Banner Elk North Carolina is a small and vibrant mountain town surrounded by beautiful scenery full to the brim of things to do and see. Banner Elk is only 1.92 square miles but really packs in a large number of things to do and see, including some fantastic restaurants. This article will highlight, based on our own visit and dining experience, our picks for the best restaurants in Banner Elk NC.
We've been visiting Banner Elk for a number of years, primarily as a lodging point for our visits to Land of Oz in Beech Mountain NC. Over that time, we've eaten at a number of Banner Elk restaurants, but we never had enough time to truly experience the full array of wonderful places to eat in this small mountain town.
Well, that changed recently after a wonderful weekend trip to Banner Elk.
The long weekend in Banner Elk NC, really allowed us to focus and learn more about all that this wonderful small mountain town has.
We experienced not only all of the great things to see and do, including its lively downtown but also its wonderful and plentiful culinary options! The number of excellent restaurants that Banner Elk has is impressive, and Banner Elk contains some of the best places we've eaten overall in the Blue Ridge Mountains during our travels.
Alright, enough rambling, read on for our picks for the very best restaurants in Banner Elk North Carolina, based on our personal experience during a recent trip. Remember, we're mountain locals, calling Waynesville NC home. We live and eat here in Western NC, and we know good mountain food.
We're also photographers, and all of the photos of the restaurants we visited are ones we took while there experiencing the restaurant. Yea, we get some crazy looks, but we also get to meet some super nice people too!
Banner Elk NC really delivers some great food, so we sure hope you're hungry ...
Disclosure: We were invited by the Banner Elk TDA and meals were complimentary; however, all opinions, information, and photos are our own and we were not asked in any way to influence our thoughts, comments, or the content of this article. All opinions are our own - We believe in putting our readers first.
Best Restaurants in Banner Elk NC - Our Personal Picks
All of the best restaurants in Banner Elk included below are excellent and we have personally dined with them. To determine our "best picks", we factored in quality, taste, service, atmosphere, and cost.
The restaurants are in alphabetical order, and to be honest, it's because we couldn't agree on our favorites, we enjoyed them all for different reasons. But we'll dive into those reasons detail.
Let's talk about some good eats!
Banner Elk Cafe
Banner Elk Cafe sits in the heart of downtown Banner Elk just off Shawneehaw Ave. The Cafe is a casual restaurant, offering good food, and both indoor and outdoor seating. We were actually pretty surprised at how large their outdoor eating area was. They even have a fire pit area and heated decking areas with comfortable tables and chairs.
By far, Banner Elk Cafe has one of the largest and most comprehensive menus we've ever seen for this type of restaurant. But that is due to it actually being two separate restaurants, one that specializes in sandwiches, burgers, and salads, and another that is Italian.
The Cafe offers breakfast as well, and while we weren't able to try their breakfast, we've heard it's fantastic. Added to our bucket list for a future visit.
They pretty much offer anything you could want from sandwiches to pecan trout, ribeye steaks, and even Korean BBQ! We took an extra long time to decide what we wanted, as you really need it to look over everything. The menu and number of items available are a bit overwhelming.
We did ask our waitress for some recommendations, and she was very helpful, offering up some great options.
We ended up starting off with some simple drinks, a local beer they had on tap, and a wine. Next, we tasted their Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, and honestly, this was incredible. Very well done, and served with a strawberry dressing on the side. The strawberries were ripe and fresh, and just delicious. We highly recommend this one.
For entrees, we ordered the Crab cakes sandwich and the Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Wrap. Both were very good and filling.
We inquired about desserts, and if they had any specialties, and were told that all of their desserts weren't made there and were purchased outside of the restaurant. We passed - It's not really that we had a problem with that, we're just not big dessert eaters to begin with, so unless it's extra special, we usually pass. I'm sure what they had was very good based on the other food we ate.
Overall we found the Banner Elk Cafe to be an average restaurant experience, not bad, but not fantastic either. We would definitely eat there again, especially for that Strawberry Salad.
Bella's Breakfast and Lunch
Our favorite place to grab a heavy breakfast is Bella's Breakfast and Lunch in downtown Banner Elk right off Main Street. Bella's provides your typical breakfast fair including omelets, meat and eggs, breakfast sandwiches, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles.
They also have a number of specialty items including french toast, quiche, and cappuccinos. If you prefer healthy options, they offer egg whites and fresh fruit as a side.
We've had their omelets, french toast, pancakes, and their eggs with bacon. All very good, and served hot off the stove.
Bella's has a nice homey and comfortable atmosphere, great coffee, and excellent service. The food is very reasonably priced, and the portions are pretty big.
We've been to Bella's Breakfast a number of times when in and around Banner Elk, and we have always felt welcome and the staff is super friendly. We'll definitely be back.
If you arrive and the parking lot is full, there is an additional lot on the left of the building.
Cam Ranh Bay - Asian and Sushi
Located just outside of Banner Elk and near Sugar Mountain, Cam Ranh Bay is a nice little Asian restaurant that offers a huge menu that offers a nice mix of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Sushi items. The menu is big, but not so big it's overwhelming, and they offer a kids menu as well.
They have a number of wine and beer options, including local craft beers.
Cam Ranh Bah offers indoor and outdoor seating and the food and service the times we have eaten there have always been very good. They even have live music on Fridays and Saturdays during peak season.
We have tried both their Sushi and cooked items, and both were very good. It's not the best Asian food we have ever had, but to be honest, we're Asian foodies, so we're a bit picky. But don't get us wrong, the food is very good, especially for the money, and the fact that we have returned to eat there a number of times, says a lot.
We highly recommend their Sushi and Vietnamese dishes, especially the Pad Thai. The ginger dressing on the salads is fresh and delicious. If you enjoy Asian food and Sushi, you'll want to pay Cam Ranh Bay a visit.
Fred and Larry's Coffee House
While on a recent weekend getaway in Banner Elk NC, we had some time to kill and wanted to try a local coffee shop for breakfast. We stumbled upon Fred and Larry's Coffee House. It caught our attention (or at least mine ... Larry) due to the name, so we headed over to try it out.
Wow, were we impressed! The place is so warm, cozy, and inviting, with tons of coffee and cappuccino options, and they have lots of muffins, pastries, bagels, and more for breakfast or a late-day snack. We tried their Cafe Miel, which was the weekly special, and it was excellent!
We coupled that with these Cinnamon Muffins filled with creme ... oh my, some of the best muffins we've ever eaten, especially since they were toasted. All crunchy and crusty on the outside, and soft and warm in the middle, with the sweet cream that wasn't overbearing.
The Coffee house is full of cool decor, warm colors, and soft cozy leather chairs, coaches, and tables to sit at. They even have outdoor seating as well. We love Fred and Larry's, and will definitely be back in the future.
What we appreciated even more, as a Marine family, was their support for Marines and our service men and women. They had multiple signs up showing their support, and A Marine Corps flag was proudly flying out front.
If you love coffee, you just can't miss Fred and Larry's Coffee House!
LP on Main
If you're a Foodie, you'll love LP on Main. LP on Main is actually one of the three original restaurants in Banner Elk NC. Previously named Louisiana Purchase Food & Spirits, they relocated the restaurant to its current location on Main Street and renamed it LP on Main.
Not only did they move, but they moved into a custom-built building that is gorgeous and decorated with warm colors, lighting, wooden tables, and an open and airy feel. They even have outside deck seating which overlooks Main Street.
Husband and Wife owners Patrick and Laurie Bagbey have built something special, that offers an upscale dining experience that still has a casual feel to it. They serve some of the very best food available in the town of Banner Elk.
LP on Main is farm-to-table, sourcing ingredients locally from places like Trosley Farms, Charlotte’s Greenhouse, Springhouse Farms and Heritage Farms, and many more. They pride themselves on using fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Don't let the small menu fool you either, they focus on quality and they deliver.
They have a really nice-looking bar, serving beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Their speciality cocktail list is full of delicious and unique drinks. We enjoyed the Blackberry Old Fashioned, Pink Guava Paloma, The Little Coconut, and the Bee Pollen (our personal favorite).
Some of our favorite items from the "Sharables" Menu include the Crab cake (it's huge and delicious), the BBQ Shrimp with smoked cheddar grits which was spicy and amazing, and our favorite seasonal item, the grilled peach salad. They even offer Tartare Black Angus Beef, which was a first for us.
For entrees, we enjoyed the Scottish Salmon and the Bison meatloaf, and the short ribs looked amazing.
The Salmon was cooked perfectly, and the fresh cucumbers and tomatoes really complimented it. The Bison meatloaf was very tender and topped with a spicy BBQ sauce, and the real treat was the smoked Mac and Cheese. SO good.
Be sure to save room for dessert! The Sticky Toffee Pudding is served warm, and it absolutely divine. If you're looking for something lighter and more refreshing, get the Strawberry Pave.
Our server Samantha was wonderful, professional and very friendly. She found that delicate balance between being attentive and not overbearing.
The combination of service, atmosphere, delicious food, and friendly attentive owners makes this in the top tier of best restaurants in Banner Elk NC.
Also an original Banner Elk Restaurant, opening in 1985, Stonewalls Restaurant provides an elegant and refined dining experience, with excellent food, especially steaks. They even dry-age their own steaks in-house!
The restaurant not only features excellent food and steaks, but they offer a large outdoor patio for dining, an outdoor entry area with chairs, and an open fire for waiting or enjoying after-dinner conversation with friends.
The dining room, food, and staff are top-notch at Stonewalls, and they quickly positioned themselves as one of the top places to dine in the town of Banner Elk.
We were quickly seated and greeted by our professional, knowledgeable, and on-point waiter, Josh.
We started the evening with Champagne Flutes, followed by a couple of mixed drinks from their cocktail list. We really enjoyed the Margarita Verde, which has a cucumber and Jalapeño puree, and the Old Fashioned. Warning though, the Margarita has a bite!
We started our meal with a few appetizers to try out, including the panko-encrusted and fried deviled eggs topped with candied bacon and roasted Brussels sprouts with blue cheese and topped with bacon jam. They also serve this huge loaf of hot bread with butter.
For entrees, we ordered the Scallops special, which was pan-seared scallops over asparagus and served with Brussels sprouts topped with a delicious maple syrup which is made especially for Stonewalls. We also ordered the Filet Mignon with a baked potato. Both where phenomenal and cooked perfectly and were honestly some of the best we've ever had.
We also highly recommend their crab cakes, and if you are a Prime Rib fan, that is one of their house specialties, and we heard rave reviews from others about it.
For dessert, they had a number of delicious-sounding options, and we chose the Chocolate Lava Cake and Salted Caramel Brownie topped with Vanilla Ice Cream. Both were incredible.
To say that dinner was amazing would be an understatement. Stonewalls Restaurant served up some of the best food and service we've had anywhere, and we would highly recommend them and consider them one of the best restaurants in Banner Elk NC. Consider them if you are looking for a more upscale dining experience with the food and service to back it up. We'll definitely be returning to Stonewalls.
Other Best Restaurants in Banner Elk
While there, we heard some great things about all of the restaurants below, and you'll find they all receive excellent reviews as well. Since we were only in Banner Elk for a long weekend, we weren't able to personally visit and try these, but they are on our shortlist for our next visit later this year.
The Bayou Smokehouse & Grill is located in the Village in the heart and center of downtown Banner Elk NC. This place was busy and vibrant but appeared very laid back and casual. The menu contains a plethora of items from steaks to authentic cajun items like Étouffée and red beans and rice.
They even have authentic Texas BBQ with one of their house specialties being Smoked Brisket.
One of the cool things about their menu is they offer a few samplers that let you taste a number of the top BBQ and cajun dishes.
They offer a full bar with beer, wine, local craft brews, and cocktails. Bayou Smokehouse & Grill looks amazing and fun, and we can't wait to try it very soon.
Bella's Neighborhood Italian
Bella's Neighborhood Italian is in the same strip mall as our favorite coffee shop, Fred and Larry's. The restaurant isn't really notable from the outside, but we noticed they stayed pretty busy as we drove by a number of times. Based on reviews, and some local comments we heard, turns out it's a great place for authentic Italian food and pizza.
Bella's offers up standard made-in-house Italian fare, subs, NY-style pizza, and a full bar. They serve both lunch and dinner. Bella's offers family-style dining, in a very casual no-frills dining environment, and all at an affordable price.
Notable items include Pizza, Chicken marsala, and Seafood pasta. Their sauces are noted to be fantastic, including the Marinara and Alfredo which is thin like it should be.
Sorrentos Italian Bistro
Sorrentos Italian Bistro is a place we really wanted to try, but our schedule just didn't allow it. We hope to dine with them during a future visit to Banner Elk. Sorrentos is one of the original three restaurants in Banner Elk and opened in 1983. They serve family recipes from Sicily that go back over 100 years.
Sorrentos is owned by the same family that owns Chef’s Table, Prime 21, Barra Sports Bar, and the Banner Elk Winery. Prime 21 is a private membership-only steakhouse located near Sorrentos Bistro.
Sorrentos has established itself as one of the best restaurants in Banner Elk among locals and tourists. They offer indoor and outdoor seating, with seating sections around a fire pit which looks super nice.
They also offer one of the most extensive wine lists in town, and while they do serve mainly traditional recipes, they have added a number of new and innovative items to the menu. Sorrentos is a more fine dining version of the familiar neighborhood Italian restaurant.
Sorrentos serves all of your traditional Italian dishes, plus a number of different Pizzas, and some specialties including crab cakes and Chicken Marsala, which we've heard a lot about.
Unfortunately, we missed them during our most recent visit, but they're on our shortlist for next time!
Located upstairs from Sorrento's, Chef's Table Executive Chef Nicole Palazzo (the granddaughter of founders of Sorrento’s) serves up some of the best she has to offer, and some of the finest dining you can experience in Banner Elk.
The menu has both small plates and main plate options, and even Sushi. In fact, we've heard it's the best Sushi in the area, which got our attention. We love Sushi.
Entree options include Trout, Sea-Bass, steaks, and more.
This was another restaurant we weren't able to get into during our recent visit, but also on our shortlist for the future.
Kettell Beerworks is Banner Elk's local brewery, and as you would expect serves beer, and even offer tours of the brewery. They opened in 2013, and offer seasonal brews, and different tiers of beers to try. Beer is brewed on-site.
Kettell makes for a great place to hang out before or after dinner, or if you just want to hang out and grab food as well, they serve wings, pizza, pretzels, and some desserts.
The brewery is family-friendly, and pets are allowed on the porch. We had planned to stop by and experience them first-hand between some events we had scheduled, but we ran out of time. So this one makes our bucket list for future visits as well.
Our Banner Elk NC Weekend Video
Final Thoughts on Best Restaurants in Banner Elk NC
We're still in shock at how much the small mountain town of Banner Elk NC has to offer, especially for foodies. These restaurants are some of the very best we've experienced in travels around the Blue Ridge Mountains. To have so many wonderful and high quality choices in such a small space, is exceptional. Not to mention such much cultural variety as well.
We hope you've found our picks for the best restaurants in Banner Elk NC helpful, and we also hope you enjoy dining with these restaurants as much as we did. We can't wait to return and try the ones we missed!