Fannie Farkle’s in Gatlinburg: The secret to a successful 40 years

Fannie Farkle's in Gatlinburg

Fannie Farkle's has been a staple in Gatlinburg since the 80s (photo by Morgan Overholt.com/TheSmokies.com)

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I’ve eaten in some fine places in my time.

I’ve been to really nice, expensive restaurants in London, Paris, Chicago, New York and Savannah. I’ve been in great little dives along the Gulf Coast, in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. And also the best barbecue joints in Alabama and Memphis.

Steaks. Seafood. Ribs.

Italian. Mexican. Greek.

And maybe, just maybe, my favorite meal in all of that would be served by a carnie at a county fair.

I suspect there’s a certain level of nostalgia in my love of carnival food. Growing up in tiny Mitchell, Indiana, fall meant the Persimmon Festival, and the carnival came to town.

Each September when the festival would come to town, I’d bypass the ride tickets and spend my money winning goldfish, stuffed animals and mini-mirrors featuring logos of my favorite hard-metal bands and/or women wearing few items of clothing.

The late 80s were a strange time.

But festival season – each tiny town in our area had their own festival – meant more than embarrassing my mom with questionable wall decorations. It meant carnival food.

Sausages, cheesesteaks, corndogs and more.

It was all ridiculously unhealthy and also ridiculously good.

I always thought it a little strange that Fannie Farkle’s in Gatlinburg did such a good job of getting the taste of carnival life just right. But now, I understand their secret to success.

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Fannie Farkle's
Fannie Farkle’s has long been a staple in downtown Gatlinburg (left photo courtesy of OldGatlinburg.net; right photo by TheSmokies.com)

The history of Fannie Farkle’s in Gatlinburg

Farkle’s – which opened in 1981 – is the result of the blood, sweat and tears of a former burlesque dancer.

Marion Paul had met her husband when she was working on a chorus line with a carnival. While looking for a career that had a better shelf life than burlesque, she learned that the location for what would become Fannie Farkle’s was open for lease.

Marion got off the road and threw herself into the business. Don stayed on the road – often in stretches that lasted a week and a half to two weeks.

“We had hundreds of games under tents, so I left that environment, and came and made Fannie Farkle’s a permanent location,” Marion said in a promotional article for Rick Laney Marketing. “I’ve just always wanted to have a business that appealed to everybody, and I think I’ve succeeded here at Fannie Farkle’s.”

Certainly, it wasn’t easy in the early years. Marion worked 15 hour days to keep the business going but, she said, she was in the right spot.

“Gatlinburg was the best town for me because there were many female entrepreneurs,” she said in the Rick Laney Marketing piece.

“My landlord at the time, Hattie Ogle, was a very successful businesswoman; there was also Peggy Dych, who owned the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.”

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Fannie Farkle’s is also well-known for having an arcade inside (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Fannie Farkle’s: An arcade and eatery

Farkle’s has operated for 40 years as an arcade and eatery – taking my favorite things about carnival life and putting them in one easily accessible location. No longer do we have to wait for September and the carnival to come to town.

With Fannie Farkle’s, we can go to the carnival any time we want.

“Fannie Farkle’s has all the latest games and the best arcade in the Smoky Mountains. People of all ages spend hours having the time of their life in our game room,” the Farkle’s website says.

Honestly, the arcade is great and fun, but it’s not that different from other arcades in the area.

The prizes – if you have the patience to save up your points and visit frequently – are considerably better, but they’re not just giving those Playstations and big-screen TVs away.

It’s hard to resist one of the famous Ogle Dogs (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

How much is Fannie Farkle’s famous Ogle Dog?

For me, it’s the food that makes Fannie Farkle’s stand out. The famous Ogle Dog, a special recipe foot-long corn dog honoring one of the area’s oldest families, is a favorite.

Priced currently at $8.39 including tax, you can watch them make it from start to finish. But my basic position on dogs of any sort is I want no part of watching them make it.

Sure, the worst is over long before you get to dip the dog in the batter, but all I’m interested in is the final product.

Farkle’s also offers cheesesteaks and delicious sausage subs with peppers and onions. It’s not an elegant meal, but holy hell is it good.

Farkle’s also offers homebrewed sweet tea and fresh lemonade as well as Hawaiian shaved ice.

It’s 100 percent carnival authentic.

Fannie Farkle’s establishment is now under new ownership, but it promises to still serve up delicious Ogle Dogs (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is Fannie Farkle’s under new ownership?

Now, after 40 years, Fannie Farkle’s still has a bright future, but it will be under new ownership. 

On Nov. 1, 2021, Marion announced she had sold Farkle’s to a pair of brothers from West Virginia, Jim and Matt Knowles who plan to invest heavily in the business, according to a press release. 

The existing staff at Fannie Farkle’s will continue to serve customers. The arcade will honor all points and play cards regardless of when they were earned.

Fannie Farkle’s is located at 656 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN.

Have you visited Fannie Farkle’s? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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4 thoughts on “Fannie Farkle’s in Gatlinburg: The secret to a successful 40 years”

  1. This is my family’s favorite place to eat. 20 Years of coming and 4 kids later if we don’t make this our 1st stop after setting up to camp it just does not feel like a mountain vacation and my kids will tell you the same thing. It’s come to feel like a family tradition to us all and for as long as this amazing place is there we will continue our family tradition. Thank you for always feeding us the best Ogle Dog and allowing us to have 20 years of pictures and memories!

  2. Sure hope they keep that corndog the same it’s the only reason I came to the smokies way back when .I would tell people you can get the biggest corn dog you could eat in the world there at Fannies.Never met the owner but the story is great. I pray that it only gets better but never changes. God bless the new Owners!!! And God bless the Holy Corndog!!!

  3. …they have what looks like 40 year old corndogs sitting on their counter on display.

  4. Hopefully thing’s remain the same we love to visit and the sausages and grilled onions are the best.

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