Best hole in the wall restaurants in Pigeon Forge, our top 5 ranked

From right to left - lil black bear cafe, boss hoggs bbq, and pigeon forge deli

Wanna know where the locals eat in Pigeon Forge? You've come to the right place (photos by Morgan Overholt and Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

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I am paid to bear witness.

My day job is to observe. I look. And I listen. I ask questions. And then I relay the facts as I have learned them through the written word.

Most days I like to think I’m good at it.

But then there are times when I have a clear read of a situation, I see something undoubtedly to be true. And then I find myself on an island, reasonable people – not crackpots -– have taken in the same information as I and come to irrevocably, horrendously wrong conclusions.

In fact, this seems to be happening more than usual lately.

For instance, as part of our series on hole in the wall restaurants, I consulted Mr. Google for ideas.

Friends, Mr. Google has lost his dang mind.

Read Also: Best hole in the wall restaurants in Gatlinburg, our top 5 ranked

The suggestions included the Local Goat in Pigeon Forge, the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg and a variety of other hole in the wall places among the best restaurants. Indeed, the best places to go out to eat in the Smokies.

But the Old Mill Restaurant is not a hole in the wall place. That’s a hill I will die on. Most chain restaurants are not holes in the wall either, with a few possible exceptions.

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant? Has Google been hacked? Paula Deen’s? The Peddler? What in the heck is happening? To quote Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy, it’s as if I’ve got vision and the rest of the world need bifocals.

Read Also: Best restaurants in Pigeon Forge, 21 places to eat, ranked [2022]

What are we talking about when we talk about hidden gem restaurants?

Typically these unique places are mom-and-pop owned, a lot of them serve several kinds of sandwiches – because sandwiches are cost-effective – or Mexican food, Italian food or southern classics like the best BBQ you’ll ever eat from a gas station.

These great local restaurants are some of the best in East Tennessee. But they’re just not much about putting on airs.

And while these local favorites may not be your typical Smoky Mountain restaurants, they offer delicious food.

Pigeon Forge Deli
The Pigeon Forge Deli isn’t easily visible from the shopping center parking lot. You will likely have to get out of your car to spot this “hole in the wall” hot spot (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Pigeon Forge Deli

Located around the corner from a nail salon and across from a tattoo parlor in a strip mall at 159 E Wears Valley Road, the Pigeon Forge Deli offers good food just a little off the beaten path.

The menu features a variety of signature subs – including The Chub Sub and Chicken Salad Chub, Open Pot Roast Sub and a classic Italian sub. They also have a classic pimento cheese BLT. In addition to a variety of soups and salads, the deli also delivers a variety of hot pretzels.

And if you’re thinking of a picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the deli is the perfect place to start; selling sandwich ingredients and sides by the pint or quart. It’s classic deli food done well.

Smokies Cuban Cafe
Smokies Cuban Cafe is located next to Flapjacks in Pigeon Forge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

4. Smokies Cuban Cafe

Located at 3526 Parkway #4 on the strip next to a string of CBD and tobacco shops, Smokies Cuban Cafe may be the only place in town to get some authentic Cuban food.

I’m actually surprised there aren’t more places that serve Cuban coffee along the main strip. It seems to me shoppers could use that caffeine rush only authentic Cuban coffee can provide. But then again, maybe the tourists couldn’t handle it.

It seems cliche to recommend the Cuban sandwich, but you can’t get a good Cuban everywhere so grab hold when you can.

Empanadas, frijoles negros and yuca are among the best things on the menu. If you’re in the mood for some Latin flavors but don’t want to go to another typical Mexican restaurant, Smokies Cuban Cafe is the perfect stop on your next trip.

Boss Hogs BBQ
Boss Hogg’s BBQ appreciates the beauty of perfectly smoked meat and pork sandwiches (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

3. Boss Hogg’s BBQ Shack

We’re going to go back. Way back. Not quite as far back as when Dolly Parton roamed Sevier County wild and free but back in time nonetheless.

It’s the mid-to-late 90s. There is a magical hole in the wall eatery on Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge. It was one of the most popular places in the region with great food and a terrific atmosphere.

Specifically, Chef Jock’s Tastebud Cafe was one of the best places I’ve ever eaten in the region and Jock was something of a local culinary celebrity in the days before the Food Network and such.

Today, Boss Hogg’s BBQ Shack carries on the legacy of serving some of the best food in the Smokies from the same location at 1198 Wears Valley Rd.

It’s a far cry from the five-star dining experience on a 2-star budget that Chef Jock tried to create, but I like to think every great chef can appreciate the beauty of perfectly smoked meat and pork sandwiches. It may not be Chef Jock’s bowtie pasta, but I bet he’d approve.

Also, as a child of the 70s and 80s, I wildly approve of the Dukes of Hazzard reference. I would like to write out the sound that Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane made whenever one of his and Boss Hogg’s schemes to get the Duke boys was about to work, but I have no idea how to spell it.

If you’re of my generation, you can likely hear it right now. If not, it’s probably on YouTube but I suspect it isn’t nearly as funny as it was when I was seven.

Talitas
While authentic Mexican cuisine may be hard to come by in the mountains, we have a few options for you that will at least satisfy your cravings (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

2. Talita’s Restaurant

Nothing fancy here. The menu is a bunch of pictures hanging from the ceiling like you often see in quick service Chinese restaurants. No frills at all in this slightly off-the-beaten-path eatery.

Located at 2961 Veterans Boulevard, Talita’s offers delicious food and traditional Mexican dishes at great prices. It’s not the overall dining experience offered at some of the other Mexican places in the surrounding area, but its food will give just about any one of them a run for their money.

lil black bear cafe
This hole in the wall eatery is only open for breakfast and lunch (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

1. Lil Black Bear Café

If you’re looking for something small, out of the way and delicious, you can’t do better than the Lil’ Black Bear Café.

Open from 8 am to 2 pm, the café does breakfast and lunch only. They offer soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as the best coffee. All of which are made to order.

The menu isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be.

The breakfast is rave-worthy. The pancakes are beloved. The omelets are so good, chickens volunteer their eggs in tribute. The sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on the breakfast menu is the food of the gods.

But we are here, my friends, to discuss two menu items in particular: The Reuben and the Patty Melt. Diner staples.

An artist lives at the Lil’ Black Bear, and that artist works in rye sandwiches. 

The Patty Melt is a hamburger patty on grilled rye with grilled onions and two slices of provolone. The Reuben has real corned beef. Too many places in the South try to make a Reuben with something else and it is an INSULT to places like the Lil’ Black Bear Café. Swiss cheese, kraut, 1,000 Island dressing. It’s perfect.

Lil Black Bear is located at 3068 Veterans Blvd. And this little unassuming hot spot offers amazing food and is probably the best hole in the wall place in Sevier County.

Do you have a favorite hole in the wall eatery? Let us know in the comments!

View the web story version of this article here.

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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64 thoughts on “Best hole in the wall restaurants in Pigeon Forge, our top 5 ranked”

  1. You forgot Frank Allen’s market and grill, as well as Nino’s Pizzeria..both exceptionally worth mentioning!

  2. Lmao……. Monster Mash Burgers…… you are absolutely out of your mind….. terrible service…. terrible food….. terrible prices….. what are you actually doing????????????

  3. The grill at Claboughs’s Campground Store has the best burgers in town! Everything is Great there!!

  4. Partons deli. Has been there 30 plus years for a reason. Sub sandwiches. In a real old fashioned atmosphere.Hot dogs to die for.

  5. The Trouthouse is unbelievable. I thought I was walking into a bait shop from the parkingbut my looorrrrdddd, best STEAK I have ever ate!!!!

  6. Blue Moose, are you kidding?! WORST meal I ever ate in Sevier County! And I am a foodie.

  7. I’ve lived here all my life. I’m 38 I know the owners of Delaudres. Best BBQ in sevier co. period. .Monster mash burgers 🙄 seriously!! Pigeon forge deli should be on here over it any day . And chubbies is awsome and you would never even expect it would be by seeing what it is ans where its at . They only do cash only so if you go there is a atm inside ran by Indian people that run the gas station and has a 3.00 fee . So take cash with you if you plan on going there .Its tha The local radio station advertising frank Allen’s market in the marathon station having the best hamburgers and hot dogs in America for me !!

  8. Bigfoots phillycheese steaks has the best phillycheese sandwich you’ll ever eat,and the New Orleans sandwich shop has the best muffuletta I’ve ever had. Love them both.

  9. I agree with other comments Monster Mash Burgess are horrible. Food was
    not edible. It was beyond terrible. My husband wouldn’t even eat it and he will eat anything. Service was terrible too!!! This place is a NO go.

  10. Elviras cafe is hard to beat, never had one bad item there, portions are perfect. Staff is great, Never been there that Elvira wasn’t

  11. Partons Deli in Gatlinburg Tennessee is a family owned business and should be on your list. They have great sandwiches and is hidden close to entrance of Gatlinburg. Been there for a very long time.

  12. Bennett’s is our go-to. Not sure if it’s considered hole in the wall, though, given
    the multiple locations, but it is family owned and run. And the food is ALWAYS mouth watering. Not to mention the staff is always super, super friendly.

  13. Agree with JT on Monster Mash Burgers…I could not even eat my food. Our server was awful and it is a lot of money for something I couldn’t eat.

  14. For me Chubbys is #1 hands down,the food is great,friendly atmosphere and just good people you have to try Chubbys to appericate it.

  15. Tried Paw Paws Catfish. It was terrible! Shoneys in Sevierville had better catfish on their food bar. So does Huck Finns. Won’t never go back to paw paws catfish

  16. I can’t believe you didn’t include pigeon forge deli. The open faced pot roast sandwich is excellent. Bread is freshly baked and the tomatoe and basil soup is EXCELLENT!!!

  17. The best place to eat is The Apple Barn you get your money’s worth the food is great and so is the service. Right at the light coming into Pigeon Forge by Walgrens

  18. The holy trinity consist of ONIONS, BELL PEPPERS & CELERY only !!! nothing else can be put in that category! Cajun and Creole food is jambalaya, gumbo & étouffée etc but they’re not the holy trinity they all have bases made of the holy trinity!

  19. I would NEVER consider Monster Mash a Hole in the wall! Their food is not good at all!!! Graze Burgers burgers is 100x better but again, it is not a “hole in the wall”.

  20. Preachers Barbeque in not in Pigeon Forge it’s in Sevier County. And I dont really like it. And Chubby Deli has bugs so want be eating there either.

  21. Will save this fir future visit to PF, but Bennett’s has great bbq, top it off with a slice if Chocolate Cake a la mode. You’kl leave hurtin’.

  22. I really hate to tell this but I feel obligated the best eating establishment in the area is the Pottery House by far the best overall experience and food in the area

  23. fire lake in dandridge. some of the best food with wide selection. Its the old cowboys on the water right on douglas lake. beautiful views of the mountains with outstanding sunsets. decks hold 75 people

  24. After reading the comments section I felt compelled to add my two cents. The title of this article is “Hole in the Wall Restaurants.” By definition, that means a small, unpretentious, out of the way place. Both the author of this piece and the commenters got it wrong. For reference, Cubby’s would be a hole in the wall restaurant. Thank you & good night.

  25. Preacher’s is awesome… Yes, it’s small and their hours are very limited, but the food is awesome and they are friendly and appreciate your business

  26. Delauders bbq for sure!!! Only heard horror stories about Monster Mash. Partons deli should have made the list, it’s a local favorite.

  27. As a NO native, PawPaws is the best local Cajun cuisine by far. Also, try the filet at Bullfish Grill.

  28. We are locals and Pigeon forge Deli should definitely be on this list. It’s locally owned and family operated. Has fresh baked bread & everything is home made . The Pretzels are by far the best in the forge. You will not be disappointed Great food & Prices and the owners are awesome.

  29. Can’t speak for the others, but Huck Finns is our new favorite. Great fried catfish and fried chicken. Large portions, and when they sat down a bowl of beans hush puppies. A big sliced onion and pickle, I was hooked. Everything was awesome, including service and cleanliness

  30. Trish’s Mountain Diner east of Gatlinburg on highway 321 is an awesome place to eat. Breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday 7-230 and add dinner on Friday and Saturday until 8pm. Southern cooking, sizeable portions, specials each day, and delicious banana pudding and wet coconut cake. Have never been disappointed…and eat there often. Got to consider Trish’s as an out of the way place to eat even if it’s not really a hole in the wall.

  31. Best place in pigeon forge wasn’t even mentioned
    Mel’s diner.Friendly staff.great food and plenty of it.

  32. Monster Mash Burger’s was horrible. Neither myself nor my children enjoyed this place. Both the service and food was horrible.

  33. Little Mountain Eatery, it is the diamonds of eateries in the Sevierville area. The place is jammed for good reason, Ron makes everythang to order. This is and absolute don’t miss! Best Restaurant here 5 stars

  34. Best place in pigeon forge wasn’t even mentioned
    Mel’s diner.Friendly staff.great food and plenty of it.

  35. I can’t comment on some of these restaurants but the one i can comment on is Lil Black Bear Café (Pigeon Forge). Eating breakfast and talking to the owner and all the local customers you get the pulse of the community. It’s small and intimate and they food is outstanding.

  36. When we come to Gatlinburg we can’t go back home until we’ve eaten at the Best Italian restaurant. They have the best pizza and pasta dishes. 😋

  37. I’ve read all of these posts, I’ve been going to that area since 1969, all but one or two haven’t heard or eating at! The main thing to remember is the difference between a good meal and a great meal is around 30 minutes! Have a blessed day!

  38. Monster Mash had friendly staff, what few they have. Been there 3 times. First 2 were great. This last time was horrible, food terrible. And it took nearly 45 min to get our food. Main coarse came out before the the appetizers. Might try them again after staffing shortages are resolved

  39. Tennessee Jeds was amazing! Cuban sandwich was great. We will definitely be going back there.

  40. Been visiting Gatlinburg twice yearly for over 20 years… Best little Italian restaurant for sandwiches or burgers and also North China restaurant.. don’t let the appearance fool ya… great, fresh Chinese food. You can’t be there since the 80s and not be good.

  41. The best place for fish and hush puppies has to be Huck Finn’s. My husband and I always ate there. Usually crowded but worth it.Food is delicious.

  42. Absolutely love Paw Paw’s. Make a point to always stop. I never eat at chain restaurants when I’m traveling

  43. Restorante Della Santino on Red Bank Rd is by far the best Italian food for hundreds of miles. Made fresh from locally sourced ingredients. Read reviews you wont be dissapointed.

  44. Cannot miss out on Wild Bear Tavern, never see it on these lists. Amazing authentic German food, beers from a local German owned brewery and none of the wait you see at a lot of these places mentioned.

  45. You are on the money with Tennessee Jed’s!!!! Fabulous sandwiches and the breakfasts are awesome. Found them a couple of years ago and we love the owners, the food, & the restaurant. Directly across the main drag from the Pancake Pantry, up the steps on the right. You’ll love it!

  46. The best restaurant period is the applebarn. No one else comes close. I’ve eaten at almost every restaurant there applebarn is by far the best

  47. The best restraunt to eat at is Howard’s in Gatlinburg, on the parkway. Im from Knoxville and have been visiting this area for over 40yrs. My whole family loves this place.

  48. Mel’s Diner!! Our favorite, year after year!! Great, friendly staff!! The owners must take good care of their people, because not much turnover with employees!! Awesome food, best banana splits!!

    From Florence, South Carolina

  49. I can vouch: Lil Black Bear Cafe has THEE BEST Griddle cakes (thick pancakes). Also you need to try their breakfast burrito: Super delicious!

  50. I’ll take Little Black Bear over Paula Dean any day ! Great food and great people can’t be beat !

  51. Had an awful experience at black bear Cafe. Ordered breakfast to go and it was skimpy, way overpriced. We were very disappointed.

  52. Pigeon Forge Deli has the BEST Reuben!!!! As a matter of fact, they have best of everything a deli could have. 4 or 5 kinds of fresh made breads made every day!!!! And oh those pretzels!!!! Are to die for.

  53. Frank ALLEN’S GRILL BEST HAMBURGER AND FRIES .NEVER had anything bad there .

  54. You left out the Hungry Bear BBQ out on 321 near Greenbriar RD. (OK that might technically be Gatl8nburg. But worth the ride.

  55. Blue Moose was a wonderful food experience. The server was friendly, the food was tasty and prices were fair. Will go there again!

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