Posted by Leif Palmer in Places To Eat
When you visit the beach, it's only natural to want to dine on the local cuisine. Whether you're sitting down at an upscale restaurant or a folksy crab shack overlooking the ocean, dishes like oysters, lobster, crabs, shrimp and more are the perfect meal for water-loving travelers.
But what about when you head to the mountains? Just because you're visiting a landlocked area where there's no ocean for hundreds of miles doesn't mean you can't enjoy all the flavors of the sea just like a coastal vacationer. That's especially true in the Great Smoky Mountains, where you can just as easily find a place to chow down on seafood as you can find a restaurant specializing in home-style cuisine.
So if you're in search of seafood in the Smokies, look no further. We've got the 4-1-1 when it comes to the variety of restaurants in the area that cater to seafood fans. Just don't forget to pack your lobster bib.
This restaurant is based out of Knoxville, the original downtown location having been a staple of seafood dining in East Tennessee for decades. In the Smokies, you'll find Chesapeake's in Gatlinburg, on the Parkway, in the heart of downtown. The menu hooks you from the beginning, with starters like crab bisque and crab-stuffed mushrooms. The live Maine lobster is a real treat, and their seafood bar offers up several varieties of raw oyster plates as well as grilled shrimp, smoked trout and smoked salmon. Entrees like Maryland crab cakes and several different fried-seafood platters ensure there's a dish for everyone. They also have steaks and chicken, and the house-made cheesecake is not to be missed.
This is actually one of the few chains we'll be including in this overview, but nationally, it's become an iconic name in the seafood world thanks to its tie-in to the 1994 film Forrest Gump. This Smokies eatery is also in downtown Gatlinburg and features items like the Shrimp Shack Mac & Cheese and the Shrimper's Net Catch - peel-and-eat shrimp steamed in beer. Other notable dishes include the shrimp po' boy sandwich, the Bourbon St. Mahi Mahi & Shrimp Combo, the Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp and Jenny's Surf and Surf - flame-grilled salmon, grilled shrimp served with steamed rice and broccoli. The décor is a lot of fun too, featuring memorabilia from the movie throughout the restaurant.
This seafood restaurant is in downtown Gatlinburg too, but it's been developing a following thanks to unique appetizers like alligator bites, frog legs and seafood nachos - jumbo lump crab, shrimp, lobster, cheddar cheese and more dished out over tortilla chips. Their oyster bar should be your go-to part of the menu if you're feeling a little "shellfish," and their Maine lobster is stuffed with crab imperial. Seafood sandwiches, soups and salads, fresh seafood dishes like grilled Shrimp Brochette, and grilled steaks round out the fare. They even have Low Country favorites like shrimp and grits, a snow crab bucket, the Crawfish Boil and red beans with rice.
OK, we're finally taking you out for seafood in Pigeon Forge with this Parkway establishment. Their chilled bar is known for its array of fresh seafood, including raw oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp, Little Neck clams, mussels and snow crab. Entrée options include crab-stuffed flounder, seasoned salmon, English Mountain trout (for local flavor) and the Sailor's Trio - seared white-fish fillet with lobster cream sauce, skewered jumbo shrimp, and scallops served over risotto with asparagus. Their lineup of seafood steamers is served with tender red potatoes, andouille sausage and corn on the cob, all of which can be paired with your choice of crab legs, shrimp or a seafood medley consisting of clams, mussels, shrimp and snow crab. They also have a sushi menu if you're interested in seafood with an Asian twist.
This seafood eatery is on the Parkway in Sevierville though not far from Pigeon Forge. It's also part of a restaurant chain that has locations spread out from California to Florida and everything in between. In Sevierville, they're known for their Steampots, which are served with fresh corn and red potatoes. Options there include The Steamer (mussels, clams, shrimp and more) and Joe's Classic (Dungeness crab, sweet snow crab, shrimp and smoked sausage). If you're there purely for crabs, start by picking one of five different varieties and then picking your seasoning flavor. You can also add items like crab, shrimp, clams and mussels as a cluster to any entrée for an upcharge. Speaking of which, some of the entrees include stuffed flounder, fish and chips, and Fisherman's Choice - blackened or grilled tilapia served over white rice and seasonal vegetable. If you're in the mood for something a little more snacky, consider the crab and shrimp dip or the Great Balls of Fire - an appetizer made with seafood, cream cheese and jalapeños.
Technically, we're swimming away from ocean-based seafood and getting more into inland fare here. At PawPaw's Catfish Kitchen, the catfish is the star of the show, but their mission is to bring the flavors of New Orleans to the Great Smoky Mountains with authentic Cajun cuisine. PawPaw's is located in Wears Valley, which is about a 15-minute drive from Pigeon Forge. They're known for their alligator bites and boudin balls as well as New Orleans favorites like shrimp and okra gumbo, chicken and sausage jambalaya, and red beans and rice with smoked sausage. If you're looking for an authentic New Orleans muffuletta, this is the place to go, and of course, they have catfish. The Catfish Acadiana and Catfish Orleans are just a couple of their specialties. And they have good old fried-seafood baskets featuring catfish, shrimp, oysters and more. Finally, you can't eat at Cajun-themed eatery without having white chocolate bread pudding for dessert.
In addition to these restaurants, there are other names in the area to look out for, including Captain Jim's Seafood Buffet, Crystelle Creek Restaurant and Huck Finn's Catfish.
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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