Road Trip 2010: Report from the Pisgah Inn Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Pisgah Inn is the southernmost of the four national park lodging facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Situated at 5,000 feet elevation, it enjoys mild summer temperatures and leafy views.
Pisgah Inn has 50 rooms plus one suite in three buildings constructed during the 1960s. A fourth building houses the restaurant. Guest rooms rent for $120 a night during the week, with an extra $12 charged during weekends. These rates include breakfast. Each room has a balcony with excellent mountain views, tiled bathroom with shower-tub combo, and a television. Sorry, no air-conditioning (though the mountain setting helps combat the heat and humidity) or phone in rooms.
Unlike the three other lodging facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the three lodges in Shenandoah National Park, Pisgah Inn is managed by an independent concessionaire. Bruce O’Connell is bright, imaginative, and environmentally aware. He is a second-generation concessionaire of the inn who assumed management following the death of his father in 1985.
Like other national park concession facilities, Pisgah Inn has become more environmentally friendly. Rooms have tankless water heaters and dual-flush toilets. Three of the inn’s vehicles have been converted to run on used cooking oil that the concessionaire once paid $75 per month to have hauled away. Energy conservation projects at the inn are partially funded by soft drink container deposit fees that accumulate when guests fail to return containers for the deposit they paid during purchase. The fee annually funds approximately $1,500 of projects.
Pisgah Inn is perhaps best known for an excellent restaurant that offers unique entrees such as Trail Mix Encrusted Rainbow Trout garnished with blueberry butter and Candied Pecan Encrusted Chicken Breast with Dijon mustard cream sauce. Head chef Ian Drobka has been at the inn since 1997 when be took a temporary job washing dishes. Ian subsequently worked as a line cook and assistant chef before taking charge of food preparation nearly four years ago.
The restaurant offers a core menu including pork chops, country ham, chef salad, and meat loaf, meals familiar to all national park visitors. Prices for these items are very reasonable with a huge $8.95 chef salad and breakfast of two eggs, grits, and toast or biscuits going for $4. However, it is Ian’s special dishes that draw praise from guests. We can vouch for his special Pisgah Rolls, whose ingredients include dill, rosemary, onion, and cottage cheese, topped with shredded parmesan cheese. The basket of Ian’s rolls was empty by the time the special beet salad arrived.