A friend and I took a recent Sunday morning drive on Interstate 26 to meet a mutual friend who was traveling through North Carolina bound for Maryland, for brunch at the Stoney Knob Café in Weaverville, N.C. Prior to making the final arrangements, we discussed brunch possibilities in Johnson City and Kingsport as well as Asheville, N.C., before deciding to make Stoney Knob Café our destination.
In a few weeks, the fall color will make this route over the mountains an even more appealing drive. My suggestion is to combine a leaf-peeping tour with a scrumptious brunch as this great eatery.
I’ve eaten previously at Stoney Knob Café, but those visits were always for dinner. My recent visit was my first brunch with this long-established eatery.
According to the restaurant’s website, Gus Dermas liked what he was told about the town of Weaverville, N.C. Inspired by the local mountains, which reminded him of his native Micro Horio village in Greece, Dermas opened Stoney Knob Café around 1962. His wife, Ismini, joined him in running and operating the eatery in 1966.
Later, their sons, John and Yotty, who grew up cooking in the kitchen and serving guests, inherited the diner.
Years later, after getting their educations and traveling the world, the two brothers inherited the diner from their parents. In a background piece on the eatery’s website, John explained, “This place is our blood, our livelihood, our heritage.”
The present-day Stoney Knob Café was born in 2000 when the brothers elevated the diner to its contemporary eclecticism, adding the Red Room and eventually the Mediterranean Room. Yotty and John Dermas have infused the menu and the mood of the café with their own worldly sensibilities. The menu even summarizes the concept with the slogan “cuisine from near and far.” The theme is extended through the restaurant’s eclectic decor. The dining areas are categorized as the “Gold Room,” or the original diner, the “Red Room,” and “Blue Room,” and feature a whimsical mishmash of decorative motifs inspired by the various cultures and cuisines represented on the menu. The attractive bar is completed with a tile mosaic design. Hanging over the bar is a mobile in the style of acclaimed sculptor Alexander Calder. The interior design reflects a mix of modern and classical influences, including vintage posters and a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
When we met our traveling friend, a server escorted us promptly to one of the restaurant’s booths in the Gold Room, which retains many of the elements of the original diner. For instance, a hodge-podge of Americana dominates the decor in this area. Our booth was located next to a painting of Elvis with a guitar on the ceiling overhead completing the eclectic whimsy of the decor.
The brunch also served as a reunion, since I had not visited with my Baltimore friend since 2002 when he was living in New York City. After the exchange of greetings, we settled down to the business of looking over the menu provided by our server, who we found friendly, attentive and knowledgeable of the items on the brunch menu as well as the day’s specials.
In addition to the food items, the bar also offers a special on Stoney Knob’s take on the Bloody Mary every Sunday during brunch.
Under the header “Stoney Knob Classics” are Blackberry Crepes, Stuffed French Toast and Stoney Knob Benny, which consists of two crab cakes topped with poached eggs and roasted red pepper hollandaise sauce with a choice of a choice of grits, polenta or potatoes.
The restaurant also offers a variety of omelets, including a Veggie Omelet, the L’Italiano and The Jamaican, which features a choice of bacon, sausage or chicken with a sweet and savory jerk sauce, spinach, caramelized onions, sweet potatoes and cheddar cheese.
My visiting Maryland friend chose the Stoney Knob Omelet, which consists of a choice of meat — bacon, sausage or ham — with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cheddar cheese and potatoes, all folded together in one large omelet.
Other brunch items included different varieties of French Toast, including blueberry, banana nut and chocolate chip, as well as a similar variety of hot cakes. A Country Breakfast, Biscuits and Gravy and Johnny D’s Breakfast Burrito rounds out the offerings.
For my own brunch item, I considered such possibilities as Huevos Rancheros, Shrimp and Grits, Pollo Ravioli, Tuna Melt and the Spanakopita Platter, which features a traditional Greek Spinach Pie plated with a Greek salad, Tzatziki sauce and pita bread.
I decided to try the Panini Michelangelo, which is made of grilled chicken, caramelized onions, buffalo mozzarella, pesto, spinach and roasted red peppers on grilled focaccia bread.
My other friend ordered the Spinach Artichoke Frittata, which is a baked open-faced frittata with artichoke, spinach, onions and feta cheese. For those not familiar with some common brunch foods, frittata is an Italian word for an egg-based dish similar to an omelet or quiche, enhanced with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta.
In addition, we ordered a communal plate of Blackberry Crepes for the entire dining party to share.
We didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. The crepes, which were stuffed with Orange- Cream Cheese and topped with blackberry sauce and honey cream, proved an instant hit with everyone.
I also enjoyed my panini, which featured a tasty melding of flavors with the grilled chicken, zesty buffalo mozzarella and the other savory ingredients. My friends also expressed satisfaction with their omelet and frittata.
The Stoney Knob Café provided a great place for brunch and a casual, relaxed setting for a reunion with a longtime friend. I’m already craving another visit.
The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. I’ve had wonderful meals from the dinner menu, but I’ve not yet tried anything from the lunch menu. Perhaps trying lunch at Stoney Knob will mark my next visit.
If you go, just let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Stoney Knob Café, 337 Merrimon Ave., Weaverville, N.C. (828) 645-3309. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Sunday brunch, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Brunch entrees are $12 and under. Credit cards accepted, but no personal checks. Full service bar available. Carryout available.