When the Farmers and Wilsons purchased Burnsville’s historic Nu Wray Inn in 2014, they were asked one question over and over again: Are you going to reopen the restaurant? As the oldest continuously operating inn in Western North Carolina, the Nu Wray Inn has offered food and lodging since 1833, when Bacchus Smith was the property’s first owner. For years, community members enjoyed the Inn’s family style meals when bowls of food were shared around the table.
Around 2009, however, the restaurant closed. “People remembered it. It’s somewhere they came that was special,” says Joey Farmer, co-owner of the Inn with wife Jill and his cousin Eric Wilson and his wife Christy.
For the new owners (who are all native to this region), the decision to reopen the restaurant came easily and by August 2015, the restaurant was ready for business. Inn guests and the public are invited to dine for lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Joey and Eric began working in the restaurant industry when they were teenagers—starting as dishwashers and later as cooks. “All the things that we learned came back to us,” says Joey. Christy has front-of-house experience. Jill says the Inn holds fond memories for its guests.
One couple said they spent their honeymoon there 70 years ago. Many people remember one of the former owners, Rush Wray, who ran the Inn from 1967–1984 and made the family-style dining famous in the town. Today, the menu continues to offer traditional Southern comfort food. Each meal is all-you-can-eat and includes three meats, six vegetables, biscuits and cornbread, a choice of dessert, and coffee, tea, or soda. Every item is brought out on serving ware for the family to share.
“It’s just like you went to grandma’s house,” says Joey. Meat options are fish on Friday, pork chops on Saturday, meatloaf and panfried chicken every day. Vegetables vary according to the season and have included cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, slaw, and collard greens. Guests can opt for the plate special, which includes one meat and two vegetables or only four vegetables, plus bread, and drink.
Many dishes are based on family recipes, such as Nana’s cream corn from Christy’s grandmother and the banana pudding from Joey and Eric’s grandmother. The owners’ children also love helping in the restaurant. Served at 9 a.m. on weekends, breakfast is available to Inn guests as well as to the public by reservation.
Kevin Maher, the Inn’s executive chef, is from the area and attended A-B Tech’s Culinary Arts Program. He’s trained in French cuisine as well as Japanese and has worked at Michelin-starred and James Beard Awardwinning restaurants.
His wife, Celeste, is sous chef. They’ve modified recipes for glutenfree and vegetarian options. For instance, they substitute gluten-free oatmeal for breadcrumbs in the meatloaf. The Inn can be reserved for events, with catering options available. Guests can also dine on the patio, which is dog friendly.
An indoor bar area invites folks to come in and enjoy a beer or glass of wine. Reservations for large parties are encouraged. Nu Wray Inn is located at 102 Town Square in Burnsville. For more information, visit nuwrayinn.com or call 828.682.2329.