Out to Dinner, Stop 6: Balsam, NC

35609b468764a0c9263411 Out to Dinner, Stop 6: Balsam, NC

Even after 100 years of mountain solitude, Balsam Mountain Inn, opened in 1908, remains as tranquil as it is painted white. According to one guest when I visited last fall, the leaves beginning their magic show on the hills, "I just sort of fell in love with the rocking chairs on the porch." Couldn’t agree more. An added, and often overlooked, bonus to the driveway-wide porch? The restaurant there is fit for a Carolina king.

I only ate on one evening, but the kitchen smelled so divine, I ordered two entrees. I’m serious. I was not ashamed; I was starving. (Well, I am sort of ashamed.)

35609b468764a0c91 Out to Dinner, Stop 6: Balsam, NC
As the sun set on my patio table, aromas floated around me. Apple-honey barbecue slow-cooked over open fire; local trout seared in a pan with white wine; and white cheese macaroni baked in the oven. None of this I saw, but, with my stomach grumbling, I imagined the whole deal like a kid on Christmas Eve.

Eating alone is something we should talk about. Often, when the subject of my job comes up in conversation, this topic arises. Is it weird? Do you get lonesome? Do people look at you across the room with eyes that say, Poor guy? These are the questions. My answer. Yes. Yes. No. Weird? Yes it is weird. Lonesome? Sure, especially when people are loving life and friendship and the day’s news two steps away. The looks? I try not to make eye contact. But back to the weird. Don’t let anyone say otherwise. Eating in a restaurant, whether it is a place jamming jazz music and full of well-dressed folk, or it’s a candlelit bistro perfect for a quiet supper — the place is not meant to be shared with an imaginary friend. These are social venues.  I know a guy who eats alone a lot. He owns a bar in my town, a real divey joint, late night hang for late night people. And he eats out before the 11 PM shift starts. Brings whatever thick paperback has hit attention and enjoys a steak or whatever. But, you never catch him without reading material. The book is his diversion from the weird thing that is eating alone. My advice: Eat at the bar. It changes EVERYTHING. Eating alone at the bar is cool. I do it more than 78% of the time. You might even be sitting next to me.

Back to the Balsam. They don’t have a bar. So I sat outside on a stone patio enjoying the fading outline of the firs atop the mountains that rose over that ways. It was a gorgeous scene. Worth a picture. Except I was alone. So, I figured what the hoo — I am ordering the pecan-crusted trout and the filet. Yep. Why not. And you know what? It felt better than a single meal alone. Two meals alone is fishy, mysterious, and like a slight-of-hand. The waitress was so weirded-out that I bought both entrees, I think she forgot that I was sitting all alone.


Balsam Mountain Inn
Rates begin at $145 per night.

P.S. The guy I quoted from the porch was one of Nixon’s Secret Service guys. Stood outside the Oval for several years. Told me some pretty wild stories about the former Chief. 


  1. Balsam Mountain Inn dining noted in Southern Living | Balsam Mountain Inn

    […] to Southern Living Magazine for this much-appreciated tip-of-the-hat regarding dining at the […]

    May 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm
  2. Thomas

    wow can’t wait till summer vacation this year!

    May 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm
  3. Genie

    My mom and I stayed at the Balsam Inn this summer. It was a unique experience. The food was very good! I had the filet, too…yummy! We also splurged and got the dessert. That particular evening was not kind to the cheesecake, but the chef showed his creativity by serving the cheesecake in a martini glass with the fried strawberry on the plate…again…yummy! We were on the top floor and heard some interesting noises. The most fun was just relaxing and being together. Thanks for your blog!

    January 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm
  4. Mari’

    The pictures are lovely. Balsam Mountain Inn sounds like a great place for a weekend getaway.
    I had eaten out alone quite often before I had my son and always enjoyed it…mostly because I love to people watch and I’m not shy. I guess the ordering of two meals could get a bit ‘out there’ but if your hungry… well, go for it.
    I’d love to hear some more about Nixon’s Secret Service guy. I’ll bet that was fun!

    December 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm
  5. Hobbs

    Richard, I couldn’t agree more. And Taylor, thanks for another insightful perspective. I think I could plan out a lifetime of vacations from this blog.

    December 18, 2008 at 8:44 pm
  6. Richard Banks

    Great advice about eating at the bar, and not just for those traveling alone. My wife and I often plant ourselves at the bar when eating at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. The service is generally just as good as in the dining room and we get great tips on and sips of new wines. As for eating on the road, bartenders typically are founts of knowledge, giving me the skinny on where to go and what to do. And if the conversation falters, there’s usually a TV to stare at.

    December 18, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s