Best Burgers in the High Country

best burger in high country

Springtime in the High Country means warmer weather, outdoor seating, and chowing down on a burger. With so many to choose from, we’ve made a list of our local favorites. Disclaimer: Reading this blog may cause drooling and spur of the moment trips to any of the below restaurants.

The Cardinal
Boone, NC
With things like emu and bison on the menu, this isn’t your typical burger joint. Most of The Cardinal’s burgers are a blend of locally-sourced meats (to be paired with their impressive selection of local brews). And while their regular beef burger is available and delicious, a favorite is the 50/50 Burger (if you don’t mind a little kick) – half emu/half chorizo burger topped with jalapenos, queso, and onions. Yes, emu, like the Australian bird. Bring your pup, friends, and adventurous appetite to this lively place the next time you’re in Boone.

Spear’s BBQ and Grill
Linville Falls, NC
If you’re one to be overwhelmed by topping choices, be prepared. Your burger at Spear’s starts with a half pound Angus beef patty on a fresh-baked bun. The specialty burgers range from The Rodeo (provolone, bacon, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring for added crunch) to The California (avocado tzatziki, avocado, and pico de gallo). We suggest taking toppings from each and making your own, as long as you fit the homemade pimento cheese on your burger somewhere. Burger variations are limited by your imagination.


Blowing Rock Ale House
Blowing Rock, NC
The Ale House is located inside the Blowing Rock Brewery, a historic home that has since been remodeled in downtown Blowing Rock. The menu rotates with the seasons, but there’s always a burger ready to try with hand-cut fries. Customers rave about the Bison Burger, topped with charred tomato jam, peppered bacon, onions, and smoked mozzarella. Large portions, cooked to your liking, and packed with unique flavors. Drooling yet?


Nick’s Restaurant and Pub
Banner Elk, NC
Nick’s Restaurant and Pub has been a Blowing Rock favorite since opening in 1986. The best item on the menu is Nick’s World Famous Jalopy burger, an open-faced burger on white toast, because let’s be honest, who needs buns?  The burger is topped with tomato and onions, drenched with chili, nacho cheese, and jalapenos. We recommend nachos on the side give it for extra crunch. You can even bring your vegetarian friends, because Nick’s serves top notch black bean burgers.

Come Back Shack
Boone, NC
The Come Back Shack was voted Best Burger and Best Fast Food Restaurant in Watauga County. The restaurant is an Appalachian State college favorite, and all their burgers are never frozen and made with USDA ground beef. Build your own burger with their variety of toppings, or get a premium style burger, ranging from Bacon Cheddar to Fried Green Tomato style. Whatever you do, make sure to order your burger with Come Back Shack sauce and a milkshake on the side.


City Drive-In
Spruce Pine, NC
City Drive-In has been open since the 1950s, and hasn’t changed much since. Locals love this old fashioned style restaurant, and it’s been known to serve the best burger in Spruce Pine. Enjoy your daily handmade burger curb side, or sit in the restaurant and eat. Your best bet is getting your burger “All the Way”, with homemade chili, slaw, and onions (and double cheese) and City Drive-In’s famous tots on the side.


We love all of these local spots, but you don’t need to make reservations to get a good burger. It’s almost time to take the cover off the grill and enjoy Sunday dinner on your porch. When you do, get your grass-fed beef from any one of these farms located right here in the High Country. View the full list here and support your local farmers!



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