Mmmmmm. Spicy sausage, steaming eggs, crisp bacon, fluffy
biscuits, sweet strawberry jam, and aromatic coffee. The scents
bring memories of special weekend breakfasts for many North
Carolinians., but at Shatley Springs Inn just north of Ashe
County, a special occasion isn't needed. Hearty Breakfasts,
and ample servings, are the daily specialty at Shatley Springs,
the restaurant Our State readers named
the Best Breakfast in North Carolina.
"This is a breakfast for people who are hungry,"
says owner Lee McMillan, presiding over a family style table
full of bowls and plates brimming with food. "We don't
have a great deal of variety because we know what our customers
like. The traditional favorites, and a lot of it."
Set among the Blue Ridge mountains not far from
the Virginia line, Shatley Springs Inn isn't the typical bed-and-breakfast
resort. Rustic and friendly, the inn includes tiny lakeside
cabins, quaint mountain shops, and the plank-floored restaurant
with rocking chairs on the front porch and gospel bands on the
Where healing waters flow.
In1890, Martin Shatley dipped his hands in a cool mountain
stream to soothe his skin in the blistering summer heat. A crippling
disease had plagued him for years, but within hours, it seemed
to be miraculously disappearing. Rumors spread of the mysterious
healing powers of the waters at Shatley Springs, and people
from near and far showed up seeking relief from various ailments.
Then a hole in the ground walled up by rocks, Shatley Springs
accommodations were in tents or in the homes of nearby families.
Shatley later moved to Wilkes County, but returned each summer
to bathe in the medicinal waters. Early development of the era
included a bathhouse with a long bench, a small heater, and
bathtub of sheet iron. Bathing water was heated in a black iron
pot outside the bathhouse. In the 1920's new owners built the
cabins and the restaurant, and changed the name to Radium
Springs in reference to a chemical analysis that revealed a
trace of radium in the water. For a time, the water was bottled
and sold by the truckload. "They'd use five-gallon jugs
and send them down the mountain by wagon," says McMillan,
who bought the place in 1958 and changed the name back to Shatley
Springs. "Then they'd put the water on the train in Marion,
Virginia. I have a receipt for 640 gallons that were shipped
to New York City." The water which flows out of the Little
Phoenix Mountain, is still considered on of the purest springs
in the world. While most folks come to Shatley Springs for the
breakfast these Days, it's not unusual to see people filling
up jugs from the spring and carrying them home.
Check your diet at
the door. The water may be medicinal, but the
breakfast could keep cardiologists very busy. On the other hand,
bad-for-you always tastes better. So forget the diet for the
day and dig in. Breakfast at Shatley Springs Inn is most often
served family-style, in large serving bowls set out on the table
for guests to pick and choose as they like. The family-style
menu includes cereal, juices, scrambled eggs, bacon, country-style
sugar-cured ham, sausage, tenderloin, home made biscuits, pancakes,
potatoes, grits, baked apples, strawberry preserves, and coffee.
Sausage gravy and red-eye gravy are included. "People are
crazy about this red-eye gravy," says McMillan, sliding
the bowl to his guests. "We ran out one time and I thought
we were going to have a riot. If people like it, they really
like it." Kitchen workers hustle to keep the piping hot
breakfasts coming for the 235-seat restaurant with gingham curtains
and tablecloths, antique coffee grinders on the shelves, and
waitresses who call you "honey." "I've got to
have two people making the biscuits non-stop just to keep up,"
says McMillan. "Then we'll have one person breaking, one
person frying, and one person doing all the eggs. These are
about the lightest biscuits I've ever had. It's all in the way
you mix the dough." For those with smaller appetites, breakfast
is also available via six specialty meals and a host of side
orders. For instance, the number one Special includes two eggs
cooked to order; ham, bacon, or sausage; sausage gravy; two
biscuits or toast; strawberry preserves; and your choice
of coffee, tea, or milk. All for $4.25. Biscuits and coffee
are also available for takeout. Shatley Springs Inn is well
known to locals, but most of its diners are from outside Ashe
County. "It's nothing to drive up here from Winston-Salem
for breakfast" says McMillan. "We open at 7am on weekends,
and by 7:30, there's a waiting line. Most weekends, we'll be
full until lunch time." Xen McCoy, a longtime visitor to
Shatley Springs Inn, says people like the comfort of the place.
"It's like sitting at home," she says. "You can
eat as much as you want; you always leave full and happy."
McMillan says for many folks, coming to eat breakfast at Shatley
Springs is a day long treat. "It's sort of a social event
for some people," he says. "We get a lot of senior
citizens, two couples who will ride up here together, eat breakfast,
look in the shops and drive home. And lots of folks like to
sit down in the rocking chairs out front and talk. It's just
a friendly, relaxing kind of place. A place with good food and
a place where you won't leave hungry."
Want to know more?
Shatley Springs Inn is
located just off N.C. 16 on Shatley Springs Road West, about
five miles north of Jefferson and about eight miles south of
the Virginia line in Ashe County. Breakfast is served
from 7am to 10 am daily; lunch and dinner are also served. For
more Information, call the inn at (336) 982-2236.