A Smoky Mountain local shares his top picks for area bars in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area
One person’s idea of a great bar could be the next person’s idea of a night in the Netherworld with boozed-up accountants botching the chorus to “Dancing Queen.” Therefore, a bar recommendation is hard work. You’ve got to prod and pry. Certainly, in a county with moonshine distilleries on every corner, you can get liquor in a lot of places. And many of the “bars” are really restaurants with a place to drink. The focus is as much on the food as the liquor – think more Applebee’s than Cheers. From places to chill out, to places catering to bikers, to places where you can hang out with your friends and do a little line dancing, here are some of my personal recommendations on where to get a drink in the Smokies.
Editor’s Note: Hours mentioned in this article are as of the time of this writing and are subject to change.
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1. Ole Red
Let’s start with a couple of highly popular tourist spots. Up first, Ole Red. Like Jimmy Buffet or Paula Deen, Blake Shelton has no ties to the Smoky Mountains. Also like those other entrepreneurs, he’s brought his signature establishment to the mountains to make money. Unlike those other two, however, Ole Red’s doesn’t feel out of place. Ole Red features a constant array of live country music as well as food and, of course, drinks including wine, beer and cocktails. If you come to the Smokies for a Tennessee experience, Ole Red might just be the place for you.
While the focus is on both food and boozy concoctions at this particular establishment, it features two floors of a casual family-friendly yet bar-like atmosphere complete with live music and a friendly wait staff that will make you feel welcome. But do be warned, Ole Red can be quite busy on weekends and holidays and they don’t take reservations. Ole Red now has multiple locations throughout the Southeastern United States, its Gatlinburg location can be found at 511 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, and is within walking distance of most downtown Gatlinburg hotels and attractions. It’s open ’til at least 10 pm most nights. Fridays and Saturdays it’s open til midnight.
2. Jason Aldean’s
Jason Aldean’s Kitchen & Rooftop Bar is a newcomer to the Smokies having just opened in 2023. It has similar vibes to that of the aforementioned Ole Red only with three floors –instead of two – each with its own “vibe”. The first floor is primarily a gift shop, the second floor features the main restaurant and the third floor features a giant stage for live performers, a quick-service barbecue station, and a rooftop bar.
There are positives and negatives to this spatial separation. In the positive column, I like the option of foregoing the (often lengthy) wait at the restaurant and being able to grab a quality pulled chicken sandwich while listening to the band and soaking up the views on the third floor. But in the negative column, I think I’d also like to have the option to do the same while having access to the full dinner menu. I think I’d enjoy the space just a bit more if the entire floor plan was a bit more open like that of Ole Red. Jason Aldean’s is located at 644 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 within walking distance to most downtown Gatlinburg attractions and hotels. Its original location can be found in downtown Nashville. Jason Aldean’s is open daily til 11 pm.
3. Iron Boar Saloon
Now we get a bit more “local”. Billed as the best Biker Bar in Pigeon Forge – which is a little like being the hardest mother in accounting school – the Iron Boar features its own special brew, the Iron Boar Lager. And also a biker-friendly atmosphere that’s welcoming to riders from all over. I’m not a biker myself, but I’ve been in a few authentic places back in the mountains over the years. The Iron Boar isn’t that. It feels like what I think is a tourist-friendly version of a biker bar. But it also feels like if I went in there and gave that review, the place would get a lot more authentic in a hurry.
Located across from Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson, if you’re looking for a place to drink and hang out with fellow riders, this is a great spot to do it. The Iron Boar Saloon is located at 104 Waldens Main St, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. But do keep in mind, this spot is far less walkable than the previous two suggestions. So if finding a designated driver is an issue, plan accordingly. It’s open ’til at least 9 pm most nights. Fridays and Saturdays it’s open til 10 pm.
4. Smoky Mountain Brewery
Smoky Mountain Brewery is one of the few places open late in the Smoky Mountains. And by early I mean midnight most nights (welcome to the Smokies, we like to go to bed on time). And they have a location in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It offers great food, micro-brewed beer and live entertainment, making this a solid choice if you want to grab a drink in the Smokies. The Pigeon Forge location (2530 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863) can be found in The Shops at Lumberjack Square and can be a great place to grab a drink and a bite to eat before watching The Lumberjack Feud. The Gatlinburg location (1004 Parkway #501, Gatlinburg, TN 37738) can be found downtown within walking distance of most major hotels and attractions.
5. Shamrock Pub
Also located in downtown Gatlinburg, you might think with a name like Shamrock Pub, this would be a classic Irish drinking experience. But you’d be wrong. Karaoke every night at 8, cold draft and bottled beer plus cocktails and mixed drinks, the Shamrock is a great place to tie a few on and also impress friends and strangers with your best version of “Don’t Stop Believin’”. The pub also features live music each afternoon and a pleasant atmosphere. The very walkable Shamrock Pub is located at 105 Reagan Dr, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. And, it stays open later than any other suggestion on our list – until 1 am.
6. The Fox & Parrot Tavern
If you want a more traditional pub-like experience with few tourists in sight, and if you’ve come to the Smoky Mountains, I suspect you do, then the two-story Fox & Parrot Tavern is the spot for you. British-themed with traditional pub grub, many beer choices, darts and live music, The Fox & Parrot is a beer-drinkers outpost. The Fox & Parrot Tavern is located near the Arts and Crafts Community at 1065 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. They close at 8 pm Monday-Thursday, Fridays at 10 pm and Sundays at 6 pm.
7. Cliff Top (and Smokehouse)
Finally, we have Anakeesta’s Cliff Top and Smokehouse restaurants. If I were being honest, Anakeesta is probably my favorite spot to grab a drink in all the Smokies. But there’s a downside – you’ll have to pay the full cost of an Anakeesta admission to belly up to these spots. Regardless, in my opinion, there is no place with a better view in all of the Smokies. Sure Anakeesta’s entry fee is one heck of a cover charge, but if you want to sit in a place where you can soak in the beauty of the mountains with friends, have a few drinks and be able to hear each other talk, it’s hard to beat.
Cliff Top features local craft beers, table service, a full bar and an elevated dining experience. This is a place for adults who want to drink without having to party with a capital P. Plus, it’s located in a glass-enclosed climate-controlled building. The Smokehouse is more of an outdoor casual joint with covered seating. At Smokehouse, the emphasis is on BBQ and cocktails. Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Anakeesta is open nightly til about 8 or 9 pm.
What’s your vote for the best bar in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments!