Ultimately, I am a carnivore.
I enjoy a good salad. Love a properly prepared potato.
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts? Bring ‘em on. They’re great. Great.
But can they touch a good steak? No. No, they cannot.
I do not judge people who do not partake of steak for health or ethical reasons.
I get it. I do. There are days I think I could be a vegetarian, too.
But then my wife and I go shopping at Tanger Outlets, and the smell of fine meat being masterfully prepared wafts through the air, finds my nostrils and uses them to lift me off the ground, floating me to a carnivorous epiphany.
Despite my better angels and intentions, I was born to eat meat, dear reader, and if you’re like me, there are plenty of places you can go in the Sevier County and Great Smoky Mountains areas.
I’m not going to discount any of them. To each their own. I’ve had a pretty good steak at the Waffle House, you know? But, if you’re going somewhere to eat a steak around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, these are the places you want to go.
5. Calhoun’s in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Calhoun’s is an East Tennessee staple born on Kingston Pike in Knoxville in 1983. Calhoun’s is first and foremost a barbecue joint featuring ribs that have won national awards.
So, it’s not surprising that most people don’t think of steaks when they think of Calhoun’s. But my friends, I promise you, the folks at Calhoun’s know their way around meat.
The “Ale” Steak, a 7 or 10-ounce sirloin marinated in olive oil, mustard, garlic and Cherokee Red Ale comes topped with Worcestershire butter. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pronounce it when you order. It’s fantastic.
For something more classic, the filet is tender and always expertly prepared. I give negative points for the Bar-B-Que Steak, which is simply a bridge too far, but all in all, Calhoun’s is a consistently excellent dining experience.
4. Fox and Hounds: Newport, Tenn.
Located about 35 minutes from downtown Sevierville, Fox and Hounds may sound like an uppity English pub, but it ain’t. It’s an authentic East Tennessee experience.
When I moved to East Tennessee, people warned us about going to Newport like Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest … or South Carolina. Don’t go there, they said.
Newport was known for several things, all of them interesting, most of them bad. I’m talking moonshine, cockfighting, weed, stolen cars and official corruption.
Two decades and multiple FBI investigations later, Newport’s pretty cool, but I still wouldn’t leave your keys in the car or anything.
Anyway, Fox and Hounds is located in a former speakeasy, the kind of place with a big door and a bigger guy standing behind it. If you didn’t know the password, you weren’t getting in. Today, the door’s still there but you don’t have to use any secret handshakes or anything.
The food is great. The steaks are expertly prepared and worth the drive.
3. Local Goat in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Fox and hounds and goats, oh my.
Located in the heart of the Pigeon Forge strip, the Local Goat is fairly well accessible by Pigeon Forge’s labyrinth of back roads, which is good. However, because of its prominent location and, frankly, its delicious menu, getting a table at the Goat isn’t always easy.
In addition to craft beer and drinks, the Goat has a tasty selection of steaks at not-to-exorbitant prices. When I’m in the mood for something a little different, I go with the Hawaiian Ribeye.
However, if you’re more of a traditionalist, the Flame-Grilled Ribeye will do nicely.
2. The Chop House in Sevierville, Kodak, Tenn.
The Chop House was stablished by Mike Connor, Knoxville restaurant royalty in 1992. The Chop House delivers everything promised in its name. Fine cuts of meat, perfectly prepared.
During the holidays, my wife and I make it a point to take a break from holiday shopping at the Tanger Outlets to visit the Chop House, conveniently located right smack dab in the middle of the thing.
For years, I’ve ordered the T-Bone and spent the evening making George Constanza-esque T-Bone jokes to my wife who humors me with a faint smile. She doesn’t watch Seinfeld.
The time I left our name with the hostess as Cartwright went completely unappreciated. Still, there are worse places for your jokes to die than the Chop House which I was really tempted to put No. 1 except for the existence of …
1. The Peddler in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
In a former life, I was the sports editor for a small daily paper in South Alabama. As such, I was afforded press passes to all football games at the University of Alabama and Auburn University.
At the time, in the pre-Nick Saban days, Alabama football was down, almost atrocious, and their arch-rival Auburn was flying high. Still, anytime I went to cover a game at Bama, there was a certain snootiness that came with their long legacy as the unrivaled kings of college football.
Staff members were indifferent, as if they’d been trained by the maître d in Ferris Bueller who weeps for the future. Auburn, however, was different. Despite their success, Auburn seemed genuinely glad to have me there. Staff members knew my name. Every phone call and every request was greeted with the enthusiastic manner of a Chick-Fil-A employee.
I say all that to say this: The Chop House reminds me of Auburn while the Peddler reminds me of Alabama. It knows, deep in its heart; its place is at the top.
I always get the feeling I’m inconveniencing someone when I show up at The Peddler and walk in without calling ahead at my own peril. But we’re not ranking niceness, we’re ranking steaks, and the Peddler knows it’s the best for a reason.
The custom cut steaks will make you cry tears of joy with every bite. You can get a strip or rib-eye in 10, 12 or 16 ounces, or you can just pay $2.50 an ounce more and order whatever size you’d like.It’s like I imagine heaven to be, except they charge you. The filet is mouth-watering and tender. The Prime Rib is excellent. I wish, dear reader, that I could tell you that the snootiness is unearned, but when you’re dealing with genius you must give it a wide berth.
Also, if you order several more ounces on a steak you’re gonna need that wide berth to haul your ass out of there, I’m just saying.
Where is your pick house for best steakhouse in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area? Let us know in the comments!