by VICTORIA HENLEY
The great Smoky Mountains are undoubtedly acclaimed for their great natural wonders and impressive live entertainment shows; however, one of the biggest draws to the region are the top-notch dining establishments, serving up hearty, satiating, and creative cuisines. I recently scoured the Smokies for the best dining options that you and your family absolutely Must Try during your next Pigeon Forge vacation:
Brandishing locally sourced ingredients, a warm, inviting atmosphere, an incredibly unique selection of cocktails and dining options, there is no wonder that this wildly popular Pigeon Forge restaurant’s name is an acronym for “ Greatest of All Time.”
One of the many factors that separates Local Goat from the rest is the fact that all the food on the menu is made in house, completely from scratch (including the dressings and sauces, with absolutely no preservatives), and the restaurant prides itself on using only the freshest and finest quality local and sustainable menu items.
Featuring a convenient location on the parkway in Pigeon Forge, Local Goat is a true celebration of all things “local” with several wall hangings, decorations, and paintings paying homage to famous local landmarks on display throughout the restaurant. Established in 2016, Local Goat has quickly gained acclaim among critics and patrons alike as a “Must Try” restaurant during your Smoky Mountain vacation.
Although the restaurant does not conduct any traditional advertising or marketing campaigns, the parking lot is perpetually full, a true testament to their commitment to superior quality and service.
Although Local Goat is undeniably one of the busiest spots in town, the expansive dining spaces and sublime customer service ensure that you will be seated and served within a timely manner, and the (relatively) late night hours remove all the guesswork from finding just the right place to enjoy dinner following one of the world class shows on the parkway.
Enjoy picturesque views of Mount LeConte and the surrounding mountains, and choose from an array of sublime menu offerings, including an exciting line up of appetizers, jumbo wings, awesome salads, hearty steaks, pork chops, fall-off-the-bone ribs and outstanding desserts. Foodies will delight in the fact that beef is aged a minimum of 28 days (never frozen) and hand cut on premises by chefs, and the burger buns and rolls are baked fresh daily.
Selecting only a few favorites from the overwhelmingly extensive menu was certainly not a simple task, but below are our top picks:
Lynn highly recommends the sweet tea as a “must order” not alcoholic beverage option.
Caramel appletini: You won’t find this baby at the county fair. Luksusowa vodka, sour apple and caramel.
Funky monkey: Keke beach key lime, pineapple, blue curacao, and banana. As close as you can get to the beach in the mountains. Our server, Jeff H., won the prestigious “best cocktail” award aboard the Carnival Cruise Line with this concoction, after which the Funky Monkey was named “Drink of the Week.”
Fried green tomatoes: Cornmeal battered Grainget county green tomatoes, goat cheese, bacon jam caramelized onions.)
Deep fried deviled eggs: Pablo beaded cage free deviled eggs, candied bacon, Siracusa green onions. One of the most unique, and bestselling, options on the menu.
Chicken and artichoke.
LOCAL PICKS (ENTREES)
Shrimp and Grits: Jumbo gulf shrimp, bacon jam, spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, stone ground cheese, sriracha.
Pasta: Fettuccini Rocco wood grilled chicken, bacon, spinach, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, pecorino Romano cream sauce.
Full rack of ribs (bhaahhby back ribs: pork tender ribs, caramelized onion mashed potatoes. Sweet sauce on the side.
DESSERT (CHEF’s CHOICE)
White chocolate bread pudding and seasonal ice cream.
Be sure to check out the restaurant’s second location in Ooltewah near Rock City, which offers a different aesthetic and menu, so you can have a whole new experience with the same Local Goat attention to quality and detail that you’ll quickly grow to love.
Special thanks to Blair Briant and Deven Anderle for their hospitality and server, Jeff H. for his exemplary service throughout our visit.
PHONE: (865) 366-3035
SHONEY’S (Pigeon Forge North)
One of two Shoney’s locations in Pigeon Forge (the other is located beside Dolly’s Stampede Dinner Show), Shoney’s Pigeon Forge North serves up freshly made breakfast, lunch, and dinner items from their vast menu, as well as an exciting variety of rotating dining options on (my personal favorite): The Fresh Food Bar.
The saying goes that you can always tell an excellent restaurant by how many locals visit, and addition to hosting an ample supply of tourists daily, Shoney’s remains a favorite among locals, even offering specials to keep guests coming back, including a special Local’s Discount.
The brainchild of Alex Schoenbaum (a former All-American football player at Ohio State), Shoney’s was founded in 1947 as a drive-in restaurant, then was later rebranded as “Big Boy,” complete with the still iconic oversized mascot. Three years later, Shoney’s gained its current name, which has since become synonymous with down home hospitality and stick-to- your- ribs comfort food, all served up in a family friendly atmosphere.
As someone who lived and worked in Knoxville, Tenn. (where the franchise’s headquarters are located) for nearly two and a half years, I always looked forward to my two days off per week, where I would rush up to Pigeon Forge to enjoy the signature cabbage soup (one of the best soups I have ever tried in my life), warm bread and delightful dinner buffet after a long hike or a trip to Dollywood.
During my numerous visits to Shoney’s Pigeon Forge North (I have probably clocked at least a hundred visits so far), I have garnered my fair share of favorite menu items and am always discovering new favorites on each trip to the always-changing buffet.
Some of the menu choices in my recent visit were:
Cabbage Soup: One of my and Lynn’s go -to selections, Shoney’s cabbage soup offers tender cooked cabbage, beans and lean beef, in a flavorful broth.
Rolls: Shoney’s signature dinner rolls can be best described as a “donut without the sweetness” with a flaky, crisp exterior and soft, warm interior.
Cheese Curds: Crisp, fried mozzarella cheese balls, bursting with flavor and perfect for dipping in marinara sauce. A creative twist on a traditional “cheese stick” appetizer.
Mac and Cheese: Sharp cheddar cheese smothered on elbow pasta. This is a kid’s classic dish the entire family will enjoy.
Also, crispy fried chicken, creamed corn, pinto beans, green peas (taste like they are fresh from the garden), fried okra and mashed potatoes.
At the salad bar, there is a vast selection of toppings, complete with fresh fruits, macaroni salad, slaw, a rotating line up of cinnamon marble cake, chocolate cake and shortcake, as well as a variety of puddings and jellos.
NOTE: You can get the full bar with access to all the hearty goodness listed above, and more, or you can opt for just soup and salad for a discounted price. Whether you like fancy seafood, or breakfast for dinner, Shoney’s line up of food selections is constantly changing, offering different themes and items daily and nightly, so you can expect something different each visit.
We visited as a celebration of Lynn’s birthday, and to commemorate the occasion, enjoyed the following iconic Shoney’s sweet treats from the legendary dessert menu:
Shoney’s World Famous Hot Fudge Cake: Vanilla ice cream between freshly baked layers of Shoney’s famous chocolate cake, covered in hot fudge sauce, whipped topping and a cherry.
Strawberry Pie: Our freshly baked pie made with plump, fresh strawberries in a flaky crust, mixed with our special glaze and finished with whipped topping. (seasonal)
Special thanks to Annie LaMonde for arranging our visit and to our server, Lorie (who has been with Shoney’s an impressive 38 years for outstanding service throughout our meal.
PHONE: (865) 453-1806
WOOD GRILL BUFFET
Best described as a “Vegas Buffet in the Smokies,” Wood Grill Buffet offers up hearty, expertly prepared multi-cultural selections, separated by genre.
The impressively sprawling buffet (offering 250 feet of buffet bars, over a half football field in length) is comprehensively presented in the following sections for a smooth and easy dining experience, serving up scrumptious foods at each station, including:
Fruits, salads, sides, grill, kids bar, butter/bread/potato, American, Italian, seafood, carving, steaks, ribs, Mexican, Asian, American (veggies and classics), cobblers, ice cream and desserts.
Owned and operated by the same company who brings you some of Pigeon Forge’s best entertainment and dining options (including Biblical Times Dinner Theater, and Feaster’s on Teasters), Wood Grill Buffet proudly holds the title of the largest buffet in town, with an ever changing selection that will be sure to have you visiting time and time again, because it is simply impossible to sample everything from the gargantuan selection during just one visit. Wood Grill Buffet is also a great dining destination for bus tours and group gatherings, due to its spacious dining quarters and roomy tables, and this buffet has become my family’s personal Thanksgiving tradition since 2018, serving up all the holiday classics, including turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, fresh vegetables, and of course, pumpkin pie.
Here are just a few of our favorite menu items we experienced during our visit:
Oriental chicken, egg rolls, corn on cob, broccoli casserole, fried rice, carrots, fried okra, hash browns, macaroni salad, “Create Your Own” pasta with rich, creamy Alfredo sauce and grilled shrimp, peach and blackberry cobblers and assorted freshly baked cookies and cakes.
Special thanks to Kaylee Davis for her facilitation of this spotlight feature (and Feaster’s on Teaster’s) as well as Kourtney Harper for going over and beyond with his wonderful service.
WEBSITE: Wood Grillbuffetpf.com
PHONE: (865) 429-3120
FEASTER’S ON TEASTER’S
A colorful celebration of Native American culture, serving up a vast selection of Native cuisines and decorated with traditional tribal art and headdresses, Feaster’s on Teaster’s is one of the most buzzed about brand new dining experiences in Pigeon Forge. Adjacent to the beautiful, freshly renovated Biblical Times Dinner Theater, Feaster’s on Teaster’s is sure to satisfy even the most elusive of cravings from anyone in your group, with a high-end selection of meal options ranging from Indian tacos to Ohama steaks, to fresh gulf seafood, hearty soups and salsa.
Looking for a unique themed dining experience for you and your family during vacation? Look no further than Feaster’s on Teaster’s, which is the only place in town that you can find an entire menu inspired by the beautiful Native American culture. Screens throughout the restaurant play content on loop with information on all your favorite celebrities and public figures who have Native roots.
Each menu offering is exquisitely and artfully prepared, only using farm fresh ingredients to present dishes that are equally beautiful and delicious.
Blackberry unsweetened tea.
COMPLIMENTARY BREAD BASKET
NOTE: Each menu item is served with scrumptious Indian Bread and yeast rolls, paired with honey, cinnamon, and raspberry butter (Feaster’s on Teaster’s also offers a variety of other fruity butters, such as strawberry, to accompany the freshly baked breads).
Native harvest salad: Spring mix lettuce, sliced apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese, croutons and Fuji apple vinaigrette.
You can also get: ranch, French, honey mustard, Caesar, creamy Italian, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette and Fuji apple dressings.
Choctaw Chicken: Smoked with an in-house rub on a bed of sautéed veggies, served with a maple glaze on the side. Sides: steamed broccoli and skin on garlic mashed potatoes.
Gulf Shrimp: Your choice of blackened, lemon pepper, or garlic and herb. Served over wild rice and choice of one extra. (We chose garlic and herb seasoning and fried okra.)
Pork Tenderloin: Marinated overnight in our own honey thyme sauce and served with apple chutney. Mac and cheese and Three Sisters vegetable medley on the side.
Smoked Salmon: 6 oz smoked in house and finished with our maple glaze. Sides of green beans and wild rice.
Special thanks to our server, Keresha Mullins, for her superior menu knowledge and service.
PHONE: (865) 286-5662
Victoria Henley produces Backstage Pass for FCB/iHeart Radio and CTFashionMag.com