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.