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My Top 3 Restaurants for Pancakes in Gatlinburg

Recently, I wrote about where I thought were the best places in Gatlinburg to get a pizza. Now I would like to specify that these were not necessarily the best restaurants overall, since we only usually visit these places for their pizza–and we haven’t tried some of the Italian or other entree selections. The same goes for these: They are my favorite places for pancakes; there is one place on this list that is number one, but it is for overall breakfast. In this post, I would like to help you by offering my opinion–after multiple trips to each restaurant–of where I think you cannot go wrong with this popular breakfast treat. With Gatlinburg being a part of a hotbed of pancake houses, it should be considered high praise to be included on any favorites list–even if it’s just from an amateur food critic like myself.

3. (Tie) Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, Atrium Pancakes

I couldn’t possibly leave one of these out of my top 3–and with both of these restaurants selling a similar pancake, I felt it necessary to give them equal praise. Crockett’s is my favorite breakfast restaurant in Gatlinburg, and while their pancakes are not the favorite thing I’ve eaten off their menu, they still are mighty tasty–if you can manage to stomach them. They are called Frankenstein Pancakes for a reason; they are large–sometimes about an inch thick–and they can scare you away from food until later in the day. The cornbread flavor is unmistakable in the ingredients, and they can be enjoyed with a cinnamon swirl throughout and various fruit toppings. It is a different kind of pancake than most are used to, but don’t let that keep you from trying these monsters.

Atrium Pancakes is home to the Baked Apple Pancake, and it is so good, it renders their other pancake selections average. This pancake is famous for being featured in Taste of Home magazine. The flavors are otherworldly with the apples taking center stage, and the size being very similar to Crockett’s Frankenstein Pancakes. There’s probably a better chance that you will be able to eat more of Crockett’s pancakes, because the Baked Apple Pancake feels more like eating a cake–and probably is more caloric (but who really counts calories on vacation, right?). Give both of these pancakes a try to see what I mean about what you are getting.

 

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Crockett’s Frankenstein Pancakes
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Half of Atrium Pancakes’ Baked Apple Pancake is plenty

 

2. Log Cabin Pancake House

This is the only pancake house on my list that is not on the main drag in Gatlinburg but is a short drive down from the road on which the Space Needle sits. The restaurant has a covered wagon on the front so it is hard to miss; go inside and you will find some of the best pancakes in the area. Their Pancakes Royale features a sugary sweet cream sauce with a banana helping to soak up the liquid with the pancakes. The pancakes cut pretty easily with a fork even with a drier topping like butterscotch chips. You can always tell how well pancakes taste if they can be eaten without the added syrup. The syrup is the real deal–I mean real, as in actual maple syrup without the added preservatives in syrups that sit on grocery shelves. Try Buckwheat Pancakes too if you want a little something that you don’t see much of in places other than the South; I was not disappointed in the least.

 

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My son’s Butterscotch Pancakes at Log Cabin Pancake House

 

1. Pancake Pantry

There just is no other pancake in Gatlinburg that can compare to what you get in the quality department at the legendary Pancake Pantry. For 50 plus years they have been serving guests here; they also have a Nashville location too. I’ve had four different pancakes here, and they have all been spectacularly good. My favorite is the Sugar and Spice Pancakes: they serve them with a cinnamon cream syrup along with a small cup of applesauce; this makes their real maple syrup–that is sensational as well–a bit of an afterthought. Their pancakes are everything you want from a textbook variety pancake: made-from-scratch, pillowy soft, and no cutting–the fork is just a means to easily make the trip into your mouth. Don’t just take it from me, there are many thousands of customers–some of which have been regulars for decades–who would concur with my sentiments about this establishment. Like Crockett’s and Log Cabin, I recommend you arrive early so you’re not having your experience compromised by long lines and potentially rushed service; both of which don’t hinder their loyal–and hungry–customers from returning for a stellar Southern batch of flapjacks.

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I hope you enjoyed my list of favorite choices for pancakes in Gatlinburg. This post reflects my honest opinions on what I believe to be the best that you can find here. I plan to give more opinions on other restaurants in town as I continue my quest to try everything that Southern cooking has to offer in my favorite place: Gatlinburg. Thanks for reading, and I will keep informing you of more of what makes Gatlinburg our favorite vacation destination. See you next time!

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2017 Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg

I know most of you will be visiting Gatlinburg to see the beautiful Fall colors soon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking advantage of some of the other activities going on here. Gatlinburg really starts unveiling its Fall events soon with a myriad of choices to entertain and just keep the visitor occupied in what proves to be another spectacular display again this year. The great people up at Ober Gatlinburg also hope that you can join them in a month-long celebration of German food, music, and dance–and of course, German beer.

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Starting on September 22, you can come see what they have done at Ober Gatlinburg in their full-on Oktoberfest tradition that is now in its 8th installment and loaded with fun and games for the whole family to enjoy–and there is, of course, the food. The cuisine is full of German-inspired dishes that includes bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels, and turkey legs. The Seasons of Ober restaurant even changes its menu to accommodate the tasty German food that highlights Oktoberfest.

Of course, no German-inspired offerings are complete without mentioning beer as a choice. Among the various tents set up outdoors will be a German Bier Garten that features different breweries on site each Saturday. Bring your ID and enjoy sampling the various German-style lagers and ales.

The entertainment will be plentiful as well; The Bavarian Fun Makers Oompah Band will definitely sound–and dress–the part wearing German lederhosen and performing yodels, sing-a-longs, and oompah music. They will be performing at the Season of Ober restaurant throughout the month at multiple times daily, so check out the events schedule below or at Ober Gatlinburg’s website here.

There are, of course, many Ober Gatlinburg souvenirs for sale in the shops inside, but outside you can find specialty German-themed items from the various vendors that are only for sale during this time, so hurry in and grab yours before Oktoberfest ends on October 29th. Some of the items for sale include German Beer Steins, apparel, and small knick-knacks to remember from this event.

We visited Ober Gatlinburg in June, and we had a blast! I wish we could make it down to Oktoberfest but once again, it will not be in the cards for us to make a Fall trip. I can only imagine what fun it will be as they get set up for another great Oktoberfest celebration, so don’t forget to make this a priority on your Gatlinburg Fall vacation. Below I will list some of the times and days different events will be taking place. See you next time, and thanks for reading!

Bier Garten: Daily from noon to 6p.m. and 7p.m. Saturdays.

Bavarian Funmakers Oompah Band: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 1p.m. and 5p.m.; Tuesday at 1, 3, and 5p.m.; Weekends at 1,3,5, and 7p.m.; all performances will be held at The Seasons of Ober restaurant.

Outdoor Games: Sunday through Friday from noon to 6p.m.; Saturdays until 7p.m.

Note: All outdoor activities are weather permitting, so hours may change based on the conditions.

5 Options for Choosing Local Instead of Chain Businesses in Gatlinburg

Sometimes the choices can be a bit overwhelming when you are searching for a place to eat in Gatlinburg. This may result in you getting a bit comfortable with the places you normally stop and visit in your day-to-day busy lifestyle. I would like to steer you toward making decisions that will help the local business owner in town and give the local economy a boost, as well. Here are five businesses that will aid in that cause, instead of visiting the familiar chain establishments.

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Chain: Pizza Hut

Better Option: Best Italian

Sure, we all love Pizza Hut when it comes to good pizza — and Gatlinburg has one right on the Parkway — but I would like you to try Best Italian, instead, when you are visiting town. Best Italian has two locations: one in the Elks Plaza, and one directly off the Parkway. We have not had a better pie in Gatlinburg than here, and we are frequent pizza eaters, so this comes as high praise. They have plenty of good Italian dishes, as many of locals can attest to, but our standards are the Garlic Rolls — which come served with a generous dusting of parmesan, and dipped in a small pool of olive oil — and, of course, their pizza. We ordered a large extra cheese pizza last time, and they were VERY generous with the cheese. Let’s just say this is one of our first stops when we arrive in Gatlinburg.

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Chain: McDonald’s

Better Option: Old Dad’s General Store

I know what you’re thinking; why would I want to go to a convenience store, instead of a place where I know what I want every time. I’m glad you asked because Old Dad’s is more than just a general store, it boasts a grill inside that serves a good hearty breakfast too. You can have everything from a bacon egg and cheese biscuit to a fried green tomato BLT — all for breakfast at a reasonable and comparable price to McDonald’s. They also have a super friendly staff that welcomes you, even if you’re just in to pick up a newspaper.

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Chain: Dunkin’ Donuts

Better Option: Donut Friar

There are plenty of Dunkin’ Donuts scattered across the country, but there is only one Donut Friar. They are located in the Village in Gatlinburg, and they have the absolute best donuts I’ve ever eaten. Opening at the pre-dawn 5 a.m. hour, they serve the early riser and stay open until the evening to accommodate the day crowds. My wife isn’t a big donut eater, but I’ve managed to convert her by introducing her to one of my favorites, the Chocolate Chipper donut. Even with an abundance of breakfast places in town, here you can grab a quick bite and take some back to your hotel room.

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Chain: Texas Roadhouse

Better Option: Cherokee Grill

I will be one of the first to admit that Texas Roadhouse has some mighty tasty steaks, along with their rolls, but there is one place in Gatlinburg that has them beat, in my opinion. We didn’t discover Cherokee Grill until our second trip, and it didn’t take long for us to wonder why we didn’t go the first time. The steaks and the grilled chicken are AMAZING! But I don’t want you to think they don’t have good side dishes. Their Neva’s Potatoes is a twice-baked potato that’s full of flavor, and their spinach mac and cheese hits the spot too. Also on the menu are crab cakes, trout, and shrimp for the seafood lover. Their atmosphere gives off an upscale feeling, but don’t be put off by that, they are most certainly a casual restaurant that welcomes all families. It is our favorite dinner splurge on our vacation, and I highly recommend you try them.

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Chain: Starbucks

Better Option: Coffee and Company

Starbucks is one of the largest chains in the country and Gatlinburg is represented with one, but there is one coffee shop in town that you may not see or be aware of as a visitor. Coffee and Company has been in business in Gatlinburg since 1993, and they are a tiny shop in the Village that is a left turn out of The Donut Friar away. The first time I arrived here, I walked into the open door, even though it wasn’t quite their posted open time, and I got a Coffee 101 lesson when I told the owner I wasn’t sure what to get. I settled on a basic Shot in the Dark, which has an espresso shot, and I walked away not only satisfied with my pleasant tasting coffee, but I was happy that someone cared enough to help me with deciding on the perfect cup for me, which it was.

I hope that you found this a helpful read. I know how difficult it can be to veer off from your normal routine and try something different; however, when you are on vacation, I strongly believe that this is the time to try new things and knowing you’re helping small businesses can give you a special feeling. In our case, it keeps us coming back to Gatlinburg year after year.

 

The 3 Best Places for Pizza in Gatlinburg

After mulling over topics to write about, I decided to finally rank my three favorite pizzas in Gatlinburg. Many times I’ve mentioned a few of these places, but I never really gave you an opinion of how I really felt about how they stacked up against each other–until now. I am going to rank them based on how I feel they’ve delivered in two different areas and then rank them, overall. What I am not going to do is rank them based on customer service, ambiance, or cleanliness of the restaurant. This is strictly how well they’ve executed the most popular Italian pizza pie. Here goes:

Toppings

3. Big Daddy’s

I ranked Big Daddy’s number 3 not because the toppings aren’t good; they are, but it did make for a greasier than normal pizza. We like to dab the excess grease off anyway, and we took our time with this one. The sauce is excellent with the marinara being made in-house; the cheese is also very good, and the pepperoni was also better than average, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty difficult to mess that up.

2. Smoky Mountain Brewery

If I was to rank these pizzas a few years ago, I may have ranked SMB third. But not this time. I am not sure if they changed up their pizzas a bit, but the first few times we ate here the toppings fell off way too easy and made it nearly impossible to dab without taking them off via the napkin. The toppings this previous visit were high quality; standing out were the unbelievably tasty garlic-roasted tomatoes that offered just the right amount of garlic and made the cheese and sauce stand out, even though I don’t believe they needed much help from the start, anyway.

1. Best Italian

It’s not often you can eat a pizza with just cheese on it and still feel like you’ve eaten the best. They certainly live up to its name in the pizza category. We ordered a pepperoni pizza the first two times we’ve visited, but we went with just extra cheese the last two visits, and boy, they really pile it on with the sauce complimenting it quite nicely. Throw in some seasoning and your taste buds will shift into overdrive. It deserves the number one ranking on my list of best toppings.

 

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Smoky Mountain Brewery personal pizza

 

Crust

3. Best Italian

This might surprise you, but I don’t have them number 1. They are still excellent; don’t get me wrong. However, it is still lacking that extra something that I want in a crust. Maybe it was due to the fact that it was just a bit on the soggy side this time. Overall, I have to give them merit based on what they’ve delivered in the past, so I docked them a little on that, but the flavor still shines through its weaknesses.

2. Smoky Mountain Brewery

This was hard for me. In the past, I might have told you that this was my favorite, despite the fact that it was a bit messy; however, what I loved was how buttery it tasted at the bottom–it was something I had never experienced before with a pizza. This is not a knock on them with this ranking. I actually enjoyed the crust more this time without the extra flavor on it; it was still nice and crispy, and I found myself (and my son) wanting to come back again to see if it still delivers like it did this last time.

1. Big Daddy’s

There’s something to be said about wood-fired pizza in a brick oven. Amazing. You simply cannot find a better crust in Gatlinburg working with those elements. You get the character in a pizza by eating a crust that’s a bit charred, but not in such a way that it’s burned. It is not. Big Daddy’s is ranked on Trip Advisor as one of the top restaurants in Gatlinburg, and I would have to agree with those people…at least as far as the crust is concerned.

 

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Big Daddy’s Pizza

 

My Top 3 Overall Are…

3. Smoky Mountain Brewery

I know what you’re thinking: How can you rank them third when you had them second on the toppings and crust? Well, that gives you a sense of how close these places are when it comes to picking a favorite. Remember: I picked Big Daddy’s third in toppings and first in the crust. It just depends on how much weight I placed on a category. Altogether, I love each and every one of these pizzas, and the Brewery–despite its great showing last time–has to be placed third, as difficult as it was.

2. Big Daddy’s

This is where I placed Big Daddy’s because they delivered so supremely on their crust. The marinara as a sauce was a real standout, plus they get bonus points for making it from scratch. I know many places around here make their ingredients in the back too; however, how many times can you really tell if it’s scratch made or not. Well, at Big Daddy’s you can, and it makes for a great pizza.

 

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Best Italian in the Elks Plaza

 

1. Best Italian

Number one is still Best Italian back in the Elks Plaza. They dropped off slightly last time, but it is still the same great pizza we remember when we took our first bite a few years ago. They are very generous with their toppings, and their crust is just good enough to make their pizza our favorite in Gatlinburg.

I can’t even begin to explain how ungodly difficult this was for me to compile. I think I changed my mind as I was writing this. Heck, I may even write a new post in a few months explaining how wrong I was with this list. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing this. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more. I have more rankings I would like to do based on places to go for breakfast, and I would like to do one about steak after we’ve visited a few more restaurants. See you again soon!

 

 

2017 Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival

This is the time of the year that some of the most famous hit songwriters in country music history come to Gatlinburg to perform. Many of them have written songs for legendary country artists including Garth Brooks and  Johnny Cash just to name a few. The now annual event is in its 6th year of entertaining tourists and locals with national and local songwriters. You will be hard-pressed to go anywhere from August 16-20 without hearing or being somewhere a songwriter is performing.

The Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival in Gatlinburg features 150 shows by over 100 different artists: some of which are local, and some will be coming from as far away as California. You can find these artists performing outdoors, in restaurants and hotels; most of which you can see without paying a ticket. There are three special events for the Songwriters Festival that you may not want to miss and are sure to be worth the price of admission.

Con Hunley will be singing some of his songs at the Glenstone Lodge on August 19 at 8 p.m. The East Tennessee native had a string of 20 songs that hit the charts in the 70’s and 80’s and continues to write songs today. You can still purchase tickets for his concert for $25 and doors will open at 6.

Sylvia is no stranger to the Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival, and she will be performing a matinee at the Glenstone Lodge at 4 p.m. prior to Con Hunley taking the stage. With her hit song, “Nobody”, she established herself as a major songwriter and musician in the 80’s. She also has a new album coming out, and joining her on stage will be her guitarist, John Mock.

The most famous songwriters coming to Gatlinburg for a ticketed event will be a songwriter for Johnny Cash, Jim Glaser; Bobby Tomberlin, Diamond Rio songwriter; Tony Arata, famous for “The Dance” by Garth Brooks; and Pat Alger, a multiple hit songwriter for Garth Brooks. This “Celebrity” round of songwriters will start performing at the Glenstone Lodge on August 18 at 8 p.m. This is sure to be a treat for anyone who has been a fan of country music or Garth Brooks through the years.

There are so many artists coming to Gatlinburg this weekend, it is staggering. I won’t list all the performers coming to town, but if you are one of the lucky ones who scheduled your vacation for this time, I recommend you check out the Songwriters Festival website at www.smswf.com to see the entire list of performers. Many of these performers are not household names in contrast to the ones I’ve mentioned, but they are looking for a little support and recognition by coming to this Festival, so take the time to listen to some great music; some will even enjoy having the pleasure to talk to someone who enjoyed their music. It’s a great gathering of artists you won’t want to miss.

Opening Soon in Gatlinburg: Anakeesta

Anyone who has visited Gatlinburg in the past year has seen the work that has been progressing right across from Ripley’s Aquarium. As you can see from the picture, it is the new Anakeesta development that is set to open in mid to late August–just a few weeks away. An exact date has not yet been set, but make sure you visit or just Like their Facebook page to get the news directly on your news feed. Let me describe for you what you can anticipate from the newest activity-filled attraction in Gatlinburg.

The word “Anakeesta” comes from the Cherokee word for “place of the balsams.” They are a little similar to Ober Gatlinburg, but there are stark differences too. Ober gives you the option of parking up on the mountain if you don’t want to pay to ride the tram. It is also a ski resort, which Anakeesta is not. Also, since there is no parking area on Anakeesta Mountain, visitors must ride either a 4 person open-air chairlift or an enclosed 6 person chondola to get to the top. There will be onsite parking next to Anakeesta before getting on one of the lifts, but you can also park nearby in the McMaster parking garage, where it is $6 or $7 max and $1.75 per hour in the enclosed garage

Once you reach the top of Anakeesta Mountain, you will find a myriad of options for the $20 cost to ride to the summit. There is a treetop canopy walk plus a neat children’s treetop playground; both of which are included in your price of admission. Additional costs are on the zipline, mountain coaster–which will be done later in the fall–and a gem mining activity. Each of them looks like mountains of fun that adults and kids will be sure to enjoy as part of their experience.

Firefly Village will provide a nice combination of retail and dining options. At their opening, Anakeesta will have ready plenty of dessert varieties at Pearl’s Pie in the Sky, and the BBQ cuisine will be represented by Summit Smokehouse. Shopping will include a whimsical boutique store called Catching Fireflies, and Great Outdoors Trading Company–a store that rivals NOC but on a much smaller scale–for all your outdoor or hiking adventures that await you in The Smoky Mountains. An amphitheater is also being planned for next spring, and it will feature dazzling views of Mt. LeConte. There will still be plenty of wonderful views for you to enjoy up here, even if you make this part of your upcoming trip to the Smokies after Anakeesta’s opening.

Right now the workers are getting things ready as best as they can, and Anakeesta owners and managers are also hard at work, gathering the proper people into their hiring process to make sure guests have a memorable and all-around spectacular experience at Gatlinburg’s newest and more ambitious projects in recent memory. For a full description of fun activities your family can enjoy, visit their website at www.anakeesta.com. Thanks for reading, and keep checking in for the latest Gatlinburg activities, tips, and viewpoints!

 

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