The Island in Pigeon Forge is like a self-contained vacation destination within a vacation destination.
In other words, it’s like the movie Inception, but with celebrity-backed eateries instead of dreamscape mind capers.
Certainly, I like a vacation where I can go, park the car and not have to think about getting it out of the garage.
The Island offers rides, games, a museum-esque tourist attraction, shopping and, of course, dining. Certainly, it wouldn’t be Pigeon Forge without a wide variety of things to eat.
If you’re feeling a little like Gilligan and planning on staying at The Island rather than the regular three-hour tour, you need to do a little planning.
While The Island offers several options, they are not infinite and man cannot live by Cinnabon alone, or at least can’t live long that way.
So, let’s break things down and rank your eating options if you’re ever a castaway there.
First of all, not all eateries on The Island are created equally. There are restaurants, snack stands and sweet shops. And, there are places to drink.
Now, a few of the places may dip a toe in another category, but for the organization’s sake, I will rank in the category I feel serves as the predominant purpose of your business.
Snacks at The Island in Pigeon Forge
Let’s kick this list off with some of the best places to grab a snack at The Island.
5. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Look, I’m not a philistine. I like a good soft pretzel. Sweet or savory, it’s all good stuff.
Moreover, Auntie Anne’s is ubiquitous. You can’t walk through a mall food court in America without encountering an Auntie Anne’s. For example, I don’t eat at Sbarro outside of the food court. So I hold Auntie Anne’s to the same standard.
Secondly, on The Island website, the Auntie Anne’s page refers to its pretzels being “not just a pretzel” but having a light, bread-like texture. This is hubris.
Auntie Anne has gotten too big for her britches. Does Wendy promise her burgers are more than just burgers? No, she does not.
4. Margaritaville Coffee
Because I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffet, I appreciate the poetry of his biggest hit, an ode to lethargic island life, and that life has turned into a monster brand.
To be sure, Margaritaville is adult Hakuna Matata. It’s chill and relaxed. It’s getting hammered and sunburned by 1:30 in the afternoon.
Accordingly, Margaritaville Coffee is not chasing the caffeinated adrenaline rush of the mighty espresso bean. It’s not being all jacked up on caramel mocha frappes so you can hit the outlet malls with your eyes dancing like Jessie’s in the very special episode of “Saved by the Bell.”
Finally, we rank it higher than Auntie Anne’s because it’s open at 7 am, making it one of the few quick-service breakfast destinations on The Island.
The menu offers muffins, cookies, croissants, bagels and breakfast sandwiches. Fruit cups, oatmeal and yogurt are also available.
3. Kapop! Gourmet Popcorn
The textbook definition of a snack shop, Kapop! Gourmet Popcorn offers popcorn in a variety of packaging, including giant sports-themed tins which I suspect are chiefly used as gifts for people who don’t know you well enough to purchase something less generic.
I don’t have a lot to say here. It’s popcorn. You’re familiar.
Because this is a gourmet shop, they feel the need to get a little weird with dill pickle or bacon-flavored varieties.
Honest to God, if you’re going to get me bacon-flavored popcorn in a giant UT football tin this year for Christmas or my birthday or Arbor Day, I appreciate the thought, but let’s just do the cash equivalent.
2. Yee Haw Snack Shack
If you’re looking for a more substantial snack than popcorn, something that could even serve as a quick lunch, Yee Haw may be your best bet.
In particular, there is a confluence of hot dog and chili dining options, including chili dogs and chili pies.
In addition, for something sweet they offer “authentic” New Orleans Snowballs, which as far as I can tell is just a snow cone in a bigger cup.
Honestly, at first, I expected them to be alcoholic, but nah, it’s just a big ol’ snow cone. They also have frozen bananas, root beer floats and Oreo churros as well.
1. Bill’s Lemonade
I freely admit this might be skewed by an unnatural love for lemons. When I was a kid, I treated salted lemons like other kids did ice cream cones. I had a whole system, lick ‘em for a while then cut ‘em up into sections and chomp away.
At any rate, I suspect this is why my tongue looks like the Grand Canyon today, with deep fissures carved into it by citric acid and salt. It’s pretty weird.
But anyway, I love lemons. I love a good lemonade, the bitter sour and the sweet makes for the perfect refreshing beverage on a hot day. Lemonade is wonderful. That is all.
Desserts at The Island in Pigeon Forge
If you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, The Island certainly has you covered. Here are the best places to find dessert at The Island:
We’re using the Auntie Anne’s corollary here. When I’m on vacation I don’t want to eat something I can find on any street corner.
I am not, however, here to tell you Cinnabon isn’t delicious. You know it. I know it.
Certainly, centuries from now, historians will write about the decadence of our times citing Cinnabon the way we talk about Caligula and the Roman Baths.
So, it’s 2,500 square feet of candy.
You want a monstrous box of nerds or a giant, impossible to eat without shattering into a million-piece sucker? This is the place.
It’s nothing special. Honestly, it should just be Sweet.
5. The BAKESALE
As the name would indicate, this shop is based on the idea of childhood bake sales which … OK. I mean, there’s a bake sale going on somewhere at home every week.
While I might be in the mood for a rice crispy treat, a s’more or a candy-dipped cookie, I feel like there are better options like … Cinnabon, which frankly deserves the exclamation point we took away from Sweet.
“Cinnabon!”. Moving on.
4. The Fudgery Fudge and Fun
I just realized The Fudgery is actually named like one of the Fast and Furious sequels.
But, there’s nothing revolutionary about The Fudgery. Like saltwater taffy, fudge is a staple of vacation towns that wouldn’t survive in a regular hometown.
A little fudge goes a long way.
3. Big Rock Candy Kitchen
It’s hard to believe The Island can support Sweet!, The BAKESALE and the Fudgery with Big Rock Candy Kitchen nearby.
Big Rock Candy Kitchen does home sweets and treats from scratch including saltwater taffy – I TOLD YOU! – fudge, caramel apples, gourmet popcorn and gelato.
In fact, you could go to four or five different places to satisfy your sweet tooth, or you can come here.
2. Byrd’s Famous Cookies
Let’s be straight. I don’t know who made these cookies famous. Byrd? I don’t know her or her cookies but apparently, they’ve been making them since 1924 so somebody out there must know something.
The cookie bar offers free samples, which in my opinion also belies these cookies’ supposed fame.
How are you so famous if people gotta have samples? Do people need a sample before they recognize Tom Hanks? They do not.
Still, famous or not, these cookies are pretty darn good.
1. The Island Creamery
Delicious, refreshing and decadent. Who doesn’t love a creamery?
Well, my son not so much because he has dairy allergies.
But who among those of us who don’t break out in hives when they eat ice cream doesn’t love a creamery?
Bonus points here because you get to sing the ice cream song from Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” special at people who foolishly spent their sweet budget at Sweet!
“You don’t got no ice cream.”
Drinks at The Island in Pigeon Forge
If you’re spending some time at The Island, you probably want to relax with a drink at some point during the day. Here are the best places to go:
3. Dude’s Daiquiris
I rate my alcoholic beverage establishments based on the Nick’s scale.
Nick’s, as you may recall, is the alt-universe bar that replaces Martini’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Nick the hard case proprietor who serves “hard drinks for men who want to get drunk fast.” Dude’s Daiquiris is on the Clarence end of that scale.
They may not serve mulled wine with cinnamon and cloves, but the Island Oasis in the Smokies isn’t for people looking for hard drinks.
But it’s a good place to get a light buzz.
2. Changes in Latitude Bar
At some point, Mr. Buffet just started writing song titles that would work on a menu or a marquis.
Another island-themed bar in the Smokies, but this one specializes in margaritas rather than daiquiris.
This is just really personal preference because most of the time, I like beer better than liquor or cocktails.
Yee-Haw offers a fine mix of ales and lagers, including an award-winning Dunkel. A variety of season and high gravity beers – which are beers with a higher alcoholic content of which Nick would approve.
The Island in Pigeon Forge restaurants
Last but not least, here are some of the top restaurants at The Island:
In my experience, you go to Margaritaville for the ambiance, the fun, the idea of the thing.
The food is somewhat secondary. The menu is slightly island-tinged, there’s some teriyaki dishes, crab cakes and fish tacos.
They’re all fine. The cheeseburgers are fine too, though if you’re expecting a burger that lives up to the song, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Margaritaville, like most of the restaurants on The Island, opens at 11 am and closes at 10 or 11 pm, depending on the day of the week.
The online menu doesn’t offer prices but in my experience, you’re looking at $15-$35 for adult meals.
4. Dick’s Last Resort
Ya know what? I just don’t need some fourth-rate Don Rickles bringing me my Mama Dick’s Mac ’N Cheez.
Also, snapping back is very much in my nature. I do a fairly good job of keeping my worst tendencies in check, but in such a free-flowing, snarky environment?
Therefore, I fear my demons may shout down my better angels.
Adults can eat at Dick’s for roughly $15-$30.
3. Paula Dean’s Family Kitchen
I prefer Paula Dean’s for breakfast more than lunch or dinner. A family-style restaurant, breakfast is $15.99 per person for adults and $8.99 for kids 5 to 10.
You choose three down-home dishes for the table, many of them with names that will make you wish you were back at Dick’s Last Resort and could openly insult people.
You also get one meat dish for the table as well as two breakfast treats. It’s a decent Southern breakfast.
The setup is similar the rest of the day with lunch options ranging from $18.99 to $20.99 per adult and dinner options ranging from $22.99 to $26.99.
2. Mellow Mushroom
Mellow Mushroom doesn’t need a big introduction.
The pizza here is great. The variety is creative and fantastic, and I’ve never had anything less than an excellent pizza at Mellow Mushroom.
1. Timberwood Grill
The Grill offers mountain-themed dining with typical fare from steaks and burgers to ribs and a little seafood. It’s also open late, usually from 11 am to 11 pm or midnight. (Hours vary by season).
It’s nothing fancy. It’s nothing pretentious. But it’s the best dining option on the Island. Adults can eat for between $15 and $30.
For more information about The Island in Pigeon Forge, visit their website.
Do you have a favorite eatery at The Island in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.
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