A local rounds up a list of new and coming soon restaurants for Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
As a local who has been hanging out in and around the Smoky Mountains for more than 30 years, I’ve become aware of the juxtaposition of the timeless mountains and the fleeting nature of the communities therein. Places like Cades Cove, Grotto Falls and the Chimney Tops are timeless. The only changes are either superficial – a tree falls here, another grows there – or imperceptible to us – each year the rivers and streams cut a little deeper into the rock. But then you come down into Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg and change is the overriding concept. Whenever I and the family are traveling down the Parkway the conversation runs one of two ways:
- Is that new? Was that building or mountain coaster there the last time we were here?
- Remember when (fill in the blank) used to be there?
When you live around this area, you understand that big changes happen incredibly slowly but also that change is the only constant. So what’s new or about to be new on the Sevier County restaurant scene? I’ve put together this handy dandy guide. It features new restaurants that have opened in the last few months (or are opening soon) in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
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1. LeConte Tapas & Grill
This Spanish-style tapas and grill opened in May 2023. We’ve come a long way, honestly. Tapas in East Tennessee would have been nigh unthinkable 30 years ago. But be aware. The lunch menu is a lot more “grill” than it is “tapas” with burgers and sandwiches and apps like pretzel bites and mini corn dogs and fried green tomatoes.
But when the night comes? Everything changes like a culinary werewolf. The tapas options include bleu bacon dates (bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with gorgonzola, pan-seared and served with blue agave syrup) and gambas al ajillo (gulf shrimp scampi with fresh Roma tomatoes and herbs served with a grilled baguette). There are also non-tapas dinner options including the miso-glazed Chilean seabass, honey charred ribs, and an executive kabob (with skewered tenderloin tips, Maine lobster, sweet peppers, red onions and squash glazed with wine honey served with vegetable rice pilaf). LeConte Tapas & Grill is located at 803 East Parkway, Gatlinburg.
2. Underdogs Pizza
Keeping up with the comings and goings of pizza joints in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg must be a full-time gig. Like, I imagine there’s somebody in the depths of the Sevier County courthouse – a subordinate of the Registrar of Deeds – whose office smells vaguely of tomato sauce and green peppers – with a stack of legal documents stapled to the back of pizza boxes.
As for the Underdogs business model? It’s a bit … different. It’s part of the Smoky Mountain Trout House, Crystelle Creek Restaurant and Parton’s Deli family of business all there near each other on the Parkway. The place, which opened in spring of 2023, does not deliver, or take online orders. The menu is pizza, wings, and garlic sticks. The place seats up to 20 customers with a 75-inch HDTV to watch sports. It’s basic but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Underdogs is located at 334 Parkway, Gatlinburg beside the famous car parked in front of Parton’s Deli (IYKYK).
3. Jason Aldean’s Kitchen & Rooftop Bar
Come for the food, stay for the party. What in the name of Blake Shelton’s is this? In 2023, country singer Jason Aldean – from Macon, Georgia – became the latest in a long line of celebrities like Jimmy Buffet, Paula Deen and more going all the way back to Ronnie Milsap to open a joint in Sevier County. Aldean’s seems to follow the Ole Red model, though I’m sure Shelton followed someone else’s model.
The restaurant itself is split into three floors. The first is primarily a gift shop. Floor two houses the main restaurant. And floor three features a rooftop bar with live music and quick-service BBQ (cooked on a real smoker with much faster service). Starters at the main restaurant include nachos, buffalo cauliflower and a Bavarian pretzel. Truthfully, the main courses run the gambit of about what you’d expect – chicken diablo pasta and a pulled pork sandwich – to surprising. For instance, I did NOT expect an $80 “Tommy” hawk ribeye there amongst the other entrees which range from $16 to $26. The menu notes it was created by Aldean and Chef Tomasz Wosiak. Let’s hope Jason let the Wos handle the heavy culinary lifting. Jason Aldean’s is located at 644 Parkway, Gatlinburg.
4. Azul Cantina
The waiting? It was the hardest part. Azul looked like it was going to be awesome. The under-construction restaurant with a rooftop bar had a cool design. It had a cool website that promised authentic Tex-Mex flavors at a time when good Mexican food was hard to find in the area. And then? Everything just stopped. No work, no updates, no Azul. It had gotten to the point that I assumed Azul would never be. And then one day, it was. Work resumed. The restaurant opened and everything was as good as promised. It’s good Tex-Mex cuisine with a rooftop bar that offers an interesting view of the strip. It’s fun, fresh and delicious. Start with the esquites beef eggroll and go to the birria burrito or the chicken tacos. You won’t be sorry. Azul is located in the Mountain Mile at 2655 Teaster Lane, Suite 305.
5. Crumbl Cookies
Crumbl Cookies is a chain of cookie stores with branches across the country. The Pigeon Forge Crumbl sells cookies for pick up or delivery. The menu changes weekly with six gourmet flavors – including the mystery flavor for which you must either go to the store or download the app to solve the riddle of that week’s six flavors. What else do you want to know? They’re cookies. They’re delicious. Are they worth more than $4 each? That’s a personal decision that I can’t make for you but if you’re asking me? The answer is grudgingly, “yes”. Crumbl Pigeon Forge is located at 2655 Teaster Lane, Suite 245 Pigeon Forge and closed on Sundays (at the time of this writing).
6. Sunnyland Farms
At some point, you have to respect the dedication of a store or restaurant dedicated to specificity. What do they sell? Nuts. Located among the Mountain Mile shops – like Azul and Crumbl Cookies – Sunnyland Farms traffics in the best and freshest pecans and nuts you will find. They also have “goodies” and “gifts.” “Goodies” are a variety of baked items – most of which contain pecans and nuts – like banana bread, pecan pie or fruitcakes. “Gifts” are a variety of items for giving to other people – tins full of things like nuts and pecans, or a nice-glazed apricot, if you’re into that kind of thing. Sunnyland Farms is located at 2655 Teaster Ln Store #243, Pigeon Forge.
7. The Corner Diner
Located at unsurprisingly, the corner, of the Food City building on Teaster Lane, the Corner Diner is a surprising addition to the Pigeon Forge culinary scene. We are all taught not to judge a book by its cover. You wouldn’t think a corner spot of a grocery-store-anchored strip mall would be the go-to place to celebrate the intricate beauty of Classic American Diner cuisine but here we are.
Every time we’ve been to the place it is hopping. The menu is a tribute to the beauty of what a true artist can do with a grill. Classic smash burgers, pancakes, French toast, omelets, waffles as well as biscuits and gravy and more. When you stop in at this diner, do what all true diner-heads do when they find a new spot and sample the chili. It’s the perfect spot for classic American diner food for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Corner Diner is located at 3060 Teaster Lane.
8. Sun Diner
Located on the first floor of Jason Aldean’s building on the Parkway, the Sun Diner is another Nashville establishment that made its way to the Smoky Mountains. Open for breakfast and lunch throughout the week and for breakfast, lunch and dinner Friday and Saturdays, the Sun Diner is kind of like the Hard Rock but devoted specifically to the heyday of the classic Sun Records in Nashville and the artists who recorded there. We’re talking Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
The menu? It’s Southern fried diner food with a rockabilly twist. We’re talking chicken n’ waffles, country fried steak and eggs, burger melts and more. If you want the real Sun Records experience, there is one thing you have to do: Get the Elvis Pancake, even if it’s just for the table where everybody can get a bite. Elvis – if he has any real claim to the title King of Rock and Roll – became the King when he recorded for Sun Records. The best way to pay tribute to the King is to eat these fluffy pancakes with peanut butter drizzle and bananas foster. The Sun Diner is located at 646 Parkway, Gatlinburg beside Jason Aldean’s.
9. Solarzanos Pizza
It’s classic Italian pizzeria food via Hoboken, New Jersey with locations in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and a handful of places in Florida. It’s pizza by the slice, classic signature pizzas and a variety of gourmet pizzas. If you’re looking for something less traditional, the buffalo chicken gourmet pizza is a classic white pizza with a ricotta base, mozzarella cheese, fried chicken, ranch and buffalo drizzle. But if you’re looking for something more traditional, the Solorzano’s supreme is the classic pie topped with pepperoni, sausage, meatball, bacon, mushroom, onion, green peppers and black olives. There are now two locations in the Smokies. The Pigeon Forge location is at 204 Pine Mountain Rd #5. The Gatlinburg location is at 1235 East Pkwy (at the old Taste of Italy spot).
10. Roma Table
Promised to open by early 2024, Roma Table is the newest concept in the Collier Restaurant Group – which includes a wide variety of tastes and styles including The Melting Pot, TGIFridays, Quaker Steak & Lube, three different Pancake Cabins and the Golden Corral. In all, it’s 10 restaurant concepts and 18 locations. Roma Table will offer “elevated” Italian dining that includes pizzas and classic Italian entrees. Located at 1503 Parkway in Sevierville, the restaurant will be across Collier Drive from Quaker Steak & Lube and across the Parkway from the Walmart Supercenter.
Do you know of any new restaurants in the area that we left out? Let us know in the comments below and we will get them added to the list!