Gatlinburg's Best Restaurants
Eternally framed by hazy blue peaks, Gatlinburg is as close as it gets to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the local population may hover around a mere 4,000, that number swells with the tourists who come here for the great views, endless hiking and affordable skiing at Ober Gatlinburg.
Downtown’s Parkway area may reflect this influx -- all neon lights and range of restaurants -- but there’s still much to discover off the beaten path. Luckily, with more than 150 Smoky Mountain trails covering 800 miles of unspoiled backcountry, you’re going to have quite the appetite.
If there is one thing you’ll learn about dining in the Smokies, it’s that these folks don’t mess around when it comes to breakfast. Don’t let the line deter you when you arrive at the Log Cabin Pancake House
. Savvy locals and tourists alike queue up for their turn to order renowned favorites like cornmeal or buckwheat pancakes and decadent classics like French Toast Royale topped with bananas and cream-cheese sauce. With portions this hearty, consider making this your jumping-off point for a day of exploring the trails.
2. Wild Plum Tea Room
Tucked amidst Gatlinburg's Historic Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Trail
, this classic tea room is practically an unofficial rest stop. Open seasonally (March 1 to mid-December), this Austrian-inspired tearoom is filled to the brim with whimsical details. Amid the delicate lace and mismatched teacups, you’ll find local regulars and serious crafting mavens who come here to relax in the outdoor garden and to enjoy a light lunch. Favorites include the homemade chicken salad and classics like bread pudding with amaretto sauce. The perfect accompaniment to a day spent crafting in the Smokies, this tea-time escape is a find of its own.
One of Gatlinburg’s favorite lunchtime spots is also one of the easiest to unknowingly pass by. To find this place, ascend the stairs in the back of The Cheese Cupboard shop in downtown’s popular Village Shops. Modeled after the German bierstubes of yore, Hofbrauhaus Restaurant and The Cheese Cupboard
has been serving locals -- and those in the know -- for more than 44 years. The basic menu is full of solid German staples like frankfurters and bratwurst, but the real reason for seeking out this place is for their “Super Rueben,” loaded with lean corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese. Just like in the Old World, service might take a while (your waiter will most likely be the one making your sandwich), but with a pint of German beer and surroundings this unique, no one’s complaining.
Overlooking Little Pigeon River, the Peddler Steakhouse
originated as a dream home built in 1958 from the salvaged remnants of four old Sevier County cabins. In 1976 it was turned into Peddler Steakhouse, but lost none of its former appeal. Request a table overlooking the river before settling into steakhouse favorites like loaded potatoes and a salad spread that could satisfy even the strictest vegetarians. Here, the hand-cut steaks are presented table-side before ordering so you may choose a cut to your liking. Their custom-cut New York strip is the main attraction, but for those looking for lighter fare, the marinated trout should not be missed. With service this attentive and friendly, expect to feel like you’re at a friend’s dream house after all.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Buckhorn Inn
is as renowned for its effortless beauty as it is for its namesake restaurant. Every evening at 7 p.m. hotel guests, as well as the public (reservations required), are invited to enjoy a Southern-inspired four-course meal. Arrive early to enjoy a cocktail on their rocking-chair-lined veranda for one unforgettable view of the Smokies. When dinner is announced, enjoy seasonal favorites like braised-beef short ribs and cornmeal-crusted mountain trout. Just beware: With meals this heavenly you might find yourself booking a room solely to stay on for breakfast.
The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
Situated inside the elegantly rustic Lodge at Buckberry Creek, the Restaurant at Buckberry Creek
immerses diners in Smoky Mountain grandeur. Wrap up in fleece blankets upon their expansive terrace for an al fresco dining experience that’s both a feast for the eyes as well as the body. Inside, experience the ambience that only a roaring fire can provide as you warm up with hot toddies and mull over the impressive menu. One of the only fine-dining establishments in the Smokies, the restaurant’s menu changes to reflect the area’s seasonal offerings, like pan-seared duck with jalapeño-polenta cakes or sea bass with roasted fennel and rainbow chard. With dishes as impressive as the view, expect a warm feeling to overcome you -- and no, it’s not just from the fire.