Back when I was living in Pennsylvania, I remember a coworker coming back from an Asheville vacation and raving about a crazy afternoon spent with her friends on the deck of the Pisgah Inn, a hotel and bar—as she described it—that hangs off the side of a mountain, right at the trailhead for a hike (I never got clarification, but I’m assuming she meant Mt. Pisgah). When I got my Asheville job offer a few months later, I remember her excitedly telling me to make sure I get drinks at The Pisgah Inn.
The Pisgah Inn was closed for the season when I moved to Asheville in February 2019 and remained closed that summer due to Covid. The following summer, it opened but was reservation only, so I never went. As I started meeting more and more Ashevillians, no one seemed to have ever been there, which surprised me.
By this time, I’d driven by the inn numerous times to and from hikes, and it seemed like the kind of palace that should have a cult following. It has staggeringly beautiful views and is only forty minutes outside of town—I regularly visit Fonta Flora near Lake James, Oskar Blues in Brevard, and Hickory Nut Gorge Brewing in Chimney Rock, all of which are further away than the Pisgah Inn.
Last Christmas, my brother, who had spotted the Pisgah Inn on the way back from a sunset Black Balsam hike when he visited (and whom I’d shared a fun afternoon at Virginia’s Skyland on the Skyline Drive—Shenandoah National Park’s version of the Blue Ridge Parkway) got me a Pisgah Inn gift card. He came down this past Memorial Day Weekend, and I booked us a night at the inn and made dinner reservations at the restaurant. Now that I’ve stayed there, I still have the same question: why isn’t the Pisgah Inn a hopping, Asheville-adjacent hangout?
The rooms were much nicer than I anticipated—I was expecting a real bare-bones camping kind of experience, but they gave strong luxury-lodge vibes. We got the basic two-double-beds rooms, but they have options for larger parties. The highlight of my stay at the inn was the pre-dinner cheeseboard Shawn, and I shared over a lazy two hours out on our 2nd story balcony before our late dinner reservations.
The vibes of the restaurant may explain why the Pisgah Inn wasn’t jam-packed. Like most restaurants where the view is the main star, the food was good, not great (should I have maybe ordered the steak vs. fish and chips at 4,925 feet above sea level? probably). What stood out as…odd..was the music choices. When I was a child, my grandparents used to listen to some radio station that my parents would’ve considered “oldies,” weird jazzy-type numbers from, I’m assuming, the 30s and 40’s that to my childhood ears felt even blander than muzak. That’s what was played throughout dinner. It might make sense when you consider that Shawn and I appeared to be the only dining companions who weren’t a retired couple. Still, then you realize that today’s retired couples are my parents, not my grandparents, age, and should be listening to, I don’t know, Todd Rundgren and Linda Rondstadt if you’re my mother and Sinatra. The Beach Boys if you’re my dad. I’d be down with any of those choices. I’d be down with Hall & Oates, Led Zeppelin, Bruce, the Supremes, or Rolling Stones—Baby Boomers don’t listen to muted big-band soundtracks, to my knowledge (though I did find out that the owner of the Pisgah Inn was in the race to replace my boy Madison Cawthorn and I wonder if part of the strategy was to be as downhome and unhip as possible—look what happened when Maddy got all gen-Z and pansexual!).
Still, we had a great time post dinner watching the sky turn from day to night on the Pisgah Inn’s back deck (which would be a great hang spot) and then spending more time wrapped in provided fleece blankets on the balcony, somehow stuffing our face with even more cheese and watching some roaming bears. I found my entire stay delightful, will 100% be back, and will continue to wonder why this charming hotel isn’t patronized by more locals or anyone under 55.