I made a rookie mistake. As someone who grew up in East Tennessee, I know how crowded Gatlinburg can get on the weekends. Especially holiday weekends.
But for some bizarre reason when my husband and I made plans to “just pick up some dinner” on the way into town one Friday night, there were no internal alarm bells going off. I blame it on temporary amnesia.
After a long day sitting in traffic for nearly an hour, the hanger was starting to set in. With these crowds, we knew take-out would be our only option.
“No problem!” says my spousal unit. “We need to pick up a few supplies for the cabin anyway. Let’s just stop at Old Dad’s, grab some groceries and a couple of deli sandwiches!”
Alas, we did not make it in time before closing.
“What about No Way Jose’s?” asks my patient husband.
“Ok,” I reply hangerly.
We call No Way Jose’s to place a takeout order and they tell us that we will need to come in and order from the bar in person.
We get back in the car and 30 minutes later, we’ve traveled almost exactly 0.3 miles to No Way Jose’s.
After waiting another 15 minutes at the bar, I’m finally able to flag someone down about placing an order for takeout.
“Did you call it in?” asks the bartender, before he walks away without saying another word. After a few more minutes of waiting, I return to the car empty-handed.
My hanger level was approaching level 9.
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How Mama’s Chicken Kitchen in Gatlinburg saved the day
“Mama’s Chicken Kitchen lets you place a mobile order on their website!” my husband says out of fear that I will begin nibbling on the car’s upholstery if I don’t get some food in my belly soon.
We placed the order and drove to Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, and that’s when something miraculous happened. My hot and fresh food was sitting there waiting on me, on time, as promised.
In fact, I was so impressed with Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, not only did I decide it was deserving of a formal review, but we even went back two days later to test drive JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe.
That’s right, today you’re getting a two-for-one review!
Who owns Mama’s Chicken Kitchen?
Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants. This is the same restaurant group that owns Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Alamo Steakhouse, Mama’s Farmhouse and Mad Dog’s Creamery and Donuts.
Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are two unique food concepts that share a single location.
You can eat in the dining room, but these restaurants are also excellent options if you want to get take-out.
Where is Mama’s Chicken Kitchen?
Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe in the Smokies are conveniently located close to the main strip in downtown Gatlinburg at 1244 East Parkway.
It’s away from the busy crowds near the Arts and Crafts loop. Unfortunately, it is not very walkable.
What’s on the menu at Mama’s Chicken Kitchen?
As the name would suggest, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen offers a variety of chicken-fried Southern classics.
Menu options include 3-4 piece chicken meals, grilled chicken and of course, chicken and dumplings. They also offer a vegetarian plate for those non-meat eaters in the family.
Each meal comes with two small homemade sides and a biscuit and jam.
And for those who prefer a lighter meal, salads are also on the menu. The Chef Salad, for example, has turkey, boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomato, onions and provolone cheese.
I ordered the chicken and dumplings and my husband ordered the chicken tenders. We selected creamed corn and mac and cheese for our sides.
Both orders came with giant Southern-style, delicious buttermilk biscuits.
You can view the full menu online here.
Is Mama’s Chicken Kitchen worth it?
Honestly, the chicken and dumplings are probably the best I’ve had in Gatlinburg. You would think good chicken and dumplings in this part of town are common. But my friends, there are unfortunately a lot of imposters around these parts.
REAL Southern-style chicken and dumplings are hard to find. This particular dish tasted homemade with large chunky pieces of quality chicken.
Also, my husband’s chicken tenders were HUGE! The 4-piece meal was more than enough to satisfy his hungry tummy. And much like the chicken and dumplings, this dish tasted homemade and home-breaded.
This isn’t your normal tourist-town fare.
Also, if you’re in the mood for wings, they can come with a variety of sauces including buffalo sauce, salt and vinegar, parmesan and garlic, sweet chili pepper, honey BBQ and kickin’ bourbon.
And if you’re getting a bucket to go, which is always a solid option if you’re feeding a group of people, you can order a 10-piece chicken bucket with wings, breasts, thighs and drumsticks.
This option is handy to take to one of the numerous picnic areas nearby the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What are the best sides at Mama’s Chicken Kitchen?
I have to say that the mac and cheese was insanely delicious. This dish features quality cheese, a smooth creamy texture and no funny business: Just cheese, noodles, salt and light pepper.
In my opinion, mac and cheese is a dish that’s already perfect – we don’t need your fancy bread crumbs and truffle oil here in the South. Keep it simple, people.
The creamed corn tasted great, but we both agreed it was a tad watered down. But then again, we are spoiled. My husband’s aunt once owned a corn farm. We’re used to some pretty tasty homemade fresh creamed corn. Take our picky corn critique with a grain of salt.
Other popular sides include green beans and of course, mashed potatoes.
Now, let’s have a serious conversation about my favorite part of the meal, the biscuits. Biscuits come with each meal unless you opt to leave them out. But to leave them out would be a sin.
These biscuits are hands down the best biscuits I’ve ever had in my life, and for a Southern girl born and raised, that is high praise.
These biscuits are without a doubt homemade from scratch. They are as fluffy as they can be, buttery throughout and not overly flaky, the way God intended.
They have the kind of consistency that just melts in your mouth. Try one with the homemade jam and thank me later.
Honestly, I would return to this restaurant based on the biscuits’ quality alone.
Then we visited JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe
Two days after enjoying Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, we went back to try the subs next door.
As I mentioned earlier, JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe is a second dining concept that shares the same building as Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, and you can mix and match as you please.
Does half your party want fried chicken but the other half is craving hand-crafted sub sandwiches? No problem, this combination restaurant has you covered!
What’s on the menu at JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe?
JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe offers a variety of subs, sandwiches and hot dogs including selections like the Philly cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak, open-faced roast beef and veggie.
What’s great about JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe is that they allow you to customize your subs as much or as little as you like. Customizations include extra meat and your choice of toppings and cheese.
You can select from two sizes when ordering these subs, the smaller JOE or the larger Pop.
This time, I ordered the smaller Italian sub.
For our sides, we went the healthy route with our choice of French fries and chocolate chip cookies.
My Italian sub was tasty. And it was a huge sub as well. The meat was shaved deli style and the seasoning was just right. I opted to add peppers for a little extra kick.
My husband described his sub as being “next level.”
I couldn’t tell you about the chocolate chip cookies because they left those out of my order, but they looked tasty in the pictures.
Incorrect orders are always a risk when opting for takeout. So do as I say and not as I do and check your order before you leave the parking lot if you’re ordering it to go.
I’ll forgive it this time because you rocked my socks off in every other way.
You can view the full menu here.
Location and hours
Mama’s Kitchen and JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are located at 1244 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. They offer both dine-in and carry-out and feature a kid-friendly casual atmosphere.
Kids menus with smaller portion sizes are also available.
Regular hours are 11 am-9 pm, daily. At the time of this writing, they are closed on Wednesdays.
Have you visited Mama’s Chicken Kitchen or JOE & Pop’s Sub Shoppe? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.