Where to Eat: Gatlinburg, TN
We have spent our entire lives traveling to Gatlinburg in order to visit the Great Smoky Mountains, and we have come to love many of the restaurants in the area. Although some of our favorite restaurants have closed over time, there are still so many great ones still there! Please share this with anyone traveling to Gatlinburg so that everyone can have a wonderful food experience!
**We have chosen the best restaurants in our opinion in several categories, and you will notice that none of these restaurants are chain restaurants. We almost totally refuse to eat at a restaurant on vacation that we have at home. Don’t get me wrong, we like 5 Guys, Papa John’s, and Subway, but we are going to eat at local favorites on vacation. Because those are harder to find and more difficult to attempt to predict what will be good or not, we have made this list for you. Also, we are going to have a later posting about places to get sweets and coffee in Gatlinburg, so those places are not on this list.**
The following restaurants are discussed with pictures and helpful hints as you read through this article:
1. Italian/Pizza: Best Italian Cafe and Pizzeria
2. All-Around American Food: Blaine’s Grill and Bar
3. Mexican Food: Loco Burro
4. Southern Food: Log Cabin Pancake House of Gatlinburg
5. Quick Breakfast: Bearland General Store
6. BBQ: Bennet’s Pit Bar-B-Que
7. Special Dinner: Crystelle Creek
When you first walk in the restaurant, you are likely to have the same impression as everyone else: This place needs to redecorate! That is true! However, in all of our travels this is still the place we rate as the top comparison for Italian food! For example, even though we may get an awesome calzone somewhere, we always finish the meal saying something like, “That was great, but it wasn’t Best Italian.”
The pizza is huge, the calzone can’t be eaten by two people in one sitting, and the garlic rolls are so good that it is difficult to stop eating them!Best Italian Calzone Best Italian Garlic Rolls
There are two locations for Best Italian in Gatlinburg, but the original location has an outdoor patio that is shared with a partner restaurant called Howard’s (which is great in its own right.)Outdoor Patio at Best Italian Blaine’s
Blaine’s is easy to find on the main strip of Gatlinburg right next to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Their menu serves a little bit of everything, but we keep going back for some menu items in particular. I know there seems to be no bad item on the menu as we have eaten there dozens of times and have been pleased repeatedly.Blaine’s wings
Definitely try the spinach artichoke dip served in a bread bowl, and if you are an appetizer lover, the wings and quesadillas are excellent!
Blaine’s has outdoor seating with great views of downtown Gatlinburg and the mountains. We always try to eat there on a nice day when sitting outside would be possible.Blaine’s outdoor balconies Loco Burro
Loco Burro, like similar to Blaine’s is located in the middle of the Gatlinburg strip. You have to go up an escalator to get to the restaurant on the second floor, and it also has an incredible rooftop dining space/bar!Rooftop at Loco Burro
You are served chips and 3 kinds of salsa with every meal, and trust me, you will not leave hungry. The burritos, quesadillas, and tacos are all huge, tasty, and filling. Although we typically are going to choose grilled chicken on our burrito, we really like their pork/carnitas. It is such good barbecue that I would order it alone and be happy!Full plate at Loco Burro Log Cabin Pancake House
Log Cabin is the one place that is still around where my grandparents always took me, and it keeps on churning out great food. I have to fully admit that I am not a fan of Pancake Pantry because of the extremely long lines. Log Cabin can get super busy too, but it’s not nearly as bad as Pancake Pantry.Banana pancake meal (royale) at Log Cabin
Elizabeth prefers to get one of their sweet breakfast items off of the menu like is pictured above. I prefer to eat their lunch buffet! I don’t often eat fried chicken, but I make up for it when I eat here. If you want some true southern food, get there at lunch and fill up on your green beans, corn, okra, mashed potatoes, and hopefully some turkey and dressing!Lunch buffet at Log Cabin Bearland General Store
This is the “hole in the wall” restaurant in any city that you only hope you can find when you visit! My grandfather became obsessed with eating here when I was a child, and we have all become accustomed to eating here for breakfast or lunch. Although the breakfast seems to be busier, the lunch items, like burgers and fried bologna, are really good and filling!Bearland breakfast with sausage
This was originally the original check-in for an attached motel, and thankfully some of it is still left behind. The store is still owned by the same family that built the motel, and the current owner is a very friendly man that will likely greet you while you eat and shop.Bearland rocking chairs with menu specials in the back
If you want to catch the true feeling of what Gatlinburg used to be (mountain town) then Bearland gives you that feel. Relax or eat in the rocking chairs out front or on the end where there are tables. Take some time to step out of the current world and go back several decades as you fill up on a southern breakfast!Bennett’s
Bennett’s is a staple of the Gatlinburg community, and as you enter you will notice the multiple awards they win every year for having the best food. For those of us that eat barbecue regularly, this is exactly what you expect when you eat at a good barbecue restaurant. For those from other parts of the country that are not as blessed with a constant smoked BBQ presence, you need to get the sampler meal in order to get all of the delicious flavors!
Some hints for eating at Bennett’s are to eat at lunch when prices are much cheaper but the portions are not much smaller. Like all good BBQ restaurants should, their sides are really good and could be a meal unto themselves if the BBQ wasn’t so great!Sampler meal at Bennett’s
Another smaller known fact for non-regulars is that Bennett’s has an award winning breakfast buffet. We normally do not eat here for breakfast, but we know lots of people that eat breakfast here every morning!Crystelle Creek Entrance
Crystelle Creek is not in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, but it is less than a 5 minute drive up Highway 321. You can’t miss it at night because the gigantic tree shown on the right above will be illuminated and look like snow is falling. As you would expect, the restaurant is named after the creek near it, but instead of the creek being behind the dining rooms, you are actually on stilts and eating over top of the beatiful mountain stream!
The meals are all really good, especially the mountain trout, and even though you wouldn’t expect to order a burger at a place like this, you will NOT BE DISAPPOINTED in the amazing steak burgers!Crystelle Creek
At night, this restaurant is very peaceful and charming, complete with calming live music and homemade desserts. This restaurant will make you want to come back over and over again!Crystelle Creek dessert
Gatlinburg is still full of restaurants worth visiting that are not chain restaurants. The list above does not even include some really good places that aren’t chains like Cherokee Grill, The Peddler, The Alamo, Howard’s and Crawdaddy’s.
We are making the assumption that if you decide to visit Gatlinburg that you are planning to take some time to relax, and we find we can fully relax while eating next to a mountain stream after spending the day in the mountains.