It’s Gatlinburg’s job to keep the tourist business going.
What does that mean? It means giving the people what they want. Which is, among other things, to be fed well.
There are a few million places to eat in Gatlinburg. You can certainly get a good lunch from most of them. Therefore, a list like this is subjective. In other words, we give a definitive list, then get our readers talking and advocating for their favorites.
And of course, that’s good. We want to hear what you like, too.
Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts
What food is famous in Gatlinburg, Tennessee?
It would say country cooking in general, including barbecue and pancakes.
However, I wouldn’t say Gatlinburg has much of its own style.
The constant competition for tourism dollars creates restaurants similar to Top 40 Radio.
The restaurants play the hits. If they go too far outside the norm, it’s hard to develop the necessary following.
What are the best places to get lunch in Gatlinburg?
There are a lot of good options. I’m going to leave some of the more expensive, heavier places like Cheasepeake’s out, which otherwise is one of the best places to eat in East Tennessee. It’s just more of a dinner spot.
When she was little, my daughter Sofia loved it. But she rarely ate anything other than chicken tenders and fries from the kid’s menu, so we celebrated any change of pace when dining out. She thought the chips and salsa were daring.
But otherwise, I think the food is just okay. If you do go, try the fajitas. They’re one of the better menu options.
Usually, a Gatlinburg vacation is five, maybe six days. You get a handful of lunches. If it were us? These are gonna be the places we go to eat. Here are some of my favorite lunch spots:
18. Split Rail Eats
Split Rail’s mission statement – as is appropriate for a culinary institution with the word “Eats” in its name – is to make good food. Surely, nobody’s ordering the escargot from a place called “Eats.”
The appetizers range from Southern standards like fried pickles and pimento cheese to the more unique chicken fritters or Fredo Fries – which sound like weak fries that fail to live up to their family’s hardscrabble mafia upbringing.
But they are actually fries smothered in alfredo sauce, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses topped with bacon and green onions.
I’m equally perplexed by the Yummy Tater Bowls which are a bunch of different styles of food served on a bed of tater tots.
But when we arrive at the sandwiches, the world opens and the Split Rail grill begins to shine. The Hot Seoul – thinly sliced sirloin or grilled chicken, Korean marinade, provolone and slaw on a potato roll – is a standout.
The Polish Reuben is also great. It has grilled kielbasa with sauerkraut, pickles, Swiss cheese and 1000 island dressing on grilled rye. They also offer burgers and salads.
17. Mama’s Chicken Kitchen
The sister restaurant of Mama’s Farmhouse in Pigeon Forge, Mama’s is a great option if you’re looking for something to go. For example, it’s perfect for a picnic in the national park.
The dine-in menu includes classics like chicken and dumplings, a variety of fried chicken options and also chicken wings.
16. Log Cabin Pancake House
This is maybe considered breakfast and not lunch, but it will keep you full for a while.
And it’s one of several pancake places on the list. Open 7 am to 2 pm, it serves breakfast the whole time.
They do have a variety of sandwiches and burgers for the lunch crowd, but if you go to a pancake house, get some pancakes.
15. Loco Burro
Gatlinburg isn’t great for Mexican food options, but the Loco Burro is one of the best in town. It offers typical Tex-Mex fare like burritos, enchiladas and tacos served in a fun atmosphere.
14. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
Open 7 am to 1 pm, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, which is named for a mountain guide, not Davy, is full of hearty breakfast options.
Try the scramblers, the cathead stackers or one of the Aretha Frankenstein pancakes, which uses pancake mix from the famed Chattanooga eatery.
13. Tom & Earl’s Back Alley Grill
This simple eatery has pub food and drinks. And also, if it’s a nice day, the outdoor patio is a great place to enjoy your lunch.
12. Smoky Mountain Brewery
This brewery is another pub food eatery but with nachos, pizza, calzones and pasta as well as a variety of entrees like ale steak.
This restaurant is also known to host events and has its own flagship beers.
11. The Park Grill
Near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Park Grill offers heartier lunch options and also an expansive salad bar.
Feeling frisky? Try the Blistered Shishito Peppers dish, which has mostly mild Japanese peppers. But be careful, because one in ten can be hot.
It’s like Bert’s Every Flavor Beans but with random heat.
10. Cherokee Grill
We went to the mountains a couple of weeks ago to hit the Roaring Fork Motorway.
We saw a few bears and also had a late lunch at the Cherokee Grill. If we’re going to be eating this hearty at lunch, I like to do it later in the day and have it as a lunch and dinner.
Why do I have the self-billed best steakhouse in Gatlinburg on the list and not The Peddler Steakhouse or the Alamo Steakhouse? Probably because I just had lunch here not long ago. Maybe that’s not fair, but them’s the breaks.
On this visit, I went with the Prosperity Steak, which is a sirloin marinated with olive oil, garlic and pepper and Worcestershire butter. My wife Leslie had the Maryland Crab Cakes, which were also excellent.
9. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
You’ll find some of the best pizza and wings in Sevier County here.
8. Cliff Top at Anakeesta
We don’t eat at Cliff Top often. Certainly, having to pay admission to Anakeesta makes going to this spot just for lunch a little impractical. But if you’re going to have an Anakeesta day, might as well enjoy the view and a little lunch from the Cliff Top.
They offer great sandwiches and entrees like the Tennessee Chop or the Shuckstack Chicken, a boneless chicken breast, pan-seared piccata style.
7. Crawdaddy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Seafood and Cajun cooking will always have a place in my heart.
Crawdaddy’s offers gumbo and a variety of boils but no jambalaya. It isn’t the most authentic Cajun place, but there’s a lot here to like.
6. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
Three Jimmy’s is just a fun place. They offer barbecue, comfort food, pizza and sandwiches.
I’m a big fan of The Highlander, which is a black Angus beef burger piled high with tender smoked pulled pork, draped in cheddar and smothered in their Rockin’ Rib sauce and crowned with onion crispers on a brioche bun.
It also allows me to drop in classic quotes from the movie “The Highlander.” There can be only one!
5. New Orleans Sandwich Company
This time we also have jambalaya!
I like the Pontchartrain Shrimp Poboy with gulf shrimp battered and fried to a golden brown. It’s served on traditional French bread.
Of course, there are a lot of great places to great BBQ in Sevier County and Calhoun’s is barbecue royalty in East Tennessee. In fact, it’s probably the best “chain” restaurant barbecue you can get in the area.
Also, it’s a nice option if everyone in your party doesn’t want barbecue. I love the fried green tomatoes.
3. Delauder’s BBQ
This is the real stuff. For example, it’s a little like the difference between good, professional whiskey like Jack Daniels and seriously made backwoods moonshine. It’s just a different world.
Delauder’s is a mom-and-pop style operation that bases its platters on how many meats you want. And the answer is all of them. You want all of the meats.
Start with the pulled pork and don’t let them stop until you have everything. In other words, if you’re a barbecue enthusiast, this place is holy.
2. Pancake Pantry
The Pancake Pantry is the best of the area’s many, many pancake places. Also, they have the best crepes in the business.
If you’re in the area for multiple days, you have to do the Pantry at least once.
1. Tennessee Jed’s
There’s a lot of great food on this list. So why did I rank a sandwich shop at the top? Because a carefully crafted sandwich is a work of art and also the perfect lunch.
Tennessee Jed’s makes great freaking sandwiches. What makes a better lunch than that?
Do you have a favorite Gatlinburg lunch spot? If so, let us know in the comments!