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Fun Restaurants In The Smokies

Posted by Leif Palmer in Places To Eat

One of the great things about traveling is not having to cook or prepare your own meals. Not that there's anything wrong with that; lots of folks are handy in a kitchen and enjoy cooking, even when on the road. But for those of us who consider dining out to be one of the cornerstones of being on vacation, heading out to a restaurant is always one of the high points of the day.

Relax after a wonderful meal at The Park Grill

When you're in the Smokies, however, the number of restaurants to choose from seems endless. There are more eateries around here than ever, so if you're not careful, you and your fellow travelers can easily get bogged down in a tiresome decision-making process when it comes to where to eat out next. To assist with that process, we've put together a quick guide to some of the most fun and unique restaurants in the Smokies region. They may span the spectrum of styles of cuisine as well as price points and geographical locations, but one thing they have in common is a dining experience you're likely to remember long after the bill is paid.

The Park Grill


Located at the south end of the Parkway, this restaurant is just a stone's throw from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fittingly, the restaurant was designed to convey the feel and ambiance of a classic mountain lodge. In fact, when it was built almost 25 years ago, materials like reclaimed stone and metals and spruce timbers from the Rocky Mountains were used in the construction of the 340-seat restaurant. Its massive spruce beams and columns and cathedral ceilings give the place a rustic feel, yet a sense of class and elegance permeates every aspect of the operation, from menu to service. Speaking of the food, house specialties include the Smoky Mountain Shrimp and the hickory-grilled Moonshine Chicken-a boneless breast marinated with pineapple and moonshine. Meanwhile, tasty desserts like the hot blackberry cobbler, banana pudding and peanut butter mud pie reflect the restaurant's approach to Appalachian cuisine.

Hard Rock Cafe has a lot of things to see.

Hard Rock Café

Pigeon Forge

We won't spend a lot of time on this one, considering that it's part of a national franchise, but this rock-and-roll-themed restaurant on the Parkway is indeed a place to consider if you're a fan of the rock music genre. The place is packed with authentic memorabilia from some of the most notable names in rock history and beyond. You'll see hundreds of collectibles on display, including a lace dress worn by Taylor Swift, frayed pants worn by Shania Twain and a three-tier skirt with rhinestones worn by local legend Dolly Parton. Overall, the restaurant covers 12,000 square feet and seats 400 guests. The menu features classic American fare like burgers, steaks and sandwiches, and there's even a stage where live music acts appear on a regular basis.

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant


This well-known restaurant has been a top tourist destination since the 1980s thanks to its delicious Southern fare and quaint setting. It's located near the Little Pigeon River on a working apple farm. It's an idyllic setting, yet it's not far from the Parkway as you approach Pigeon Forge. And speaking of apples, that particular ingredient plays prominently in the menu. All guests are served apple fritters and an apple julep with their meals, and their house-made apple butter is a delicious accompaniment to many menu items. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with highlights that include country omelets, fried chicken, and chicken and dumplings, just to mention a few. While you're there, be sure to stroll through the entire complex of shops, which include The Apple Barn general store as well as their cider mill, ice creamery and candy factory.

Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café

Pigeon Forge

This unique restaurant features more than 100 singing, animatronic chickens that are happy to serenade you while you dine. This is a particularly fun destination if you're traveling with younger children. The menu offers fun options like silver dollar caterpillar pancakes, bear pancakes and pig pancakes, all of which resemble the critters they're named after. Mom and Dad might be interested in items like the chicken and waffles, French toast or biscuits. They also have a variety of unique pancakes like donut pancakes, Oreo pancakes and Funfetti pancakes.

Great southern meal near the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.

The Old Mill Restaurant

Pigeon Forge

This restaurant wasn't built until the 1980s, but it was designed to strongly resemble the historic Old Mill next door. Both structures overlook the Little Pigeon River, and the restaurant has tiered seating inside that allows most guests to enjoy views of the river and the mill. The mill has been operating on site since 1836, but even today, it grinds out meals and flours that are used in the restaurant's recipes, or you could pick up a bag to take home for your own cooking adventures. The menu showcases a wide array of Southern dishes like biscuit breakfasts, homemade meatloaf, country-fried steak, barbecue platter, chicken and dumplings, and chicken pot pie.

There be pirates in Pigeon Forge.

Music Theater Shows

Pigeon Forge

We've decided to lump several venues into one category here. In this case, we're talking about the Pigeon Forge music theaters that serve dinner as part of their evening of entertainment. Meals are generally served before the show and feature multiple courses. Items vary from venue to venue, but you'll often start off with a soup course, followed by a main course that might feature items like rotisserie chicken, pork loin or barbecue. Then there's usually something sweet for dessert. Unlimited non-alcoholic beverage refills are included. Some places provide silverware, and some don't. Theaters that offer dinner shows include Dolly Parton's Stampede, the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show, Grand Majestic Theater and Biblical Times Dinner Theater.

Other area unique Smoky Mountain restaurants to consider include the Wild Plum Tea Room, Smokies Cuban Café, Crystelle Creek Restaurant, The Pancake Pantry, Greenbrier Restaurant, Monster Mash Burgers, and Elvira's Cafe.

Leif Palmer - Smokies blogger

About Leif Palmer

Leif Palmer loves residing in the Smoky Mountains. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.


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