The Best Restaurants in the Great Smoky Mountains

You can guess by this lush stretch of the country that you’ll find lots of fresh produce in its restaurants and cafés. Local breweries and distilleries get star billing on bar menus, too, so expect a pure and authentic taste of Appalachian bounty most places you go.

16 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713
Downtown Bryson City is home to the welcoming Everett Hotel and its restaurant, the Bistro. Although famous for its crepes, the Bistro’s mountain trout preparations rival the finest riverside camp cooking, including, notably, the trout cakes, a highlight of the Southern cuisine–driven tapas menu. Ingredients are sourced locally and seasonally, and many are organic. Although the rustic, candelabra-lit atmosphere is relaxed, reservations are recommended, especially during summer and on weekends. Guests at the Everett enjoy complimentary breakfast and weekend brunch, and many eat here multiple times during a visit to the Smokies.

1098 Paint Town Road, Cherokee, NC 28719
If you’re looking to calorie-load before a big hike—or just want to indulge in flavorful Southern vittles—Granny’s buffet is guaranteed to leave you stuffed and satisfied. Make the fried chicken your plate’s centerpiece, framed by mac-and-cheese, corn bread, and peach cobbler. Each day’s dinner menu features a rotating main dish, like chicken and dumplings and pork chops on Wednesdays, or meatloaf, turkey, and smoked sausage on Thursdays. The breakfast buffet is equally gut-busting, especially if you go the biscuits and sausage gravy route.
1655 Acquoni Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719, USA
Although the salads, soups, and sandwiches at this homey café are among the healthiest lunch options in Cherokee, the decadent cinnamon rolls, turnovers, and cupcakes threaten any good intentions you may have. Sassy Sunflowers does double duty as the town coffee shop, and it’s the rare spot in Cherokee to offer smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Counter service keeps things moving on busy days, and there’s ample seating in the dining room and on the breezy patio.
2167 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
There are plenty of places to grab a burger and a beer in the Smoky Mountains, but not many are as memorable as Local Goat. It’s one of the few restaurants in the Gatlinburg area to source local ingredients, and the kitchen’s attention to detail shows. In addition to the signature gourmet burgers, there’s also a diverse selection of entrées that range from teriyaki kebabs to shrimp and grits. It’s also the place in the area with the widest variety of beers from around Appalachia—the diversity of Local Goat’s extensive tap lineup is impressive.
145 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713, USA
Also known as the High Test Deli & Sweet Shop, this local standby—situated just over the state line in Bryson City, North Carolina—has fueled hikers, area residents, and tourists for more than a decade. The signature Cuban is a best seller, but every sandwich is customizable, with more than a dozen bread varieties, nearly as many cheeses, and all the proteins you’d expect from a top-notch deli. Still, you wouldn’t be blamed for skipping the meats altogether and heading straight for the “frozen sandwich” section, where you can choose from a creative selection of ice cream sandwiches that will challenge even the most decisive sweet tooth.
555 Buckhorn Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Located along the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community route, this iconic spot has been a local lunch favorite for more than three decades. The homey log-cabin interior spills out onto a dog-friendly patio surrounded by forest, where diners enjoy light, healthy fare like seasonal veggie platters, lobster pie, and a signature chicken salad. Inspired by Alpine teahouses in Austria and softened with Southern hospitality, the Wild Plum has proved a hit—advance (not same-day) reservations are highly recommended unless you want to wait for a table. Visitors should also note that the last seating of the day is at 2:40 p.m.
446 East Pkwy #4, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Healthy, organic food can be difficult to come by in Gatlinburg, making this natural food store and café a staple for locals and travelers seeking a nourishing or vegetarian-friendly option. Burgers come in the form of ground salmon or lentils (in a sprouted grain bun), washed down with the fresh-pressed juice of the day or a “wellness shot” of wheatgrass, ginger, or turmeric. Built in a rustic stone-and-wood cabin, the café is small but cozy, and during summer, the exterior is cheered by blooming daisies and echinacea. There’s also a well-stocked herb and vitamin section, plus plenty of seasonal, organic produce and groceries to pack a picnic or stock the pantry.
12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801, USA
On a recent visit to Asheville, North Carolina, I was anxious to try some of the great restaurants I’d heard about. In the end though, my husband and I found ourselves gravitating back to the same restaurant over and over again - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - because it was absolutely delicious. We just couldn’t resist it. Tupelo Honey is a must if you’re in Asheville looking for some incredible Southern comfort food. This macaroni and cheese was probably the best I’ve ever tasted - rich and creamy, with delicious bits of bacon and other wonderful ingredients mixed in. Definitely not a diet food but worth every calorie!
13 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, USA
Félix Meana and Katie Button, veterans of elBulli in Spain, converted Asheville’s former downtown bus depot into a stylish tapas bar. Cúrate means to cure oneself, which diners can do with traditional Spanish dishes such as Catalan sausage bocadillos, codfish salad, and honey-drizzled fried eggplant. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue. Read Emma John’s feature on the North Carolina bluegrass scene.

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