It’s steak night in the Smoky Mountains.
What are you gonna do?
In one corner, you’ve got the Peddler: a popular dining destination in Gatlinburg. Built 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.
Leveling the playing field, let’s assume you can get a reservation at either place in a timely fashion and either is conveniently located for you and your party.
We’re making this call simply on what is the best dining experience for your family.
It’s Alamo vs. the Peddler … Who ya got?
History of the two steakhouses
The Peddler: According to The Peddler’s website, the Tennessee franchisee Steaks Sophisticated, Inc. acquired the cabin, 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.
The Peddler Steakhouse has established a long standing tradition of top quality food, service and atmosphere that people will go out of their way to return to and often and tell their friends not to miss.
Families have been returning to The Peddler as their go-to steakhouse in the Smokies for generations.
The Alamo: According to their website, 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 seven unique concepts in 11 locations throughout Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg.
While popular, The Alamo legacy just isn’t quite as rich as The Peddler’s.
In a battle this historic, The Peddler wins.
The iconic name factor
The Peddler: On the surface, The Peddler is objectively a terrible name for a steakhouse. It sounds like a c-level Batman villain.
However, The Peddler is 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 – and now the restaurant is located in an old family home built in 1958. The Peddler name is a deep-seeded dad joke. Completely redeemed.
Alamo Steakhouse: 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 went down to the Alamo and died defending it.
On the one hand, thinking of Davy Crockett getting killed 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. You don’t mess with Davy.
The menu: Non-steak division
The Peddler: 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 and I am open and accepting of this.
I understand that sometimes your friend or significant other might really want a good steak and you take one for the team. So steakhouses must offer non-steak options.
That being said, I really like The Peddler menu. Not counting the wine list, it’s a single sheet, one sided.
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, a couple of cheese options, a couple of friend things, oysters and shrimp cocktail. Classic, lovely.
I am willing to forgive the presence of Chicken Almond Soup because they also offer French Onion Soup, and French Onion Soup is the broth of the Gods.
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.
If The Peddler offered a combination where a steak is paired with another steak, we’d shut this competition down right now, but alas.
The Alamo: Honestly, we spend a lot of menu real estate before we get to the meat.
There’s a lot of space devoted to the salads, which is fine. Love a salad.
I like The Alamo’s appetizers, there’s a bit more variety.
The Shrimp Cocktail sauce is described as “zesty.” I prefer “makes your brain run out of your nostrils and over stimulates your tear ducts” but I understand why more sensitive types don’t want that wording on the menu.
The Alamo gets a bonus point for referring to a menu item as taters which allows me to do my Gollum impersonation to the waiter.
“What’s taters, precious?” 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, even a vegetable plate.
I can’t recommend them because, again, I don’t go to a steakhouse to try their teriyaki chicken. But it’s there.
Surprising myself on this round, but I have to give it to The Alamo.
While I personally prefer the Henry David Thoreau simplicity of The Peddler’s offerings, I suspect the populace would prefer the wider variety of the Alamo. I am nothing if not fair-minded, magnanimous populist.
The most important part: 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?
The Peddler: The Peddler comes closest to my dream of walking in and being handed a menu that says “Steak” and that’s all.
Four basic options include: Custom Cut Rib Eye or New York Strip, a filet or Prime Rib. Prices vary on size and cut.
Though it sounds like it here, I’m not the biggest fan of The Peddler.
The Peddler is good and it knows it. And while I don’t want a restaurant that kisses up to me, The Peddler has given me the vibe before that they can take or leave my business.
I get that it’s crowded and popular and 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. Make of that what you will.
The Alamo: Again, 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.
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, but The Peddler squeaks out a win at the wire.