Stylish Stays | Foodie Fabulous: Tennessee’s Blackberry Mountain and More Gourmet Getaways

The Walland resort is a gastronomic haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Plus, local libations in Ohio and a Chicago hotel with a rich dining history.

Erin Edwards, Chris Gaitten and Steve Stephens

Walland, Tennessee: Blackberry Mountain

A gastronomic haven for outdoor enthusiasts

Three Sisters restaurant at Blackberry Mountain Resort in Walland, Tennessee

Even if you haven’t stayed at Blackberry Farm, you may be familiar with this culinary utopia set among the Great Smoky Mountains in Walland, Tennessee. Founded in 1976 by the Beall family as a six-room inn, Blackberry Farm has since become a Relais & Châteaux-member resort known for melding haute cuisine with its Appalachian environs. The resort’s James Beard Award-winning restaurant, the Barn, features “Appalachian ingredients from around the region as well as farm products harvested just a few feet from the front door.” Blackberry Farm is a bucolic, bucket-list kind of vacation, and now it has an energetic sibling.

In February 2019, proprietor Mary Celeste Beall and family opened a second property about 20 minutes away. Christened Blackberry Mountain, the resort is aimed at a more adventure-seeking customer—the Lululemon/Moncler set, perhaps—but one that still appreciates magnificent food, spirits and wine.

Two main restaurants serve the Blackberry Mountain property. Fancy lunch or dinner at 2,800 feet, where you can take in sweeping views of the Smokies? The more casual of the two restaurants, the Firetower, is a repurposed lookout tower perched atop the peak of Blackberry Mountain. Guests can hike there or ask the concierge for a ride.

Meanwhile, the resort’s flagship restaurant, Three Sisters, offers elegant, mountain-inspired, four-course dinners from executive chef Joey Edwards and a top-shelf wine program. Three Sisters was the only Tennessee restaurant featured on The New York Times’ 2021 list of “50 most vibrant and delicious restaurants.” (You know, the same list where Columbus’ own Chapman’s Eat Market appeared.) While the restaurant does make some reservations available to the public, it is booked through the end of 2022.

When not taking in the culinary wonders of Blackberry Mountain, there are wellness and adventure pursuits to be had, including forest yoga, fly fishing, rock climbing and mountain biking. The property offers more than 25 miles of private hiking and biking trails, including a route leading to a contemplative labyrinth named “Time for Love.” Designed by artist Thea Alvin, the natural masterpiece was built from 1,000 feet of stone sourced from the Blackberry Mountain property.

The resort, a 6-hour drive from Columbus, costs $1,600 to $12,000 per night.

Erin Edwards

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Cindy’s restaurant at the Chicago Athletic Association

Chicago Athletic Association

Dining, drinking and a dash of history

The view from Cindy’s might well be the best in the city. From the restaurant atop the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, the skyline rises to the north, Cloud Gate—aka “The Bean” sculpture—sits below, and Lake Michigan shimmers. After shared plates under the glass ceiling, take in the view on the terrace with a cocktail—the Tierra Roja if it’s in season. You may never want to leave, but there’s much more to see.

The Chicago Athletic Association hotel was once a private club, and from 1893 to 2007 it catered to the city’s elite, the likes of Marshall Field and William Wrigley. (The Chicago Cubs’ logo originated with the association before Wrigley bought the team.) The hotel that took its place serves dashes of its decadent history alongside food from seven fine eateries.

Enjoy an old-school dinner in the Cherry Circle Room, a great option before catching a show in the nearby theater district. The owners preserved the restaurant’s bar and furniture and took inspiration from the old menus when the hotel opened in 2015. Slide into the original leather banquettes and savor duck à l’orange for two. Members used to sit here and order milk, says Kelsey Sullivan, the hotel’s senior sales manager, and like Prohibition magic, they’d receive whiskey instead.

To find the source of the hooch, visit the aptly named Milk Room, an eight-seat speakeasy discovered behind drywall during restoration. It requires reservations and a deep wallet. The bar specializes in rare whiskeys and “antique” liquors, and cocktails run between $30 and $200.

A few steps away, the Game Room welcomes guests for billiards, foosball, bocce ball and tabletop shuffleboard, in addition to drinks and delicious bar food (order the fried chicken sandwich). And there’s history here, too. Check out the cherubs carved into the pillars: The woodworkers covered the angels’ faces with their hands to prevent them from seeing gambling and boxing once held here. It makes you wonder about everything they’ve missed. 

The hotel, a 6-hour drive from Columbus, runs $200 to $900 a night.

Chris Gaitten

Red Fern Inn at Rocky Point Winery in Marblehead, Ohio

Marblehead, Ohio: Red Fern Inn at Rocky Point Winery

Enjoy local libations in a limestone landmark.

Visitors to the old Marblehead School near the shores of Lake Erie might not learn much readin’, ’ritin’ or ’rithmetic these days, but they will find reds, rosés and rieslings—and expansive, comfortable lodgings should they choose to spend the night.

The historic former school was built of local limestone quarried on the Marblehead Peninsula in 1893. Today it’s the home of Red Fern Inn at Rocky Point Winery, owned by former Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern and his wife, Kim.

The school has always been a focal point for local social activity—Marblehead’s first public well is located just out front. Now, the winery is often packed with visitors stopping by for a sip of something a bit more flavorful than water.

Rocky Point features a pleasant, verdant outdoor seating area with a large patio cooled by lake breezes and cozy indoor tasting rooms in chillier weather. The winery offers six local wines and up to 50 other labels, a full bar and a seasonal food menu featuring sandwiches and dips.

The inn comprises four spacious and luxurious suites named for nearby islands and towns: the one-bedroom Lakefront and Baypoint rooms, and the two-bedroom Kelleys Island and Johnson’s Island rooms that accommodate up to six guests each. Each room also features a complete kitchen and—of course—a complimentary bottle of wine. The inn also offers the Lake Erie Loft, a two-bedroom room across the street from the old school in the Martha & Molly’s building. 

The inn, a 2.5-hour drive from Columbus, costs $149 to $309 per night.

Steve Stephens

This story is from the October 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.