The rumor mill was right. Crippen's in Blowing Rock is clearly one of the finest restaurants in North Carolina. It is expensive but for special occasions I can't think of a nicer place. It is small and elegant and part of a country inn just off the main drag in Blowing Rock. The food is fun and inventive. My wasabi salmon with fried onion rings and mashed potatoes was a flavorful adventure. I absolutely loved it even though I would have preferred that the salmon had been cooked slightly less. The chili rubbed ribeye for my son as cooked to perfection. He was thrilled with it. My wife also had a steak and she said it was one of the best she has eaten. My daughter, a vegetarian, shared her spicy pasta dish and it was outstanding. The breads here are to die for and the red hot dipping oil the bean spread were awesome. You pay for the salads at Crippen's but they are worth it especially the award-winning Watermelon salad. It was incredible. Other dishes included the famous Bittersweet Chocolate-Infused Espresso-Crusted Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Pan-Seared Maine Sea Scallop Sandwich and Cornmeal-Dusted Pan-Seared Fresh Softshell Crab. Chef and owner Jimmy Crippen sizes up the restaurant's eleven success story this way: "Passion is 100% of what it is. It's all about having a good time." Get your reservations in early. We had a 6:30PM reservation and it was already bustling. Service was a little sluggish and we did feel the staff could have been a bit more friendly. But those are only minor negatives compared to an awesome dining experience overall. I want to go back to Crippen's on a chilly evening when the fireplace is roaring in this intimate setting.