For some folks, a salad is essentially an afterthought.
A handful of lettuce, a couple of crunchy vegetables and a healthy dollop of ranch and then you can get down to the real eating.
But, for many of us, the pursuit of the perfect salad is an art form.
Finding the right balance of lettuce, toppings and dressings – the pursuit of the perfect bite – is a worthy endeavor.
I love a good salad, especially for lunch, and will often go to a favorite place in pursuit of one.
For some, it’s a lifestyle choice. They want to eat healthier. For others, it’s a philosophical choice. They don’t believe in eating meat and so, a good salad is often a fantastic option.
Me? I just like salad.
The irony, if you’d like to think of it that way, is that many of the best places to get a salad in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge are also the best places to get some meat.
I suppose if you have a menu that leans heavily to carnivores, it pays to have some quality vegetarian or healthy options. Otherwise you’ll lose customers whose friends or family are not quite as ravenous as they are.
Not surprisingly, there are several great places to get a salad in the region.
So who has the best salad in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg? Let’s dive in.
6. The Local Goat in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Billed as a new American restaurant, the Local Goat has something for everyone, including a variety of salads that are meals unto themselves.
I’m partial to the Southern, with hand-breaded chicken tenders and served with a honey mustard dressing, but the Tavern Steak Salad with avocado, pineapple and a honey-lime vinaigrette is also quite tasty.
The Local Goat also offers ways to personalize your Mediterranean or house salads with a variety of add-ons. It can be tough to get into the Local Goat, but if you can, it’s worth the effort.
5. Alamo Steakhouse in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tenn.
I suppose Alamo Salad House would really not really park butts in the seats, but the salads (and soups) at Alamo Steakhouse should not take second billing to anyone.
I’m crazy for the Alamo Spinach Salad – which is just spinach, mushrooms and bacon with a poppy seed dressing as a side, but the Black-n-Bleu Filet Salad is the best of both worlds.
4. Johnny Carino’s in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
I didn’t want to necessarily include a chain restaurant on this list, but the Chopped Club Salad at Johnny Carino’s is undeniable.
It comes with bleu cheese and vinaigrette dressing with grilled chicken, applewood bacon, pepperoni, pepperoncini, basil and gorgonzola and asiago cheeses.
It’s delicious. It also comes with the added bonus of Johnny Carino’s family friendly Italian menu that will keep most everyone in your group happy.
3. Puckett’s Grocery in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The thing about non-salad bar salad dining is the limits to the imagination.
Sure, you’ll see a garden, a Caesar or a chef. If you’re really out and about maybe they’ll offer a Greek, or a Cobb or a strawberry vinaigrette. But sometimes you want something a little further flung. In comes the BBQ Taco Salad at Puckett’s.
“BBQ Taco Salad?” you might say. “Say no more.”
I will say more.
It has romaine lettuce, cowboy caviar – which sounds like a some sort of questionable euphemism but is really just a bean and corn relish – tortilla strips and cherrywood smoked barbecue with a chipotle ranch dressing.
2. Gaucho Urbano Brazilian Steakhouse in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
It may seem odd to talk about the salad at a place known for roving bands of servers delivering a wide variety of meats to your table at semi-regular intervals but The Harvest Table at Gaucho’s is a salad aficionado’s happy place.
Editor’s Note: If you’re a vegetarian for moral reasons, there is no salad bar in the world worth walking through the doors of a Brazilian Steakhouse. You’re just punishing yourself at that point.
The Harvest Table features a wide variety of salads made from scratch as well as fresh hand cut and/or steamed vegetables for your dining pleasure. A variety of cheeses are also available.
1. The Peddler in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
There is a science to a great salad bar.
It isn’t just some random assortment of legumes to be slung on a plate and then Jackson Pollock’d in ranch dressing.
It’s about balance, proportion, finding the right cauliflower to broccoli ratio, architecture and asset allocation.
There’s only so much room on a plate, are you sure you want to take up that real estate with garbanzo beans?
The Peddler gets it. The Peddler gives you the necessary tools with which to construct a masterpiece of a salad.
What are your favorite spots to grab a salad in the Smokies? Let us know in the comments!