Eat Local: High Country Small Plate Crawl Brings Restaurant-Goers Out in Droves

Published Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

By Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

Photos provided by the Boone Independent Restaurant Association.

Thousands of folks poured into Boone and Blowing Rock over the weekend to sample new and old favorites from the best local restaurants during the annual High Country Small Plate Crawl.

The fourth annual five-day series was hosted by the Boone Independent Restaurant Association, a coalition of like-minded local restaurateurs who work together to promote the area’s celebrated dining scene.

Lost Province Brewing Co./High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

Lost Province Brewing Co./High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

More than 20 of the association’s 30 member restaurants participated in the plate crawl, which offered smaller portions of both classic and adventurous dishes at discounted prices between Jan. 27-31. Breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items made available throughout the week gave diners a chance to hop from one place to another, soaking up the culture of each establishment and trying out each chef’s favorite things.

Using proprietary software called Chek Trek, restaurant goers used their mobile devices to check in at every stop.

Pepper’s General Manager and BIRA Director John Pepper said more than 40,000 visits were made to the event’s website throughout the week. The site gave restaurant-goers access to maps of the area and passports to help them keep track of their stops.

Small Plate Crawl

The event has grown significantly since last year, the first time it was tied into WinterFest activities in Blowing Rock during the last weekend of January.

“We started partnering with WinterFest, and that has really helped. We used to do it in September, but now we’re doing it in January,” Pepper said. “It’s usually a pretty dead time of the year for the mountains, but doing it during WinterFest has been perfect for us. We’re drawing in web traffic from all over the region, even as far away as Nashville. I’m definitely not mad about that.”

Diners took to Instagram and social media to photograph their food and flaunt their favorite dishes using #hcplatecrawl.

Over at Sunrise Grill, dishes like Salmon Cake Benedict, southern barbecue pork egg rolls, Tuscan meatloaf and popular burgers were a hit with the crowd, as well as a new on-the-go breakfast option called the Crunch and Munch.

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

“It went very well for us. My servers told me that most people were happy with what they were getting, and we were thrilled with the number of people that we had,” said Ian Hunter, who owns and operates Sunrise with his wife and son. “It’s great that we have a community of local restaurateurs involved in doing something like this together that separates us from the chains. The plate crawl shows there’s a wide variety of offerings, and I think it’s pretty cool that a town as small as Boone has so much to offer.”

Pepper and Hunter agreed the plate crawl is an important way for the restaurant association to increase its visibility and encourage more folks step out of their comfort zones.

“It really draws a lot of attention and gets people to go out to as many different restaurants as possible. We kind of feel like everybody has four or five restaurants they rotate between, and they don’t really branch out too often,” Pepper said. “The small plate crawl format just provides a really approachable way to go to a new restaurant without any pressure at all, despite what your income level might be. I think it really transcends demographics to get people out to all kinds of different places.”

The folks behind the BIRA look forward to continuing the mission to promote the High Country’s restaurant scene, and they’re exploring ideas for other events that might draw a crowd like the plate crawl.

In the meantime, they’re working on an impact study related to the event so they can make it better in years to come.

Click here to see a list of restaurants that participated in this year’s plate crawl and some of the menu items they featured.

 

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

High Country Small Plate Crawl 2016

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