gestures, I reaffirmed my position to order the catfish that “melts in your mouth.”

Platters served full with a catfish sandwich, fried okra, and yellow squash hush puppies.

There weren’t any exaggerations on our waitress’s part; the platters were tall orders stacked with meat. Served on trays, the dishes were all of ample size, allowing the opportunity to mix and match with sauces and sides to my heart’s desire. And our concierge’s glowing review of the catfish wasn’t an exaggeration either; the catfish at Willy’s was the best dish I tasted on the Highway 64 trip. The pieces broke off easily and quite literally felt like they were melting in my mouth. There was no overpowering fishy taste nor an overwhelming fried feeling. It was succulent fish that was also mild enough to be completed by any of the sauces provided. My favorite was their BBQ sauce that had a perfect blend of tangy and sweet that brought out much flavor with the dish. The sides all were excellent; the coleslaw, potato salad and fried okra all exceeded expectations. The coleslaw especially complemented the catfish very well. But the side that stood out were the squash bites, which provided a unique perspective on cornmeal that benefited from the squash flavor.

Review of Bistro on Main Street

By Christian Kowalski, 2016

Menu of Bistro on Main Street.
Menu of Bistro on Main Street.

Highlands’ downtown area was by far the most charming collection of shops and stores we had visited thus far on our trip. The streets were lined with boutiques, seasonal shops, gourmet food places and so on. Each little block had a store that piqued our interest. Based on the amount of great local shops in Highlands, our group knew we had to find a nice restaurant in this part of the town.

While walking around we spotted the Bistro on Main Street, which was an old-fashioned white Inn resting on top of a hill. It looked like a dream destination for lovers of bed and breakfast type places. Upon entering the Inn, it was warm and cozy, the feeling you want when choosing a small, local inn. The furniture was old-fashioned but clear, the spaces on the floor were small and intimate—it was an ideal setting to have a nice lunch and unwind. Other aesthetic points that stood out were the restaurant’s chandelier which was a collage on intertwined branches wrapped in lights. It had a seasonal, wreath like shape that really embraced the fall weather setting. There was also a fireplace tucked away in the back of the room that would breathe warmth into the room during the colder nights in Highlands.

The dining area inside was small but comfortable, and we were seating closer to the main atrium. The menu had more expensive meals than the other restaurants we visited and offered other options beyond southern cuisine. The entrees were all over twenty dollars which included fish, steak and chicken-based dishes. Beyond these more expensive meals were a variety of soup options, chicken pot pie and other warm meals to make you feel good during the cooling months. I ordered shrimp and grits, mainly because I wanted to remain consistent with ordering southern dishes throughout my time on Highway 64.

Lit up under the branches of lights, Dani looks over the menu.
Lit up under the branches of lights, Dani looks over the menu.

The grits I ordered were perfectly creamy. The chef added cheese to the grits to add more flavor on top of them to give the meal a fuller taste. The shrimp was fresh and soft and complimenting the rest of the dish really well. Many combinations were tasting between the shrimp and grits, the grits separately or when I scooped with the freshly baked bread that was provided with our meal.

The shrimp and grits was one of the cheaper dishes offered at the restaurant totally around thirteen dollars. For the price, the portions were decent but could have had more shrimp with the dish. But it was quality over quantity as the entire meal despite it size was incredibly balanced and delicious.

Overall, the Bistro on Main Street had a very warm and home-like feel that fit given its place as a popular Inn at the heart of the town.