Posted on: May 24, 2022 Posted by: Comments: 0

Last Updated on May 24, 2022

Highlands, North Carolina has been welcoming visitors in search of a mountain retreat for more than a century, so this town understands the art of hospitality.

This gorgeous getaway destination is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River and is located in one of the few temperate rainforests in North America, high within the Nantahala National Forest at the meeting place of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Whether you’re looking for simple farm to table fare or an elevated white-tablecloth dining experience, Highlands, NC has a restaurant for you. These are a handful of our favorite spots to dine in Highlands.

Top restaurants in Highlands, NC


This fine dining destination is located in the popular Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a favorite accommodation among visitors to Highlands, NC. Madison’s offers farm-to-table lunch and dinner, using ingredients grown in their garden or provisioned from regional farms.

For a meal to remember, try the duck confit, mushroom pappardelle pasta, or spicy buttermilk cracker crusted sunburst trout. Reservations are strongly suggested.

Wild Thyme Gourmet

Dindu Lama, the chef and owner of Wild Thyme Gourmet in Highlands, NC, takes inspiration from his home country of Nepal to infuse Asian flavors into American cuisine. Specialties include spicy stir fry waterfall beef tenderloin and an herb crusted rack of lamb with a honey lavender balsamic gastrique sauce. Save some room for the array of desserts featured at Wild Thyme Gourmet, including the homemade butterscotch pudding, a crowd favorite.

4118 Kitchen and Bar

The seasonal menu at 4118 Kitchen and Bar combines Southern traditions with New American cuisine. The Saturday brunch menu for winter/spring is crave-worthy, with offerings like oysters on the shell and Grand Marnier French toast casserole. Southern favorites like pimento cheese and griddled chicken are elevated by a creative chef who is clearly having a ton of fun with local ingredients. The dessert menu is no slouch, either, with Southern treats like buttermilk pie and sweet potato and maple cheesecake.

Ristorante Paoletti

This popular spot is an iconic part of the Highlands, NC dining scene. Make reservations up to a month in advance for your memorable white tablecloth culinary experience. The Osso Buco and Elk Rib Chop are always a hit, but Paoletti’s (as most people call it) has delicious options for vegetarians as well. Take some time to peruse the extensive and award-winning offerings from the wine cellar, and take part in some Tira Misu or homemade Gelati to top off an extraordinary meal.

Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro

This Highlands, NC favorite has provided diners with an internationally-influenced perspective on American cuisine from German-born Chef Wolfgang Green for more than 25 years. Named by Southern Living as a “Best Place for Dinner in Highlands,” Wolfgang’s is your best bet for trying unique offerings like Wiener Schnitzel, hand-breaded fried brie with a cranberry walnut compote, a lemon dijon vinaigrette and crostini; and Chef Wolfgang’s Family Recipe Apple Strudel.

Ugly Dog Public House

This mellow spot invites visitors to “Come. Sit. Stay.” Don’t mind if we do! The cozy tavern, with a sister location in Cashiers, NC, offers elevated pub food, live music, local beers, and Sunday Brunch. Try the Ugly Dog Guacamole Burger or the Shame Dog with house made pimento and thick cut bacon. Don’t sleep on dessert – we recommend the ice cream sandwich with house made cookies, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate caramel sauce.

Top restaurants in Cashiers, NC

Located just 10 miles down scenic Highway 64 from Highlands is Cashiers, North Carolina (pronounced “cash-ers”). This vacation destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is especially popular among golf enthusiasts. You will love this selection of recommended dining options in Cashiers.

The Orchard Restaurant & Events Barn

This Cashiers mainstay is set in a century-old farmhouse, with indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks an apple orchard, lush lawn, and scenic gardens. With an extensive wine selection and an elegant menu sparkling with Southern flair, it’s clear why The Orchard is a hit with repeat visitors and first-time vacationers.

Try Mac’s Gap Quail: Char-grilled bacon wrapped boneless quail breast served with creamy risotto, baby kale and finished with a molasses glaze. And when will you get another chance to taste Dannyboy’s Fried Chicken Livers, served Southern style on a bed of Anson Mill stone ground grits, topped with barbecue-caramelized Vidalia onions.

Chile Loco

This local gem is a beloved family restaurant, offering authentic recipes from chef Roberto Morales’ upbringing in Puebla, Mexico. Whether you’re a fan of staples like tacos and quesadillas or you’re looking to try menudo or mole for the first time, Chile Loco is an excellent option. They also offer top shelf tequilas and several fun options for fans of margaritas.

Whiteside Brewing Co.

Looking for a spot to spend a leisurely afternoon in the heart of Cashiers? Look no further than Whiteside Brewing Co. with its dog-friendly, park-like setting, Bavarian-style beers (among many other choices), and live music on the weekends. This is a featured spot on the Jackson County Ale Trail.

and is definitely worth a visit. Try the “Brussel Stouts,” fresh sprouts roasted, then flash fried crispy, tossed in house made stout/sweet chili sauce topped with bacon pieces.

On the Side BBQ

Don’t have time for a sit-down dinner or lunch? A quick visit to On the Side BBQ, located in the Cashiers Farmers Market, will hit the spot perfectly. On the Side BBQ specializes in pulled pork BBQ (people say it will change your life) but they also offer daily lunch specials and desserts.

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