Wolfgang's Restaurant & Wine Bistro
Serving high-quality cuisine, top-tier service and spectacular memories for over 27 years
By Bridget Callahan
Photos by Chelsea Cronkrite
The first thing to know if you visit Highlands is you need a reservation at Wolfgang’s. The beautiful, gracious restaurant fills up quickly, especially as the warmer spring weather appears and outdoor sunset dinners become a pleasure again instead of just a pandemic precaution. Wolfgang’s has weathered the last year better than most, thanks to its well-established reputation of 27 years.
Highlands regulars have been enjoying Chef Wolfgang’s culinary blend of German, Cajun and a little bit of everything else for decades. But for new visitors to the area, this gem of a menu contains a surprising amount of specialties waiting to become their favorite. And the extensive, award-winning wine list is a must-see for any wine aficionados.
Chef Wolfgang and his wife, Mindy Green, are themselves a Highlands institution. Born in Germany, Wolfgang’s career in kitchens took him around the world, from Jamaica to Hawaii to New Orleans to Dallas, where he met and married Mindy. Mindy had a successful clothing line, which required business trips to Atlanta, and one weekend the couple decided to get out of town and drive out to the country. They fell in love with the Highlands area and almost immediately started looking for restaurants, settling on the old Hildegard’s restaurant, a small 50-seat place which had been around for several decades.
“We started basically at ground zero; it took us a couple of years to build it up. We’ve built the pavilion, then the deck, and now the bistro,” Mindy says. She gave up her business to take on marketing and front-of-house duties, while Wolfgang went to work slowly tailoring the menu to his own style. The small wine list of 30 grew into an extensive collection of over 750 wines. The menu grew into a reflection of his travels. Now the entire Wolfgang’s experience has become such a classic Highlands-must, it’s hard to think of it as changing.
The good news is it most likely won’t. When asked if they’ve thought of retirement after so many years, Wolfgang laughs and says it’ll probably be another 27 years. He isn’t looking to leave the kitchen anytime soon. And while little menu items may change here and there, for the most part, if it’s working, why change it?
“We do have daily specials, but the menu itself, everything on there sells so well that if I do take an item off, I will hear about it. But if we take something off, we’ll still do it,” Wolfgang says. And of course, there are always the daily specials to play around with. This week’s fresh fish is halibut and there’s a lobster ravioli. He has some grouper coming in next week. How they’ll serve it depends entirely on what they’ve got in the kitchen that day.
Both fish and steak lovers will be thrilled by the dinner menu. The starter menu features crab cakes in lobster sauce, pecan-crusted shrimp and smoked salmon. There’s always fresh local trout available. And for red meat, the filet mignon is the perennial favorite, but the New York strip and the chateaubriand don’t lag too far behind. Every steak is house aged before he will touch it.
“When you buy from a supplier, you want at least four weeks age on it, and we age it another four weeks after that. You really have to think ahead and not be too far off from what you forecast,” Wolfgang says. “When you’re in this business, you get to have a feeling for what you need, what you’ll use. Now and then, I’m off a bit, but in general, I’m right on. And deliveries are more frequent than they used to be, but it’s not a big town where you can just say I need this, I need that.”
“He’s very good at figuring it out; I’ll say that. He’s got it down to a science,” Mindy says. Her favorite dish is the braised beef short ribs, generally considered by locals to be the best in town. It’s on the specialty menu, where Chef Wolfgang really shows off his style with classic Wiener schnitzel or Cajun bar-b-que shrimp, served with Asiago grits and andouille scented collard greens. His own favorite dish?
“I would probably say the veal cutlets Wolfgang. Obviously, I named it after myself; I came up with it. It’s a combination of continental and Cajun, with veal scallopini on cabernet sauce topped with crawfish and hollandaise sauce. It’s a very rich dish, but we sell a lot of it,” he says.
The dessert menu features a family recipe apple strudel and favorites like chocolate mousse and bananas Foster. But for something you won’t see on many menus, try the strawberries Romanoff. Strawberries are sliced and marinated in brown sugar and Grand Marnier. They’re then mixed with sour cream and whipped cream and served in a glass on top of ice cream, with Romanoff sauce, a sweet blend of blackberries and red wine.
Mindy, who also helps coordinate special events, says the decadent dessert, perfect for a summer night, is truly a best seller for rehearsal dinners and welcome parties.
Thanks to a dedicated staff, like chef Brian Cress, Wolfgang’s right-hand man, Jacque Taylor the intrepid general manager, and D’Arcy Adams, director of that famous wine collection, Wolfgang’s has managed to pull off the trick that so many restaurants fail at. For over 27 years, they’ve provided consistent, high-quality cuisine, reliable, top-tier service and spectacular memories. And as Chef Wolfgang says, here’s to another 27 more.
Wolfgang's Restaurant & Wine Bistro
474 Main St, Highlands, NC 28741