Off The Beaten Path: Brevard, NC
Just over an hour from Greenville, Brevard’s downtown is centrally located between several protected forests: Pisgah National Forest, Dupont State Forest, and Gorges State Park. This means that outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, fishing, and rock climbing are within easy reach of surrounding shops, restaurants, and breweries. It also means the views from downtown are nothing less than stunning, with green and blue mountains peeking from behind buildings. My husband and I took a break from our hectic schedules to spend a Sunday afternoon relaxing and seeing firsthand what Brevard has to offer.
First Stop: Lunch
We were starving once we reached downtown Brevard and stopped at the first restaurant we saw open. The Square Root is tucked back in an alleyway, strategically located across from Downtown Chocolates (dinner then dessert, anyone?). The quaint restaurant has a dark and moody vibe, with unique art adorning the walls and cool wood floors underfoot.
On Sundays, The Square Root serves a brunch menu, which offers chicken and waffles with a Jack Daniels syrup, a Monte Cristo sandwich with fried egg and blueberry compote, omelets galore, salads, soups, and a Cajun shrimp and grit cake.
Most importantly, The Square Root serves smoked Gouda grits as a regular side. Nothing beats smoked Gouda grits. Nothing. And they make them just the way we like: stiff—not soupy, never soupy—creamy, cheesy, and delicious.
In addition to our grits, we ordered the Monte Cristo with sweet potato chips and the chicken and waffles. The little extras that come with every plate—a small piece of blueberry bread and a thimble of fresh fruit—were tasty bites. A Bloody Mary to split, and we were able to fortify ourselves for the next few hours.
Second Stop: Shops
Downtown Brevard boasts many specialty shops, ranging from The White Squirrel—which pays homage to the town’s beloved icon by way of white squirrel-themed gift items—to Southern Comfort Records, whose store is packed with vintage and newly-pressed vinyl. We stopped into most of the shops that were open (beware: not all of downtown is open for business on Sundays!), and spent considerable time in three shops in particular.
Gravy, an artisanal and retail market benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County, features plentiful rows of local, handmade items interspersed with carefully curated, thoughtful gifts, all merchandised into pretty vignettes throughout the store. Roughly 71 different dealers supply art, jewelry, antiques, socks, scarfs, rugs and hand towels, fly fishing supplies, dog toys, furniture, fresh plants and flowers, home decor, and locally produced jams, jellies, and honey.
Penny Lane Exchange is a denselypacked, colorful mecca of clothes, jewelry, hats, costumes and wigs, purses, satchels, sunglasses, shoes, socks and shirts with funny and irreverent messages, and, of course, more. I dare you to spend five minutes in this shop without cracking a smile or laughing out loud. It’s a goodnatured store that throws out serious positive vibes. Where else can you pick up a “Well-behaved women seldom make history” t-shirt and pin-up sailor girl socks at the same time?
Hunters & Gatherers specializes in American-made products and offers an extensive line of clothing, shoes, art, jewelry (go see the turquoise!), pottery, cowboy boots, leather and Stetson hats, leather journals, and lots of dog, wolf, bear, moose, horse, duck, and other animal- themed items. Additionally, the store carries Telic sandals (Croc-like flip-flops with superior support). I scored a pair before we left the store, and I think the only time I haven’t worn them since has been in bed.
Third Stop: Beer
The highlight of our day was stopping in Ecusta Brewing, located in a dim basement under Jaime’s Creole Brasserie Restaurant on Main Street. Ecusta’s speakeasy vibe and moody atmosphere offered a nice break from the bright outdoors and a moment to recollect the day thus far.
While talking over shops and purchases, we tried several Ecusta beers, ultimately choosing the Milk Stout (for me) and the ESB (for the hubs). The Milk Stout was probably the best I’ve tried of that style—dark, smooth, and just a hint of sweetness on the finish. The bartender told me that 20 pounds of milk sugars is added to this stout toward the end of the brewing process, which seems like an awful lot, but he assured me that the batch is pretty large. Everything in balance, right?
My husband never meets a stranger, so he started chatting it up with a fella at the end of the bar. Turns out the stranger was Don Osby, one of Ecusta’s brewmasters. While the bartender explained the meaning of the word “Ecusta” (the name the Cherokee call the Davidson River waterway and the surrounding area), Don invited us back to the brew room where the magic happens (and generously posed for a photo alongside one of the tanks).
On the way to the brew room, I noticed many bins of what looked like mush. Don informed us that the mush is actually spent grains from the brew process that the brewery then gives to a local farmer for use on the farm. Yet another reason for us to love Ecusta.
The brewery advertises its “Sunday Brunch Specials: BEER!” on a sandwich board outside. But $10 growler fills are their real Sunday special, so maybe another visit is in order.