LAUREL SPRINGS — Blue Ridge Parkway travelers can once again enjoy a home-style meal at The Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park beginning Saturday, Aug. 22. The beloved former coffee shop at milepost 241 on the Parkway is reopening a decade after closing its doors.
Diners can expect old favorites on the menu, including fried chicken, ham biscuits, and berry cobblers, along with new recipes created by operators Shana Whitehead and Bill Heath, owners of Muddy Creek Café and Music Hall in Sparta and Winston-Salem. Wine and beer will also be available. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, through Oct. 31.
“We are so honored to be part of reopening The Bluffs,” Whitehead said. “Our staff brings great skills in traditional Southern cooking, as well as fresh takes on popular favorites.” She notes that many employees have memories of dining at The Bluffs, and of family members working at the restaurant during its heyday.
There will be a lot of activity at the restaurant leading up to the reopening, as the staff receives training. Passersby are asked to postpone visits until the official opening date or later. This season, outdoor dining will be available in front of the building as indoor capacity is limited due to COVID-19 precautions.
In 1949, The Bluffs became the first dining establishment to open on the scenic route and served customers for 61 years. Generations of families made the restaurant a destination after a day of hiking nearby trails or nights spent at the neighboring campground or lodge.
“The Bluffs was not just a place for a wonderful meal, it was a place where memories were made on the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the nonprofit Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “Recreating that experience for those who fondly remember The Bluffs and those who never had a chance to visit is a perfect example of the Foundation’s mission to enhance the Parkway for everyone.”
Revitalization of The Bluffs has been a long-term effort. During the decade it remained closed, the facility fell into a severe state of disrepair. Four years ago, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation stepped in and began raising funds to restore the restaurant. A combination of donations from individuals and organizations and support from the state of North Carolina and Appalachian Regional Commission made the rehabilitation of the building possible. More than 500 donors contributed nearly $1 million for the project.
The extensive repairs and upgrades included a new roof, a reconstructed lunch counter, ADA-compliant restrooms, a complete kitchen equipment update, and much more.
“The Bluffs project represents so much of what people love about the Parkway,” said Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee. “An idyllic setting, community history and tradition, and a convenient getaway combine for an understandably well-loved Parkway experience. We are so grateful to so many whose vision and leadership in recent years will help introduce The Bluffs to a new generation of Parkway visitors.”
“Visiting the restored Bluffs Restaurant recently reminded me how wonderful it continues to be to partner with our state, local, and federal officials in creating sustaining and valuable projects in our region of Western North Carolina,” said N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard. “This project showcases our gorgeous setting, delicious local eats, and fun recreational opportunities—there’s something to grab everyone’s attention. I’m proud of all the work and efforts by so many in leading up to this wonderful opening.”
During the six decades it operated, the interior of the facility remained largely unchanged. For the restoration of the building, new fixtures and design upgrades were selected to replicate the original look and feel of the restaurant. For many visitors, The Bluffs will seem just as they remember it, with green checkerboard floors and the same large Parkway photos hanging at opposite ends of the dining room.
“A trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a stop in to The Bluffs, is something families from throughout our country remember through the years,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “ARC is pleased to partner with the State of North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in the restoration of this historic landmark that has helped make Western North Carolina a destination for tourists from near and far.”
Muddy Creek Enterprises will operate the restaurant under an agreement with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The nonprofit holds a historic lease for the National Park Service facility and will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and improvements.
To learn more, visit BluffsRestaurant.org.