The best dining experience in the Smokies isn’t a barbecue place. It isn’t even one of the dozen or so flap-jackery establishments littered about the region.
The best dining experience – arguably – is a seafood restaurant with theming from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
I think that Chesapeake’s seafood in Gatlinburg is the best dining experience in the Smokies. But, catch me on a different day and I might say it’s The Greenbrier or The Peddler Steakhouse.
Still, Chesapeake’s is a restaurant in Gatlinburg that has yet to leave me feeling disappointed in the meal or the experience.
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What is Chesapeake’s?
Chesapeake’s Gatlinburg is one of three Chesapeake-branded restaurants in the region. The other two locations are in Knoxville.
As part of the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants – East Tennessee culinary royalty – Chesapeake’s is the perfect spot for an upscale dinner or special occasion.
My wife and I like it for an anniversary dinner. We also like to give Chesapeake’s gift cards as Christmas presents.
It’s also a refreshing change of pace. Many of the restaurants in the region – even the excellent ones – cater to regional expectations and traditions, which is fine. However, it’s limiting when it comes to seafood.
Granny may have had a great chicken and dumplins recipe, but she didn’t really do much with fresh oysters.
Plus, being part of a large family of restaurants means Chesapeake’s has the buying power to get fresh ingredients.
How is Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar rated?
Well, I already said that I’m a fan. But why just take my word for it?
Officially, on Google, it has 4.6 stars out of five. On OpenTable, it’s rated 4.7 stars.
Does Chesapeake’s in Gatlinburg have a dress code?
Not officially. You certainly don’t have to dress up to eat at Chesapeake’s, but I wouldn’t recommend showing up in gym clothes either.
You may want to change if you just spent your entire day hiking, but don’t feel like you need to overdo it.
Does Chesapeake’s in Gatlinburg take reservations?
Yes, and I do recommend making a reservation. Fortunately, it is quite easy to make a reservation online.
Ok. What’s good at Chesapeake’s?
I haven’t had everything on the menu, but I can safely say that everything I’ve had is good.
The raw oyster bar is the best you’ll find this far from the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, Chesapeake oysters are famous.
My wife Leslie almost always gets the lobster and says the lobster tail is the best she’s ever had. Personally, I’m a sucker for crab cakes. I order them anytime we’re in the Maryland/D.C. area, and Chesapeake’s are as good as any I’ve ever had.
You can view the full menu here.
In fact, let’s construct the perfect meal.
For your starter, order Mushrooms Stuffed with Crab. You might see someone go for the fried calamari here – and it’s good. You also can’t go wrong with the Seared Ahi Tuna or the Bay BBQ Shrimp.
But we’re going for the perfect meal and the Mushrooms Stuffed with Crab cannot be topped … except with the crab that they stuff the mushroom with.
Salad or soup
Chesapeake’s offers your typical variety of starter salads, which include a house, Caesar, a wedge of lettuce, etc.
But you’re gonna want a cup of the Crab Bisque soup.
The main course
You might be tempted to go with the Fried Seafood Platter, or possibly the Maryland Crab Cakes – which are never wrong.
You might also be tempted by the steak and chicken options. I’m not generally a mixer. If I go to a hamburger place, I don’t order the fish. When I go to a seafood place, I’m not looking for a steak.
That being said, Chesapeake’s has a fine variety of steak and chicken options. In fact, you can add a crab cake or a skewer of grilled shrimp for a little surf and turf action and nobody could fault you.
You might also be tempted as Chesapeake’s strays from its Maryland roots and offers Louisiana-style Shrimp and Grits with andouille sausage, a fried egg and bacon and cheddar grits.
And we haven’t even talked about the variety of options on the seafood bar featuring a variety of oysters, smoked trout and salmon, lobster, shrimp and more.
However, for my perfect meal, Pan-blackened Fresh Sea Scallops stood above the rest.
For the side, I reluctantly pass on baked cinnamon spiced apples or baked potatoes. I also think the succotash is fine – which is more fun to order than it is to eat. But ultimately, I’m going with the Baked Spinach Maria – a classic.
Good choices abound. The housemade cheesecake is a crowd pleaser and the Slower Delaware Pie, coffee ice cream and Kahlua liqueur, chocolate cookie crust, hot fudge sauce, candied pecans and Chantilly cream – is amazing.
But the Bread Pudding with lemon sabayon sauce wins the day. After a filling dinner, a nice cappuccino pick-me-up is a perfect capper.
Does Chesapeake’s have brunch?
My friend, you’re in luck. Not only do they do a brunch, but that brunch has a Bloody Mary bar – which is one of my favorite kinds of bars!
Chesapeake’s offers 11 different kinds of vodka with which to build your ultimate Bloody Mary.
The brunch menu features a seafood bar with shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon and Oysters Chesapeake – creamy blue crab, mushrooms and Benton’s bacon.
The seafood tower – one of my favorite kinds of towers – runs for $100 and features lobster tails, mussels, cocktail shrimp, crab and oysters on the half shell. Mini towers are available for $65.
Remember, pricing is subject to change.
Brunch entrees include crab cake benedict, salmon and eggs and Eggs Chesapeake – a grilled beef tenderloin in bearnaise sauce, two poached eggs and blue crab meat with toasted English muffins.
Items from the regular lunch menu are also available for lunch including a handful of sandwiches, including a tasty Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with wasabi mayo. Or choose the Broiled Seafood Platter and much more.
Where is Chesapeake’s? Do they have parking?
It’s just off of the bottom of the main strip – also known as the Pigeon Forge side of the strip.
You can park at the large city garage across from Ole Red and walk. If you don’t mind walking a bit further, you can park at the garage behind Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
There’s also some limited parking down by Hillbilly Golf.
Is it worth it?
For me? Yes. But I will be honest here. If you do Chesapeake’s right, it’s going to be costly. You’ve got to decide how that fits into your vacation budget.
To put it in Gatlinburg terms, an adult dinner for two is probably the equivalent of the rounds of mini-golf for a family of four, and maybe two and a half rounds.
You can certainly eat for less at a lot of places all through the region. But you won’t eat better.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the vacation experience you want. And perhaps, how much you like seafood.
Have you eaten at Chesapeake’s in Gatlinburg? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!