A few weeks ago I took a Saturday afternoon paddling trip down the Tuckaseegee River* in a canoe It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade. My friend and his daughter are both experienced whitewater paddlers. I have mostly flat water kayaking experience on lakes, bayous and creeks so was pretty much just along for the ride. After my initial horror that I would be spending the afternoon on my knees in the front of the canoe, my leg muscles and I relaxed and enjoyed the trip, picking up some paddling pointers and lingo along the way. We spent the night at a group camping area in the Nantahala National Forest and had a fun time sitting around the campfire sipping red wine and listening to the kids tell jokes.
On Sunday morning, the weather was cool and drizzly so I headed for home early. By mid-morning, I was starving so pulled off at the Bryson City exit, just outside the Smoky Mountain National Park, in the hopes of finding something good to eat. I parked and spotted the Cork & Bean, but the restaurant didn’t start serving for another twenty minutes or so. Wandering down the street and over the bridge, I found a place that looked promising, but had a long line of people waiting to eat. I’d rather spend my time window shopping than waiting so headed back up to the Cork & Bean, and am really happy that I did!
The Cork and Bean is located at the corner of Main and Everett street in the former Bryson City Bank building. It’s ambience is perfect for Sunday morning brunch — casual, a little bit of elegance combined with a little bit of funk: Cabin-style wood paneling, moose folk art, fabulous old dark wood arched top windows and very cool wrought iron chandeliers. The front room of the restaurant, where the bar is located is furnished with small tables as well as a cozy sitting area. In addition to a good selection of wines and seasonal beers, the bar serves organic, free trade coffee and espresso, mimosas and bloody marys.
The back room, the main eatery, is a little less less so, but still interesting and pleasant. I was seated at a table in the corner by the window — a great spot for dining alone. After ordering an ice coffee and some fresh orange juice, I turned my attention to the menu. The restaurant prides itself on serving as much organic and locally-sourced foods as possible. They are known for their crepes — both breakfast and dessert. There were a number of enticing dishes on the brunch menu, but I only had eyes for one…
I had stopped in the pottery shop across the street to kill some time while waiting for it to open. The artist working there recommended the Eggs Benedict. I didn’t need to be told twice! Mine arrived with a side of stone ground grits.
Cork and Bean’s Eggs Benedict is slightly untraditional — a toasted english muffin topped with well poached eggs and rich hollandaise sauce served over a bed of fresh spinach with slices of bacon, ripe avocado and tomatoes on the side. So much goodness! It was a beautiful plate of food. And I loved that the dish included more than token good-for-you fruits and vegetables to alleviate my guilt (just a little) about the poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. I relished every bite.
I am not sure if I had been to Bryson City before that day. I had in my mind that the town was one of the little tacky tourist traps that dot the Smoky Mountains. And while there may be some of that in the summertime, the town itself is quite charming. With its many inns, lodges and B&Bs, it would be a lovely spot for a little romantic weekend getaway in the spring and fall. And if it were my romantic getaway, I’d definitely plan on making more than one stop at the Cork and Bean.
*That is not me in the kayak, but the video gives you an idea about the scenery and water hazards!