If you’re not from the South, you may have a hard time pinpointing exactly what defines Southern cuisine. After all, it is a vast category. The Deep South near New Orleans includes Creole dishes like étouffée and Cajun entrées such as jambalaya. Further north along the Atlantic coastline, you have Lowcountry seafood like shrimp and grits and African-influenced Soul foods made with collard greens and okra. Closer to the mountains in the West, there are also certain Appalachian specialties like chicken and dumplings. However, the Smoky Mountains restaurants offer a wide sampling of the classics.
The broad genre of Southern cuisine is perhaps best recognized for a few key staples – fried chicken, barbecue, and fresh-baked biscuits – all served, of course, with a generous helping of Southern hospitality. Anytime you’re in town, you can be sure the Smoky Mountains restaurants will offer you a warm welcome and a hot platter of your favorite Southern homestyle cookin’. Follow your nose to these family-style restaurants in Pigeon Forge!
Traditional Southern Family-Style Restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
Southern culture values family above all else, making mealtimes one of life’s greatest gifts each day. As a result, the best family restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg follow conventions common to family-style dining. For instance, don’t be surprised when you are greeted by the wait staff as though you are a close family member visiting their home. Don’t hesitate to keep passing around the large platters of food, just like a bona fide Southern mama, insisting everyone eat their fill and have seconds and thirds.
Mama’s Farmhouse of Pigeon Forge bases its entire menu on the traditional recipes that the Johnson family’s great-grandmother used to make. If a dinner of meatloaf, honey-glazed ham, or country-fried steak doesn’t get your mouth watering, then their other award-winning recipes will. For example, you can’t miss their fried chicken and original buttermilk biscuits smothered in chocolate gravy! At this all-you-can-eat family restaurant, you won’t have to interrupt quality family time to stand in line at a buffet. Your server will keep you steadily supplied with each of their daily menu items.
If you’re staying in Gatlinburg for your Smoky Mountain getaway, Mama’s home-cookin’ is still only minutes away. Mama’s Chicken Kitchen offers the same classic fried chicken and country sides, served hot and fresh in a casual setting. When you dine-in, look forward to digging into a 3- or 4-piece chicken meal, fried chicken livers, chicken and dumplings, and other staples of Southern chicken cooking. Otherwise, grab a 10-piece to-go bucket of chicken with your choice of two sides, and enjoy a picnic by your hotel pool or on the mountain trails!
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is undoubtedly one of the best family restaurants in Pigeon Forge due to its namesake’s nationwide reputation. However, when you have lunch or dinner at their location at The Island, you’ll realize firsthand that this restaurant is about much more than just a reputation.
Because they use celebrated Paula Deen’s original recipes, you’re in for the real deal when you order dishes like Ol’ Fashioned Southern Meatloaf, Chicken-Fried Pork Chops, or Georgia-Fried Catfish. Don’t forget to ask for sides of creamed potatoes, fresh candied yams, baked mac ‘n’ cheese, and collard greens to share with the whole family. For dessert, go all out on a couple of orders of Paula Deen’s famous banana pudding, signature ooey-gooey butter cake, or a seasonal cobbler.
Unique Smoky Mountains Restaurants
The family-style restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have made a name for themselves as the local champions of Southern cuisine. However, there are also some rather unique options in this neck of the woods that you won’t find anywhere else! Slow-cooked meats, stone-ground grains, and the world’s most famous beans make up some of the Smokies’ most original samplings of Southern delicacies.
Just a 15-minute drive from Pigeon Forge, Buddy’s bar-b-q of Sevierville smokes some of the best barbecue in the Smokies. This local staple has been perfecting the art of hickory-smoked meats, including half a chicken, pulled chicken, pork, beef brisket, ribs, ham, and turkey for about fifty years. Order as much food as you like! You can buy their meats by the pound and purchase bulk orders of sides like baked beans, green beans, cole slaw, and potato salad. Dine indoors or outside on the patio, swing by the drive-thru, or order delivery. No matter your preferred dining style, Buddy’s bar-b-q provides you with all the savory essentials.
Of all the Smoky Mountains restaurants, the Old Mill Restaurant is perhaps as authentic as it gets. This one-of-a-kind culinary experience is located at The Old Mill, known as one of the oldest, still-operational grist mills in the country. The Old Mill is a little slice of Appalachian history as a significant influence in the development of the mountain town of Pigeon Forge. Today, the grains ground at the mill can be purchased at The Old Mill General Store among countless other Appalachian food products. You can also taste them in the distillations at Old Forge Distillery and savor them in the culinary creations at the restaurant.
At The Old Mill Restaurant, indulge in homemade biscuits made from stone-ground corn grits for breakfast, or share a BBQ pork sandwich, chicken and dumplings, and pot roast with gravy for lunch. As for dinner, you’ll find a menu brimming with Southern delights. You’ll have a tough time choosing between unusual entrées, like Southern fried beef liver or lightly fried Smoky Mountain rainbow trout, and irresistible specialties, like spare ribs and sauerkraut or Deep South chicken pot pie. Make sure to save room for delicious sides like their original corn chowder and desserts fresh from the bakery!
Venture out to Dandridge, TN, and you might see a familiar sight from the shelves of your local grocery store. Did you know that the nation’s most famous bean company started right here in the Great Smoky Mountains? At Bush’s Visitor Center, you can learn how a humble family-owned business began in 1908, only to make its mark on American food history with a secret family recipe for baked beans.
After a tour of the museum, take a lunch break at Bush’s Family Cafe to experience all the creative ways you can use such a simple ingredient. The cafe serves hot and cold sandwiches, plus classic Southern-inspired dishes like country-fried steak and golden-fried catfish. However, you can’t leave without trying their bean-centric favorites, like Bush’s Chili Pot or the beans and cornbread. Original baked beans, vegetarian baked beans, seasoned black beans, and pinto beans are, of course, choice side items to order with any entrée. Finally, you must try Bush’s Pinto Bean Pecan Pie, a signature dessert guaranteed to hit the spot at the end of a heavenly meal.
As an Appalachian subrange in Eastern Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains region makes its mark within the broader tradition of Southern homestyle cooking. For instance, among the best family restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you can find that classic Tennessee barbecue flavor you’ve been craving, plus Appalachian-inspired dishes that would make your mama proud. Considering our Smoky Mountains restaurants are proud to only use time-honored recipes, it’s no wonder these dishes don’t taste the same anywhere else in the world. The next time you’re gripped with a strong desire for delicious Southern cuisine, leave your mealtimes in the capable hands of the Smokies’ finest Southern chefs!
Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.
Leave a Reply