Plateau restaurants for romance
By Dawn Liles
The magical glow of the holiday season has diminished, along with Super Bowl cheers and possibly, your New Year’s resolutions. But mid-February brings renewed hope with a chocolate-feasting, flower-bestowing, romance-declaring holiday called Valentine’s Day.
The holiday has a muddled and somewhat gory past that includes several martyred St. Valentines. But Geoffrey Chaucer, author of “The Canterbury Tales,” is generally credited with creating our modern-day celebration of love when he decreed the February feast of St. Valentinus should be tied to the mating of birds. In Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February, and soon European nobles began sending love notes to their intendeds during bird-mating season. The industrial age made it easier to mass produce cards and heart-shaped chocolates. In 2020, Americans spent nearly $27.4 billion on Valentine’s Day candy, according to candyindustry.com.
Treating yourself and your significant other to a romantic night out on Valentine’s Day can be just the elixir we need to get us through the often dark days of winter. We’re fortunate to have some delightful dining options - from Lake Toxaway to Sapphire to Cashiers to Highlands - that are preparing to make your night out with your loved one a truly memorable experience. Whether romance for you means water views, mountain views, delectable food, a cozy ambiance, a signature cocktail or fine wine, these restaurants offer some or all of the items on your Valentine’s Day wish list. Reservations are encouraged.
If a cozy English-country house complete with overstuffed couches in front of two roaring fires is the atmosphere you’re seeking for celebrating Valentine’s Day, then make a reservation at The Ruffed Grouse Tavern, located in Highlander Mountain House on Main Street in Highlands. The restaurant is planning a special locally-sourced Valentine’s Day menu. Guests will dine over candlelight in the flower-filled dining room and will be treated to a complimentary glass of champagne upon arrival, signature Valentine’s Day cocktails, a decadent dessert and, as always, a great music playlist.
Another superb dining option located on picturesque Main Street in Highlands is a Relais & Châteaux property known for impeccable standards. Located in the Old Edwards Inn, the AAA Four-Diamond Award-winning Madison’s Restaurant offers seasonal, farm-to-table fine dining. Enjoy starters such as pomegranate glazed pork belly and pumpkin ravioli, entrees including potato-crusted sunburst trout and cast-iron seared NY strip. Their extensive wine list is sure to satisfy discerning wine enthusiasts.
Head east on U.S. Route 64, and you’ll come upon the charming village of Cashiers. People from all over the region head to Cashiers to enjoy a delicious culinary experience at The Orchard, a restored 100-year-old farmhouse serving southern-inspired American cuisine with an elegant, rustic ambiance. The restaurant is usually only open on weekends in winter but will be open on Monday for Valentine’s Day. Appetizers include steamed mussels and fried green tomatoes, and entrées range from several creative trout dishes to risotto, lamb chops and ribeyes. Desserts are always fresh and homemade. They offer an extensive wine list and a full bar.
Another option as you head east on U.S. 64 is The Greystone Inn, recognized locally, as well as regionally, as a top destination in our area. The Inn’s 30 rooms are often booked in the winter months and many of those guests choose to dine at the Inn’s lakeside dining restaurant, which was renovated in January and offers spectacular views of Lake Toxaway. One of the Inn’s biggest attractions besides physical location is the ability to pick from a wealth of additional amenities https://greystoneinn.com/experience-enhancements/.
The restaurant will be serving a pre-fixed menu at $120 per person for Valentine’s Day dinner. Within the current menu, the osso bucco is a flagship entrée, but the Latin-inspired swordfish and classic trout and shrimp are favorites as well. For appetizers, the she-crab soup is a regional favorite, but the shrimp and risotto cake is quite popular. The dining staff is trained to help guide guests through a ‘menu tour,’ where they can start with a harvest, cheese or charcuterie board, then soup and/or salad, followed by entrees and dessert. The Restaurant at The Greystone has a large selection of liquors and cocktails and specializes in several different types of old-fashioned negronis and Manhattans; a lovely selection of local beers complements their very large wine list.
Keep traveling on Route 64 to the Library Kitchen + Bar, who just celebrated their five-year anniversary, near the entrance to the Country Club of Sapphire Valley. With colorful art installations, bright and playful culinary treats and a craft cocktail bar, the restaurant offers a delicious dining experience in a unique and artsy atmosphere. Michelin-star trained Chef Johannes utilizes his creative culinary skills with a seasonal menu that debuts the freshest flavors around. His delectable dishes are friendly to all palates and their staff works hard to make sure guests have a warm and inviting experience each time they visit. They offer snacks, small plates and cuisine with local ingredients and global influences. Normally closed on Mondays, they will be open on Valentine’s Day with romance-inspired offerings.
The Orchard Restaurant
905 Hwy 107 S., Cashiers
The Ruffed Grouse Tavern
270 Main St., Highlands
Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden
445 Main St., Highlands
Library Kitchen + Bar
184 Cherokee Trail, Sapphire
The Restaurant at the Greystone Inn
220 Greystone Ln., Lake Toxaway