What happened to Puckers in Gatlinburg? How its spirit lives on

puckers sign compared to current fire damage

Puckers was lost in last month's fire in downtown Gatlinburg (left photo by Morgan Overholt; right photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

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By its very nature, Gatlinburg is in a never-ending cycle of change.

It may not seem that way. You see the old staples like the Pancake Pantry and it feels familiar and comfortable.

But within that comfort is an unending cycle driven by the nuances of commerce, the changing demands of the tourist trade.

The change can be gradual. To illustrate, one day you look up and realize half the Parkway is moonshine distilleries.

But the change can also be sudden.

One day it’s Ober Gatlinburg and the next it’s Ober Mountain.

But sometimes the changes are dictated by the rules of supply and demand.

Sometimes there’s retirement. Sometimes there’s a merger. And sometimes change is traumatic and tragic like in a fire.

Read Also: Are Gatlinburg fires common? A list of big fires in the area [2022]

Aftermath of the Oct. 22 Gatlinburg Fire
The Gatlinburg fire in October of 2022 destroyed Puckers Sports Bar among other establishments (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

What was destroyed in the Gatlinburg fire of 2022?

When the massive fire broke out in downtown Gatlinburg in October of 2022, it took the life of a local man – 54-year-old Martin Bates – and destroyed four businesses right in the heart of downtown.

China Bazaar had been on that spot for as long as I can remember. Café 420 and Gifts of Gatlinburg were also lost in the flames.

Another Gatlinburg landmark went up in that fire as well, Puckers Sports Grill.

Crawdaddy's in Gatlinburg
Puckers has recently offered pop-ups at Crawdaddy’s in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Where is Puckers in Gatlinburg TN?

Currently, Puckers is more of a state of mind than a physical location.

When fire claimed that whole block, it took Puckers with it.

Can you still eat at Puckers in Gatlinburg?

The Puckers spirit is currently living on through a series of weekend pop-ups at another sister restaurant, Crawdaddy’s.

The pop-up brings back some of the classic Puckers flavors while the restaurant owners figure out what’s next.

The oldest bar in town is having pop-up events at Crawdaddy’s on Friday and Saturday evenings from 9 pm until 1 am until further notice.

The event will feature a DJ, drink specials and has no cover fee.

Also, Puckers took first place in this year’s Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff in both the judge and people’s choice categories.

Loco burro sign
Kennedy Concept also owns Loco Burro (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Who owns Puckers?

Puckers Gatlinburg is part of the Kennedy Concept family of restaurants which includes Crawdaddy’s, Johnny Rockets and Loco Burro as well as the Cafe4 in Knoxville.

Kennedy Restaurants thrive on creating memorable experiences for its customers.

Read Also: 9 restaurants with live music in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge

Will Puckers be missed?

Sure. At least until we know in what form it will return. In the tradition of the Kennedy Concepts, Puckers sports bar was an experience.

In addition to the full bar, there was a billiard table, pool and darts tournaments, 12 HDTVs with non-stop sports, a live DJ and pay-per-view events.

All of that was in addition to the great food. In its absence, we’re not sure Gatlinburg has anything quite like it.

What can fans do to help?

Until Puckers is back, Kennedy is encouraging supporters to visit its other restaurants and buy gift cards for the perfect holiday gift. 

Gift cards can also be purchased online.

Puckers in Gatlinburg
Pictured above: Puckers prior to the Gatlinburg fire of 2022 (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What kind of food did Puckers have?

Puckers offered standard American bar food in a fun atmosphere.

The Philly, which had steak, sauteed onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese, was delicious.

And for those who preferred a healthier option, you could also order a house salad with grilled or fried chicken, red onion, tomato, carrots, applewood smoked bacon, shredded cheese and croutons.

What was the best thing to order at Puckers? Let’s break it down, rankings style.

9. The apps

Any great sports bar has great apps. It’s a staple of the genre.

Grilled mozzarella sticks, cheeseburger sliders, potato skins, pretzel sticks or the tailgate sampler were all great choices.

Other options included classics like queso dip and salsa, hand-breaded chicken tenderloins and the basket of goodness. And also your choice of fries, tater tots or onion rings. You could get ‘em loaded.

But you know what stood out? The pork rinds. Freshly fried pork rinds seasoned with your choice of dry rub seasoning: spicy red pepper, BBQ or ranch. Certainly, if you wanted a memorable app, fresh pork rinds really hit the spot.

8. The Club

This classic club sandwich featured honey ham, roasted turkey, American cheese, swiss, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo on King’s Hawaiian bread.

7. BBQ Chicken Flatbread

The flatbread featured grilled chicken in a honey BBQ sauce, topped with applewood smoked bacon, red onions, jalapeños, cilantro and mozzarella cheese. 

Specifically, it was perfect bar food. Hand manageable and delicious.

It was one of several stone-fired flatbread options topped with homemade sauces, fresh vegetables, gourmet meats and the finest cheeses. Furthermore, you could add a Caesar salad.

The vegetarian with tomato and garlic and red sauce, cheesy garlic bread or pepperoni flatbreads were also big hits.

6. Sliders

Another bar classic. You got four per order with your choice of a side.

Sliders were swerved on a Sweet Hawaiian bun topped with sautéed onions, pickle, and “Pucked Up Slider Sauce” and a choice of grilled or buffalo chicken, ham and cheese or hamburger/cheeseburger.

5. Famous jumbo wings

We’re on a bar classic roll. 

These chicken wings were marinated for 24 hours before being served. They were available naked and fried or breaded and fried with bone-in or boneless options in 6 pc, 12 pc and 18 pc. 

I know real wing aficionados turn their nose up at boneless wings, but Puckers was proud of theirs, proudly offering a “sampler of our boneless wings.”

You had 16 choices of homemade sauces or dry rub. 

For instance, the choice of sauce included Spicy Sticky Garlic, Korean BBQ or Sweet Chipotle Heat. It was perfect with a little garlic butter.

Finally, for the bravest of the brave, the Puckers Legendary Wing Challenge was to eat 12 of the “Real Puckin’ Hot” wings in 5 minutes or less and receive a free T-shirt, your meal free and your picture on the wall.

4. Original Pucker Burger

A perfectly classic burger.

The burger featured 100% Angus ground beef seasoned and grilled, then topped with leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, red onion and pickle. Sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and smoked Applewood bacon was available on request with a choice of cheese.

Additionally, double meat was available on request. Certainly, a double meat Pucker burger is a thing of beauty. This is no simple bacon cheeseburger. 

3. Ultimate Nachos

A perfect app if you want to share. Or you can make it a meal all on its own.

Crispy tortilla chips, queso cheese, chili, shredded lettuce, a side of sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, jalapeños and green onions. Do you want to get wild? Sub in the tots for the chips and thank me later.

2. The Grilled Cheese

This was not your average grilled cheese sandwich. In other words, mozzarella, swiss cheese and fontina were melted on King’s Hawaiian bread, grilled golden brown.

1. The Bird

A terrific chicken sandwich served grilled, blackened or Nashville hot, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and a brioche bun served with a choice of sides or a side salad. 

Do you look forward to a Puckers reopening? Let us know in the comments!

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 [email protected] for questions or comments.

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1 thought on “What happened to Puckers in Gatlinburg? How its spirit lives on”

  1. We just skip Gatlinburg now and take the bypass to Pigeon Forge! Great restaurants, great accommodations, and parking. Now even Pigeon Forge is getting too crowded.

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