I tried yardbirds at more than 24 eateries in Pigeon Forge – these were my findings
In my experience, when it comes to cuisine in the South, I think barbecue is probably most people’s first association. Especially in Tennessee. But the Smokies are also a great place to find Southern-style crispy fowl done just right. With that in mind, I took it upon myself to try over two dozen places that serve yardbird in the Smoky Mountains (tough gig but somebody has to do it). Below, are my recommendations. Note: Pricing is “as of” the time of this writing.
After careful examination and a lot of taste testing, I’ve determined that HeartSong’s Ember & Elm, Old Mill Restaurant, The Pottery House Cafe, Mama’s Farmhouse and The Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant have the best fried chicken in Pigeon Forge.
|HeartSong’s Ember & Elm
|People who love gourmet food in a gourmet setting.
|Old Mill Restaurant
|People who love classic Southern food in historic, cozy setting
|Old Mill Pottery House Cafe
|Those looking for a twist on a Southern classic.
|Hungry people looking for an all-you-can-eat meal.
|Applewood Farmhouse Grill
|Those who don’t mind venturing a bit further out.
Now before you riot and accuse me of being paid off to say the new HeartSong Dollywood Resort has the best bird in town I want to make one thing clear. This is not a paid placement. We get no special favors at their theme parks or resorts. Dollywood doesn’t even invite us to media days anymore (but wish they did please love us back D-Wood!). And I was certainly not expecting such an explosion of flavor in that cooked-to-perfection entree served to me at the HeartSong’s Hearth & Song. But that’s exactly what I got.
This particular plate is called the Spring Mountain Farms Fried Chicken. It’s $29 at the time of this writing and can be found on the Ember & Elm Dinner menu. It features pickle-brined thighs with sides of mashed potatoes, black pepper milk gravy and agave-glazed carrot. And friends, it’s like the filet mignon of fowl. And luckily, you don’t even have to be a guest at the resort to sample this exquisite dish as this eatery is open to the public. But we do recommend making a reservation in advance. Free parking is available on-site.
Can’t make it out to Ember & Elm? No problem. Here’s another gourmet option – and a local favorite. After all, nearly 30,000 four and five-star Google reviews can’t be wrong. Located in a grist mill originally constructed in the 1780s, The Old Mill offers two options for delicious breasts or legs (your choice). But I highly recommend going for the Southern Combo (pictured above with a side of green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy on the side) and getting both. At the time of this writing, it’s available on both the lunch ($16.99) and dinner menu ($24.99).
The Old Mill’s bird is seasoned and breaded with a blend of spices and stone-ground breading. But be warned, The Old Mill is also one of the most popular places to eat in the area, so wait times may be long, and they do not accept reservations or call-ahead seating. Free Parking is available in the Old Mill District but may be limited during the busy season so arrive early.
Also located in the Old Mill District, The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe is one of the top places to eat in the Smokies. And it’s steeped in local history. The structure the restaurant now occupies was originally constructed as the home of a local craftsman who founded Pigeon Forge Pottery in 1954.
However, there is a downside. Wait times can be lengthy due to its popularity. And they do not accept reservations. If you get a chance to eat there, the Buttermilk Chicken Melt (served on their regular menu from 11 am – close), which has breasts topped with mushrooms and melted buttermilk cheese, is delicious. At the time of this writing, a large plate runs at $19.99. A small plate version of the same dish is also available at $16.99.
At Mama’s, they say it took two years to perfect their award-winning dinners. This cozy establishment features family-style dining which means you’ll be ordering “for the table” with a selection of meats that rotates seasonally, and sometimes daily. But their award-winning biscuits are on the menu every day, just as God intended.
Prices for adults are $16.99 (breakfast), $18.99 (lunch) and $22.99 (dinner). Prices for kids are $7.99 (breakfast), $8.99 (lunch) and $9.99 (dinner). Kids five and under eat free. And if you’re looking for a place in the Smokies that takes reservations (which can be surprisingly rare around here) you’re in luck! They accept reservations via phone. Plus, ample free parking is available on site.
Located at the Apple Barn, less than four miles away from Pigeon Forge, we have The Applewood Farmhouse Grill. Here, my favorite entree is the Applewood Famous Southern Fried Chicken, golden brown and juicy. It’s perfection. It’s so tasty that we’re willing to overlook the fact that the restaurant is technically in Sevierville. Plus, I love it when the server brings that complimentary serving of Applewood’s apple fritters with apple butter and applewood julep (included with every entree). It’s a great option for both lunch ($16.99) and dinner ($21.99).
Do note, that The Applewood Grill is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Always call ahead for current operating hours. Parking is available on-site. Unfortunately, they do not accept reservations, but they do offer takeout.
PS: If you’re an early riser, The Applewood Grill is also a great place to grab breakfast.
There were also a few places worthy of an honorable mention, although they didn’t quite make the top five. they’re still good. Those, in no particular order but all worthy of a stop if you’re in town include:
- Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen (located at The Island)
- Timberwood Grill (also located at The Island)
- Huck Finn’s Catfish (located on the Parkway)
Are you planning a Smoky Mountains vacation? What’s your favorite area restaurant? Let us know in the comments below.
Frequently asked questions
What makes Pigeon Forge so popular?
Pigeon Forge is home to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, a theme park nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Pigeon Forge is also the neighboring town to Gatlinburg which is considered to be the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which attracts more than 13 Million visitors each year.
What kind of food is Pigeon Forge known for?
Pigeon Forge is primarily known for its Southern comfort food cuisine which includes Southern classics like biscuits, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, catfish and barbecue.
Is Pigeon Forge a dry town?
Sevier County is technically a dry county however most area restaurants serve liquor by the drink. The area is also ripe with moonshine distilleries and wineries.
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