I grew up not far from the small community in Blount County, Tenn.
When I was old enough to drive myself to Sevier County, I had the choice of 411 into Sevierville, Wears Valley Road into Pigeon Forge or through the national park into Gatlinburg.
Wears Valley was always my favorite route. The views were the best, and I’ve always been fascinated by the hillside cemetery at Headrick’s Chapel.
But unless I was going to Metcalf Bottoms to tube or picnic, Wears Valley was a conduit, not a destination. However, since those days, times have changed.
Wears Valley isn’t yet the strip in Pigeon Forge, but it’s far from the relatively obscure mountain valley of my youth. Today, Wears Valley is home to much more.
There’s wine and ‘shine, shopping and many more attractions than when I was a kid.
Add in a wide variety of restaurants that are worth the drive from Pigeon Forge or Townsend, and Wears Valley is the place to be. Here are some of the best restaurants in Wears Valley, TN:
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1. PawPaw’s Catfish Kitchen
God bless the people of Louisiana.
They’re acolytes, carrying the good message of Cajun and Creole cooking to the masses. How did a former tugboat cook find his way to Wears Valley and begin slingin’ Cajun culinary masterpieces? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
Here you will find gumbo, jambalaya, red beans, shrimp, crawfish etouffee, muffulettas and po’ boys. None of these things belong nestled up to the mountains of Wears Valley, but somehow it all fits. The house specialties are catfish Acadiana and catfish Orleans.
They are works of art and should be on permanent display in the Louvre.
Come hungry and be ready to stay awhile. Take your time. Order some Boudin Balls as an appetizer and live your life like it’s supposed to be lived, eating Cajun food in the mountains of East Tennessee.
2. Hillbilly’s Restaurant
Hillbilly’s goes hard at three things: Breakfast, bizarre menu font choices and alternative spellings. This restaurant isn’t going to wow you with options.
For breakfast, it’s pancakes, biscuits, eggs and meats. For lunch, it is burgers, sandwiches and salad with lettuce and tomato, onions, ham, bacon and cheese.
Most days of the week, there’s no dinner. But on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, they reopen from 4-8 pm.
It all feels appropriate for the setting. If you’re not country and are unfamiliar with the joys of a fried bologna sandwich, then live a little, overlook the painfully clever spelling, and order Cuzin Bo’s Dream.
3. Wears Valley Social Food Truck Park
Life is like Wears Valley Social, a food truck park located in Wears Valley. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Food trucks are all the rage for culinary geniuses with a vision and a love of low overhead.
The park, located at 3209 Wears Valley Road, offers a weekly schedule of area geniuses who gas up their truck and come to cook culinary delights for the tourists.
Authentic tacos, seafood, hot dogs, chicken wings, pizza, BBQ and more are among the offerings at this nomadic foodie destination.
4. Elvira’s Café
I’ve known of two Elviras in my life. First, was the campy 70s and 80s era celebrity Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
Second, whoever the Oak Ridge Boys were singing about back in the day. It’s possible, I suppose, that the Oak Ridge Boys were singing about the Mistress of the Dark, but it feels unlikely.
Anyway, Elvira’s Café is more than simply a place to irritate your children by singing oom-papa, oom-papa, mow, mows. Overall, it’s a good place to eat in a beautiful setting.
Diners can eat at Elvira’s anytime and get a good meal, but I’m a big fan of their breakfast options. You can’t go wrong with the Mountain Man Omelet or, if you’re in the mood for daintier fare, one of Elvira’s savory crepes is the go-to choice.
They also have homemade sausage gravy. For lunch, try a true Southern favorite, a fried green tomato BLT.
5. Grandmother’s Kitchen
Grandmother’s Kitchen is a small restaurant on Wears Valley Road that specializes in jumbo biscuits and other Southern staples. They are open for breakfast and lunch only, usually until 2:30 pm.
It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be. I recommend getting the breakfast, though.
Missing any restaurants from the list? Geppetto’s Italian Restaurant has been permanently closed.
Which is your favorite Wears Valley restaurant? Let us know in the comments!