Another vacation has come and passed, and the afterglow of a visit to the Smoky Mountains has faded—but only a little. We enjoyed ourselves, and we had a visitor on our yearly trips, Zac’s cousin Gabe. In this first part of my series on our vacation, I will focus primarily on our visits to our favorite restaurants in Gatlinburg. We certainly don’t feel like tourists anymore; it feels a lot like home, especially when you’re eating at familiar establishments here in Gatlinburg. Let’s dig in, shall we!
Sunday: Best Italian
I am going to be 100% honest here: This was far and away the biggest disappointment of our vacation in Gatlinburg. Most of the time we get superb service when we visit all our restaurants in Gatlinburg, but this was a dud at the very start. We were seated and were ignored for about 5-10 minutes before another party was waited on well after we arrived, so we were about to walk out when someone—not a server from what we could tell—rescued us from our seething anger by being really nice and taking care of us. Even she could tell we were about to leave. The service was swift from that point on, and we were obviously a priority at that point.
The food was brought out fast, but maybe a bit too fast as the pizza lacked a little thickness in their normal crust, and the sauce was virtually non-existent. While the flavor was still as good as we remembered, if they would’ve came through better on the execution, it would’ve been amazing. We proceeded to get served A DOZEN extra garlic rolls, which were pretty good but not amazing (we never did finish them by the end of our trip).
Overall, we were disappointed, but we only paid for the pizza. We may visit again, but it won’t be the first place on our list of restaurants in Gatlinburg. I felt sorry for them, because it did seem like they were under-staffed a bit, but they never did say that to us, which I would’ve understood, because these things can happen.
Monday: Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
The first part of our trip—I hate to say—was filled with disappointment, but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment of being there. Monday began with our first breakfast visit and our favorite, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. We even got our favorite server who’s been working there since the beginning; her name is Linda, and she’s super friendly.
I ordered a bacon omelet with a biscuit, fruit, and corn pone on the side, while everyone one else ordered the gargantuan cathead stacker, which I believe is actually bigger than a cat’s head. Ok, this was a disappointment as far as the quality I normally receive at one of the best breakfast restaurants in Gatlinburg. The omelet itself was good, but it was overflowing with bacon—too much even for a bacon lover. That wasn’t the worst, though; the cheese inside was not melted at all, and that’s a giant red flag. If any cheese should be unmelted, it should be on top, not inside the omelet. I didn’t even eat all the bacon inside, so chalk that up as something I haven’t experienced from them until now. To summarize, this was an unprecedented, mediocre food experience from a place we love.
Tuesday and Friday: Log Cabin Pancake House
We came back to Log Cabin Pancake House last year after a long absence and were encouraged by what we got from them as far as service and food. The service was efficient once again, friendly, and even helpful. On our Friday visit, our server rattled off all the ingredients in two omelets I was considering, so she got brownie points for being educated on the menu.
Both times I got two different omelets I hadn’t ordered previously and both were excellent. More impotantly, the cheese inside was adequately portioned and melted—something Crockett’s failed at. Everyone else was pleased with their dishes as well, but I must add that their biscuits shot to the top of my list as the best I’ve had in all the breakfast restaurants in Gatlinburg. As tourists from up north, we’ve grown accustomed to what good biscuits should taste like down here. These were a perfect golden brown, but were light, fluffy, and a little buttery on the inside; they didn’t need extra butter, but we added some to them anyway. Log Cabin has become a serious contender now for best breakfast in Gatlinburg with these last 2 visits.
Monday: Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
I have been saying how I want to visit more barbecue restaurants in Gatlinburg, but we can’t seem to find room in our trip and would probably have to replace this one. Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is part of the Johnson’s Family of Restaurants, and we’ve had the best service at these establishments. It didn’t fail us again this time. I mean it wasn’t above and beyond great, but it was good and friendly.
I mentioned on my last post how I was going to be eating a bit healthier, and this was my first test. I didn’t have barbecue except for putting a little of their irresistible house BBQ on my salad. The salad was fine, but the standout was some of the apple cider vinaigrette I chose as a dressing to go with it—that was simply fantastic and made the salad better. We’ll probably go back next time, but darn it, I still would like to try Hungry Bear and that Delauder’s place everyone raves about in the Arts and Crafts Community.
Tuesday: Cherokee Grill
Our favorite of the few steakhouse restaurants in Gatlinburg we’ve tried is here at Cherokee Grill, but I usually get their thick and juicy pork chops. I’ll start with service here too. Once again, it was slow, and I hope that places aren’t having a hard time with keeping and getting help, because I’m starting to wonder based on our experience here too. That’s about all I can say really; it was just slow, but the food was great though.
I couldn’t resist getting a salad here too, basically because that was a way I could try their filet mignon without paying the filet mignon price. It was super good and tender, and the salad was big enough for my liking too. Even my wife decided to try the pork chop, but she left wishing she ordered steak, even though I thought it was awesome again after trying a bite. Yeah, we’ll still be coming back here, but we hope—like a few other places—that the service improves.
Wednesday: Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
HOT TAKE! Big Daddy’s Pizzeria is now our favorite pizza place out of all the great restaurants in Gatlinburg serving it. Well, they certainly didn’t disappoint in the service department; we even got the same guy who waited on us in January—super helpful and nice.
Starting off the meal are those indescribable Dough Daddies with HOMEMADE marinara sauce. Both of them evoke feelings of some sort of awakening where angels are singing or something otherworldly. Unreal is all I can say. The sheer sight of them made me forget I even had a phone to take a picture, and that my friends, is probably my biggest regret on this trip. The wood-fired pizza is so good too, but it’s consistently greasy, and that’s the only bad thing I can say about it. If you haven’t tried this gem, you really should give them a shot; you’ll probably agree with me on at least one aspect about them.
Our last dinner restaurant in Gatlinburg was at Calhoun’s, which we had not visited since our very first trip I believe in 2011. Service was a bit slow, but when she came around she was super nice, so I didn’t mind, and it seemed kind of busy even though it was before 5.
This was my fourth and last salad of my trip (I had a side salad at Big Daddy’s so I wouldn’t eat too much of their awesome food:)). My wife said her steak needed a little more seasoning, and I felt she was right, but my Smokehouse salad was spot-on. I had never heard of cheddar cheese dressing until now, and really, it tasted like it was just that: melted cheddar cheese. It was odd, but I liked it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about it was that it made the salad a bit dry; I still give it a thumbs up. The best part of the meal was the banana pudding. OH. MY. GOD. It was the best I’ve ever had. Period. No more words can describe it.
The restaurants in Gatlinburg on this trip overall don’t receive high marks I hate to say, but most of them we will still return for a visit. Hopefully, as business picks up more, these places will be able to find good help so the experience is better for tourists. I hate to see Gatlinburg become a place that people avoid just because they suffer from continuously bad service at one of their fantastic eateries. Still, first impressions are everything, and I hope management realizes the importance of great customer service.
I’ll see you all next time as I have more experiences to share related to our June vacation to our favorite place. Thanks for reading! I do appreciate it!