No doubt you have heard about The Swag. Tucked away at 5,000-ft. elevation on the border of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you might think this iconic Waynesville mountain resort was inaccessible.

That is the common misconception.

But truth be known, The Swag is not only accessible, it’s welcoming.

My wife, Carol, and I have enjoyed The Swag’s Wednesday Gourmet Picnics for many years. We have savored dinner at The Swag on special occasions. We spent a night at The Swag for one of Carol’s most memorable birthdays. We have hiked The Swag property with former owner, Deener Mathews, who showed us some of the “marker trees” created centuries ago by Cherokee guides.

The Swag offers one of Haywood County’s finest dining experiences, including the Thursday night barbecues.

Several times a month, “The hills are alive with the sound of music” — not just any music, mind you, but mountain music, from the likes of the Darren Nicholson Band, Marc and Anita Pruett and The Hill Country Band.

Picture yourself relaxing on the porch at The Swag, sipping on a glass of wine and getting to know the guests and owners, David and Annie Colquitt. More hummingbirds than you count are gathering at The Swag’s numerous feeders and The Swag culinary staff is meticulously assembling a seemingly endless array of appetizers.

There’s a charcuterie plate that could be the centerfold of Southern Living magazine — a bountiful selection of ham, salami, peperoni and gourmet cheeses and crab-stuffed mini tomatoes. As another nice touch, guests have the option of gluten-free crackers.

Also on display are an array of fresh summer salad options — smoked cauliflower and curried cashews; melon, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella; green beans, fresh tomatoes and avocado plus a tantalizing bowl of fresh fruit.

As you sample all of these delicacies, executive chef Jake Schmidt is setting up a table for the main event — a carving station with Thai pulled pork, smoked pastrami, smoked chicken and rack of roast pork roast.

Also coming together (and urging you to save room for the sweets) is a bountiful dessert table — with mixed berry trifle, peach cobbler, apple pie, chocolate cream cheese cupcakes, bear-shaped sugar cookies and “Swag Bars” (peanut butter, chocolate and love).

“Each Thursday is the day of the week I most look forward to here at The Swag,” said Schmidt. “We source a variety of high quality meats and local farm vegetables, then allow our smoker to introduce the culinary magic. We have something for everyone — from vegan to meat enthusiasts — you won’t walk away hungry.”

The Swag Thursday barbecues are served buffet style, and on music nights you are serenaded by great bluegrass performers. At the dinner bell, everyone gathers their selections and takes a seat in The Swag dining room.

You might sit with the Colquitts, at what they jokingly call, “the kiddie table.” But, trust me, the conversation is wonderful. Another option is to visit with the band that just, “sang for their supper.”

At our last Swag barbecue, we were able to visit at length with Darren Nicholson, gifted mandolin player and vocalist for the much-lauded band Balsam Range, who is just as entertaining in conversation as he is on stage.

All-in-all, The Swag Thursday night barbecues are quite an experience — with great food, good company and award-winning entertainment.

For more information, visit www.TheSwag.com; to book a dining reservation, call 828-926-0430.

Paul Viau is an award-winning creative director, with a 30-year career in advertising and marketing. Originally from Denver, Colorado, he met his wife, Carol, when they worked for rival advertising agencies in Miami, Florida. They became permanent residents of Haywood County in 2008 and reside in Waynesville. 

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