"The Trek" names Bob's Dairyland the best restaurant on the Appalachian Trail

John Thompson • Apr 16, 2019 at 9:20 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — The Appalachian Trail stretches more than 2,000 mills on its high road from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. To claim to be the best at anything on the trail is certainly a mighty big boast, but to claim to be the best restaurant on the trail with thousands of hungry thru hikers is really stretching things.

But Joe and Sonya Miller, proprietors of Bob’s Dairyland, did not make the claim, they merely accepted the decision from a March Madness-style tournament pitting 32 trailside restaurants in head-to-head competitions. The contest was a feature of “The Trek”, an online journal featuring articles about the nation’s trails, especially the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Coast trails.

The Millers were not even aware of the competition when it began last month, although they are familiar with “The Trek’s” fondness for their restaurant.

“In 2017, the editors did a story on the 10 best restaurants on the Appalachian Trail. They didn’t rank them, they just listed the top 10 and they included Bob’s Dairyland,” Joe said. “I appreciated that because the editors who liked us were from California and Arizona.”

But this contest was open to all hikers who have dined at restaurants on the trail. Hundreds of voters cast ballots in each of the head-to-head bouts, and Bob’s kept getting lots of support.

In the first round, Bob’s defeated Appalachian Market of Garrison, New York. In the second round, Bob’s defeated Fontana Resort of North Carolina. In the third round, Bob’s eliminated Monson General Store of Monson, Maine. That put Bob’s in the Final Four; along with Devil’s Backbone Brewery of Virginia; Smoky Mountain Diner of Hot Springs, North Carolina; and Mojo’s Cafe of Damascus, Virginia.

Anyone who has followed any of the thru hiker blogs on YouTube would not be surprised by the results. Bob’s has a Holy Cow Burger that some thru hikers have placed on their list of must try during their trip. Many hikers post videos of their first bite of the Holy Cow, which consists of a triple cheeseburger, with ham, bacon, Swiss and American cheeses, two beer-battered onion rings, and a scoop of homemade chili. Others come for the barbecue.

But despite Bob’s reputation, there is a completely different side of the restaurant, and it stems from a heart attack Joe suffered several years ago. Fortunately, the heart attack caused no damage to his heart, but it did inspire a change in the menu. Joe is now certified as a plant-based chef. Bob’s now offers the Impossible Burger, which is a plant-based burger.

There are other vegan meals on the menu, but Joe said the most popular is simply a serving of fresh vegetables, especially locally grown vegetables when they are in season. The restaurant has always served pinto beans, but now there is a vegan variety.

The additions to the menu have only made Bob’s even popular with hikers, who come in a wide variety from carnivores to herbivores, but after hiking over the Roan Highlands, they all come in to Bob’s hungry.

Joe said the biggest bubble of the season for north-bounders is just now passing by Roan Mountain. He expects to see a lot of hungry hikers, but he said hikers now come in every month of the year, and there is another bubble with the south bounders in the fall.

Joe and Sonya have operated Bob’s for the past 11 years. The restaurant was founded 65 years ago by Floyd and Sadie Moody. They named it Roanview Dairyland. They sold it to restauateur Bob Burleson, who changed its mane to Bob’s Dairyland. Bob’s has a long lineage to go with its claim as the best on the trail.

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