When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, buffets – also known as smorgasbords – were all the restaurant rage. I can remember going to a newly opened buffet in the tiny Hoosier town of Bedford and marveling at the array of culinary delights laid out before us.
We were the Clampetts and the buffet was Beverly Hills.
We were in incredulous awe of the salad bar.
“How many types of lettuce CAN one place have?”
“Bless my stars. Are those garbanzo beans?”
In my memory, the quality of the food on the buffets was quite good. And the meal was as fine as you’d get at most restaurants, it was just that you got more options and unlimited trips to belly up to the trough.
As an adult, my perception of buffets has changed significantly. There are good ones, but many of the chain buffets leave something to be desired in the quality department.
But what I don’t know is, which one of us has changed.
Were chain buffets always straddling the line between acceptable and shady and I just grew up enough to notice? Or has inflation and demand forced the chain buffets to cut corners? I genuinely don’t know.
Still, I love a good buffet with a nice crisp salad followed by samplings of a wide variety of food choices. Done right, it can be great. Can it be profitable? Not sure. But it can be great. Especially if you are feeling hunger pains.
It seems tourist towns are the last great bastions of the buffet. Places like Vegas, Orlando and, yes, Pigeon Forge, are keeping America’s great buffet tradition alive.
To that end, here is a list of some of the best Pigeon Forge buffets (including a few cheap buffets in Pigeon Forge) ranked.
4. Western Sizzlin’s Wood Grill Buffet
I haven’t seen many surviving Western Sizzlin’s over the years. Likely, there are some, but they are going the way of the Dodo.
Formerly, I was a Sizzler man. Yet the Western Sizzlin’ remains a proud relic of my youth. But I digress.
The Wood Grill Buffet offers a veritable smorgasbord of options with Asian, Italian and Southwestern-themed entrees and a variety of meats prepared in a 4,000-pound smoker to enhance flavor.
Some of the many items on the dinner buffet are barbecue ribs, fried and rotisserie chicken and roast beef. In addition to the meats are pasta, vegetables, fresh fruits, bread and even a potato bar. And for the picky eaters, burgers and hot dogs.
And if you are still hungry, try something from the deluxe dessert bar!
If you’re looking for a true, authentic American buffet experience, you could do worse than the Wood Grill Buffet.
In addition, you get the added benefit of regaling the younger members of your dining party with tales from the Western Sizzlin’ and the gastronomic wonder that was 80s-era Texas toast.
And, Western Sizzlin’s Wood Grill Buffet in Pigeon Forge is also fairly cheap and affordable.
Western Sizzlin’s Wood Buffet is located at 2301 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
3. Captain Jim’s Seafood Buffet
All you can eat crab legs is the big draw here, but Captain Jim’s is nothing if not thorough.
The buffet listing on Captain Jim’s website lists cottage cheese among the many offerings as if someone is considering their dining options and remains on the fence with shrimp, crab legs and oysters.
“They have cottage cheese? Mabel, get your coat, we’re eating at Captain Jim’s tonight!”
The good Captain offers a traditional seafood buffet with a variety of shellfish and seafood options with several sides designed to be good enough to get you to fill up on something other than seafood.
I’m not overly adventurous at a seafood buffet. Give me some scampi, some fried shrimp, a cup of chowder or gumbo and I’m a happy man. Frog legs and raw oysters? Insert skeptical meme face here.
At the time of this writing, prices for Captain Jim’s Seafood Buffet in Pigeon Forge are as follows:
- Buffet with unlimited crab legs: $49.99 (adults) and $26.99 (kids 5-11)
- Buffet without crab legs: $26.99 (adults) and $10.99 (kids 5-11)
Again, prices are subject to change, always call ahead to confirm. The restaurant opens at 3 pm, at the time of this writing.
Captain Jim’s is located at 3985 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
2. Reagan’s House of Pancakes
And here’s an all-you-can-eat Pigeon Forge breakfast buffet option.
Reagan’s House of Pancakes’ buffet is so good they built a whole ‘nother one just down the road from the first one. The two Reagan’s are only 1.4 miles apart on the Parkway, a six-minute drive in heavy traffic.
Even McDonald’s is like, “You’re building those two restaurants entirely too close together.”
But it works. It’s completely insane but it works. You know why? Because the breakfast buffet is so dang good.
The breakfast bar offers warm bacon, pancakes and toppings, eggs, grits, biscuits, sausage and gravy, French toast, hash brown potatoes and more. And you won’t leave hungry.
For visitors who do not want a buffet breakfast, there is also a wide array of sandwiches on the menu, including grilled or fried chicken sandwiches. You can also order eggs cooked the way you like.
At the time of this writing, prices for Reagan’s House of Pancakes in Pigeon Forge are as follows:
- $11.49 (adults)
- $6.49 (kids 4-10)
Kids 3 and under eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. Prices are subject to change.
Reagan’s is located at 2820 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
1. Aunt Granny’s Restaurant
It seems to me that many of the best buffets are almost loss leaders today.
A tourist destination uses a nice buffet to lure you in, sate you with food at reasonable to ridiculously low prices and then get you to part with your money in other ways.
For instance, Aunt Granny’s, located in Dollywood, isn’t attached to a Vegas casino, but you’ve already paid a hefty entrance fee just for the privilege of dining at the park.
Aunt Granny’s buffet was named by USA Today as one of the top 10 theme park restaurants in the country and offers an all-you-care-to-eat buffet.*
Dining delights include chicken, ham, fish and a wide array of country sides.
Aunt Granny’s is located at Dollywood, 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd in Pigeon Forge.
*Editor’s Note: We should note that due to recent 2020-related health and safety concerns, Aunt Granny’s is currently operating as a family-style restaurant, instead of a traditional buffet. Platters of the various dishes are brought to the table rather than you getting up and going to the buffet. We’re including Aunt Granny’s with the buffets until the family-style change is announced as permanent.
What are your favorite buffets in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.