In a world filled with chain restaurants and expensive dining options, sometimes you find the best restaurants where you least expect them.
We call them hole in the wall restaurants for lack of a better term. However, we use it with affection.
Often, the best places to find great food are at some local favorite with low overhead. These hole in the wall places can be found in downtown Gatlinburg, TN or off the beaten path nearby.
But they all offer delicious food just as good as you might find at some more upscale restaurants like the Alamo Steakhouse or The Peddler Steakhouse.
And sure, when you’re on vacation it’s fun to try the great restaurants. But it’s also fun to hunt down those hidden gems. And that is true if you’re in the Smoky Mountains or some of the world’s great cities like New York, Chicago or Cleveland. You want to find the inside stuff.
Let’s start with a few parameters
First of all, to us, a hole in the wall place does not mean scuzzy or unsafe or low quality.
A hole in the wall restaurant might be located in a strip mall or the back of a gas station, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find something wonderful. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t find a great place if you look hard enough.
In fact, in our experience, you can find some of the best hole in the wall local restaurants away from the tourist traps. When you come to Sevier County, don’t be afraid to seek out the southern barbeque joints and the Mexican restaurants. And even the occasional Italian restaurant that isn’t what you’d consider fancy.
The truth is you can find great carne asada, beef brisket or even hot dogs and French fries in the region’s hidden gem restaurants.
As a disclaimer, remember that smaller restaurants tend to have varying business hours. Always double-check the hours ahead of time when planning your meal.
So, without further ado, here are some of the unique places you can find to eat well in the Smokies.
5. Split Rail Eats
I have a few cardinal rules for life that I live by.
First, at this point in my life, my butt should never, ever be higher than my head. If that happens, something has gone terribly wrong. Second, if a restaurant has the word “eats” in its title, it’s gonna be good.
Split Rail Eats, located between a vintage clothes shop and a fine art photography studio, offers chiefly classic American food done well. And it’s good food and a great place for the whole family.
Burgers, sandwiches and a variety of “tater bowls” are the stars of the menu. Tater bowls are filled with tater tots and covered in a variety of ways. There’s a greek bowl, taco bowl, a buffalo bowl and a cheeseburger bowl from which to choose.
This is a great spot located at 849 Glades Road, a good distance from the heart of Gatlinburg.
4. Tennessee Jed’s
You had me at craft sandwiches.
Located at 631 Parkway next to God’s World, Tennessee Jed’s is likely the best place you’ll ever eat that directly abuts a Dollar General Store. There’s just something about a perfectly made sandwich.
I love the Rueben and ham and Swiss. But my favorite is probably the Cubano. In fact, there are no bad choices. Tennessee Jed’s also does some serious breakfast sandwiches.
If you’re in Gatlinburg and the line at the Pancake Pantry is too long, walk across the street and grab a coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from Jed’s. And go ahead and try the brown butter mini cake for dessert.
3. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
That’s a lot of Jimmy’s. I like any place that’s not afraid to put Good Time right there in the title. And Three Jimmy’s is certainly one of the best local places for a Good Time … in the culinary sense.
The menu is loaded with comfort food favorites like chicken pot pie, open-face roast beef and a variety of barbecue and grilled items. The pizzas and sandwiches are also worth the drive off the strip.
Located at 1359 East Parkway in Gatlinburg, it’s probably a bit of a stretch to call Three Jimmy’s a true hole in the wall place. But it is behind a Family Dollar so we will allow it.
2. Estrella Hondumex
This Mexican-Honduran restaurant is located at 109 Roaring Fork Road in the back of a Hispanic grocery.
Estrella Hondumex is one of the most unique restaurants and dining experiences in Gatlinburg. It has amazing food and stands so far apart from pretenders like No Way Jose’s, it’s like they’re not even in the same business.
This is a true hidden gem, a true hole in the wall and you should definitely plan to stop in on your next trip to explore Gatlinburg restaurants. It may not be among the most popular places, but it’s just about the only place in town where you can have this type of Mexican food experience.
1. Delauder’s BBQ
Barbecue joints are meant to be holes in the wall.
Sure, you’ve got a couple of high-enders like Calhoun’s which has built an empire on smoked meat. But by and large, the best barbecue you will ever have in your life comes from places that invest in smokers and meat, not decorations and seats. This may well be some of the best BBQ you will ever eat.
What do I love most about Delauder’s, aside from everything on the menu?
The first thing mentioned on their web menu is that they ain’t gonna do bulk orders. Oh, you want to pay us a lot of money for a huge order? Nah. That ain’t us.
Come in here and get a sammich, some slaw and maybe a brisket and get the hell out of the way. We got real people to serve.
Listen, you want an authentic Tennessee experience to go back and tell your friends at home? Go to Delauder’s, get the Holy Bologna Sandwich or the Sneaky Pig with sweet habanero sauce and thank me later.
Some people think good barbeque is all about pork sandwiches. But at Delauder’s, it’s about so much more.
Delauder’s is located at 1875 East Parkway in Gatlinburg.
Do you have a favorite hole in the wall restaurant in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments!
Click here to view the web story version of this article.