I’m going to tell y’all about one of the best-kept secrets in North Carolina. If you haven’t planned your trip to the mountains this fall or better, your cozy winter ski get away, ya better get on it. Not only are rentals filling up quickly but seats at one of my absolute favorite restaurants are going too!

The Gamekeeper Restaurant and Bar has been nestled in the mountains of Boone, NC for about 20 years and if you didn’t know, now you know. It is a 9 time (consecutive) AAA Four Diamond Award winner and is consistently ranked among the top restaurants in the state and southeast. The restaurant is the old Yonahlossee Camp directors’ home-turned-eatery and showcases the owners’ eccentric and creative tastes in the kitchen and decorative atmosphere. They were the OGs at farm-to-table. Before anyone was talking about local resources and foragers, owners Ken and Wendy Gordon were building their business around it.

The main dining room features a large stone fireplace, handmade chandeliers, one of wood, the other of antique photo negatives, a wine cellar, a wrap around porch with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a variety of stuffed game animals, from pheasants to warthogs.

Even if you don’t have dinner, stopping in for a drink at their bar is a must. Not only are you guaranteed a handcrafted cocktail and great selection of wine, you’re going to sit in the warmest, coziest, most welcoming bar, you’ve ever stepped foot in.

Now I know you’re all here to read about their food. We are getting there, I promise. But I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t tell y’all about the rock star staff. The front of the house manager, Kappa, is one of the most beautiful, magical people you’ll ever meet and she will be there to welcome you in with open arms. Picture Mother Nature herself. Sarah, the bar manager, is bubbly and gregarious, oh and she casually speaks 4 languages.

The rest of the staff will go above and beyond for every guest to ensure a good time is had by all. Moving to the back of the house, Ken and Wendy both lead and inspire as executive chef and executive pastry chef, with the help of their up-and-coming sous chef, Tyler. The kitchen staff has more fun than anyone in the restaurant, which is why the food is so tasty.

OK, you made it to the blurb on the food. Get ready cause if you’re mouth is watering half as much as mine, you’ll need to wear a bib. My laptop may or may not need to go in a bowl of rice.

Obviously The Gamekeeper specialize in game meats but they also provide one of the largest and most unique selections of vegetables, nuts, roots, grains, and flowers in the high country and probably the state. Ken and Wendy believe in using only the freshest ingredients and partner with many local and regional farmers and foragers to put the best food on every plate. They operate on this simple philosophy:

“Local food is the only way to eat. It shouldn’t be called “organic produce ” if all was right with the world; it should just be.”

The menu often offers emu, bison, NC trout, duck, and elk, though Ken and Wendy have served other rotational items such as rattlesnake, mako shark, and wild boar among many adventurous entrees. I still dream of their venison sweetbreads. Basically everything is amazing. They have seasonal menus on rotation too. They crush their April in Paris theme (you guessed it – in April) and excite and challenge palates during their Mardi Gras menu. I could go on forever about this place, instead, I’m going to give you my ideal GK experience:

  1. Make a reservation (duh).
  2. Show up 45 minutes early for said reservation and enjoy a cocktail in the bar, settle in.
  3. Get seated and have the Mixed Game Grill for your appetizer and order a bottle of wine.
  4. Share a salad for your mid-course, my favorite is the Bleu (but if you’re lucky, you may get the fried okra, country ham, and black eyed pea salad).
  5. For your entrée – I mean, just go wild. You aren’t here to eat chicken. Remember that.
  6. Dessert is the easiest choice you’ll make all night, Wendy’s famous bread pudding.

If you don’t believe me, just go check out their OpenTable reviews

Pro Tip: If you stay at the cabins (Algonquin or Sleepy Hollow) across the street for 2 nights, you’ll get a $50 gift certificate to the Gamekeeper.

If you want to keep up with what they’re doing, move on over to their blog and join the party.

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