“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life,” says Katsumoto in “The Last Samurai”
“Yeah, same thing. But about pancakes,” says John Gullion on the website you’re reading right now.
The search for the perfect, best pancakes in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville is both a fool’s errand and a noble pursuit. It’s like seeking the perfect blade of grass in a two-acre lawn, like devoting your life to identifying the best grain of sand.
It is an impossible task but not because they are so plentiful.
In the end of “The Last Samurai” (spoiler alert), as he is dying after being shot 7,000 times by a Gatlin gun that somehow manages to only graze Tom Cruise, Kasumoto asks his friend to run him through to preserve his honor. Kasumoto uses his last sentient seconds to see the blooming cherry trees in the distance.
It’s in that moment he realizes they are all “perfect”.
Really, they could have shot that scene and substituted pancakes. Like cherry blossoms, every one is perfect in its own way.
So as we set out on the impossible task of identifying the best places to get pancakes in Sevier County, we’re going to start with a caveat.
The Pancake Pantry has been removed from the competition.
We’ve written about the Pancake Pantry here and there, and frankly writing about them again just seems like we’re rubbing it in. Those crazy Hoosiers came down here in 1960 and started a trend. So to make the question a little more interesting, they’re out!
Now, let’s talk about the pancakes.
7. Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin (6 locations)
Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin offers just about every type of pancake you could imagine, including pancakes that accommodate some gluten sensitivities.
Flapjack’s has been serving up tall stacks of pancakes for more than 50 years, and these scratch-made pancakes are some of the best, classic pancakes around.
This restaurant has one location in Kodak, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge and three locations in Gatlinburg.
6. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
You know what happens when you assume? Nothing, they’ll still serve you the pancakes but you’ll just be ill informed.
This is not Tennessee legend Davy Crockett’s breakfast camp. You want some of his flapjacks, I reckon you’ll have to go to San Antonio or Greeneville or some other place sponging off his legacy.
This here breakfast camp honors the legacy of David C. “Crockett” Maples, a frontiersman who served with the Union Cavalry in the Civil War.
Fun fact, much of upper East Tennessee sided with the Union in the war and the region swayed back and forth between Southern and Northern control.
After the war, Crockett and his wife Mary R. Ogle – a name familiar to all in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg – returned to the area and set up a supply store at the base of Mount LeConte where they served hungry travelers home-cooked breakfast.
According to legend, and the Breakfast Camp website, Crockett also served as a mountain guide, got caught in a blizzard and nearly died.
Instead, he lost part of both legs to frostbite. Undeterred, he built himself a pair of boots with wooden feet inside that he latched to his legs. With the help of two canes and his wooden feet he stayed active until 1928 when he died at the age of 88.
What does all of that have to do with the quality of the pancakes? Nothing, but you don’t read a story with that much, if you’ll forgive the phrase, meat on the bone and simply walk (I may be going to hell) away.
Crockett’s offers a wide array of breakfast fare, but the griddle cakes are what keeps ‘em coming back. Served with a wide variety of toppings, they are fluffy, filling and delicious.
For a change of pace, try the Aretha Frankensteins Pancake, a famous recipe from the temporarily closed coffeehouse in Chattanooga.
Why is it called Aretha Frankensteins? Honestly, I don’t know and after the episode with Crockett Maples’ wooden feet, I’m a little too shook to Google it.
5. Sawyer’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Locally owned and operated, Sawyer’s has a giant chicken wearing a cowboy hat outside which happily allows me to quote the “Young Guns” peyote scene to my kids until they’re ready to stab me with the cutlery.
“You guys. You guys. D’ja see the size of that CHICKEN?”
For pancakes – and crepes – Sawyer’s skews to the sweet side. There are a variety of fruity options as well as chocolate chip and M&M varieties.
Serving just breakfast and lunch, Sawyer’s is able to focus on doing those two meals right.
There’s not a lot of extraneous business, except for the giant chicken. Just good breakfast food done right.
4. Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
We’ve also written about Frizzle before, here and there, so we won’t belabor the point.
But for a place whose hook is a bunch of singing animatronic chickens, the pancakes are really, really good.
Come for the bizarro-world Tiki Room, stay for the pancakes. The family loved it.
3. Reagan’s House of Pancakes in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The breakfast spot is so nice, they built it twice. I like to imagine a family coming to Pigeon Forge to get a little breakfast and see a few sites.
They pull into Reagan’s House of Pancakes, which I like to imagine is built upon as sturdy a foundation as hoecakes will allow.
They sit down; maybe some try the buffet while others order off the menu. Dad has the caramel nut pancakes. Mom gets a Belgian waffle.
They have a hearty, satisfying meal and load into the car only to be confronted by horrendous traffic. A few hours and 1.4 miles later, they begin to feel a little peckish and what do they see?
Reagan’s House of Pancakes No. 2 conveniently located six laps of a high school regulation track away.
Whether you go to Reagan’s No. 1 or Reagan’s No. 2, you’re in for a great pancake and look, don’t take my word for it. Building a second location less than two miles away – that’s the Starbucks model, folks.
2. Smoky’s Pancake Cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Not as hifalutin as some of your other establishments that build their flapjacks into houses or palaces or what-not.
This is a simple pancake cabin, if Abraham Lincoln came to Sevier County to eat pancakes, this would be the kind of down-home, wholesome pancakery he would choose.
Seriously, the Pancake Cabin may have the single greatest menu item in the pancake kingdom. The Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes are phenomenal.
It can’t possibly be healthy and there’s a good chance after breakfast you’re going to need to rest awhile before you start your day, but that’s the price you pay for greatness.
1. Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Sorry. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave them out. The original and the best.
This is pancake perfection. All hail.
Where’s your favorite place to eat pancakes in the Great Smoky Mountains? Leave your vote in the comments!