I’ve eaten at dozens of restaurants in the Smokies, these are my picks for the best burger joints in town
In my over 20 years living in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, I’ve sampled dozens of local restaurants, everything from chains to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, in search of the best burger in town.
In full disclosure, the best burger I have had in my life was after a college soccer match at Carson-Newman University, where a parent was selling concessions off a smoker. No cheese, no pickle and no Heinz 57. It was just meat that he’d marinated in a little Dale’s Seasoning on a bun. But that one-off isn’t exactly a repeatable experience I can recommend to my fellow burger aficionados. But I preface my ranking with that information to say I am a man with range. Sometimes I crave burgers with purity of essence in mind. Sometimes I like a little razzle-dazzle. And as long as those things are supporting a well-made burger instead of hiding a flawed piece of meat, we can get behind a little something extra to make a burger special.
In this article, you’ll find a list of my favorite burgers (and burger joints) in the Smoky Mountains featuring everything from the classics to the artisanal. Are you in the mood for a great burger? You’ve come to the right place. Here are my picks for the best burgers in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the surrounding area.
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4. Graze Burgers
Graze Burgers, located near the Dolly Parton Statue at the Sevier County Courthouse in downtown Sevierville, is off the beaten culinary path of the main drag. But they serve a great burger. They start with grass-fed beef, no hormones, steroids or antibiotics and from there, they go a little crazy. The hamburger David Thoreau in me prefers The Classic with aged cheddar, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion. But if I’m feeling that I’ve been a little too long in the wilderness, or have been sampling Graze’s fine selection of bourbon, whiskey and scotch, then I might go for something a little out of character like the Bourbon Bleu. The Local Farmer, with aged cheddar, bacon, fried egg, greens, onions tomatoes, pickles and graze sauce is also a winner. Also, as the father of a boy with food allergies, I also like that they offer several non-traditional options like veggie and turkey burgers as well as bison. Although, I never had the boy allergy tested for buffalo so we’ll skip that one for now. Graze Burgers is located at 125 Bruce St, Sevierville, TN. They do not take reservations.
3. The Local Goat
The Local Goat has style and that carries over to their burgers which they keep on a need-to-know basis. So, what’s in them? It’s a secret blend of fresh, locally sourced beef, smart guy. They’re gourmet and they’re spectacular. That’s all you need to know. I personally recommend the Tennessee Whiskey Burger with smoked bacon, crispy onions and garlic aioli. Pro-tip: Order the fried deviled eggs as a starter to this meal – you won’t regret it. But do be warned, The Local Goat isn’t off the beaten path, and therefore quite popular with the locals, and tourists alike. Wait times can be long if you show up unannounced. We recommend grabbing a reservation online before you go. The Local Goat is located at 2167 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN.
2. Mountain Edge Grill
Located in the heavenly inlet of Baskin Square that also hosts Tennessee Jed’s and the Natural House of Jerky, the Mountain Edge Grill offers some of the best burgers in Gatlinburg. The menu isn’t overly fancy, there’s the American Classic, with cheese, lettuce tomato and onion but these culinary geniuses aren’t afraid to get a little interesting. I also love the Bison Elk Burger, featuring a mix of bison and elk meat with all the trimmings. They also make a great Chilli Cheese Burger. Long story short, you can’t go wrong at this establishment. Mountain Edge Grill is located at 631 Parkway, Suite B4, Gatlinburg, TN. They do not accept reservations at this time.
1. Wild Bear Tavern
No celebration of the marriage of meat and bun is complete without a nod to the ancestors. No, the origin of the holy hamburger is not definitively known but it is named after the town of Hamburg in Germany. It is thus proper that we recognize what is likely the only German restaurant in Sevier County, the Wild Bear Tavern. The Germans have been doing weird and wonderful things with meat for centuries so there’s not a lot of messing around with things like toppings. There are two burgers at the Wild Bear, the Big Bear Burger – a double-stack short rib brisket and angus burger – and the Brat Burger – which is the same thing with a smoked pork brat, kraut and German beer mustard, the nature of which, Immanuel Kant would agree, is unknowable but tastes pretty damn fantastic. Achtung, baby! They are located at 4236 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN and they accept reservations on their website.
What’s your favorite burger in the Smokies? Let us know in the comments.