Local breaks down The Peddler vs the Alamo in Gatlinburg, TN
It’s steak night in the Great Smoky Mountains. In one corner, you’ve got The Peddler: A popular dining destination in Gatlinburg. Housed in the former home of Charles “Earl” Ogle Sr., a fourth-generation Gatlinburg merchant, The Peddler is directly and deeply connected to Gatlinburg royalty. In the other corner, Alamo Steakhouse: A Sevier County institution with locations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants. While I love the steak at both establishments, allow me to compare these two local favorites side by side and see how they stack up in four important categories: History, name, menu and most importantly – steak.
IN THIS ARTICLE
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1. Comparing the history
What’s a night out with a little “did you know” table talk?
According to The Peddler’s website, the Tennessee franchisee Steaks Sophisticated, Inc. acquired the location, renovated it and opened it as a restaurant in 1976. In June 1978, Geoffrey Wolpert came to work at The Peddler Steakhouse in Gatlinburg as a management trainee. He became the general manager in January 1979 and acquired the popular eatery in 1985. Since then, he has expanded its services and continues to maintain its consistently unique quality. He opened The Park Grill, his second restaurant in Gatlinburg in July 1995.
Since then, the Peddler Steakhouse has established a long-standing tradition of top-quality food, service and atmosphere. People will certainly go out of their way to return often and tell their friends not to miss it.
The Alamo is owned by the Johnson Family of Restaurants. Since the opening of their first area restaurant in 1991, Bennett’s Pit BBQ, their family has grown to many unique concepts throughout Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg. While popular, The Alamo legacy just isn’t quite as rich as The Peddler’s.
So in a battle this historic, The Peddler wins.
2. A look at their names
Which steakhouse bears the most iconic branding?
On the surface, The Peddler is objectively a terrible name for a steakhouse. However, The Peddler was built in the former home of an Ogle, whose great-grandfather established the city’s first grocery store in 1850. In the intervening years, the Ogle family passed down the landmark mercantile location from generation to generation. These people were merchants – aka peddlers. Now, the restaurant is located in an old family home built in 1958.
Look, it’s a name you’re destined to remember. And while on the surface the connection to Sevier County and the San Antonio landmark is scarce, we don’t settle for on-the-surface. What’s that I hear? Is that David Crockett’s music? It is. The King of the Wild Frontier, an East Tennessee legend who went down with the Alamo while defending it. On the one hand, thinking of Davy Crockett’s demise could put a damper on date night. On the other hand, I’ve been singing about Davy Crockett since I was three years old.
In an upset, Alamo Steakhouse wins this round.
3. Comparing the overall menu
I live life by a few simple rules. The first? If you go to a steakhouse, get the steak. I understand that other people lead divergent lifestyles. So steakhouses must offer non-steak options. That being said, I like The Peddler menu. Not counting the wine list, it’s a single sheet, one-sided. Personally, I’m not interested in leafing through an encyclopedia of food. Give me a handful of apps, list the sides and let’s get to the steak, shall we?
The Peddler appetizers are good, with a couple of cheese options, a couple of fried things and some seafood like oysters and shrimp cocktail. Classic, lovely. Non-steak entrée options include a couple of chicken options, a rainbow trout and grilled shrimp. Each of those is available in combinations in case you’d like a little steak on the side. There’s also that magnificent salad bar which is worth a shoutout.
Honestly, there’s a lot of menu real estate before you get to the meat. There’s a lot of space devoted to the salads, which is fine. I love a salad. I also like The Alamo’s appetizers, there’s a bit more variety.
But Alamo gets a bonus point for referring to a menu item as Texas Taters which allows me to do my Gollum impersonation to the waiter. Any waiter who replies with their best Samwise Gamgee, “Po-ta-toes. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew,” gets an extra $20 on the tip. The Alamo certainly offers a wider variety of non-steak items on the menu, salmon, stuffed shrimp, chicken, pork and even a vegetable plate. I can’t recommend them because, again, I don’t go to a steakhouse to skip the steak. But it’s there. There’s also a separate lunch menu with even more offerings including burgers, sandwiches and pork chops.
Surprising myself on this round, but I have to give it to The Alamo.
4. Most importantly, the steak
All right, friends now we’re down to our raison d’être. And like a television game show with a dubious scoring system to keep things interesting throughout the show, this category counts for more than all the others combined. I mean what’s the point of this particular exercise if the place with the best steak doesn’t win?
This steakhouse comes closest to my dream of walking in and being handed a menu that says “steak” and that’s all. The four basic options include custom cut rib eye or New York strip, a filet or prime rib. But honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of The Peddler. They are good and they know it. And while I don’t want a restaurant that kisses up to me, the restaurant has given me the vibe before that they can take or leave my business. I get that it’s crowded and popular. The staff at times can get overwhelmed by the demand, but I am generally left with the impression that I am unnecessary to their continued success. All that being said, their steaks are fantastic and I am willing to take a slight amount of emotional abuse to eat there.
When it comes to seeak, variety is the word of the day. There’s a horseradish crusted filet, a peppercorn coated New York strip and a filet Oscar with asparagus, crabmeat and hollandaise sauce. I don’t know who this Oscar guy is, but there’s a certain level of opulence in your life if covering stuff in crab and hollandaise sauce gets named after you. There’s a T-bone, again fun to order George Costanza style, a rib eye, prime rib, New York strip and filet. There’s also a menu item called “The Steak” which is a 20-ounce bone-in rib eye that I really wish was the only item on the menu.
I don’t want to speak disparagingly of the Alamo’s steaks. The ones I’ve had have been great. I’ve never regretted ordering one. They’re fantastic. But in my opinion, they are a slight cut below The Peddler. Your experience may vary. It’s a statistical tie, but winning the final category carries the day. If you’re hungry for a steak in Sevier County, you can’t go wrong with either place.
However, The Peddler squeaks out a win at the wire.
Which steakhouse do you prefer? The Peddler or Alamo? Let me know in the comments below.