With my sister and her husband in town from New York City, it was no surprise that we tried a few restaurants in addition to the favorites. On previous trips we had done the barbecue at Henry’s Smokehouse (a favorite spot of mine), and on their most recent trip we had already checked out the Thoroughfare food truck on Thursday night at Quest Brewing. It was on our excursion up north, to Pretty Place and the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area that we checked a few more places off our list, with stops in Traveler’s Rest, the gateway to the Blue Ridge.
First we stopped at Upcountry Provisions Bakery & Bistro to “provision” ourselves for the long trip up into the mountains. The croissants and cinnamon buns are always a hit with the boys, and the adults tried out a variety of sandwiches which were as appetizing as they were fresh. Fabled Pretty Place was all it had been described to be, and after stops at Caesars Head and Bald Rock we had again worked up an appetite. As a treat for the youngest of the travelers we headed first to Cool Mama's Ice Cream. Previously Trailside Creamery with only soft-serve ice cream, I think Cool Mama’s has a good chance with a full selection of flavors. On these hot summer days it’s just the place to recuperate after a day hiking Jones Gap or biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail – on the porch with a waffle cone of espresso ice cream watching the traffic on the trail is the essence of a lazy summer evening in the Upstate.
Although we partook in the ice cream-eating, the adults were far from sated; as it was just a matter of crossing the street, we cut across US-276 to Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom. A relatively new addition to the TR scene, the brewery opened early in 2014 and has been promoting local brews since! The brewery was installed by Ben Pierson, a classically trained brewer with 30 years experience who honed his craft in Germany. Adjacent to Shortfields, a driveway on the south side of the building leads past a mural and wall of hops to a parking lot in back, often sporting a food truck as the brewery is BYOF, bring your own food. (The mural by Brigitte Selby includes a barrel as a nod to the history of moonshining in the region that gave the “dark corner” its nickname, a rabbit in honor of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and the bars on the window remain from the building’s previous incarnation as a post office.)
On our visit it was Ray’s Mobile Food & Mo. cooking up some delicious eats, with a menu full of southern favorites such as fried mac & cheese and burgers. We settled in on the back porch with a beer while we waited on our food and the boys played board games. The brewery has a changing menu of beers on tap, with a tasting menu for those looking to get a wider appreciation of the choices and still emerge (somewhat) sober. We dug into our food as the place filled up with the evening crowd, the stools around the bar remaining full all evening, and reluctantly left before the children made themselves unwelcome.
|Watching the game at IPA|
It was shortly before our guests left to return to New York that we ducked into Independent Public Alehouse for ale and appetizers (not quite Travelers Rest, but on the way north on 276!). Someday we’ll make it back for the live music, but until that time I’ll be content tasting my way through their menu, this time trying out a starter that I wouldn’t have tried without the urging of Andrejs - “Oysterhead” (fried golden oysters with horseradish sauce). The oysters and the fried green tomatoes with spicy pimento cheese were delicious, tiding us over until dinner later that evening – served on the porch overlooking the backyard, enjoying each other’s company with the convenience of beds to put the boys in once they dozed. The next morning Anna and Andrejs were off, much too soon for the three sad munchkins left waving goodbyes in the yard… Hopefully they’ll come back soon so we can continue our tour of Upstate breweries, restaurants and food trucks!