Move over Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg – There’s a new foodie scene in Sevier County
There is a movement afoot in Downtown Sevierville, a changing of the culinary guard. It is a movement of artisanal burgers, of top-shelf barbecue and homemade bacon. It is a movement of locally sourced, high-end elevated mountain cuisine. And it is a movement of lobster. As a local who has been knocking around the mountains of East Tennessee for approaching 35 years, it is a movement that I welcome fully. Downtown Sevierville is now the premier dining location in the county. It’s officially supplanting the neon glamour of the Pigeon Forge strip and the old-world ambiance of Downtown Gatlinburg.
The people behind these restaurants are driven to push beyond the pancakes and grandma’s fried chicken that dominated the Sevier County food service scene for decades. And they’re doing that in a way that is revitalizing Downtown Sevierville. It gives people more of a reason to visit downtown than to see the Dolly Parton statue. And that brings us to Pinchy’s Lobster & Beer Co., a new and exciting addition to the region’s culinary scene. It’s a New England-style Lobster shack that provides fresh seafood and a fantastic atmosphere. And one of the best dining experiences in the area.
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Location, ambiance and parking
The thing that I appreciate about Pinchy’s is you can tell the owners are after something more than shoveling food into as many customers’ gaping maws as possible. Inside is bright and airy, there’s room to maneuver. The bright artwork on the wall and large bar with the giant #getpinched neon sign send just the right welcoming message.
The outdoor section with a handful of picnic tables on a nice, thick artificial turf is warm and inviting. There’s a large firepit surrounded by Adirondack-style chairs – we are New England style after all. There’s also a small stage for live music. It’s the kind of inviting spot that says come, hang out, have a few beers, and join the party. It’s a well-designed, cleanly decorated restaurant.
One of the few downsides to Pinchy’s is that downtown Sevierville wasn’t exactly designed with parking for large crowds in mind. So, on a Friday night or Saturday night, when all the restaurants are hopping, you may have some issues finding a place to park. There is a nice-sized gravel lot directly across from Pinchy’s and there are some on-street parking spots but landing one of those is something akin to hitting the lottery. There is – however – more parking over by the courthouse, just be prepared to walk a block or two.
My personal menu recommendations
Here are a few of my personal recommendations on what to order at Pinchy’s.
1. Lobster rolls
First, I’m a big believer in ordering the specialty of the house. I don’t go to a barbecue joint and get the vegetarian platter and if they’ve got a big cartoon lobster mascot, I’m dang well getting some lobster. The lobster roll, in fact. This proved to be an excellent decision. Pinchy’s offers four styles of lobster rolls, the Classic, the Connecticut, the Nashville Hot and the BLLT – Bacon, Lobster, Lettuce and Tomato. The last two are pretty well self-explanatory but the Conn. is billed as the lobster purist’s roll. It has a lighter touch on the mayo and celery and puts the flavor focus squarely on the lobster meat.
I went with the classic – which is chilled claw and knuckle meat (from a lobster) with a touch of Duke’s mayo, celery on a locally fresh baked brioche bun. The menu says the roll is perfectly toasted but I didn’t really pay attention to it. That’s the kind of marketing jargon that you see frequently on menus but rarely is delivered in the actual product. Reader, perfectly toasted is underselling the quality of the roll. I bit into my sandwich and fireworks went off in my mouth. I’ve seen the Jon Favreau Chef scene about the artistry of the perfect grilled cheese but never understood it. I’ve been into thousands of sandwiches in my life, and this is the first time I can recall my tastebuds stopping the process mid-bite, forcing me to appreciate the roll before we went on to the meat.
Ok. Enough about the roll. What about the lobster, the star of the dish? Having raved so much about the bread, I feel like there’s no room for further flowery speech, but it’s fantastic. The combination of the generous portion of sweet lobster meat, the crunch of the celery and the creamy mayo on top of that roll? It is among the best menu options of any restaurant in the area.
2. Buckets, ramen and burgers
If you’ve had the lobster roll and want to go a different direction the clambake and the Pinch bucket are both great options. But I’d probably go with the Lobster Ramen. I still want something that keeps lobster at the center and the lobster and pork belly combination is up there with some of the great duos of all time. If you really want to throw a curveball? Get the Pinch Burger. Two real smash patties with American Cheese, pickles and comeback sauce on a brioche bun. The Pinch Burger goes beyond great. I think it’s the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. It’s amazing.
Is Pinchy’s worth it?
It absolutely is. I’ve seen people complain about Pinchy’s prices on the interwebs. They say Pinchy’s is too expensive. Listen, you’re not going to import fresh seafood to the Smoky Mountains on the cheap. I’m still adjusting to the inflated price of living these days and so any time I look at a menu, I get a little sticker shock. But I don’t feel like anything at Pinchy’s was priced outside of expectations. Was my lobster roll worth $32? It absolutely was. Is the Pinchy’s burger a steal at $18? Yes. Sure, I can get a burger for $12 at Applebees but I promise you, I’d rather spend the extra six bucks.
The question of whether is something worth the price is one I struggle with because the answer is nebulous, and I can’t do it for you. I guess the best way to answer it is this … I’ve got a date night coming up with the wife. We’ve got a handful of favorite places in Sevier County from which we can choose. Would Pinchy’s be at or near the top of the places I’d pick for us to go? It would. Great atmosphere, fantastic food and a place that seems to welcome fun. In addition, I’m supporting a local business with a vision and a larger effort to revive Downtown Sevierville. Reader, that’s winning all around. Pinchy’s is absolutely worth it.
You can find Pinchy’s at 212 Court Avenue. You can reach them at 865-365-4168. They don’t have online reservations, but you can make online orders for pickup or use a delivery service to have it brought to you.