Best BBQ in or around Gatlinburg (NON-CHAIN PLEASE!!!)
I plan a roadtrip to Tennesse this summer and will want some great BBQ. I will be willing to travel within 30 miles of Gatlinburg. I've heard of Bennett's but not sure how credible the source was. Any recos???
Note: Coming from BBQ deprived Indianapolis, Indiana!?@?#?!?~??!
Despite your desire for "non-chain", you may find yourself at Calhoun's. They exist in Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg). We've had some fine ribs at the Knoxville location, and imagine the Gatlinburg one will be better than what you're used to in Indy.
While having ribs there at lunchtime, you can see if the dinner menu appeals to you.
Everyone we met in Knoxville recommended Calhoun's and we were not disappointed.
Bennett's is a chain and my husband likes their beans. But not so much their meats.
Both Calhoun's and Buddy's are successful local chains; Calhoun's is the choice for dinner with actual green salads or their spinach maria.
Off the beaten track, but not so far from Gatlinplex is the town of Dandridge TN and somewhere on the town mainstreet is a BBQ ribs and steak place that I've heard raves about. For us, it would be almost an hour drive one way (although it's only about twelve miles as the crow flies) and that's why we have it on our must try when driving back from Asheville list.
for really great bbq, i mean really authentic bbq, you are not going to find any unless something new has opened in the past few months that is the real deal. mardy is right, you probably should go to calhouns. pretty good restaurant and pretty good ribs. the one weird thing about the south is that it seems like from the tennessee river around waverly, tn to lexington, nc there are very few good bbq joints anywhere. dont get me wrong, they are out there but they are very hard to find! unlike west tennessee, mississippi, alabama, etc.. where there is a great joint in every other town.
One might think that the Knoxville area would be a home to many great non-chain BBQ joints. I know I did before I moved here 2 years ago from Texas. Well, haven't found them yet, but tried a few.
Calhoun's is a local staple, but to me it just oozes of a place that is resting on its laurels. I have no doubt that perhaps 15 years ago, the BBQ was rather good, but today you are just as likely to get a bad slab of ribs or dried-out pulled pork as you are good BBQ. The riverfront location near downtown Knoxville has nice atmosphere, but the Calhoun's menu is just too boring for me. And, as my wife once pointed out, they don't even have "real BBQ" on the menu. (You'll have to forgive her Texas upbringing...no brisket apparently means no BBQ.)
We've been to Bennett's a couple times in Pigeon Forge. The most recent was 3 days ago. The 1st time we went, we absolutely loved it. But I have to qualify the review. First, we had spent the day hiking in the Smokies with some friends and were absolutely famished by the time we got to Bennett's. Secondly, I was on a diet, and avoided the pork BBQ dishes and got BBQ chicken instead. Our 2nd trip this past weekend was different. I did still have the 1/4 chicken, but also tried some spare-ribs. They were dried-out and without flavor. Another in our party was unhappy with the chopped pork. So, our 2nd experience was quite different.
Finally, this still doesn't address your need to find a small "joint" type place, but the BBQ that I've been most happy with in the Knoxville area is Famous Dave's in W. Knoxville. It's a small chain that I think is based in Georgia, but they do a pretty admirable job with pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and ribs. Even their brunswick stew is pretty good. The decor of the place is done in a northern woods motif (not really sure how that works in the mid-south at a place based in Georgia, but whatever).
So, if you don't strike upon that hard-to-find non-chain that you're looking for, I would definitely try Famous Dave's before I went to either Bennett's or Calhoun's. I will monitor this thread to see if there are any joints recommended, I'm still in search of one myself.
You're right about Famous Dave's being based in Minnesota (I guess that explains the north woods motif). Anyway, my bad...I didn't know I was recommending a mega-chain even if it was a qualified recommendation. Kinda sad that I don't know of a better BBQ place in E. Tennessee for Pete's sake!