In essence, Gatlinburg’s economy is built upon a three-legged stool of tourism commerce.
Lodging. Entertainment. Food.
And it’s probably not in that order.
People come to Gatlinburg to do a lot of things, but eating remains dang near the top of the list.
As such, there is a cornucopia of options. Indeed, a plethora of choices. In fact, a smorgasbord of … well, smorgasbords.
The best restaurants in Gatlinburg by category
Over the years, we at TheSmokies.com have told you about many of the best places to eat in Gatlinburg.
For a quick reference, here are some of the top-rated restaurants by category:
|Best seafood||Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar (437 Parkway, Gatlinburg)|
|Best Mexican food||Estrella Hondumex (109 Roaring Fork Rd, Gatlinburg)|
|Best Italian food||Best Italian Cafe and Pizzeria (968 Parkway Suite #9, Gatlinburg)|
|Best pizza||Mellow Mushroom (903 Parkway Ste 103, Gatlinburg)|
|Best pancakes||Pancake Pantry (628 Parkway, Gatlinburg)|
|Best BBQ||Delauder’s (1875 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg)|
|Best steak||The Peddler (820 River Rd, Gatlinburg)|
|Best views||Cliff Top at Anakeesta (576 Parkway, Gatlinburg)|
Now as a disclaimer, there’s a bit of an internal battle among staff for the best steak. Some of us say it’s The Peddler, some of us say it’s Greenbrier. Really, both places are great.
But with so many places to eat, what do you, the discriminating diner, do when forced to choose between the best of the best of the best?
You’ve been out alone, in the cold, wandering with nothing more than a fork and your wits to discern the best place to eat.
Well, my friends come on home, the water’s fine.
This is, in fact, the definitive list.
This is the list of lists. You need nothing more than your appetite – and probably some form of monetary compensation to pay for your meals – and we will guide you home.
Here’s a list of the top 37 best restaurants in Gatlinburg TN, ranked:
37. Chicken Guy Gatlinburg
A relatively new addition to the area, Gatlinburg marks the second Tennessee location for the Chicken Guy concept. The original is in Nashville.
Chicken Guy is known for having unique, hand-pounded chicken with crunchy textures and a wide variety of sauces. In fact, they have more than 20 house-made sauces at the restaurant.
It’s a quick food spot that will satisfy hunger and entertain your kids with the on-site arcade.
36. Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin
Flapjack’s has six locations around the Smoky Mountains, three of which are in Gatlinburg.
They make more than just pancakes. In fact, Flapjack’s serves up a variety of well-done breakfast staples.
While breakfast food is almost always good, you can’t go wrong at Flapjack’s.
35. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Can I make a confession? For the life of me, I don’t understand why this restaurant concept exists. I mean, the menu is fine and the food is good, even really good, but the why really bugs me.
For instance, we were in Orlando recently at the Universal City Walk. And there, among a variety of really interesting and different dining options, was Bubba Gump, right there by the exit.
And in fact, it was always busy. Just doing a bang-up business.
Look, I was around for the Forrest Gump craze. Loved the movie, loved the book.
Read the sequel, which was not great.
I also listened to the soundtrack full of hits from the 60s and 70s. Great soundtrack.
The fact of the matter is that I was a fairly big Forrest Gump fan. But never in a million years would I have thought to turn Bubba Gump Shrimp into a real-world thing.
The website notes (brags?) that it remains the only causal restaurant chain based on a motion picture property.
It’s just perplexing on every level. Who demanded this or thought it was a good idea?
Clearly, that person was a genius. Here we are, nearly 30 years later and there are Bubba Gumps all over the country. So it must be a success, right?
I keep trying to think of the next big thing in terms of motion-picture-based restaurant theming. But I’ve got nothing. There has to be another multi-million dollar idea out there just waiting to be licensed.
34. LandShark Bar & Grill
Landshark Grill is the cousin of Bubba Gump’s.
I don’t get the whole Jimmy Buffet expanded universe. I get that Margaritaville was a whole vibe when it came out. Honestly, lyrically it’s probably one of the cleverest songs written.
It captures the ideal of beach life that so many people wish they could live. And I even like some of Buffet’s other songs. In fact, I have the greatest hits CD around somewhere.
But one day I looked up and Jimmy Buffet was no longer a singer-songwriter with somewhat limited range. He was a whole corporation. Restaurants, hotels and publishing. Jimmy Buffett was suddenly the biggest thing in the world.
And his restaurant? It’s fine. Specifically, it’s not better or worse. Fine.
So, if that’s the life experience, the vibe you like on vacation, I’m not here to tell you any different. Get a cheeseburger and a big old beer and have a good time.
To me? It’s basically like O’Charley’s with more novel theming.
33. Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants, Bennett’s is good but not necessarily life-changing hickory barbecue.
Sharing a place in Gatlinburg with Big Daddy’s Pizza, Bennett’s offers Southern staples like chicken wings, beef brisket and deep fried pickles. Nothing fancy, but it’s not supposed to be.
On the menu, you’ll find everything from chicken wings to beef brisket to deep-fried pickles.
32. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
I like Hawaiian pizza. You see a lot of folks out there in the world disparaging pineapple on pizza. Philistines. Little bit of ham, some pineapple, that’s a pizza of which anyone could be proud.
I bring it up because Big Daddy’s Big Kahuna with pineapple, Canadian bacon and a goat cheese mozzarella-provolone blend is, I think, an especially good Hawaiian pizza – possibly because of the wood fired ovens.
I like a little adventure in my pizza and Big Daddy’s is happy to oblige.
For example, The Herbivore is loaded with spinach, fresh tomatoes, cheeses, roasted garlic, mushrooms, red peppers and topped with feta cheese. The taco pie with refried beans, ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomatoes is excellent as well.
31. Mama’s Chicken Kitchen
Mama’s Chicken Kitchen is the sister restaurant to Mama’s Farmhouse in Pigeon Forge, a family style restaurant.
A member of the Johnson Family of Restaurants, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen does things a little differently than its Pigeon Forge counterpart.
At Chicken Kitchen in Gatlinburg, the chicken and sides are served by the plate or by the bucket if you order to go.
It’s perfect and delicious for a picnic in the Smoky Mountains.
30. Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina
Loco Burro may not be the most authentic Mexican food on the strip, but it’s good food and a fun place to eat.
If you want something safe, try the fajitas. Good, reliable and not so heavy that when you get tossed off the mechanical burro you’ll be in danger.
In addition, Loco Burro’s rooftop bar is a great place to unwind and do a little people watching from a safe distance.
The food is pretty good and you have to actively be trying to be a stick in the mud not to have a good time.
29. Smoky Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg
Come for the brews, stay for the food.
The Smoky Mountain Brewery is a great place if you’re into beer. But it’s also a great place if you like brewery style food in a fun atmosphere. The brews are the stars here of course. But what’s a good brew without some great pizza or a good burger to enjoy it with?
Part of the Copper Cellar family – which includes Cherokee Grill and Chesapeake’s – you know you’re going to eat well.
It’s hard for me to pass up the Big City Reuben, but if you’re looking for something different, the Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna with wasabi mayo will get your attention.
28. Wild Plum Tea Room
This local favorite has sandwiches, salads, burgers and unique creations like Lobster Pie, all of which are made fresh daily.
The recipes are passed down through families and neighbors and the atmosphere is far from the typical high-paced turnover of Gatlinburg restaurants.
It is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to town. They also offer a dog friendly patio.
27. Best Italian on the Parkway
What’s in a name? Some people – ordinary people – name their restaurant after themselves, Johnny’s. Some people find a concept and run with it … looking at you, Bubba Gump.
The people behind Best Italian on the Parkway? They just put it right there on jump street. You know what you’re getting before you walk in the door.
Great pizza. Famous garlic rolls. Traditional Italian dishes like Chicken Florentine or Chicken Marsala. The Linguini & Clam Sauce – which is a little hard to find in the Smoky Mountains – is quite good as well.
26. New Orleans Sandwich Company
Cajun food? Yes, please. Sandwiches? Of course.
With a menu that sings with Cajun goodness, the New Orleans Sandwich company offers a variety of traditional New Orleans Poboys as well as favorites like Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice and Seafood Gumbo.
Get you some fried okra on the side and the Pontchartrain Shrimp Poboy and you’ll feel like your vacation took a turn to Louisiana.
25. Tom & Earl’s Back Alley Grill
I don’t know Tom. And I don’t know Earl. I traditionally avoid eating foods prepared in a back alley – unless it’s one of those back-alley food court things you find in other parts of the world.
However, Tom & Earl’s wraps, sandwiches and specialty drinks are quite good. And Tom and Earl’s is just a great hang.
A place to come and enjoy the evening when you have nothing more on the agenda than eating a little, drinking a little and enjoying the evening. There is live music on Fridays and Saturdays when closing time is a little up in the air.
24. Cheese Cupboard & Hofbrauhaus
First floor? A cheese shop that opened in the Village Shoppes in 1969. They sell cheeses, gourmet mustards and kosher dill pickles and other snacks. It’s wonderful. The last time I was there we got a really earthy leak cheese. It was fantastic.
Second floor? One step closer to heaven. The Hofbrauhaus Restaurant, styled after a German Pub, with a variety of sandwiches, including a famous Reuben and bratwurst. Real, honest-to-God bratwurst in East Tennessee is a rarity.
23. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
Sometimes a restaurant menu can be a little too precocious. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp already has one strike for being named after someone who was named after the famous Davy Crockett. I will NOT be bait and switched. They call eggs “hen fruit.”
Too much? I think so. Luckily, everything gets better from there.
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, named after David Crockett Maples who served in the Civil War and lost his legs to frostbite and spent the last years of his life walking around on wooden feet, offers everything I want out of a breakfast camp.
French toast, waffles, griddle cakes as well as true cathead biscuits.
The Elk Mountain Grande Burrito is made with three eggs, machaca, chorizo pico de gallo and jalapeños. And the Signature Corned Beef Hash Benedict comes with diced onions, peppers and herbs.
22. Atrium Restaurant
We have breakfast and lunch places back-to-back.
The Atrium is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Breakfast offers the usual items of pancakes, bacon and French toast.
I’m a fan of the Famous Apple Pancake, served with apples and brown sugar along with apple syrup. It’s really good.
If you’re a big eater at breakfast, the house specials just may be your thing. The Hungry Bear comes with four eggs, any style, four pancakes, home fries and your choice of meat. The Mountain Man Platter comes with two eggs, two pancakes, home fries and an 8 oz. ribeye. You can add bacon or country ham for a little extra kicker.
For lunch, it’s sandwiches, burgers and fried chicken. Sides include fried okra and fried green tomatoes. Honestly, I could make a meal on those alone.
With more than 20 years in the business of serving the Gatlinburg tourist trade, you know Atrium is going to be good or it wouldn’t still be around.
21. Smoky Mountain Trout House
A trout house is what they promise and a trout house is what they deliver. The menu features 10 different fresh rainbow trout dishes as well as pasta, steaks and seafood.
Of the trout dishes, the Eisenhower is probably the tops. Breaded in cornmeal and fried, served with a side of sautéed mushrooms and onions, it’s a classic.
20. Ruby Sunshine
A touch of New Orleans comes to the mountains.
Ruby Sunshine – from the owners of Ruby Slipper Café of New Orleans – offers Big Easy twists on Southern brunch classics, including benedicts, pancakes and French toast, as well as eye-opening cocktails which are perfect for vacation.
Ruby Sunshine is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday and until 3 pm on the weekends. Every day is a good day to live that brunch life when you’re on vacation.
The options range from sweet to savory – the Bayou Shrimp Bennies are particularly good.
There seems to be a real push on bringing Cajun and Louisiana flavors to the region. And most of the places that are doing it are quite good. As someone who grew up with Cajun cousins, I applaud the trend and hope that we get more.
19. Taste of Italy
Again, what’s in a name? Everything. What do you get at a Taste of Italy? A little bit of Rome, a little bit of Naples. A lot of Southern Italy in general.
I could wax poetic about the meatball sub. I typically avoid marinara dishes in restaurants because the sauce rarely lives up to what I make at home, but their homemade sauce is great.
If you get a chance, order stromboli. In my experience, good stromboli is hard to find in the South, but this is good stromboli.
18. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
Usually, when a place advertises karaoke and cornhole, I’m heading the other way. But Three Jimmy’s is no ordinary place. Located a little bit off the main strip, Three Jimmy’s is comfort food and good times. It’s right there in the title.
Barbecue options include pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs as well as a USDA prime smoked ribeye that’s excellent.
Comfort food options, straight from your grandmother’s recipe book, include chicken pot pie, open faced roast beef and Southern fried catfish.
Three Jimmy’s also has a surprisingly good selection of artisan pizzas for a place that has a cornhole board. The Blackberry Pie features blackberry chipotle sauce, hickory smoked pork, caramelized onions, bacon, gouda and mozzarella.
Certainly, it is an excellent choice if you’re looking for something off the beaten pizza path. The Smoky Mountain – with smoked pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, smoked bacon, and mozzarella – is a more traditional choice.
17. Howards Restaurant
Located in the heart of the strip, Howards is a bi-level destination with a steak house downstairs and a pub upstairs.
Billed as Gatlinburg’s oldest restaurant – predating even the Pancake Pantry – Howards is a great spot to enjoy some Gatlinburg tradition.
There’s nothing terribly out-of-the-ordinary on the Howards Menu, but you don’t need food that is shocking to be great.
For example, the Hot Chop Steak Sandwich is a winner and pairs excellently with a Bloody Mary.
16. Mellow Mushroom
Mellow Mushroom is consistently the best chain pizza in the area.
The Mellow Mushroom offers unique and legitimately great pizzas and calzones. And sometimes you just need good pizza.
Sure, there may be fancier options, but pizza is one of the culinary wonders of the world.
I’m a fan of the Pacific Rim with ham, bacon, caramelized onions, pineapple and jalapenos, but the wife prefers the Mighty Meat which invariably sets me up for a “That’s what she said” joke, so everybody wins.
15. Ole Red
While it can be hard to get a table at Ole Red on a busy night, I find that they have surprisingly good food in a relaxing atmosphere.
And the best part is, it’s a great place to catch some live music.
The menu has standard bar food: Tacos, nachos, fried chicken, salads, sandwiches, burgers, catfish, fries, tater tots, etc. You shouldn’t expect anything too upscale, but it’s not bad, and the atmosphere makes it all worth it.
Ole Red is located in downtown Gatlinburg. Try to go on off-peak times for best results.
14. Estrella Hondumex
This taste of Honduras is on Roaring Fork Road in Gatlinburg.
Located in the back of a Hispanic grocery, Estrella Hondumex is a fantastic place to get real Central American and Mexican cuisine that you won’t find on the strip.
Try the Asada Honduras style, or if you like a little more kick, the Shrimp Devil may just be what the doctor ordered.
But practice your Spanish before you go. You might need it.
13. Pancake Pantry
A Gatlinburg classic, if you’re looking for breakfast, move the Pantry up to the top 5 places to eat, easy.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the Pantry essentially started the trend of pancake restaurants in the Smokies.
The lunch menu is light, but I’m a sucker for the Polish Aristocrat – which is just fun to order – layers of Swiss cheese, corned beef and coleslaw in rye, this grilled sandwich is worthy of the name.
Breakfast is always on the menu and includes 24 varieties of pancakes. The French Toast is also really good.
And be warned, entree portions at the Pancake Pantry are huge (most featured dishes come with five full-sized pancakes).
Bonus tip: If the line is too long at Pancake Pantry, other solid pancake options in Gatlinburg include Crockett’s Breakfast Camp and Log Cabin Pancake House.
12. Cliff Top at Anakeesta
Anakeesta’s dining experience with a view, Cliff Top gets dinged a little on the list for essentially coming with a cover charge. It costs just to get into Anakeesta.
But Cliff Top gets a boost for offering the best open-air dining view in the Smokies. So maybe it’s a wash.
A great date night spot, Cliff Top offers burgers, sandwiches and steaks.
If you visit Anakeesta, purchase your tickets in advance to save time when you arrive, and check Tripster to save a couple of bucks off your admission.
11. Alamo Steakhouse
We start off with something of a shocker. The Alamo at number 11? This is the worst thing to ever happen at any Alamo anywhere.
Still, the Alamo is a fantastic restaurant, many people’s favorite in the entire city. It’s legitimately great.
But in my book, there are a couple of steakhouses that are better, and a list with nothing but steakhouses at the top would be really boring.
That being said, a meal starting with the Alamo’s shrimp cocktail followed by the El Presidente Porterhouse with asparagus and button mushrooms is a last-meal-worthy affair.
There are lots of steak options plus chicken and some seafood. It’s all great.
Alamo Steakhouse is owned by the Johnson Family of Restaurants who also own and operate Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, Mama’s Farmhouse, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and Mad Dog’s Creamery.
10. Crawdaddy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar
With a menu built straight from the Hank Williams classic “Jambalaya,” Crawdaddy’s does a good job of bringing a little Cajun flavor to the mountains.
What I know about Cajun or New Orleans cuisine is a fair question.
Papa’s best friend from the war was a Cajun who’d come to visit Southern Indiana with coolers full of mudbugs, gumbo and other Cajun classics.
I’m not an expert, but I’m not a novice either. Go for the low country boil and put your bib on.
9. The Melting Pot
Honestly, if it was just a list of my personal favorites, The Melting Pot might be at the top of the list.
But The Melting Pot is a chain and they have a location in Cincinnati and you don’t go on vacation to eat at places you can eat at in Cincinnati.
Be forewarned, The Melting Pot is not a cheap night out, but it does make for an excellent date night.
The four-course meal includes cheese fondue, a salad, an entrée fondue and a dessert fondue.
For your entrée, in addition to choosing your proteins, you choose your cooking style which can be a hot oil or a broth. The hot oil is fun because you get a variety of batters to dip things in.
And the battered mushroom caps stuffed with green goddess dip and deep-fried are freaking delicious.
But it’s also easier to mess up your expensive meat options in the oil, which means you have to stay alert at all times.
Later, for dessert, choose from a variety of chocolate fondues – I’m big on the Yin & Yang.
Frankly, it’s a majestic dining experience, and I’m a little mad they allow the people of Cincinnati access.
8. The Park Grill
Dine in the comfort of this rustic mountain lodge setting near the top of the Gatlinburg strip.
Come for the finest meats available and stay for the salad bar that serves as the perfect complement to the meal or as a meal itself.
Be sure to try the famous Shrimp and Crab Bisque if you’re big into bisques. The Yard Bird – herb-rubbed over roasted chicken – is a classic. The Baby Back Ribs are also exceptional.
Certainly, If you are looking for a mountain dining experience, The Park Grill is a perfect choice.
And since The Park Grill sits near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they like to consider themselves the official restaurant of the park.
7. Tennessee Jed’s
This restaurant is a sandwich shop on the strip open from 8 am to 3 pm (hours may vary) and is designed to serve breakfast and lunch for people who have other things planned in the day.
If Subway’s people are sandwich artists, the folks at Tennessee Jed’s are Van Goghs.
In addition, for those who appreciate the beauty of a great Reuben or Cubano or even the classic Kraut Dog, Tennessee Jed’s is a destination in itself.
6. Delauder’s BBQ
Delauder’s BBQ is a holy place. It is a shrine devoted to the divine art of smoked meats.
I’m a fan of their Five Meat Plate. I said, FIVE. MEAT. PLATE.
Specifically, you get ribs, pulled pork, brisket, grilled chicken breast and smoked sausage plus your choice of two sides, the best of which are the fried mac n cheese, fried okra and the collard greens.
It’s consistently one of the best BBQ restaurants in Gatlinburg.
5. The Cherokee Grill
The Cherokee Grill is a steakhouse in Gatlinburg along the Parkway that offers a woodsy lodge setting.
It has a traditional American menu with seafood, fried chicken, crab cakes and more.
Of course, they offer a variety of steaks which is often one of the most popular selections.
Order add-ons with the steak, like the Boursin cheese or soy ginger sauce. You can’t go wrong either way.
They also offer free parking, a rare find in Gatlinburg.
An East Tennessee legend, Calhoun’s famous barbecue is a staple of dinners all over the region. There’s some overlap in experience – in my opinion – between Calhoun’s and The Park Grill.
You can’t really go wrong with either.
The smoked sausage and cheese plate is an underrated starter but honestly, if you don’t order some bacon-wrapped beef brisket burnt ends, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.
Can’t go wrong with burgers, pork, sandwiches, BBQ and salads – though honestly it almost seems like an insult to order a salad entrée here.
I have also heard excellent things about the chicken tenders but can never bring myself so close to BBQ glory only to order a chicken tender.
3. The Peddler
Here we are.
The rarified air of the top 3. Each of the following restaurants can make a legitimate claim to being the best in Gatlinburg, the best in Sevier County or the best in Tennessee.
Of course, a lot of it comes down to personal preference.
The Peddler Steakhouse is a Gatlinburg institution with roots that reach back to the very founding of the city itself.
Get a custom-cut steak, a red wine, a baked stuffed potato and dine like royalty back when royalty didn’t think of gout as a bad thing.
Or if you want to be a little less decadent, the grilled salmon is fantastic.
2. The Greenbrier
Billed as a food and spirit outpost, Greenbrier offers fine dining in a rustic setting.
Greenbrier gets a slight edge in my book for a slightly more daring fine dining menu than some of the other top-end restaurants in the area.
Duck breast, lamb shank and stuffed flounder are all delicious options. Or you can go more traditional and order one of their fine hand-cut steaks.
Finally, in a fine-dining world dominated by steakhouses, Chesapeake’s wins by simply standing out.
Sure you can get excellent seafood dishes at The Peddler or Greenbrier, but if you want seafood, and quite frequently I do, it’s best to go to the place that specializes in the fruits of the ocean.
The Maryland Crab Cakes are delicious as an appetizer, a main course or on the crab cake sandwich.
They’re also available to be added to an entrée. The stuffed Maine lobster is also decadent and the steam seafood feast can’t be beaten. I also enjoy the Smoked Trout.
There are non-seafood options available if you’re not in the mood, but I can’t imagine anyone would read this far into this particular blog and then go to Chesapeake’s and order the hamburger – which I’m sure is probably a pretty good burger.
The broiled or fried seafood platters feature shrimp, scallops and cod. Their cod is an awesome cod.
Try the Slower Delaware Pie for dessert.
Since I’ve never been to Delaware, I don’t know if this is an actual thing.
But it’s coffee ice cream, Kahlua liqueur, chocolate cookie crust, hot fudge, candied pecans and cream. And it’s a work of genius.
Bonus: Dick’s Last Resort
LOL just kidding. Gotcha back.
What do YOU think is the best Gatlinburg restaurant? Let us know in the comments.
View the web story version of this article here.