Nicole Wilhelm photo
Famous Louise’s Rock House restaurant, built in 1936, features stone taken from nearby Linville River. There are a dozen places on the wall where the stones form specially designed shapes such as a heart.
Just north of Linville Caverns at the intersection of highways 221 and 183, there used to be an old tree where moonshiners supposedly met. If police happened to show up, the men simply moved to the other side of the tree since the spot happened to be a convergence of three county lines. By moving a few yards one way, a person could step into a different jurisdiction.
Eventually, in 1936 a building was erected on this unique Western North Carolina site where McDowell, Avery and Burke county lines meet. Over the years, the structure has served as a dance hall, tavern, gas station and restaurant. When Green Berets used to parachute into Linville Gorge for military maneuvers, their commanding officers would rest up in the building’s loft.
Today, the site is known as Louise’s Rock House Restaurant, a family-run community icon serving hearty plates of home-cooked meals year-round. The cozy respite is popular with tourists and regulars alike. Signs dangling from the ceiling note where one county ends and another begins. The lines converge near the fireplace. Food is cooked and prepared in Avery County. Then, waitresses pick up their orders in Burke County, and customers have their choice of eating in one of three counties before paying for their meal in Avery County.
Some of the tables actually straddle county lines. Customers jokingly ask if the food is better in one county or the other. Waitresses invariably get asked if they’re tired after walking through three different counties. (In case you’re wondering, the restaurant and its parking lot are situated mostly in McDowell County, so that’s where the owners pay their property taxes.)
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week except for Tuesdays, and closes for one day at Thanksgiving and three days at Christmas. Breakfasts include comfort foods from omelets and country ham to pancakes, hashbrowns and biscuits with gravy. Lunches and dinners include surf and turf entrees, barbecue, pot roast, pasta dishes and burgers. Home cooked pies and breads are also sold, along with Louise’s homemade jellies and relishes. Sundays are especially tantalizing with homemade cobblers. Whenever possible, the cooks make everything from scratch.
Louise Henson, a Crossnore, N.C., native and the restaurant’s current owner, holds a special affinity for the building that now bears her name. After all, she was born the same year the rock house was built and continues to work 40 to 50 hours a week at the restaurant. Customers will often seek her out during a visit. Henson’s daughter and granddaughter also waitress at the restaurant. For private parties and special events, guests are treated to “Louise’s Loft” upstairs.
Without advertising, Henson has no problem doing a brisk business. Her rock building is now on the National Historic Register. Newspaper and magazine clippings along with photographs of governors, senators and various dignitaries line the wall next to the fireplace. Whether passing through for a leisure vacation or arriving daily as a regular, folks can look forward to friendly service and a great meal that’s worth traveling through three counties.
Famous Louise’s Rock House restaurant is located at the intersection of N.C. Highways 221 and 183 near Linville Falls. For more information, call 828.765.2702.