Discover a World of Locally Grown, Globally Inspired Flavors at Guadalupe Cafe in Sylva

Guadalupe Cafe

Jen Pearson opened Guadalupe Cafe in Sylva in 2004; Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

When Jen Pearson opened her small farm-to-table eatery, Guadalupe Cafe, in tiny Sylva in 2004, her background wasn’t even in the food industry.

“I studied world history in college, but after I graduated, I took a kitchen job supposedly just for fun, and soon realized I wanted to cook for a living and not be stuck inside an office,” Pearson says. “So I skipped culinary school and learned to cook on the job at several different restaurants, including cooking and baking for a stint in Florida. I sought opportunities to learn from other people, even helping a good friend open a restaurant before opening my own.”

Pearson was only in her twenties when she had her eye on a 1920s-era drugstore/soda fountain that was closing on Main Street in Sylva, located in Jackson County about an hour west of Asheville. Guadalupe Cafe opened inside that historic space in spring 2004, filling a local need for creative, globally inspired food paired with craft beers and wines.

“We kept the cute spinning stools and painted the walls bright colors,” Pearson says. “We display the work of local artists on our walls and we have a tiny patio out front.”

Guadalupe Cafe

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

Farm to Fork

The main attraction at Guadalupe Cafe is, of course, the food – a healthy, tropical fusion of Latin-inspired cuisine with ingredients sourced from local farms.

“Our ingredients take front and center. Our culinary style is a fusion of Southern/Appalachian and tropical foods,” Pearson says. “In our menu and specials, we create a twist of traditional Southern foods with global, tropical flavors. We use coconut milk and tropical fruits alongside local fruits, veggies and proteins. We use all local beef, bison, chicken, duck and goat, and our pork is mostly local.”

See more: Nostalgia on the Menu at Historic N.C. Restaurants

Guadalupe Cafe

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

One popular dish is Guadalupe Cafe’s Curried Goat Tamale, a traditional Caribbean dish that consists of locally sourced dark cove goat on a tamale made from local ground corn, sprinkled with fresh feta cheese from High Mountain Meadows Farm & Creamery in Hayesville.

“For brunch on weekends, we serve Shrimp and Grits with local, stone-ground grits from nearby Robbinsville and local sausage from Worley Farms near Canton,” Pearson says. “Our version also uses fresh tomatoes and grilled local greens, and a farmstead pepper curd from Yellow Branch Pottery & Cheese in Robbinsville.”

Burgers are a big hit at Guadalupe Cafe, too, made from local beef or bison (and occasionally goat) and served on buns from a local bakery. The grass-fed beef comes from Mountainside Family Farms near Asheville, and the bison is sourced from Dr. King’s Farms in Leicester.

See more: Southern Smoke BBQ Has a Big Impact on a Small Town

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

Be sure to save room for dessert at Guadalupe Cafe, because they’re all made in-house using local farm eggs and organic/fair trade dairy products, cocoa, flour, sugar and spices.

“Our cobbler is an awesome choice to finish off your meal – we make cobblers with local apples, raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb,” Pearson says. “Our chocolate coconut pudding is fun, and I make a tres leches cake topped with local raspberries and a gingerbread Bundt cake in the fall and winter that uses local beer.”

Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder

Speaking of beer, Guadalupe Cafe has an interesting drink selection that pairs well with its food.

“We have tons of local beers and ciders because so many people put out great ones in our region,” Pearson says. “Our wine list is quirky, with small vineyard organic wines, and we offer locally made fruit-based sodas from Waynesville Soda Jerks.”

In addition to filling a local need for creative cuisine, Guadalupe Cafe’s mission revolves around sustainability.

“Sustainability is really important to our mission, and not just recycling or composting, but also building something with integrity that has community support,” Pearson says. “Our customers are amazing and dedicated, and our staff of 18 is faithful, too – some employees have been with us since the beginning. There’s not always a lot of reward for people who work in the food industry with grueling hours, but we share a common mission to build something wonderful, and that inspires me to keep going.”

– Jessica Mozo

If You Go

Guadalupe Cafe

Location: 606 W. Main St. in Sylva

Phone: (828) 586-9877


Hours: Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Reservations are recommended for parties of six or more. Please call ahead before traveling long distances.

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