Highlands, NC is known for its culinary flair. When you are visiting Highlands, there is no shortage of amazing places to eat for every meal and dessert afterwards. Here is our list of the top Highlands, NC restaurants.
Blue Bike Cafe – A very casual cafe on North Fourth Street, you can stop by for breakfast or lunch, but breakfast here is pretty special, and keeps visitors coming back for more. While sipping coffee from their quirky mugs, you’ll love The Blue Bike’s creamy grits, thick and tasty gravy, and we can’t forget the banana bread French toast.
Calder’s Coffee – Calder’s Coffee is right in the heart of Highlands Main Street and fairly easy to find. Though it’s mostly coffee and lattes, Calder’s has a selection of breakfast bagels and sandwiches if you are looking for a quick pick-me-up in the morning before your day exploring Highlands. While you can definitely sit down and eat your breakfast and enjoy a cup of coffee, this is more of a place for a quick breakfast rather than a full scale brunch. If that’s what you’re looking for, make sure you check this place out on Main Street.
Brunch HQ – Breakfast at Brunch HQ makes our mouth water every time! With one look at their menu, you’ll feel the same way. Try something light like the avocado toast, or start your day off with a full breakfast bowl that will give you energy for the big hike you have later. Wherever your day in Highlands is taking you, you’ll be glad you stopped by Brunch HQ.
Kelsey’s Place (In Highlands Inn) – Here is a little known fact: Kelsey’s place is located within Highlands Inn, and their breakfast is open to guests and the public. Having breakfast in this historic dining room in Highlands is a great way to get closer to the history of Highlands, NC. You’ll find classic breakfast meals that everyone in the family will enjoy and it will give you a dining experience that is the essence of Highlands.
Sweet Treats – This place is pretty easy to spot if you are in downtown Highlands. Look for the bright orange doors across the street from Old Edwards Inn, and you’ll wander into Sweet Treats. Half lunch spot, half ice cream parlor, Sweet Treats has undergone a recent renovation on the inside, but it maintains a lot of the same great food. Sweet Treats is great if you’re looking for a quick soup or sandwich for takeout.
Pizza Place of Highlands – On Highlands Main Street, you’ll pass by an old wooden screen door and if you’re in the mood for pizza, this is the place to be! Pizza Place has been around for years in Highlands, and it’s no secret why. Made fresh daily, The Pizza Place is a lunch spot that everyone can agree upon. Guests can choose from specialty pizzas like chicken and white pear or Hawaiian BBQ, or they can customize their own pizza and get exactly what they want. If someone in your party isn’t crazy about pizza, they also offer subs and salads.
The Ugly Dog – The Ugly Dog Pub is a casual American pub that has the bar food you crave, but with thoughtful tweaks to make it more unique. This restaurant has two locations and we’re referring to the one in Highlands. Both locations are awesome, but they do have separate menus, with some similar items, and some different ones. You’ll find a “Rise and Shine” Burger here, which is essentially a breakfast burger, and a guacamole burger, which is as delicious as it sounds!
Bistro on Main – One of the loveliest outdoor seating arrangements in Highlands, this is a great place to go when you want to enjoy the perfect summer weather and the view of downtown Highlands. Mandy times, you can find a live performer here too! Look for the red umbrellas outside of The Main Street Inn, and you’ll know you’ve found it. For lunch, you’ll want to check out their fried butterfly shrimp with aioli, their local mountain trout salad, or their red pepper gouda soup. There are so many delicious choices here. This restaurant is closed for the winter, but if you are visiting during the warmer months, be sure to check their hours.
Highlands Burritos – If you can imagine what a more local, down to earth Chipotle would be like, that’s a good way to imagine Highlands Burritos. This is a great place to walk in on your lunch hour to grab a yummy quesadilla. Outside of Highlands Burritos, if you turn right and look on the other side of the building, you’ll find a small dining area outside where you can bring your dog to sit with you and enjoy the weather. Highlands Burritos is a local favorite for a quick bite.
4118 Kitchen and Bar – 4118 Kitchen and Bar is going to be exactly what you want when looking for New American food. 4118 is aptly named after the towering elevation of Highlands and prides itself on a menu that revolves around seasonally available ingredients. Some of our favorite dishes when we visit are their shrimp and grits and wild mushroom ravioli with duck confit. We recommend you come hungry!
Tug’s Proper – People who have been visiting Highlands for a while will remember Sports Page. Where Sports Page used to be, you’ll find an expanded restaurant called Tug’s Proper. You’ll love the décor right and the blue velvet booth seats with leather barstool chairs and complimentary blue walls with quirky wall décor right away. Tug’s also has some outdoor seating if you like to people watch. For lunch here, we recommend you try the ahi tuna salad or the salmon BLT.
Rosewood Market – Rosewood Market is easy to miss, and trust us, you won’t want to. Right next to Main Street Nursery, in the same location as the local Exxon gas station, you’ll find Rosewood Market. When you walk in, you’ll see a huge selection of wine and a cooler in the back a lot of fresh goodies to choose from. Seasoned green beans, pork roast, twice-baked potatoes and so much more are available for you to choose from a-la-carte, and the selection varies by the day. There is no seating inside, so this place is strictly for on-the-go folks, but it’s absolutely worth a stop!
Dinner in Highlands, NC can be best broken down by the kind of place you want to go. We’ll start with the “fine dining” locations if you’re looking for a dressier night out on the town where you can treat yourself.
Wolfgang’s – Wolfgang’s in Highlands, NC has remained a staple in the community for years. Everyone who has been in Highlands for a while knows Chef Wolfgang Green and his family, and they know how top tier their food and service is. When you first walk into Wolfgang’s, you’ll come across their wine bistro. For a more casual evening with wine and nibbles, you can stay right there! By venturing further inside the restaurant, you’ll get to experience some of the best food on the plateau. We recommend trying the apricot honey chicken or the filet mignon if you want to treat yourself.
Wild Thyme – Wild Thyme is an American/Asian fusion restaurant that has brought a unique flair to the fine dining scene in Highlands for years. Easy to find on Highlands Main Street, you’ll fist spot the cozy outdoor patio with the red umbrellas, but inside you’ll find a beautiful, classic fine dining room equipped with a full bar. Dinner entrees that you’ll love at Wild Thyme include either the bacon wrapped quail or shrimp and tasso linguine.
Meritage Bistro – Meritage has prided itself on bringing Euro-Mediterranean cuisine to the tiny town of Highlands for the past few decades. While you would expect a Euro-Mediterranean atmosphere as well, the interior of Meritage resembles a luxury mountain cabin, bringing both worlds together beautifully. If Meritage is where you choose to dine, we recommend the crispy peekytoe crab cake or even the woodland mushroom risotto.
On the Verandah – On the Verandah is a seasonal restaurant that you’ll see as you enter Highlands from Franklin Road. This fine dining restaurant overlooks beautiful Lake Sequoyah and has unbeatable views. If you don’t feel like sitting outside on the lake, you can always choose to sit in the beautiful dining room and enjoy the views out the windows. If you want to eat here, two great choices for entrees include the Maine lobster piccata with fried capers and lemon-thyme beurre blanc, or if you want more of a “small plate,” you can try Heritage Farms pork belly confit with blueberry chipotle drizzle.
Lakeside – Overlooking Harris Lake in Highlands, NC, Lakeside Restaurant is true to its name. Pulling up to Lakeside, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve come home to your lakefront cottage, but inside, a fine dining experience awaits you. You can sit in the comfort of the dining room or soak in the lake views and dine outside. If you want to dine here on Harris Lake, you could have pecan crusted baked brie as an appetizer and then end the meal with grilled Colorado lamb chops.
Ristorante Paoletti’s – Cozy. Classic. Italian. Those are the main things you should know when considering dining at Ristorante Paoletti’s. This restaurant has been a staple in Highlands for over 35 years, and the quality of the dining experience is why it’s still around. The menus evolve at Ristorante Paoletti’s to make sure guests have the freshest ingredients possible. Reservations here at least 30 days before dining are recommended, but they do accept walk-ins if there is room.
Midpoint – Highlands’ first rooftop restaurant and bar does not disappoint. Newer to the Highlands dining scene, Midpoint has proven itself to have high culinary standards. Head up the iron staircase to find an inside dining room that opens up to the rooftop where you can dine, drink and enjoy a unique view of Highlands Main Street. With an American and Asian inspiration behind dishes, you’ll find some really interesting entrees at Midpoint. Vegetable mei fun stir fry trio tacos, and lemon crisp calamari with saffron aioli are just some of the tasty options for dinner. And don’t even get us started on their unrivaled desserts!
Madison’s – Madison’s Restaurant is a fine dining establishment connected to Old Edwards Inn. Locally sourced ingredients from greenhouses and nearby farms ensure that what you are eating at Madison’s is fresh and of the highest quality. Overlooking the Wine Garden and waterfall, you’ll love the cozy ambiance of Madison’s. Crispy leg of duck confit and the pork saltimbocca are wonderful choices if you dine at Madison’s.
The next restaurants on our list are places where you can dress up if you’d like, but if you come in your casual wear, that’s fine, too!
Bridge at Mill Creek – The Bridge at Mill Creek is one of the newest restaurants in Highlands. Locals watched as extensive renovations were made to create a beautiful restaurant (and of course, a new bridge) overlooking the creek running through Highlands. Though it’s a newer restaurant, it’s taken off in popularity, so you should consider making a reservation. On the menu here, you’ll find familiar entrees like fish and chips. You’ll also find some entrees you may not be so familiar with, like cauliflower couscous.
Fou65 – This is called a woodfire bistro for a reason! The brick ovens set this restaurant a part. As you may have guessed, Four65 has a lot of yummy gourmet pizza dishes that are amazing, including a meatball and ricotta pizza. However, it’s not all pizzas. At Four65 you can choose from a selection of soups, sandwiches, or even a charcuterie board to share with friends. Four65 is located near Old Edwards Inn, which makes it a great stop if you are near this side of town.
Asia House – Asia House is going to be your go-to place in Highlands, NC if you are craving classic Asian dishes. Fusing Chinese, Japanese and Thai foods, you’ll find a delightful range of Asian dishes that everyone in your family will love. And if you’re a sushi lover, they’ve got you covered there, too. Fresh fish are brought in weekly to ensure the sushi is of the freshest quality. For an entree with a kick to it, we recommend their Thai red curry chicken.
El Azteca Rainforest Bar & Grill – Located in Highlands Plaza, El Azteca is Highlands’ premier restaurant for authentic Mexican cuisine pulled from the hear of Mexico City. This family-owned and operated restaurant has based its brand off of blending the culture of their food with supporting the culture of Highlands; creating a unique spin on many Mexican restaurants you may be familiar with. And of course, they make a killer margarita. We personally love the carne asada when we visit El Azteca.
Highlands Smokehouse – Though it’s switched ownership a few times and undergone some renovations, Highlands Smokehouse has prevailed over many changes over the past several years. This is the only place in Highlands where you can satisfy your barbecue cravings, and lucky for you, it’s great! All of your favorite North Carolina barbecue dishes are here, from brisket, to pulled pork sandwiches. If you’re vegetarian, they didn’t forget about you. Their cilantro soft shell taco is just as yummy as their barbecue!
If there is a new and up-coming restaurant in Highlands, we are often some of the first to know, since our offices are in the middle of downtown Highlands. We can tell you exactly which restaurant will be perfect for you and your family based on what you’re craving and where you’re staying. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us for our recommendations tailored to you!