Is Ole Red in Gatlinburg worth it? When to go, what to order

Ole Red in Gatlinburg exterior

Ole Red in Gatlinburg offers entertainment, live music, food and drinks (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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The first time I tried to eat at Ole Red in Gatlinburg was unsuccessful.

We had just spent a beautiful fall day at Anakeesta. It was the time of year when you start out the day in sunny, 70-degree weather and end the day shivering as temperatures drop below 40.

After waiting in a long line to get down the mountain, my cold crew and I made it to Ole Red only to find that the wait times for a table were over an hour if we were lucky.

Since we were hungry and cold, we went somewhere else.

That wasn’t the first time that happened. I rarely have the forethought to look for a restaurant before my hanger reaches a critical level, so I end up opting for the fastest thing available. Usually, that means fast food or maybe a donut from the local Donut Friar.

Finally, on one weekday afternoon, in the middle of the day, I walked into Ole Red. I got a table. Instantly.

The food was good, and the live performance was even better.

I have to say, I really like going to Ole Red.

But if you’re on vacation and time is limited, I recommend visiting on off-peak times, or putting your name on the list well before you actually get hungry.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Inside Ole Red in Gatlinburg
Inside Ole Red in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What is Ole Red in Gatlinburg?

Ole Red is an entertainment venue in downtown Gatlinburg that features a two-story bar with live music, cocktails and surprisingly good food.  

It’s the only live music spot in downtown Gatlinburg, or at least the only one whose main focus is on live music.

Ole Red is associated with the Blake Shelton name. It seems, these days, it’s not uncommon for celebrities to branch out and bring their name to a tourist area like Gatlinburg with bright eyes and hopes of being the next big thing.

The Smokies are now home to several celebrity-endorsed establishments, which include the likes of Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, Jimmy Buffett and, well, I started to mention Dolly Parton, but she’s really operating in a different league than the other guys.

Ole Red is more than just a simple restaurant. It’s an experience for guests and an opportunity for country music hopefuls.

Ole Red started as a place where local talent could showcase their work in hopes of catching their next big break in the entertainment industry.

The venue is also known to occasionally feature surprise celebrity guests.

Justin Mychals performs at Ole Red in Gatlinburg
Country music artist Justin Mychals performs at the Ole Red in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is Ole Red owned by Blake Shelton? 

Ole Red is officially owned and operated by Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.

Shelton, a country music star, partnered with Ryman Hospitality Properties to bring this idea to life.

Where is the original Ole Red?

Being Blake Shelton’s bar, the original Ole Red started in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, which opened in 2017.

According to the Ole Red website, this was due to Blake Shelton’s love of his home state of Oklahoma. 

As a teen, the website explains, Shelton performed at Ada’s McSwain Theater in a town with a population size of fewer than 18,000 people.

But that was where he would realize his dreams and decide to pursue a country music career.

Ole Red is a way to provide opportunities to aspiring artists.

A Cherry Limeade at Ole Red
A Cherry Limeade at Ole Red has Ole Smoky Hunch Punch moonshine, fresh lime and a cherry served in an Ole Red brand jar (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

How many Ole Reds are there? 

At the time of this writing, there are four locations for Ole Red. 

Ole Red locations can be found in Gatlinburg, Nashville, Orlando and Tishomingo. 

An Ole Red location for Las Vegas is coming soon and is expected to open in 2023.

How long has Ole Red been in Gatlinburg?

When Ole Red came to Gatlinburg, that was the first time I’d heard of the establishment. But, it is not the original location.

While Gatlinburg may have been the location for Tennessee’s first pancake house, the same can’t be said for Ole Red.

The brand’s first location was in Oklahoma. The plans for Ole Red Gatlinburg were announced in mid-2018, with the grand opening in March 2019.

Read Also: The Listening Room Cafe in Pigeon Forge: A taste of Music City 

A hot chicken sandwich at Ole Red
A hot chicken sandwich (which is more similar to Buffalo chicken than Nashville Hot) with fries at Ole Red (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Why is Blake Shelton’s bar called Ole Red?

The name Ole Red comes from Shelton’s hit single Ol’ Red. And if I’m being honest, I never realized what a strange little song it was.

The song Ol’ Red tells the story of a man in prison who gets a life sentence after catching his wife cheating on him.

Well, I caught my wife with another man

And it cost me ninety-nine

The warden’s dog is named Ol’ Red, and the dog tracks down inmates who try to escape.

Basically, in the song, the man writes a letter to a Tennessee cousin who brings a blue tick hound, “pretty as she could be”.

While Ol’ Red is distracted with this new love interest, the man escapes.

Love got me in here and love got me out

So why is there a series of bars named after a song about adultery, puppy love and prison escapes?

According to the Ole Red website, Shelton once was kicked out of Nashville’s legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge after “making a habit out of playing a song that was ‘very inappropriate.'”

So, Shelton said, he decided to “put in my own damn bar”.

Perhaps it makes sense that he named his series of bars after his irreverent early hit.

The name was edited slightly from “Ol’ Red” to “Ole Red” to represent the partnership with Ryman Hospitality and the Grand Ole Opry.

Read Also: What are the best restaurants in Gatlinburg TN? 17 top places to eat 

Is Ole Red Gatlinburg kid friendly?

Yes, the entertainment venue is kid-friendly.

Although it serves adult beverages, the little ones are able to join for the meals and music.

The kid’s menu is under $10 and offers chicken tenders, grilled cheese, a cheeseburger and more.

The
The Ruby Falls Reuben sandwich left, and the Pig ‘N’ Cheese with bologna, mustard, chips and pickles, right (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

What is on the Ole Red menu?

For the adults, Ole Red offers an array of typical Southern favorites. 

Starters include items like fried pickles, smoked brisket tacos and Redneck Nachos, which feature smoked chicken, Velveeta, beer cheese, jalapeños, avocado, sour cream, rotel tomatoes and green onions. 

I also love the Southern Tater Tot Poutine, served with pulled pork, white gravy, white cheddar curds, green onions, a fried egg and Ole Red hot sauce.

The Ole Red Gatlinburg location has a few classics that pay tribute to the Smokies and surrounding areas, including the Ruby Falls Reuben and the Clingmans Dome Burger.

For the record, the Clingmans Dome Burger is a turkey burger with corned beef, swiss cheese, Thousand Island slaw on a rye bun.

I hope it’s tall. 

Entrees include items like the Cornmeal-fried Catfish, Hillbillly Bones Smoked Half Rack and the Ole Red Smoked Meat Platter

For dessert, be sure to try their S’mores Brownie Skillet, with graham crackers, toasted marshmallows and vanilla ice cream. 

Ole Red Gatlinburg show schedule

Ole Red has daily and nightly performances, usually at least three per day.

The first performance usually begins around 11 am, with the last performance ending at 10 pm, or midnight on weekends.

To view the full lineup, visit their website.

Ole Red is located along the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. 

Have you been to Ole Red Gatlinburg? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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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