We start with a delineation, a set of parameters.
This is an article about the best barbecue places in Gatlinburg, not the best ribs in Gatlinburg.
Specifically, we’re talking slow cooked, often over hickory wood that produces delicious meat with that perfect smoky flavor.
Pulled pork shoulder, maybe a beef brisket.
The best barbecue joints can have great pork ribs. Great rib joints may have delicious southern barbecue. But we’re not basing our ratings on who has the best ribs. In fact, that’s a whole different deal.
The best BBQ joint I’ve ever been to was a little hole in the wall place near the Dallas-Wilcox County lines, also known as the Black Belt Region of Alabama. The best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had was made there. The barbecue sauce was sweet and spicy and dang near perfect. But the baby back ribs? They were just okay.
Therefore, when I wanted good BBQ, we went to the Old South. When I wanted the best ribs, we went somewhere else, usually Dreamland.
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BBQ around the Great Smoky Mountains area
BBQ places are different around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There are different styles and different influences and each offers great food but which are the best places? Sometimes that comes down to personal preference. Do you prefer a heavier sauce? Perhaps a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce? Maybe even – God forbid – a South Carolina mustard-based sauce?
Therefore, the question of which is the best BBQ joint in the Gatlinburg area is ultimately subjective.
We’re going to start with a bonus recommendation.
Boss Hogg’s BBQ Shack on Wears Valley Road in Pigeon forge is worth the drive. If I can make a recommendation, stop in at this barbecue favorite on your way to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic.
Grab a couple of pounds of the pulled pork, some coleslaw, some green beans, maybe the loaded potato salad and eat like a king at one of the best picnic spots in the mountains.
But If you want to have something from a barbecue favorite spot nearer to downtown Gatlinburg, the good news is you have plenty of great options.
6. Tennessee Jed’s
This sandwich shop with a higher purpose is a beautiful little place at which the preparation of the sandwich is an art form.
Tennessee Jed’s isn’t simply a barbecue place, but a sandwich place that does pretty good barbecue. You can get the classic pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce. However, I prefer the Cuban, which incorporates the pulled pork into something more adventurous.
Whatever you decide, Tennessee Jed’s is about to open a second location ready to serve Gatlinburg some additional classic sandwiches and tasty breakfast food.
5. Bennett’s Pit BBQ
Part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants, Bennett’s Pit BBQ is a good, safe barbecue joint for the whole family. The sauce has some spice, but isn’t overwhelming. And there are plenty of options for those who might not worship at the barbecue altar.
I’m a fan of the BBQ combo that allows you to try three varieties of smoked meats. Or I go barbecue chicken, smoked sausage and burnt ends, but feel free to mix it up and really try something new.
4. Hungry Bear BBQ
Locally owned and operated, the Hungry Bear has two Gatlinburg locations, both on the East Parkway. And as you may know, I consider it a good sign if a business is doing so well that it opens a new location on the same road.
Hungry Bear’s meats are smoked by staff on site.
3. Bones BBQ Joint
Located on the way to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, this is a perfect spot to get a family picnic pack. But, I do not recommend a picnic pack if you plan to do a lot of hiking. Picnic packs are more for chilling and digesting.
Bones celebrates the diversity of southern BBQ. And it’s a great place to stop and enjoy southern cooking at its finest.
The meat is prepared Memphis dry rub style, but they also have South Carolina mustard sauce, North Carolina vinegar sauce, a white sauce and a Bourbon BBQ sauce.
Family supper packs are also great to take back to your mountain cabin. The Pitmaster Combos are the best way to try a variety of the restaurant’s offerings and decide which you like best.
East Tennessee’s most famous and celebrated barbecue artists, Calhoun’s slow cook method is world renowned.
Additionally, the Family Feed Packs are great for mountain picnics or to take back to your cabin.
I’m a fan of the sausage and cheese plate as an app as well as the Southern fried green tomatoes.
The hickory smoked bar-b-que plate is a can’t miss option as well as the famous Calhoun’s trio of baby back ribs, chicken tenders and hickory smoked pork.
For sides, don’t sleep on the Spinach Maria.
1. Delauder’s Smoky Mountain BBQ
Delauder’s BBQ is a holy place. It is a shrine devoted to the divine art of smoked meats.
Be careful, the PBLT – smoked pork belly sandwich – may well ruin all ordinary PBLTs for you moving forward. The house-smoked pork belly is fried and topped with lettuce and tomato.
The pro move here is to get the sampler dinner. For the bargain price of $26.89 (price is subject to change) you get a five meat plate.
I said, FIVE. MEAT. PLATE.
Specifically, you get ribs, pulled pork, brisket, grilled chicken breast and smoked sausage plus your choice of two sides, the best of which are the fried mac n cheese, fried okra and the collard greens.
Be warned there are no substitutions, you get what you get. Don’t be greedy.
And also, if you can handle a bit of spice, try the Sneaky Pig Sandwich, which is the Delauder’s pulled pork in an award-winning sweet habanero sauce.
Finally, if you don’t know the joys of cooked bologna, you have to try the Holy Bologna sandwich. It’s grilled bologna topped with pulled pork, onions, pickles, nacho cheese, lettuce, sweet jalapeno mustard and BBQ sauce. It’s amazing.
Do you know of a great BBQ restaurant in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments!