Growing up, my husband’s family traveled to the Smoky Mountains multiple times each year. After the winter holidays their large extended family often rented condos together. In the summer months they camped at a number of the local campgrounds. So when we started dating (and eventually married) visiting the Tennessee area was a must for our vacation plans.
Over the years we’ve developed our list of favorite family eateries in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and surrounding areas. Below are our top suggestions of where to eat when visiting the Smoky Mountains.
Pancake restaurants are everywhere in the Smoky Mountains and for good reason. What better way to start your day than with a mountain morning breakfast like pancakes? Our favorite option is Pancake Pantry. The only drawback to Pancake Pantry is that everyone loves Pancake Pantry. It’s popularity is affirmed by a lengthy line wrapped around the building every single day. The good news, Pancake Pantry is super efficient. No matter how intimidating of a line we’ve joined it’s always moved quickly. Typically, there’s also been hot coffee or water while waiting. Once seated you’ll find they offer more than just the dozen or so variety of pancakes. This was the first restaurant that I willingly ate (and enjoyed) an omelet. Their crepes are equally as tasty, with tons of options. When dining here make sure to bring cash though (or stop by their ATM upstairs) as they do not accept credit cards.
Bonus tip: If you arrive when they first open in the morning there’s no wait. On weekdays street parking is legal that early so you can park for free! Emilie excitedly called her aunt after our last trip to share about parking across the street and being seated immediately – a first for my husband’s family.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
The Peddler Steakhouse
If you’re looking for the best steak, The Peddler in Gatlinburg is your place. While the cost of adult entrees is on par with other nice steakhouses, the price for a kid’s meal is based on a sliding scale ($1 per year of age). And the kid’s menu includes items like prime rib. For Adam, this was the first restaurant he had been allowed to try prime rib (because what parent would be willing to pay normal prime rib prices for three kids). Emmy also discovered her love of prime rib here. This restaurant is now a tradition for us, and her first request of where to eat in the Smoky Mountains area.
Aside from the prime rib, my favorite is the New York strip or ribeye, mostly because they wheel it out on a peddle cart and cut it table side for you. It’s a special experience that I love to watch. Also, there is an amazing salad bar. In previous visits, we’ve enjoyed pasta salads, bean salads, and a variety of toppings for the fresh greens. It’s such a popular choice that this restaurant stays busy every evening. Be aware they are open only for dinner. They do offer call ahead seating though, which is highly suggested. If able, call or stop by an hour before opening and they’ll get you on the list.
820 River Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
More than likely, when you arrive at Apple Barn in Sevierville, there will be a wait. Crowds will be relaxing on the wrap around porches and assortment of benches. The lobby inside may be too packed to sit, but don’t give up. The wait for either the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant or the Applewood Farmhouse Grill (which we refer to collectively as Apple Barn) is well worth it.
The food itself is traditional southern comfort food. Whether you go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner it’s delicious. The highlight of the meal for us though are the applesauce muffins, the apple fritters with apple butter, and the apple julep (a pineapple/orange/lemon/apple juice blend). We have literally ordered seconds of these tasty appetizers and probably could have enjoyed them for breakfast in place of a full meal. They are so delicious that my mother-in-law bought the cookbook just to make the muffins on weekend mornings. On the property, there is also a sizable general store with souvenirs, jams/jellies, smoked meats, candy, and home décor items.
Five Oaks Farm Kitchen
This restaurant in Sevierville was one of our more recent discoveries in the area. We tried it for the first time in fall of 2019 and it instantly became a favorite. Outdoor decor such as a camp fire, tractor, and bee farm made guests feel like they being welcomed home to the farm. Stepping into the restaurant is just as inviting. Reminiscent of an old barn, cozy wooden beams line the walls and ceilings. Vintage style bulbs cast a warm glow from the eye-catching chandeliers.
Five Oaks Farm Kitchen offers so many appetizing options I had a hard time deciding what to order. Ultimately, I opted for the Handmade Farm-Size Cinnamon Roll, Emilie selected the Griddle Cakes, and Adam ordered The Farm Tenant Favorite Morning Bounty. Everything came out supersized. The “farm-size” cinnamon roll was almost as big as my head. Emilie’s pancakes were each at least 1″ thick and when stacked together took on the appearance of a birthday cake. Adam’s breakfast meal was served in a platter resembling an old mining pan. Not only were the portions massive but the food was delicious also. This will be a restaurant we visit in all of our future trips to the area.
Sevierville, TN 37862
The Old Mill Pottery House Café and Grille
The Old Mill Pottery House has become one of our more recent findings in the Smoky Mountains area. Part of the initial appeal for trying this Pigeon Forge restaurant was because the food was handmade, the bread was handmade, and the plates the food was served on was handmade. The food was good (my husband highly recommends the bread bowl with potato soup) but what I really enjoyed about the restaurant was the ambiance. While waiting for a table, we had checked out their nearby gift shop, where potters demonstrate how they create the various table pieces. The bakery at the front offers fresh baked goods. And the courtyard has picturesque seating, featuring tables by miniature creeks and ponds. It was a restaurant that we immediately wanted to recommend to family and friends.
175 Old Mill Avenue
Pigeon Forge, TN 37868
The Park Grill
This is another recent find for us in Gatlinburg. Owned by the same group as The Peddler, the food here is equally as good although the menu is not as extensive. We tried out the restaurant at lunch, and were surprised that there wasn’t more of a wait (possibly because of its newness). I ended up ordering ribs, mostly so our daughter could enjoy them. They were good, but my favorite was the salad bar which was very similar to The Peddler’s. Mmm, those tiny mozzarella balls. (Please know their salad bar items can change and if mozzarella balls of goodness aren’t there when you visit, I can’t be held responsible.)
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
While these are just a few of the amazing restaurants in the Smoky Mountain area, we make sure to fit these into each trip.