Taking someone’s bar recommendation is something of a risky business.
The possibilities run the gamut of honky tonks and biker bars to European style pubs or karaoke hot spots.
One person’s idea of a great bar could be the next person’s idea of a night in hell with boozed up accountants botching the chorus to “Dancing Queen.”
Add in the vacation factor and things get that much dicier.
All of sudden people expect juggling bartenders reciting poetry and dancers jumping on tables with intricately choreographed routines.
And so, a bar recommendation is heady work. You’ve got to pry. You’ve got to prod.
Is this person looking for a place to drink or a place to have fun or possibly and improbably to do both?
The bar scene in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is heavily skewed toward entertainment.
In a county with moonshine distilleries on every corner, you can get the liquor in a lot of places, but where are you gonna go if you want to chuck axes while getting blindingly hammered?
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.
And so, while it’s hard to rank the best bars in Gatlinburg, we’re going to rank a variety of different types of bars.
From places to chill out, to places catering to bikers, to places you can hang out with your friends and do a little line dancing.
These are some of the best places to get a drink in the Smokies.
7. Cliff Top, Anakeesta (Gatlinburg)
There is no bar 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, 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.
6. Iron Boar Saloon (Pigeon Forge)
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 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.
5. Smoky Mountain Brewery (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge)
Smoky Mountain Brewery is one of the few places open late in the Smoky Mountains, 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.
Click here to check out their current events.
4. Shamrock Pub (Gatlinburg)
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 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.
3. Margaritaville Resort (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge)
Look, let’s be honest. You come to the Smokies for the broad strokes.
There is very little subtlety about entertainment options in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. You come for the experience. Should there be a Margaritaville Resort in Gatlinburg? All levels of good taste say no.
Are the margaritas at Margaritaville the best in town? Probably not.
It’s a corporate bar setting which means the drinks will be poured to maximize profit.
Do they have several bars playing beach music, all conveniently located in a hotel so you can get hammered, stagger back to your room and crash without having to drive?
Yes. Yes they do.
2. The Fox & Parrot Tavern (Gatlinburg)
If you want a more traditional pub-like experience, 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-drinker’s outpost.
1. Ole Red (Gatlinburg)
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.
What’s your vote for best bar in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments!