Bistro on Main

The Main Street Inn has been welcoming guests to Highlands for over 125 years. Her graceful lines were restored to their 19th century glory with a complete renovation in 1997.

Her kitchen has also undergone a series of changes over the decades, and its latest incarnation, Bistro on Main, has been quietly building a regional reputation, thanks to overwhelmingly positive reviews on middle-of-the-road sites like and

In fact, one of the wonderful sights of downtown Highlands is the perfectly sublime view of the bistro’s guests enjoying a bite under an azure sky. It elevates the day and somehow seems so very right.

Our visit didn’t take into account the experience of dining outdoors. We elected to show up in the evening, a chilly evening that made us grateful for the crackling fire in the hearth.

But yeah, the view of the outside gives you a preview for the interior – country elegant with a casual atmosphere that says you’ll be treated like a cherished guest. 

Most of us went the tapas route. We were stunned by the beauty of the Vertical Pear, a Magritte-inspired creation that really must be seen to be believed. I suppose it’s some sort of sin that we took her down in such a frenzied, haphazard fashion, a violation of Keats’ “Principle of Beauty.” We didn’t care, this is a showstopper. It’s a bold construct of field greens, toasted pecans, and bleu cheese, all drizzled with a zesty citrus vinaigrette.

We also shared the Char-Encrusted Ahi Tuna, the Fried Green Tomatoes, a generous plate of Pimento Cheese Fritters, and a large bowl of Red Pepper Gouda Soup. This latter is another one of those stunners that made each one of us carefully watch the others as they spooned it into their mouths – no one’d better get greedy. Tricia said this soup was “company worthy,” which means that if we had the time and the talent we’d proudly serve it to guests. It’s never going to happen, but we can dream. 

Let me offer my thanks to Bistro on Main and other local restaurants that are embracing the extraordinary possibilities offered by a Small Plate Menu. What a marvelous way to spotlight the chef’s skills and imagination. Plus, there’s something fundamentally good about a gathering of friends sampling and sharing a table of tiny masterpieces. The conversation, the laughter and the, let’s say it, love blossom naturally in such a setting.

Naturally, there were two people at the table who elected to go with an entrée, and though it violated the table’s spirit of fellowship, they went with the North Carolina Mountain Trout and the Basil Lemon Crab Cakes. The glorious local fish, harvested from just a few miles away, arrived lightly blackened and emblazoned with a green tomato-cilantro salsa.

The Crab Cakes were lump crab meat patties served with a cilantro-lime sauce. We teased our friend for ordering seafood in a mountain resort town, but he allowed us to sample the dish and we were enlightened.

At the end of this delirious meal, everyone feigned satiation, the way you do under such circumstances. Our golden resolve evaporated when our server named the dessert choices – White Chocolate Mousse served in a puff pastry and topped with a bouquet of fresh berries, Limoncello Mascarpone Cake, and a Flourless Chocolate Cake. It turns out we were all lying.

Bistro on Main is located at 270 Main Street in Highlands. Reservations are a very good idea – (828) 526-2590.