Buice column: Extending drive to Tennessee pays off with sweet treats

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2023

Hey, I’m all about the food, but when a restaurant has a pastry chef (cheesecake, anyone?), that takes my interest to the next level.
So on a recent visit to Boone, the itinerary took a bit of a shift and an extension. In fact, after getting some more information on Suba’s Restaurant in Mountain City, the first stop on the list for this particular day went right through the popular college town’s busy downtown district directly on the route to just over the state line into Tennessee.
I had heard about this place last summer at a Winston-Salem Dash game when I was talking with a couple sitting next to me from West Jefferson. The conversation somehow shifted to their favorite local eateries in the mountains before their overwhelming recommendation of Suba’s.
“All the food on the menu is great,” I recall them saying, “but the desserts are the best ever.”
I stashed away that little nugget, knowing it probably needed to be part of a future road trip.
As a former research director in a previous job, I started doing some digging — just to get another take or two — and found a review from the PBS show, NC Weekend, with Bob Garner trying out some popular entrees before capping the segment with the desserts and that day’s banana pudding cheesecake.
“Oh, that will give you a whole new appreciation of banana pudding,” he said. “I’ve never had anything quite like that. Marvelous.”
How popular is this place? Well, we had to get reservations for lunch on a Saturday, and the only time slot available was 11 a.m. (Heck, sometimes on weekends, I enjoy eating a big breakfast close to that time.)
Suba’s is about 25 miles beyond Boone, but wow, it certainly was worth going the extra distance, snaking our way along U.S. 421 before arriving at the restaurant in the small town in Upper East Tennessee just before the doors opened.
Upon entering the lobby, there is a glass display case stacked with homemade desserts made by LuAnne Suba, the renowned pastry chef who owns and runs the cozy eatery with her husband Rich, who is the executive chef and cooks up a variety of menu choices.
LuAnne is apparently known far and wide for desserts that many say can’t be matched. An older gentleman, who was in front of us, quickly made his way toward the dessert case to “reserve” his key lime pie. She apparently makes only so many desserts each day, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
There was no banana pudding cheesecake on this day, but there were plenty of other wonderful offerings. We chose the caramel brownie cheesecake to eat after our meal and butterscotch pie to take home. They were as good as our sky-high expectations — or perhaps even better than advertised.
And not to get lost is the rest of an immense menu (dinner has even more options than lunch), which has something for everyone. I wasn’t planning on getting an appetizer, but when our waitress mentioned Philly cheeseburger soup, I had to give it a try. Yum.
Then I finally settled on the blackened catfish New Orleans with grilled shrimp in a creamy alfredo sauce as my entree, and I selected the spinach and cheese casserole, and steamed broccoli for the sides. Yum-yum.
Dessert followed. Need I say more … but I will. Other sweet treats that apparently also have a huge following are the strawberry eclair, Butterfinger addiction, Maker’s Mark bread pudding and coconut crème pie.
The Subas met in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University and ended up moving back to her hometown in Mountain City. They have operated the restaurant for 25 years and have gained quite a reputation for their food, service and dining experience. They’re on the record as saying about 65 percent of their business comes from the Boone/Blowing Rock area.
Suba’s just reopened for the season in the middle of February after closing for a couple of months just before Christmas, so the timing was perfect for our first-ever visit.
It won’t be our last. We’ll just have to allow a little extra time for trips to the mountains and making it over to our latest new favorite restaurant.