I’m a bit of a seafood snob, a habit I picked up at my grandparent’s house in Florida.
They lived next to a commercial blue crabber who would bring the crab claws straight from the boat to a boiling pot in his garage to the plate. A crab claw that was snapping away at the bottom of the gulf four hours earlier could be dipped in butter and in my mouth before the unlucky crab could even begin thinking about growing the missing appendage back.
As a crabber, my grandfather knew the shrimpers and the fishermen as well. I got very used to eating the freshest possible seafood at the best times of the year.
That made it hard to return to Indiana and later Tennessee and order seafood that hadn’t been in saltwater since Moses was a boy.
But over the years I’ve gotten better.
With the popularity of sushi growing, supply lines have improved meaning more restaurants are able to get fresher seafood more frequently.
And, I suppose, I’ve relaxed my standards somewhat, recognizing that you can find good seafood even if it wasn’t swimming in the ocean earlier in the day.
So, you can certainly get good seafood in Sevier County. It may not be as readily available as a place near the ocean, but it exists nonetheless.
A disclaimer before we dive in (HA – get it?)
I want to set a few ground rules or really one ground rule before we begin: To be seafood, you must at least in theory have originated in the sea.
After extensive research, which means I Googled it, I have discovered that common parlance means any edible non-mammal animal that lives solely in water is “seafood.”
From Brittanica.com: “Seafood, edible aquatic animals, excluding mammals, but including both freshwater and ocean creatures. Most nontoxic aquatic species are exploited for food by humans. Even those with toxic properties, such as certain blowfish, can be prepared so as to circumvent harm to the consumer.”
First of all, exploited by humans? Nah, we just eat them. Keep your editorial opinions to yourself, Britannica.
Secondly, “both freshwater and ocean creatures”?
Nah, son. If you spend your day swimming in some cow pond, river or freshwater lake, you are not seafood. You’re just fish. We gotta keep crappies in their place, y’all.
So, for the purposes of this ranking anyplace with trout, catfish or bass in their name will not be considered eligible.
And I know there are saltwater versions of most of those fish but Jack’s House of Trout ain’t bringing in toothy-meat eaters from the Atlantic. It’s just regular old trout from some hatchery up near Niota.
By the way, moral integrity does come with a personal cost. I wanted to include Pawpaw’s Catfish in Wears Valley.
They do sell crab cakes and shrimp, after all. But ultimately, I decided to remain steadfast and true to my ideals despite the grave personal cost. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
Without further ado, let’s get to ranking the best seafood restaurants in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
6 & 5. Red Lobster & Joe’s Crab Shack (Sevierville, TN)
Let’s get the chains out of the way, shall we?
Located across from each other on the Parkway near the Sevierville-Pigeon Forge line, Red Lobster and Joe’s Crab Shack are cut from the same cloth.
We know what we’re getting. It’s good stuff. Mass-produced – but good.
It’s the low-ceiling, high floor of seafood. It’s never gonna be terrible, but it’s rarely gonna be great.
Neither of these restaurants has a seafood buffet per se. Seafood buffets in the Smokies (that are worth visiting) are few and far between.
But Joe’s Crab Shack offers seafood buckets and sampler platters. And Red Lobster offers massive “feast” style sampler platters as well as the occasional all-you-can-eat shrimp specials on select days.
I prefer Joe’s a little more personally, but both establishments in Sevierville have their issues. The Red Lobster location is a little long in the tooth and shows its age structurally and, at last check, Joe’s is suffering from massive staffing issues.
We stopped by recently and were given a two-hour wait time despite the restaurant having multiple open tables. We drove across the street to the somewhat aged Red Lobster and were seated in about 20 minutes.
4 & 3. The Greenbrier Restaurant & The Chop House (Gatlinburg & Sevierville, TN)
Another tie, but hear me out.
Like many high-quality restaurants, both The Greenbrier and The Chop House offer excellent seafood options.
These are relatively high-end restaurants (Greenbrier more so than Chop House) and so anything they do is going to be excellent.
The Greenbrier menu includes stuffed shrimp, oysters, scallops and flounder, all expertly prepared.
The Chop House has lobster, crab cakes and jumbo shrimp as well as a North Atlantic Salmon and Baked Boston Scrod.
Now I don’t actually know what the heck kind of fish a Scrod is, but from the context clues, we’re assuming it’s from the ocean and not the Charles River.
If both of these restaurants do seafood so well, why are they ranked at No. 4? It’s a good question. I almost placed them higher but I dinged both because the seafood isn’t the main focus.
Put it this way, nobody goes to a three-ring circus to celebrate the act’s relegated to the outside rings. It’s center-ring or bust, baby.
Also, though we usually like to promote The Peddler here, the seafood options are somewhat limited and they do not identify where the salmon comes from. I’m ruling them out for this one.
2. Harpoon Harry’s Crab House (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Harpoon Harry’s has two big strikes going against it.
First, the name alone is enough to make me want to keep on driving. Alliteration doesn’t make it clever, Harry.
Second, the following paragraph from Harpoon Harry’s website: “Smuggler’s Restaurants in Punta Gorda, FL has combined its two most popular concepts into one fun, exciting and adventurous food, beverage, retail and entertainment operation located in Pigeon Forge, TN. Enjoy our quality food (especially seafood) at a reasonable price and you’ll see why our motto is ‘It’s not just a restaurant, it’s an adventure.’”
Easy there Indiana Jones, we’re eating crabs here, not crossing the Himalayas.
Despite the dubious PR choices, Harry’s has two things going for it: The seafood is really good and it is one of the few places in the area where you can get really good sushi even though it has a disturbing number of options under the “Cooked Rolls” section of the menu.
Harry’s is rightfully proud of its sushi options, noting it was certified as the best sushi in Pigeon Forge. But, if we’re being honest it’s not like there’s a ton of competitors for the title.
Like previously mentioned establishments du crab, Harry’s offers an array of seafood buckets as well as lobster, grouper, oysters, scallops and shrimp.
They do sell English Mountain Trout which bothers me for reasons I’m not sure I can fully articulate … sounds like Trout that get up on the land and take their trucks muddin’.
Really, this is the easiest ranking I’ve ever done at the top.
Cheaspeake’s offers the best seafood in the region and it’s not even close.
The crab cakes are as good as any I’ve ever had in Maryland. The pan-blackened scallops are divine. Just close your eyes and point and the menu and whatever they bring out is going to be fantastic.
But this excellence comes at a price. Chesapeake’s ain’t cheap but my God, is it worth it.
What are your favorite seafood restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments below.