5 Reasons to Go Off the Rails in Saluda, NC!

Thompson's Grocery where "Food is best when the meat is fresh."

Thompson’s Grocery where “Food is best when the meat is fresh.”

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!

Thompson's Grocery Store first opened in 1890 and moved to this location in the 1940's, where it's been a community hub for decades

Thompson’s Grocery Store first opened in 1890 and moved to this location in the 1940’s, where it’s been a community hub for decades

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.

M.A. Pace General Store stocks food, clothing, cookware, and other goods

M.A. Pace General Store stocks food, clothing, cookware, and other goods

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!

Old photo of the Saluda Train Depot from the Saluda Historic Depot Facebook Page @savesaludadepot

Old photo of the Saluda Train Depot from the Saluda Historic Depot Facebook Page @savesaludadepot

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?

Piping hot Black Beans & Chipotle Dip

Piping hot Black Beans & Chipotle Dip

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.

Hot, fresh margarita pizza

Hot, fresh margarita pizza

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?

White chocolate bread pudding served warm...mmmmm!

White chocolate bread pudding served warm…mmmmm!

6 comments on “5 Reasons to Go Off the Rails in Saluda, NC!

  1. I love exploring towns like Saluda that offer a wealth of history and mainstay eateries. I’m going to add this to my list of NC mountain places to visit.

    • Hi Rachel!

      I agree with you & that’s my passion! We are so lucky here in NC in that there are so many interesting places with great history. And as far as food is concerned, NC is leading the way in farm-to-table, locally owned/locally sourced eateries. I love finding new towns to explore and new regional or local cuisines. I think you’ll love Saluda!


  2. Hey Mindy,
    What a pleasant surprise! I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to Saluda! And I’m so thankful that you shared about Mineral Spirits. The small, independent businesses across our country appreciate our customers like you that are so gracious and kind, like-minded and appreciative. We really thank you and your readers for your support. It means more than you realize. Please come by next time you’re close to Saluda and introduce yourself so I can thank you in person!
    Laura Fields, owner of Mineral Spirits Gallery in Saluda, NC

    • Hi Laura!

      It was my pleasure to share my thoughts about Mineral Spirits! Saluda is a wonderful town & I hope to visit again. I support local as much and whenever I can. It very important to me!

      Your store attracted me with the gorgeous minerals on display. In fact I look at my Labradorite sphere every day when I leave & enter my house. I love it!

      I would love for you to follow my blog and my Facebook page!

      I’ll be sure to stop in the next time I’m in town. I hope you stay warm!


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