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Pigeon Forge for a week - HELP!

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I'm heading to Pigeon Forge for a week long vacation with the extended family - and I'm looking for some insight and help. I've read the boards and there isn't really anything current; and coming from Orlando (another tourist spot with both wonderful and not so wonderful dining options) I understand how the climate of the restaurant scene can change often and quickly.

We are staying in a condo, so we'll be able to make some meals at home (thank goodness since I do love to cook) but we'll definitely eat out as well. I have read that we should bring our own liquor and beer, but that we'll be able to find some decent supermarkets. Are there any farmers markets? Farm Stands? Gourmet Stores? Or any other type of foodie store?

After all the reading on this and other sites, I think we should hit the Pancake Pantry for breakfast and Bullfish Grill for dinner, and if we make it to Gatlinburg I would love to eat at Havana Dreams. I have read mixed reviews about Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant - so not sure what to make of it - the menu seems pretty "cracker barrel" southern type food. As much as I would love to check out Blackberry Farm, we'll be with non-foodies that won't spend that kind of money and it will be too hard to try to break away and have dinner by ourselves.

We're looking for non-chain, mid priced restaurants - both for lunch and dinner. I don't eat meat, but do eat seafood and all the others eat everything, if there are any vegetarian options, I would love to hear about them.

I've heard we'll head to Cherokee & Dollywood - so help in those areas would also be great. Again, living in Orlando and near Disneyworld - I understand the concept of theme park dining and how it can run the gamut from horrid to pretty good.

Any information, leads or help would be so greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to make it through without having to eat fast food, chain food or gross southern food (canned veggies, fried everything).

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  1. You have answered all your questions. Gook Luck and enjoy the water slides and fudge shoppes. That extra "pe" was just an effort to class it up a bit. <vbg>

    2 Replies
    1. re: Brawny

      What do you mean by the extra "pe"?

      1. re: VWRobin

        ShopPEs

    2. Was just there a few weeks ago at Dollywood--a whole story on its own. Admission was steep but the food inside seemed surprisingly affordable. We expected more kitsch, but it was mostly a very sweet place.

      We didn't really succeed in finding good food in town. There are pancake places every few feet, and we settled on Flapjacks for breakfasts and enjoyed what we had the two times we went to the chain. We also ate at Corky's BBQ for dinner once. My cornmeal breaded catfish was pretty good. It also appeared to be a chain, but they were careful with the food that we had. Cheap and cheerful.

      Gatlinburg, though wildly popular, was not really our thing. One too many shoppes and wedding chapels.

      Cherokee is a trip. I am not really sure how to enjoy that place, but with kids it could be fun. Between Dollywood and Cherokee, you'll be driving right over Clingman Dome which is the tallest point in TN. Beautiful and worth setting time aside to see.

      -----
      Corky's Bar BQ
      3584 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

      3 Replies
      1. re: Noel_B

        Thanks Noel - we'll be with kids when we go to Cherokee, so hopefully it will be a fun time. Not into wedding chapels either, so we'll breeze through Gatlinburg. I will make sure to check out Clingman Dome - thanks!

        1. re: Noel_B

          Had lunch at Corky's and it was not good at all. The pulled pork was just sort of blah and the sauce was overly sweet. I got the fried okra and baked beans as sides. The okra had been sitting around for some time and wasn't that crispy, the baked beans again tasted like eating a spoonful of sugar.

          1. re: MVNYC

            That is bad news, but thank you for reporting.

            Hunt

        2. The mixed reviews on Applewood have to do with two different places together....the applewood farmhouse grill that you come to first then the farmhouse which is in the back of the property.The farmhouse is very good and much better than a cracker barrell the grill is more like a cracker barrell.

          1. In no particular order, here are some Pigeon Forge food comments from a frequent visitor:

            1. Visit the Old Mill, a working gristmill dating to 1830. The adjacent Old Mill Restaurant and Pottery House Cafe use the mill's products for various baked goods. See www.old-mill.com for a preview.
            2. Bennett's is a fine barbeque joint.
            3. You'll like Bullfish. The same folks own the Flying Horse Grill. Its menu is extensive. ("Flying Horse" refers to the Italian carousel inside the restaurant.
            )4. Mama's Farmhouse is new, and it serves good southern food family-style.
            5. Numerous restaurants served beer and wine. There is no liquor by the drink. Groceries sell beer, but not wine.
            6. The Alamo Steakhouse is another good choice. Its menu includes a good trout entree.
            &. There's a new operation with a Thai, a Japanese and an Italian restaurant under one roof. It's on Community Center Drive.

            1. Best Italian restaurant in Gatlinburg - not a chain and great pizza, pasta, and salads.

              1. I do not know if you have seen this article: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543077.

                There is mention of Blackberry Farm (a major favorite of our's, though you do make a case for not spending the $), but there are also some other mentions. A few are in the same "family" as Blackberry, but are down the price scale.

                Enjoy,

                Hunt

                1. We've returned from our week in Pigeon Forge and the food wasn't quite as horrible as expected, thanks much to all my chowhound research and all your responses!

                  We at The Old Mill Restaurant, I wish we had eaten at The Old Mill Pottery Barn Cafe & Grill - but we had kids with us and it was late and the food at the restaurant was fast. The fritters were delicious!! The rest of the food was decent, but nothing to write home about, with the exception of the fact that they give you more food than anyone can eat. We left with plenty of to go boxes. We ordered trout and grilled shrimp and split them both - my piece of trout was great, the other piece was loaded with tiny little bones and the grilled shrimp was fine (sort of small for grilled shrimp and not exceptionally spiced, but certainly fine). My mother in law had the chicken and dumplings and said they were fantastic. Most of the veggies seemed canned or horribly overcooked, it was very much southern cooking in quantity.

                  We ate a late lunch at Smokey Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg - it was delicious for what it was. The pretzels with beer fondue were yummy, the asian spring rolls were delicious (as told to me, I didn't eat them as they had pork) and the pizzas were wonderful. For the beer drinkers it was a treat because they were able to get a flight of the beers and try all the different varieties. Service was great, they even make a chocolate milkshake for our nephew! A wonderful experience on the whole - would definitely go back for a casual meal.

                  We left the kids at home one evening with grandma and grandpa and had an amazing meal at Cherokee Grill! The blue cheese grits were absolutely superb and the crab cakes (and crab stuffed mushrooms) were just about all crab with the exception of the celery and onion - there was no filler to be seen! The neva's potatoes were scrumptious and the sauteed spinach was perfect. This was absolutely the best meal that we had - but it's not a place for kids. We also left this place with to go boxes. I would absolutely eat here again and recommend it to anyone that asked.

                  We ate lunch at Applewood Farms one afternoon - and we ate at the restaurant in the back - the Farmhouse Grill. To be honest, the menu at the Farmhouse Grill didn't seem much different from the menu at the Farmhouse Restaurant. Again, the fritters were delicious (what fried dough isn't delicious) but I wasn't able to sample the vegetable soup since it had a beef stock - although my mother in law thought it was delicious. I had the trout cake, it was the first time I had ever seen one on a menu and it was great. My sister in law had the chicken salad on a croissant and she very much enjoyed it. My mother in law had the side dish sampler platter - she enjoyed the dumplings, green beens and fried apples. I thought the dumplings loooked like slop (but then again, I've never had chicken and dumplings in my life), the green beens looked canned and were cooked with ham hock and the fried apples looked like apple pie filling. Our server was super nice, had all the answers about the menu and gave us great service. On the whole, it was not awful, but I would not feel the need to have lunch there again. We did make our way over to the Applewood Winery and I made a stop along the way at the cafe and picked up a "fried apple pie" which was like an apple fritter - that was delicious!! I warmed it up in the oven and had it as a late night snack.

                  Our last night there we ate at Flying Horse Grill - we thought the kids would love the carousel that they have in the restaurant and the 7 year old loved it - couldn't ride it enough. The place is lovely, all the workers were very friendly, the carousel is fun for the kids and everyone who gets seated gets a ticket for a carousel ride (so we had 8 tickets for 2 children - what a deal!). The food was fine, I had the blackened grouper, but it was the thinnest grouper I had ever seen in my life. It tasted fine, but was nothing to write home about. My boyfriend had the fried chicken, it was a boneless breast and he said it was super delicousl!! The salads were fresh, the dressings were homemade, and the service was great. All in all, it was fine, but I wouldn't feel the need to go back. I would however try Bullfish Grill - which is owned by the same people.

                  We never did make it to Dancing Bear Lodge - although that was a place on my list. Blackberry Farm was a bit out of the price point of our family - but we would have enjoyed it if we were in Pigeon Forge alone.

                  We did go White Water Rafting - that was super fun but we drove about an hour to get there - it's not a local attraction like they lead you to believe. We drove through the Smoky Mountain National Forest but we weren't able to do any hikes as the most of the family is not able to hike due to their weight or age (3 yrs & 7 yrs). We went to Ober Gatlinburg, that was fun but a little schlocky - a few hours and you've done it all. The black bear attraction is not worth the $12 they charge, there are a few bears that just sit around in a small environment and the other animals were snakes and skunks and such. We never did go to Cherokee since we drove through Cherokee on the way in and thought it wasn't worth driving the hour back.

                  To summarize - Pigeon Forge is a very wide street lined with fudge shops, old time photos, souvenirs, fast food, go karts and some restaurants. Other than Dollywood and the accompanying water park - there isn't much to offer. Gatlinburg is a not very wide street lined with fudge shops, old time photos, souvenirs, tourist attractions (Ripleys, etc..) and some restaurants. Other than hiking through the National Forest, I would feel no need to return.

                  Thanks again to everyone who helped me with restaurants, either on this post or any of the others.

                  Please feel free to let me help you navigate Orlando if the need ever arises.

                  Chow on!!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: VWRobin

                    Actually the Grill is in the front and the Framhouse is in the back at Applewood...and I like breakfast better than lunch there.

                    1. re: VWRobin

                      Great report. Thank you for taking the time. It sounds like you had fun.

                      From my standpoint, it is always just my wife and myself in that area of the US. Now, we have traveled with family to some venues, and it is different.

                      Should you find the opportuntiy to do Blackberry Farm, I highly recommend it. I will say that it is probalby not a "family" environment, but for a couple with a special event to celebrate, I cannot imagine a better location. We're trying to fit them in yet again.

                      Thank you for the details. If it does not help us, it WILL help others.

                      Appreciated,

                      Hunt

                      1. re: VWRobin

                        I miss the Pioneer Inn in Gatlinburg. Pioneer Style Trout was my favourite item on their menu. Luckily they gave me the recipe when I asked years ago.

                        This is an old thread, but VW, I have a couple of comments. First, the Smoky Mountains are a National Park, not a National Forest. Don't mean to be picky but a NF and a NP are not the same. Second, we have been going to the Smokies for the last 30 years. 23 years ago we had our first child and the second one 17 years ago. The girls have always hiked with us. There are many, many places in the Smokies where children, even little children, can easily hike. Quiet walkways abound and several of the named hikes can be done by young children. Laurel Falls comes immediately to mind. Also many of the designated stops in Cades Cove are wonderful for the children, as well as adults.

                        I've never stayed in Pigeon Forge and hope I am never required to do so. We typically stay in Gatlinburg near the park and spend most of our time in the park. Can't tell you how many gourmet al fresco meals we have consumed there over the years. We have had some really lovely dining experiences eating food I have made and brought with us, sitting beside a creek with nothing but birds and wildlife around. I hope if you get to go back you will be able to take your children into the park. It is a wonderful experience. And we always bring plenty of our own wine for the adults. ;-) We are planning to go back in the spring and stay at the Dancing Bear Lodge. I am anxious to see if it is as nice as it is said to be.

                        1. re: decolady

                          If Dancing Bear is half of what Blackberry Farm is, you WILL enjoy it. We have stopped by, and their folk "talked the talk." I would anticipate that they do a great job too.

                          Going back to a time before Interstate Highways, Pigeon Forge was a very cute little slice of Americana. It was all charm back then. Gatlinburg was a tourist destination, but there was tons of charm left there too. I have since found out that Thomas Wolfe was correct, "you can never go home again." Still, nature abounds, as you mention, and there is so very much to enjoy, without the neon and the crowds. The culture is something to be embraced, and enjoyed in. That is probably why we go to Blackberry Farm so often. While it's a great resort, there is a real slice of Smokey Mountain life, to be enjoyed - that and great food and wine.

                          Hunt

                          -----
                          Blackberry Farm
                          1471 W Millers Cove Rd, Walland, TN

                      2. I was trapped there for 3 days for a business convention. Not be negative, but it was pretty gloomy. I noticed the thread folks neglected to mention that is a partially dry county or something and you can get beer and wine in some places, not all, and no cocktails at all. Also it semed like the whole place closed up at 10 pm.

                        The Bullfish place was decent but no better than your run of the mill chain type family restaurant or steakhouse. I think the highlight of my trip on the food front was the wing place that had an extensive beer menu.

                        Good luck!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gbandu

                          The aspect of a "dry county" can be a big deal. I will say that some resorts have found a legal way around this. I am not a resident, nor am I an attorney, so some of this goes above my head. Still, if one is concerned, they might benefit for checking with some of the inns individually, and inquire.

                          In really general terms, I have found the cuisine of the area to be wonderful. However, one must venture beyond the tourist areas a bit. Let the "masses" dine at those, and then find the folk with really good food. Most seem to be "off the beaten path," as the myriad tourists want a Denny's, or similar, and will never find the great dining. Yes, they are few, and a bit far between, and are not on the main highways, but they are there. A Chowhound can find them, and usually from recs. on this board.

                          Good luck,

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            There are plenty of don't eat theres in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Bennetts BBQ is pretty good., Mamas Farm house isn't bad they'll give you much more food than you'll ever eat but it's not bad. Surprisingly one of the best meals I've ever had in the area was at the Black bear Jamboree, If you have kids it's easier to justify, all in all it was the dest meal we had in 6 days in pigeon Forge and not a bad show either, everyone enjoyed both.

                        2. Thanks for the recap of your time in the area. We're from G'ville, FL (I'll have to get some Orlando suggestions from you sometime - we'll be down in a few weeks), but visit family in Sevierville fairly often. We do the Old Mill sometimes, but usually for breakfast; it's solidly good, but not great. I do always stop for the stone ground cornmeal (the BEST for cornbread) and grits at the store, though - wonderful! I thought Bullfish was good, but not any better than chains like Bonefish Grille. We like Connors, which is a local chain; they have a delish spinach and fresh strawberry salad and I love their shrimp and grits (ok, just checked their website - says the Connors in Sevierville is now KT's Bar & Grille, looks like they still have the salad, but don't see the shrimp & grits. Haven't eaten at KT's, YMMV.) Looking forward to checking out Blackberry Farm and hadn't heard of the Cherokee Grill :-).

                          -----
                          Blackberry Farm
                          1471 W Millers Cove Rd, Walland, TN

                          Old Mill
                          164 Old Mill Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868

                          Bullfish
                          2441 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868

                          Cherokee Grill
                          6473 Taylor Mill Rd, Independence, KY 41051

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: suemac

                            Some interesting recs., and very likely to help others in the future.

                            Thank you for taking the time to post,

                            Hunt

                          2. Curious about just how expensive Blackberry Farm is? Lets say for 2 ppl, with one app, 2 entrees, a dessert, and 2 glasses of wine..

                            -----
                            Blackberry Farm
                            1471 W Millers Cove Rd, Walland, TN

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: amandas1228

                              Spend the night and dinner and drinks are paid for. But it starts around $1,000.00 a night. I would guess and I've been there 3 times that dinner only and drinks for two would be around $200.00 minimum. It could be around $250.00 with tip.

                              1. re: amandas1228

                                While there might be times, where one could dine there, without staying there, those times will be very limited.

                                We stay in the same cottage, and the fare is US$1600 / night for the cottage, the cart to get us around the 10,000 acres and three wonderful meals per day, wines additional.

                                There are many rooms that are less, and I would think that Littleman is very close with US$1,000 / night there, and maybe a tad less, depending on the season. I have just never stayed at anything but the Singing Brook Cottages, so do not know.

                                Still, all that said, the price has always been worth the cost, at least to me.

                                Now, the other lodge (Dancing Bear?), does do just meals. Also, do check with Blackberry Farm, as they have evenings, that are not filled with folk staying there. I just have no clue as to what that might run.

                                Enjoy,

                                Hunt

                                -----
                                Blackberry Farm
                                1471 W Millers Cove Rd, Walland, TN