All of the hotels and resorts serve fine food and offer superb service. The best alternative restaurants are a short drive away in Southern Pines or Aberdeen. Don't faint if you see grits and country ham mixed in with gourmet selections (they're local treats and are damn good).Top Gourmet Restaurants
(American) The Holly Inn, Pinehurst; 910-295-6811. $$$
No matter where you stay, you should reserve a table at the 1895 Room, the exceptional restaurant operated in what was once the atrium-covered carriage entrance to the hotel. The food reflects the Pinehurst spirit as a mix of New England and North Carolinian cuisine. The menu changes seasonally, but look out for Jugtown oysters with andouille sausage, spinach, sambuca and fontina cheese as a starter and the roast tenderloin of veal with blue-crab hash and hollandaise sauce.
(Eclectic) 195 Bell Avenue, Southern Pines; 910-692-7110. $$$
Chef Prem Nath trained under Bobby Flay at the Mesa Grill in New York, then started with this restaurant in the early nineties. It's located in an unfortunate, hard-to-find location behind a gas station, but you'll have trouble finding a more cosmopolitan interior or sophisticated menu in many metropolitan areas. The service is also outstanding. This menu, too, changes seasonally, but if the grilled salmon over roasted red-pepper sauce, julienned zucchini and chive mashed potatoes with basil sauce is available, pull the trigger. Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday; lunch, Tuesday through Saturday.
Magnolia Inn Restaurant
(American) 65 Magnolia Road, Pinehurst; 800-526-5562. $$$
Another of the finest restaurants in the area is located in an inn, but even if you're not staying at the Magnolia, you are always welcome here. Although the beloved British chef, Mark Elliott, recently left to open his own place, the food is still fantastic and the cozy setting is a great place to enjoy it. Try the rack of lamb or Atlantic salmon.
(New American) 215 N.E. Broad Street, Southern Pines; 910-692-5240. $$$
The husband-and-wife team of Warren and Marianne Lewis has operated this bistro in quiet downtown Southern Pines for a little more than two years. It's an inviting, vast space with a wood-inlaid floor and open kitchen; a forever changing, experimental gourmet menu and an adequate selection of wine. The rare-seared yellowfin tuna with sweet potato "MoFungo," ginger mojo and wasabi caviar is fantastic, as is the Key lime pie. Closed Sundays.
(Mediterranean) 36471 U.S. Highway 1 South, Aberdeen; 910-944-3306. $$$
Portuguese-born Frank Fernandes was a lobsterman on Long Island for twenty years until the crustaceans mysteriously started dying. So last May he and his wife, Roslyn, opened this familial restaurant a mile south of Aberdeen. The couple hired the chef from another Mediterranean restaurant in Pinehurst and began serving food like you'd find in their native country. The fried calamari is lightly breaded and delicious, and the lemon-and-thyme marinated lamb chops are terrifically succulent. After dinner, take a trip to the bar and get Frank to serve up some aged port--he's an expert guide. Closed Sundays.
(American) 672 S.W. Broad Street, Southern Pines; 910-692-5550. $$$
The name says it all; for the past fifteen years, this has been meat and potatoes at its finest. The place has the poorly lit, white-tablecloth feel of a proper steak house. Sure, there are token fish and shrimp entrées, but go with the beef, particularly the prime rib.