If you find yourself in the beautiful High Country of North Carolina, and hungry, head for the tiny village of Valle Crucis, about 6 miles from Boone. Then make a direct line to Over Yonder Restaurant, where you’ll find some of the finest food in this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Owner-Chef Andy Lang has created a destination, farm-to-table restaurant in an 1861 farmhouse, where he turns out meals you won’t soon forget.
Location: 3608 Hwy 194, Valle Crucis, NC, across from the Mast General Store. (For GPS, enter city as Sugar Grove, 28679)
Menu: Chef Andy serves locally sourced Appalachian dishes with a slight Louisiana accent for lunch and dinner at Over Yonder. The menu changes with the season and even with the day, since everything is fresh and most comes from their own garden or from farms no more than a couple valleys away. This is southern food at its best, from a simple chicken-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and collard greens to an iron-seared Angus striploin served with truffled pecorino fingerlings and bleu cheese sauce. Or try a cornbread skillet topped with sorghum molasses. Or potlikker gumbo with the Creole accent of the chef’s Louisiana roots. Every day, there’s a different soup, quiche, and pot herb mix of veggies. You’ll also find burgers, innovative salads, and the market fresh catch of the day. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available and clearly marked on the menu.
Thoughts: Andy Long says his goal at Over Yonder Restaurant is to serve classic Appalachian food in a modern way, in a casual atmosphere, with everything prepared from scratch. “We do this by sourcing the best product we can and then doing our best not to screw it up,” he says. Hint: They did not screw up one single thing when my group was there.
You’re delighted before you’ve eaten a thing, as the space itself is lovely. The old farmhouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, greets you with a wrap-around porch. In nice weather, you can eat on the side porch, with a view of the valley, or on the back patio next to a stream. Well-behaved dogs are allowed in the outside areas. The long front porch is lined with dark green wooden rockers that invite you to come and sit a spell. It makes a pleasant place to relax and enjoy the view if you have to wait for a table—and you might, because they are often busy. Reservations are highly recommended. Parking is available.
Inside are several rooms to choose from. The oldest part of the house shows exposed brick walls, lined with local art. There are pressed tin ceilings, brass chandeliers or stained-glass lamps, filmy white sheers at the windows. On chilly evenings, one lucky couple can sit right in front of the brick fireplace.
Service is friendly, and the knowledgeable staff was helpful in explaining the menu, including the day’s specials. We began our meal—as one must—with the crispy okra. I’m not a fan of this vegetable, but I was convinced to try it, and I’m so glad I did. The okra is cut in half lengthwise, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven until it’s very crisp. An enormous pile is then served with lemon wedges and a smoked remoulade that is a revelation. I tasted tomato and parsley and lemon, smokey paprika and mustard, the bite of horseradish and a hint of hot sauce among the many layered flavors. I could have made a meal of this stuff, but we knew there was much more to come so my end of the table shared an order.
In fact, with my group of foodies, there was lots of sharing and tasting going on around the table. I ordered the tomato cobbler. This came is a stoneware crock. Beneath a golden biscuit crust, steaming stewed tomatoes and onions were layered with cheddar and parmesan cheeses. It was perfect comfort food. To one side of me, a friend ordered the OY pork burger. The local, fresh-ground pork was topped with apple butter onion jam, smoked gouda, napa slaw with almonds and red onion, and pickles and served with rosemary chips. I cut off a big bite and decided it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
On my other side, here came an order of shrimp and grits, one of my favorite southern meals. Chef Andy serves his scampi NOLA style, with a bit of Cajun apparent in the Worcestershire-sauced gravy. My friend had to fight me off from cleaning her plate. Across the table, a cornmeal-dusted pan-fried North Carolina rainbow trout was being devoured with gusto. Over Yonder stresses that they only serve sustainably harvested fish and seafood from the USA. Finally, another friend was spooning up the potlikker gumbo, made with chicken, andouille, country ham in collard green broth with rice and sassafrass.
For dessert, we again ordered several to share. My favorite was the peach cobbler topped with buttermilk ice cream. Or was it the chocolate chess pie, rich and gooey and warm, topped with vanilla bean ice cream? Oh, but let’s not forget the butterscotch banana pudding, served in a Mason jar and topped with whipped cream and house-made peanut brittle. They were all basically amazing.
Over Yonder has a full bar and wine list and can offer some innovative craft cocktails. You might want to try a Goya the Destroya, made with 360 house-infused beet vodka, goya ginger beer, sour and an orange slice. Or the Bourbon Smash Brose of Midnight Moon blueberry shine, Maker’s Mark, lemon, honey syrup, soda, and smudged rosemary. Or any one of many others. There’s also a good list of beers, ales, and porters from local craft breweries.
At the very end, the coffee is good and the tea is a special house blend from a local teamaker, served with Appalachian mountain honey.
Price Range: Prices are reasonable for food of this quality and quantity. Lunch features are $6-14. Soup is $4/7. Other starters are $7-13. Salads range from $8-10.50 with an extra $5 to add chicken or shrimp. Dinner features run $8.50-14, and main dinner plates begin at $13.50 for a pork burger and go up to $23 for shrimp and grits. The chef’s catch of the day and chef’s daily steak selection are at market price. Most desserts are $8.
My group was hosted by Visit Boone, NC, to whom I am grateful for providing such an exceptional meal and experience. I would happily go back on my own.