My family and I love to go off the beaten tourist path and to check out the local haunts to grab a bite to eat when we are on vacation. The Great Smoky Mountains may not be your first thought of a culinary mecca but there is a great variety of locally owned joints where you can grab some interesting fare. Here are my top five:
My first stop is a Gatlinburg landmark – the Pancake Pantry, 628 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Sure, they have served great breakfasts since 1960 (I like the “Morning Star” breakfast) but I want to talk about some of their unusual lunch fare. One of my favorites that’s on their menu now is “The British Dipper.” Think patty melt burger with Swiss and American cheese that’s served with a great horseradish sauce and chips. Some other Pantry favorites include the “Continental,” a twist on a grilled club featuring a Tarragon Béarnaise sauce and Russian dressing on alternating layers and served with the Pantry’s onion soup; or the award-winning “Dutch Diplomat,” a triple decker club on Rye.
If you have something sweet in mind, Courthouse Doughnuts on the corner of Bruce Street and Court Avenue in Sevierville (right across from the Sevier County Courthouse) is amazing. These “secret recipe” doughnuts are dipped in your choice of icing and then topped with anything from coconut to Fruity Pebbles. Courthouse Doughnuts also features a great lunchtime menu with homemade soups and classic comfort sandwiches like “Mama’s Chicken Salad.”
The Great Smoky Mountains were settled by the Scotch-Irish immigrant families and their influence is felt in a great pub called The Fox and Parrot Tavern, 1065 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, located in the mountains on the famous Gatlinburg craft trail. Dishes and beer straight out of the UK are on the menu in this two-story mountain pub. In addition to the 85 beers available to wet your whistle, my favorites to eat are their authentic fish and chips and their Scotch eggs.
Speaking of immigrants, there is an incredible, authentic Cuban restaurant in Pigeon Forge that makes me think of some great meals I have had in South Florida. The Smokies Cuban Café, 3526 Parkway has all of the atmosphere of the islands and the menu boasting authentic Cuban sandwiches, croquet sandwiches and fried plantains. You can even get tropical fruit shakes made from Mango, Mamey, Guava and Papaya. I always end my meal with a traditional Cuban coffee, it has enough zing to keep you going all day!
If you make it to Dollywood on your travels, 2700 Dollywood Parks Boulevard, my favorite “joint” on the park is Granny Ogle’s Ham and Beans. You sit on the front porch of an old house adjacent to the Valley Theatre inside the park, so you often get a great meal and a live show! The menu features ham and beans, ham and greens and an incredible cornbread salad. Speaking of cornbread, every table gets a mini-skillet full of sweet cornbread! Top it off with some of their hot blackberry cobbler and ice cream or walk across the plaza and grab a loaf of Dollywood’s signature cinnamon bread.