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The Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge is, like many of its neighboring eateries, an experience. Diners can expect a home-cooked meal, a meal that wouldn’t be foreign to the early settlers of the mountains. And it’s all done without the commercialism of some national chains that offer home cooking.
My dinner party chose to have lunch at the Old Mill. Knowing that the mill is popular with both visitors and locals, we timed our arrival about 1:30 p.m. The lunch crowd had left and the dinner crowd was hours away. We were seated immediately and greeted by our server in minutes.
This leads to one of a few suggestions I would offer the proprietors of the Old Mill Restaurant: consider taking reservations. A few years back, I took some out-of-town guests to the restaurant at noon on Saturday. The wait was about 50 minutes. Arriving at the right time – when you’ll be seated quickly – keeps the kids calm and the dreaded “hanger” (when your hunger makes you angry) away. Lunch is from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., so arrive right at 11 a.m. or after 1 p.m.
The lunch menu includes southern favorites like a country fried steak (bet you’ve never seen that on a Las Vegas buffet), country ham, meatloaf, pork chops, pot roast and, of course, fried chicken. You can also dine on fresh-caught English Mountain rainbow trout.
This is my niece’s favorite and the only thing she ever orders at Old Mill. Sandwiches and vegetarian options are available, although I’ve never actually gotten that far on the menu. A children’s menu is also included. Junior can eat the usual hamburger or chicken tenders.
He can also get a taste of the region with a child’s plate of chicken and dumplings or fried chicken.
On this visit, I ordered the chicken and dumplings (pronounced “dumplins, the g is silent). This is the Beef Wellington of southern Appalachian cooking. If you are meeting your in-laws, you serve this. Four crockpots filled with this show up at every Sunday church social and these are always the first pots emptied. So, the standard is pretty high.
Chicken and dumplings are made with small chunks of chicken cooked in broth with with homemade bread, usually made from biscuit dough. Most cooks roll the biscuit down in small flattened balls. The Old Mill is one of the few places that does this dish right. I’m not ready to say the Old Mill has topped my grandma’s recipe, but it comes close.
Others at my table ordered meatloaf, country-fried steak and pot roast. The meals included a bowl of corn chowder, creamy mashed potatoes (no lumps here), corn fritters and green beans. On this day, no substitutions were available, but my picky nephew was able to get a double helping of mashed potatoes with no green beans. The younger ones at our table were 12 and 15. They had no trouble eating the huge helpings. Adults, though, couldn’t clean the plate. The Old Mill is pretty generous, especially considering that each meal was only $11.99. The service was tremendous. Our waitress never interrupted our conversation but made sure we were wanting for nothing.
Drink like the locals. Skip the soda and order the sweet tea. I have seen delicious desserts but, honestly, I have never had room for dessert after lunch and supper.
If you’re not into heavy southern meals, salads and fruit dishes are available. I suggest that you use your calories here and skip the funnel cake and kettle corn later in the day. Yes, your plate may equal half of day’s calories. That’s a small price to pay for a meal you’ll long remember.
BEFORE YOU GO: The Old Mill operates on seasonal hours during January and February. The rest of the year, breakfast is served from 8 a.m.-11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and supper (or dinner), from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. During peak season, a 10 a.m.-2 p.m. brunch is another option. You can see most of the menu at the restaurant’s website.
PARKING: This is tight, just like it is everywhere in Sevier County. Diners can park free in spaces in front of the restaurant and connected shops. You might be able to find paid parking close. If not, the Old Mill is just a couple of blocks from Patriot Park. You can park here for free. When you’re done eating, you can walk back to the park and catch the trolley to go to anywhere in Pigeon Forge.
DIRECTIONS: The Old Mill is located at Red Light 7, If you’re coming from Sevierville, you’ll turn left. If you’re coming from Gatlinburg, you’ll turn right. For your GPS, the address is 3341 Old Mill Street, Pigeon Forge.
One final reminder from a local: asking for a “to go” box for leftovers is never frowned upon and is expected.
Hours: Breakfast is served from 8 a.m.-11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and supper (or dinner), from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. During peak season, a 10 a.m.-2 p.m. brunch is another option.
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