There isn’t much that thru-hikers care about more than food. During my 2015 thru-hike, I was always wondering what new treasure of a restaurant I would find in the next town and would literally catch myself day dreaming about what meals they might serve. Plus, it was always fun to visit with locals while in town. With these things considered, I have drafted a list of my top 5 favorite restaurants along the Appalachian Trail. Not only was the food at these places exceptional, but the experience as a whole was memorable.
5. Los Jalapenos – Unicoi, TN
This one is slightly off the beaten path, but is definitely reachable if you hitchhike. While sitting in Erwin, TN at the Mountain Inn & Suites with some of my stinky hiker buds, I found this little piece of paradise while google searching for places we could potentially get dinner. After everyone was showered up, it was already almost 9pm. Luckily Los Jalapenos is open until 10pm most nights! We were able to catch a ride with a fella at a nearby gas station who took us an extra 6-7 miles down the road to eat Mexican. Walmart is conveniently located in the same shopping center, so you can resupply right after a good meal. The food was reasonably priced and delicious, especially considering I thought I was going to eat dinner out of a vending machine. After dinner, one of the servers was kind enough to give us a ride back to our hotel. I ended up eating at there 3 times in 2 days. If you’re going to resupply at Walmart while in Erwin, definitely check out the good food and fun crew at Los Jalapenos!
Trail Mile Marker (in AWOL’s NOBO 2015 AT Guide): 342.9
100 Rocky Bottom Dr.
Unicoi, TN 37692
4. Lakeshore House Restaurant & Lodge – Monson, ME
If you’re looking for great food, a fun place to hang out with locals, and (sometimes) live music, the Lakeshore House Restaurant is your best bet! There is also a full bar if you need a little whiskey to take the edge off of your sore legs, feet, back…body. Located lake side, hence the name, this quaint hostel/pub simply gives off good vibes.
When I arrived at the hostel, I looked like a chilled, wet rat. Rebecca, the owner, had driven about 30 minutes through a network of many dirt roads to pick me up so I didn’t have to spend another cold night in the woods after fording a pretty intimidating river crossing. After showering and allowing my limbs to thaw out, some of my hiker buds and I went downstairs to enjoy a hot meal. I enjoyed a burger and wings and also tried the pot roast dinner. Of the three, the pot roast sticks in my mind the most. For north bounders, this is the last stop before the 100-mile wilderness and I couldn’t think of a better place to eat, drink, and be merry!
Trail Mile Marker (in AWOL’s NOBO 2015 AT Guide): 2074.7
9 Tenney Hill Rd.
Monson, ME 04464
3. The Yellow Deli – Rutland, VT
The Yellow Deli is owned and operated by the Twelve Tribes Community. Some argue it’s a cult, others deny any such–and I just will say that I don’t know, but they have fantastic food! My favorite sandwich was the Deli Rose, but the chili and fruit salad were to die for. I still dream about the fruit salad–seriously. The deli is open 24/7 (except 3pm Friday until noon Sunday). Hikers get a 15% off discount at the deli and the outfitter (Simon the Tanner), free breakfast and loaner clothes with a nights stay at the donation based hostel ($20 suggested) located upstairs. The Yellow Deli will also shuttle you to and from the trail. I had never heard of the Twelve Tribes religion, so it was definitely an interesting experience. I think one of the best parts of hiking the AT is all of the fascinating people you get to meet along the way. Afterall, variety is the spice of life!
Trail Mile Marker (in AWOL’s NOBO 2015 AT Guide): 1683.5 and/or 1700.9
23 Center St.
Rutland, VT 05701
2. The Homeplace Restaurant – Catawba, VA
When you’re a hungry hiker, nothing suits you better than all-you-can-eat restaurants. The Homeplace Restaurant serves their food “family style” which means they bring dish after dish full of southern goodness. There are no choices to be made, you just eat what you get and, trust me, you won’t be disappointed. If you leave hungry you seriously did something wrong!
After eating a big dinner at The Homeplace, several of us were dreading getting back on the trail for the night. The owner must’ve seen the look on our faces and offered up a gazebo located on the property as shelter for the night. Because we were in no rush to get back to the trail, we hung out on the porch the rest of the afternoon, lounging in the swings and charging our electronics through the exterior outlets. Not long after dark we set up camp in the gazebo. When I woke up at 2am to the sound of rain, I was thrilled to be sleeping in the gazebo and not dreading packing up a wet tent in the morning.
I should note that Four Pines Hostel is located in the area and happily offers shuttles to and from the restaurant. I did not stay at Four Pines Hostel, so I can’t personally vouch for them, but I have heard wonderful reviews!
Trail Mile Marker (in AWOL’s NOBO 2015 AT Guide): 702.1 and/or 708.0
4968 Catawba Valley Dr
Catawba, VA 24070
1. Devil’s Backbone Brewery – Roseland, VA
After a long day of hiking, what could be better than a fancy dinner and brews on tap? You’ve got me! The quality of food and beer at Devil’s Backbone Brewery landed them in my number one spot for favorite restaurant on the AT. To be honest, though, it wasn’t only the dinner I ate, but the $5 hiker-only breakfast the following morning. This place is extremely hiker (and dog) friendly! You can even camp in the field/tree line on the property.
While I was there, the owner was in process of building a stage to hold music events and a shower house for hikers. Not sure if it ever came to be, but if so that’s even more reason to stay there! Also, if you call from Maupin Shelter, someone will usually be able to swing by and pick you up at Reed Gap. If not, you can get a hitch there and someone will likely return you to the trail the next day. Although this is the most pricey restaurant on my list, I definitely would not hike past this place and miss the experience. The $5 breakfast was easily the best $5 spent during my thru-hike!
Trail Mile Marker (in AWOL’s NOBO 2015 AT Guide): 842.5
200 Mosbys Run
Roseland, VA 22967
It was difficult to cull all of the restaurants down to five within a 2,189.2 mile stretch, so I do want to add a list of honorable mentions. Some of the other places with delicious food and/or a good atmosphere are:
- Bob’s Dairy Land – Roan Mountain, TN
- New Ming Garden – Waynesboro, VA
- River’s End @ The NOC – Bryson City, NC
- Smoky Mountain Diner – Hot Springs, NC
- Old Mill – Damascus, VA
- Spring Creek Tavern – Hot Springs, NC
- Diner at Deerhead Inn – Delaware Water Gap, PA
- Gyps Tavern – Branchville, NJ
There is definitely not a lack of great restaurants along the Appalachian Trail. I hope this information will be helpful if you decide to try out some new dining opportunities during your section or thru-hike. If you have had any superb experiences, please feel free to share them in the comments so others can learn from you!