Craving a little TexMex on your Smoky Mountain vacation? Here are 5 Mexican restaurants you might want to try
You come to the Smoky Mountains for the natural beauty and enjoy a peaceful getaway in the quiet of the misty mountains. And you’ve surely come to enjoy the local culture. Certainly, you’ve come to Gatlinburg for all these things and now you’re hungry. What’s your first thought? Right. Let’s get some Mexican. I’m not judging. The allure of great Tex-Mex can strike anywhere. Sometimes you just want a taco. Of course, people don’t come to the Great Smoky Mountains for Mexican food but the people in Gatlinburg – tourists and locals – sometimes demand it. So, if you’re looking for some Mexican food in Gatlinburg, here are your best options.
Editor’s Note: I personally find Pigeon Forge’s Mexican restaurant options to be a bit better than Gatlinburg so if you don’t mind a bit of a drive, you might want to check out the next town over.
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1. Estrella Hondumex
Of course, I realize the ramifications of a white guy listing a Honduran restaurant as the best place to get Mexican. But as the name indicates Estrella Hondumex serves Honduran and Mexican dishes and serves them well. If you want authentic flavors, and real honest-to-dios Latin flavors, Estrella Hondumex is the place. There are “safe” choices if your palate doesn’t embrace delicacies like tripe soup. But there is also adventure and new experiences on the menu as well. But if you want real Latin flavors and a meal you’re going to remember, follow the star. Estrella Hondumex is located at 109 Roaring Fork Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
2. El Sonador Mexican Restaurant
Located just off the main strip, El Sonador represents the best in hometown Mexican cooking provided your hometown is not someplace like San Antonio, Phoenix, San Diego or, you know, in Mexico. El Sonador takes a significant step towards a better experience in that they cook with actual spices and do things to try and make the meal flavorful even if that risks alienating certain palates. The food is good and inexpensive. El Sonador represents what most non-Mexicans in your town would identify as the best Mexican restaurant in town. It’s more Tex than Mex. But you’re going home happy. El Sonador can be found at 458 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
3. Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina
This one doesn’t necessarily offer a unique culinary experience. In fact, if you’re looking for a “Mexican” restaurant similar to the one you have back home, this is the closest thing on the list. The food is fine. But we’re here for the ambiance. Do you want tacos and rooftop margaritas overlooking the strip? This is your place. It is also your place if you like soul-crushing abbreviations. So, if you are ever out with me and I, unironically, refer to margaritas as ‘margs’, just go ahead and give me a double-tap to the brain stem. What else can I tell you about the crazy donkey? Hey, the street corn is good. Or maybe I mean the St. Co. is go. And they have a choco taco. Along with the best views this one also arguably has the most convenient location being in the middle of the main downtown Gatlinburg strip. But that also means crowds and parking could be an issue, so plan according and grab a reservation if you can. Loco Burro is located at 735 Parkway #1, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. PS: Try the Mexican street corn, it’s one of the best things on the menu.
4. No Way Jose’s
No Way Jose’s – aside from the name – is wonderful in an Applebee’s kind of way. It’s unassuming. Nothing outlandish. The food is fine if a little bland. The décor is from the Speedy Gonzalez school of Mexican restaurant decorating. But they have pretty good margaritas and if you’re not uptight and looking for anything super authentic you can go and have a good time. You can do worse than No Way Jose’s if you want to eat in Gatlinburg. But if you want real Mexican food and not a Mexico-like experience, you could do better. No Way Jose’s is located at PF7Q+F6 Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They do not accept reservations but there is a waitlist. There’s also a small parking lot on site but don’t count on actually getting a spot. We never have.
5. Stanga’s Big Slice
Finally, I wouldn’t want to end this article without at least giving Stanga’s Big Slice an honorable mention. Coming in at number five – simply because it’s neither “Mexican” nor a “restaurant” – Stanga’s Big Slice serves up surprisingly decent street food including tacos (starting at just $3.99 at the time of this writing) and nachos (starting at $5.37 at the time of this writing) at a super affordable price if you’re craving tacos on the go. Stanga’s is located at 715 Parkway Suite 10, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
What is your favorite Mexican food in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments.