I had seen Waynesville, North Carolina on the edge of park service maps of the Smokies ever since I started hiking in high school, but it never occurred to me that I’d want to visit. I had driven past the exit on interstate 40 dozens of times, but all you see at the exit is two gas stations. The town is another dozen miles from there. Fletch recommended Waynesville highly. With a hint that Waynesville is a cool place, Melissa and I drove over a couple of Saturdays ago for a look around.
The town was having a fall apple festival that weekend, and the downtown was packed with people and crafts vendors. It’s a gorgeous town with thriving shops.
Besides the usual antique stores and neat shops, downtown Waynesville has a really cool and enormous furniture store slash coffee shop. Grab a latte and settle into any of the furniture that strikes your fancy. If you like it it’s for sale. There’s a used bookstore on the backside, and a couple of restaurants that looked good, including a combination microbrewery and pizzeria.
We had seen everything in Waynesville and weren’t hungry yet, so we decided to drive another dozen miles to Sylva, home of Western Carolina University. We figured there would be good restaurants near the campus.
We found WCU and it looked like a community college – albeit a really big one – that had been built last year, with new bricks, fresh paint, and short trees. Not much collegiate character. That didn’t match what we expected from a place that had been in existence for almost 200 years, so we drove around campus and found a one-way drive going up the wooded hill. Turns out that’s where the original college is located. For some reason they built on the hill first and the flat later. There’s a very dramatic scene with a long sidewalk and stairs descending the steep hill. If there had been a place to stop on that drive I’d have taken a picture.
The only restaurants near campus were a deli and Subway, which confounded us. We were starving by that time. We went back into Sylva and found their downtown. It’s only a couple of blocks, but it’s near perfection. They had a microbrewery and pizzeria, too, but we passed. Next up was Lulu’s and we jumped at it. Good thing, too, since the only other restaurant – a “tropical fusion” joint called Guadalupe Cafe – didn’t open for another hour.
Lulu’s was fantastic. They’ve gotten good reviews from Southern Living, and the patio was a perfect place to enjoy the street and the nice weather. The menu was tempting and diverse. I had a Cuban dish with roast pork and plantains. Melissa had wasabi shrimp with fantastic cold noodles. It’s always amazing to be in a little mountain town in the middle of nowhere and find such scrumptious food.
If you like crunchy western North Carolina towns like Boone and Bryson City, you’ll like Waynesville and Sylva. The couple next to us at Lulu’s had good things to say about Franklin, NC. Markos recommends the Scottish Tartan musem there. That’s another daytrip.