Best Mexican Restaurants in Pigeon Forge: Our Top 5 Ranked

Smoky Mountain Burritos restaurant

While authentic Mexican cuisine may be hard to come by in the mountains, we have a few options for you that will at least satisfy your cravings. Pictured: Smoky Mountain Burritos Mexican Grill. The menu at Smoky Mountain Burritos Mexican Grill features street fare, seafood, fajitas and other south-of-the-border chow (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

I was on the road in Phoenix, Arizona for the National Championship between the University of Tennessee and Florida State in January of 1999. From lawns made of rock and painted green to picking breakfast off the citrus trees in the backyard, I was a stranger in a strange land. One day, while my friends were otherwise occupied, I asked a local for directions to a place offering authentic Mexican food for lunch. I don’t recall the name. I asked for a recommendation and ordered accordingly.

The food arrived and the heavens opened. I was a Hoosier who’d relocated to East Tennessee. When I was young, finding authentic Mexican cuisine in either place was a laughable idea. But here, I had found truly good Mexican food. It was so good I went back that night for more. The next night Tennessee won and I was on my way home to the Great Smoky Mountains euphoric for more reasons than one. Yes, the Vols were world champions but also, I’d had an awakening.

Can you find authentic Mexican food in the Smokies?

From East Tennessee to South Alabama and back, I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years in search of the type of authentic food they had in Phoenix. But without having a reason to return to the Southwest, I’ve been mostly unsuccessful despite trying a ton of Mexican restaurants through the years. That’s not to say they were bad meals. By and large, each local Mexican restaurant I’ve tried has had good food, fresh food and a variety of popular dishes but they’ve lacked the flavor I’d found in Phoenix.

In recent years that’s changed. The advent of food trucks has made tasty, spicy tacos and tortas easier to find. The growing Hispanic population has also meant more types of hidden gem restaurants that serve traditional Mexican food. These are the kinds of places that judge the type of meal you’re about to get based on your tortilla preference. Flour tortilla? You’re not gonna get the real stuff. Corn tortilla with cilantro and onions? Better try a small sample of the green sauce before you put it on your taco because it may well be fire – in more ways than one.

Mexican Cuisine in Pigeon Forge

And that brings us to Pigeon Forge, TN where the top Mexican restaurants and the best Mexican restaurants are two different things. With tourists from all over the United States and the world coming to experience Pigeon Forge restaurants, many of the larger establishments play it safe. These are the best places to go for a fun atmosphere, maybe a favorite drink or cocktail but not the best Mexican food in town.

But while I’ve never really considered Pigeon Forge to be the best place to go for Mexican food, that doesn’t mean you can’t find great food. However, you may have to adjust your expectations. In other words, focus on places with reviews that focus on the friendly staff and the specialty cocktails. And also the generous portions and the value for your meal where all the favorite dishes come with Mexican rice and refried beans.

Before we get to the list, No Way Jose’s, which is part of the KBS Restaurant Group – has some of the area’s best restaurants. But it’s not the spot if you’re craving Mexican food. We’ve tried multiple No Way Jose’s over the years. My daughter, for instance, used to love the Gatlinburg location across from the aquarium when she was younger and didn’t want much flavor in her food. Now that she’s grown up? There’s No Way we’re going back. So, without further ado, here are our favorite places in Pigeon Forge to get Mexican.

Smoky Mountain Burritos and More
The menu at Smoky Mountain Burritos and More features street fare, seafood, fajitas and other south-of-the-border chow (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

5. Smoky Mountain Burritos Mexican Grill

Guys, I think it’s pretty safe to say anything that’s not a bar in Pigeon Forge is family-friendly, but nevertheless. It’s family-friendly. It’s got a great atmosphere. And good prices. The food? It’s fine. It’s good. If you order well, you’ll be more than satisfied. Will angels sing? No. But we can’t set the bar quite that high. Smoky Mountain Burritos is located at 2250 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.

wacky Tacky taco truck
If you’re looking for something a bit more grab and go – this taco truck might be just the ticket (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

4. Wacky Tacky Tacos

Here we go, A fun little food truck located on 2902 Bird’s Creek Road near Pigeon Forge (albeit, technically in Sevierville). I don’t know if it is there all the time or if they move around. Best to check their Facebook page for current locations. It’s a cool stand with really good and creative food and great reviews. They have a variety of offerings designed to cater to those seeking an authentic taste as well as those who want their Mexican a little more Americanized. But be aware, it is closed Sunday through Tuesday.

cielito lindo
Cielito Lindo is one of the area’s most well-reviewed Mexican restaurants. Editor’s Note: The restaurant was undergoing renovation at the time this photo was taken but remains open as of the time of this writing (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

3. Cielito Lindo

Cielito Lindo is the type of Mexican restaurant most of middle America would recognize from their hometown. This is probably why they have over 2,000 four and 5-star reviews on Google. It’s a perfect spot for delicious food but short of an exceptional meal. Cielito Lindo can be found at 3965 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.

El ranchero Loco
El Ranchero Loco’s menu features a variety of fajitas, taco salads, quesadillas, street tacos and combo platters (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

2. El Ranchero Loco

In many towns in America, this would be the best Mexican place in town. Tex-Mex in its stylings, the food is well seasoned and also expertly prepared. If I’m being honest, I could use a little more Loco in El Rachero. But if you’re looking for consistently good food that fits a variety of palates, this is the place. El Ranchero Loco is located at 2902 Veterans Blvd #5.

Talitas Restaurant
Talita’s Restaurant is located beside Rivera’s Market in Pigeon Forge (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

1. Talitas Restaurant

Nothing fancy here. The menu is a bunch of pictures hanging from the ceiling like you often see in quick-service Chinese restaurants. No frills at all in this slightly off-the-beaten-path eatery. Located at 2961 Veterans Boulevard, Talitas offers delicious food and traditional Mexican dishes at great prices. It’s not the overall dining experience offered at some of the other Mexican places in the surrounding area. But the food will give just about any one of them a run for their money.

Do you have a favorite Mexican restaurant in Pigeon Forge? If so, let us know in the comments.

instagram
tiktok
youtube
flipboard

Disclosure: We have used and experienced all the products and activities recommended on The Smokies. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products and experiences featured.

Leave a Comment