Smoky Mountain native shares secret of where locals eat in Gatlinburg
In East Tennessee, we locals keep the secrets that need keeping. The best trout fishin’ holes? You’d better know somebody. But other secrets we don’t worry so much about. For example, where are the best places to eat in town? Heck, we’ll shout directions to strangers on the highway if we think they look hungry. So where do the locals eat in Gatlinburg? As someone who lives just up the road and has eaten at nearly every restaurant in town, I’ll tell you where I prefer to dine in Gatlinburg:
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1. Delauder’s BBQ
Delauder’s is a self-described “family-run 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. This hidden gem knows what great food and Southern hospitality are really all about. The tables are covered in red-checked tablecloths and a few of the chairs match. They even have a breaded tenderloin bigger than my head. It is a happy, happy place. Currently, they’re only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so check the business hours before making your trip.
2. The Donut Friar in The Village Shops
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 that they sent people down to investigate. But the donuts at Dunkin? They’re fine. 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 its famous cinnamon bread, pastries and, of course, donuts that were touched by angels. You can find this spot in The Village at 634 Parkway, Ste 15.
3. Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar
I used to have a 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. Chesapeake’s is simply high-end seafood dining at its best. From oysters, shrimp, lobster and crab, I’ve been to some of the best seafood places in the Carolinas, Florida, Gulf Coast and Maryland – and Chesapeake’s stands with them all. It’s a bit on the expensive side. So for me, it’s reserved for a very special night out, but it’s worth the price tag. It’s located at 437 Parkway, and reservations are recommended.
4. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
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 like wings, barbecue, steaks and pizza. They also recently started making a mean chicken pot pie. Located off the main drag at 1359 East Parkway #F, it’s behind a Subway and a Family Dollar. It doesn’t get more local than that.
5. Alamo Steakhouse
If you want to start an intense debate with a local in the comments section of this article, take a firm stance that the Alamo Steakhouse is better than The Peddler. But truly, I think both are pretty great. But when it came to choosing just one steakhouse for this article as the “local favorite”, I ultimately sided with The Alamo. Why? It comes down to the crowds. While both steakhouses are phenomenal, and both can be insanely crowded during peak season, The Alamo is just a little easier to get into logistically. Plus, they’re located just a bit further from the strip with ample parking.
6. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
Look, I can’t write an article about Gatlinburg without mentioning at least one pancake place. And Crockett’s Breakfast Camp’s claim to Gatlinburg fame is their larger-than-life ultra-thick griddlecakes. But they’re also a great breakfast restaurant that hits the nail on the head when it comes to serving up classic Southern-style breakfast dishes like Corned Beef Hash Benedict and Pan-Fried Pork Chops. While a place like the Pancake Pantry is pancake royalty, I know that people will be lined up around the block them pancakes daily. Personally, I don’t like to go to places where we have to wait in line with the tourists for an hour. Crockett’s is located at 1103 Parkway. Join the wait list via their website.
7. Smoky Mountain Brewery
With locations in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Smoky Mountain Brewery is a popular restaurant that features traditional American favorites like pizza, burgers and beer with live music and karaoke on select nights. I love dishes like their nachos and wings as I enjoy a nice adult beverage. The Gatlinburg location is at 1004 Parkway, Ste 501.
8. Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Bennett’s BBQ is part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants and has multiple locations in the Smokies. They serve up hickory-smoked barbecue with a special house sauce in a variety of platters with respectable portion sizes. Most come with your choice of sides including french fries and veggies. On the menu, you’ll find everything from chicken wings to beef brisket to deep-fried pickles. It’s not that fancy. But it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a great place to grab some traditional southern Bar-B-Que. One of my favorite things about Bennett’s is the large serving sizes. The Gatlinburg location can be found at 714 River Road.
Are you a local? What are your favorite dining options in the Smokies? Let me know in the comments!