By Belle Crawford / Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
The Sweet Onion Restaurant in Waynesville is a family restaurant specializing in upscale/casual new American cuisine, offering southern favorites alongside more creative, contemporary menu items. The window-lined, sunlit dining room is made of natural materials, from oak floors to butcher block tables and a copper-topped bar, creating a timeless, elegant feel reminiscent of a time when long, intimate family meals were a way of life.
Dan Elliott and Doug Weaver opened The Sweet Onion in 2007. “We’d both operated restaurants in Waynesville prior to our current partnership,” says Elliott. “When we found the building downtown, we knew it was perfect for what we wanted to do. Part of it was originally the Greyhound Bus building, which we renovated and extended, keeping some of the original layout.”
Both Elliott and Weaver moved around a lot growing up, experiencing many of America’s different subcultures, including its various regional cuisines. Weaver’s family eventually settled in Georgia, where his mother opened a family restaurant, giving him exposure to all aspects of the business. Elliott, originally from Minneapolis, moved to Western North Carolina in 2005. “Growing up in the restaurant industry, we both know how important it is to make everything from scratch, using high-quality ingredients while keeping prices reasonable,” he says. “You can’t get away with anything less.”
The Sweet Onion menu favorites include a garden salad with house-made lemongrass vinaigrette salad dressing. “Doug invented the recipe, and it’s so popular, we are in the process of bottling it and making it available for sale in area stores,” Elliott says.
Also popular are the restaurant’s crab cakes served with lemon basil aioli, the pecan chicken salad melt and a special, creamy French onion soup topped with hot, bubbling Swiss cheese. “The variety of items on our menu is one of the things that really makes us different,” says Elliott. “We offer braised beef short ribs, Sunburst trout with lemon butter cream sauce, seared tuna sashimi and braised tri-tip roast.” Sweet Onion’s signature garlic cheddar biscuits are served with every meal.
Popular cocktails include the Amelia, a blackberry and elderflower vodka martini; a pomegranate whisky sour; and a dirty martini served with a bacon- and goat-cheese- stuffed olive.
“We have an amazing staff,” says Elliott. “Many of our servers and cooks have been with us for more than five years, and some of them have been here for as many as eleven. The consistency in staff has allowed us to maintain high standards in both our food and service. We go above and beyond for all of our customers and do our best to say ‘yes’ to all special requests. Being able to tailor meals for people is one of the things we’re most proud of.”
The Sweet Onion Restaurant is located on 39 Miller Street in Waynesville. The menu offers gluten-free and vegan options. To learn more, visit SweetOnionRestaurant.com.