Snuggled in at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the cheerful mountain town of Saulda. Best known for sitting at the top of the railway’s Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad line in the US, this tiny mountain town is big on personality. Like many towns, the railroad grew this city into a bustling hub. Although not many people live here (the town population is under 800 as of the 2010 census) art galleries, shops, and restaurants line the historic downtown street.
Swinging into town for a quick tour of Saluda on my way to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, only whetted my appetite for more! Although the weather was rainy, it didn’t dampen my spirits. A short trip from Asheville, NC, Saluda fills your need for mountain views, windy roads, and small-town charm. Why not stop by for a spell?
1) First stop: shop for staples at Thompson’s Store, the oldest grocery store in North Carolina and then grab a bite to eat at Ward’s Grill next door!
2) Once you’ve stocked up on groceries, head over to the M. A. Pace General Store for a trip back in time. Be sure to say “Hi!” to Mr. Morgan, the very sweet owner of this historic general store.
3) When you’re in a train town a stop by the train depot is in order. This depot features a diorama of the Saluda Grade so you can see it for yourself. The rail gains 606 feet in elevation in less than three miles between the towns of Melrose and Saluda. That’s steep!
4) Art & shopping. Pick up a gift or two from Heartwood Gallery, whether it be pottery, jewelry or some other handcrafted, made in the U.S.A. artisan wares. I might be off my rocker, but I’ve always had an attraction to rocks: colorful, unique, smooth, polished, rough-it doesn’t matter. I like rocks. Saluda has a rock store. Okay, it’s slightly more than just rocks, the Mineral Spirits Rock Gallery has rocks, minerals, and gems of every kind. While I’m not seeking my chakra or using them for healing, I did walk out with a beauty that spoke to me. I thought it was pretty, but if helps reduce my stress I’m game.
5) Nibbles. Let’s be honest, food is last on this list, but it’s certainly not least. This girl that likes to feast! What better way to roll out of town than stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey at your mama’s house?
While there are several eateries in town, most closed mid-afternoon until the dinner hour, so I moseyed over to The Purple Onion for an intermezzo lunch. My server, Millie, was super-awesome and the food was hot, fresh, and delicious. First up, black beans & chipotle dip with cheddar, sour cream and tortilla chips. This hungry girl scooped up the savory dip like my girl Daphne on a Dairy Queen ice cream. While I was busy tending my bean dip, the kitchen was busy making a margarita pizza. I think a margarita is one of my favorites because of the simplicity. Living on the wild side, I changed it up a bit and added kalamata olives. I know, practically scandalous! The only scandal here was me polishing off three slices and then diving into dessert.
Dessert did you say? Not only was it dessert, but the ultimate warm dessert on a cold, rainy day: white chocolate bread pudding with a whiskey sauce, recommended by Millie. She did not steer me wrong, see?