In East Tennessee, we keep the secrets that need keeping.
The best fishin’ holes? You’d better know somebody’s’ daddy.
Moonshine? Sure I can get you a jar. Oh, you want the name of my guy? Sorry, I can’t divulge that information.
Which UT football player is driving around campus in a nice, new car? Son, if you post on that message board again you might just be askin’ for a butt whuppin’.
But other secrets we don’t worry so much about.
What are locals’ favorite restaurants?
Heck, we’ll shout directions to strangers on the highway if we think they look hungry.
So where do locals go to eat in Gatlinburg? We go to the same places y’all do. Pancake Pantry, Calhoun’s, even higher-end places like The Peddler. We just try to go when we know y’all won’t be there.
Still, we do have favorite places that the tourists either don’t worry too much about or don’t want to get off the strip and check out.
Here are some of our locals’ favorite spots to eat in Gatlinburg.
5. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
For symmetry purposes, I should have made this third, but Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery is a local favorite.
The menu is unpretentious. There’s live music, karaoke and corn hole.
The menu is billed as laid back American comfort food. Wings, BBQ, pizza and they recently started making a mean chicken pot pie.
It’s fun, loose for adults, but not to the point you can’t bring kids for lunch or dinner.
Located off the main drag at 1359 East Parkway #F, it’s behind a Subway and a Family Dollar. It don’t get more local than that.
4. Taste of Italy
Not far down the Parkway from Three Jimmy’s is Taste of Italy, located next to Park Liquor Store and across from the Food City Gas N Go.
Taste of Italy is a local favorite for hearty Italian cuisine.
I’m a sucker for the meatball sub or a good calzone, but there’s pasta and chicken and pizza. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a family owned Italian eatery.
No surprises. If I’m honest, I make a mean homemade spaghetti sauce and hardly ever order marinara and pasta when ordering Italian. I make an exception at Taste of Italy.
3. Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar
I used to have a pretty steadfast rule about eating seafood further than three hours from the coast, but places like Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar are why I had to change my mind.
A Knoxville institution that has expanded to Gatlinburg, Chesapeake’s is simply high-end seafood dining at its best.
Oysters, shrimp, lobster and crab, I’ve been to some of the best seafood places in the Carolina’s, Florida, Gulf Coast and Maryland – Chesapeake’s stands with them all.
It’s not an everyday dining experience, of course, for locals it’s reserved for a very special night out.
But when we want seafood, and/or a memorable dining experience, Chesapeake’s is the place.
2. The Donut Friar in The Village Shops
Let me tell you a story of my people.
A few years ago, I met a man who franchised a Dunkin Donuts in a medium-sized East Tennessee town.
The place was immediately, madly successful, but in a way that surprised the corporate offices so much they sent people down to investigate.
Despite its name, in most of the civilized world, Dunkin’s big money is in the coffee. The donuts are just an accessory.
Not here. We wanted the donuts to the point we broke the corporate model.
I’ll tell you another secret of my people. The donuts at Dunkin? They’re fine for what they are. But if someone opened a Donut Friar next door? Dunkin would be out of business in a month.
Open at 5 am daily, the Donut Friar offers cinnamon bread, pastries and, of course, donuts that were touched by angels.
The fact that the Pancake Pantry and the Donut Friar are located so close to each other is a miracle of the Lord.
1. Delauder’s BBQ
Delauder’s is a self-described “family ran dive” and is all that’s good about Southern cooking.
Located up on the East Parkway past the high school, Delauder’s is off the beaten tourist path.
The tables are covered in red-checked tablecloths and a few of the chairs match. You don’t go to Delauder’s for anything other than eating the best dang BBQ, brisket, ribs and sausage you will ever have in your life.
Are you having an event in Gatlinburg? Make it authentic and have the good folks there do a little catering.
They even have a breaded tenderloin bigger than your head that makes my old Hoosier heart happy and possibly endangered.
It is a happy, happy place.
Are you a local? What are your favorite dining options in the Smokies? Let us know in the comments!