Smoky Mountains, TN - Sevierville, Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg - Vacation Travel Guide

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Smoky Mountains Area Features

5 Tastes of the Smokies

Travel brings out our desire to try new foods and explore local specialties. Here in the Smoky Mountains, the local waters, mountainous soil and the heritage of the region have contributed to an interesting food and beverage scene. What-to-Do has compiled 5 of the best tastes we recommend you seek out while visiting the areas around the Great Smoky Mountains.

BBQ

It doesn’t matter whether you are staying in Tennessee or in North Carolina. If you’re visiting the area, you’ll find that the locals love their barbeque! And even within the two states, you’ll find varying styles of barbeque. Eastern and western North Carolina have different approaches to preparing their recipes, and in Tennessee, you’ll find Memphis-style in the west that is completely different in the east. The differences in these recipes include: what meat is used (chicken, beef, or pork); the type of sauce it’s served with; whether the meat is cooked while covered in sauce or with a dry rub; and the list goes on, with each pit master bringing a new subtle technique to the table. In the Smokies, you’ll most likely encounter succulent smoked pork that was pulled from the shoulder of the pig (not the whole hog) and served with a thick tomato-based sauce with sweet flavors and a sticky consistency. This barbeque style never disappoints and goes very well with baked beans or corn. Each bite is fall-off-the bone tender! Order a meal from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que or Buddy's bar-b-q to taste this and many other barbequed meats including ribs, brisket and wings.

Baked Beans

Less than 20 miles from Pigeon Forge is the birthplace of one of America’s most famous beans—Bush’s Best Baked Beans. In 1897, the A.J. Bush & Company general store opened here. As a free destination for area visitors, the building now houses a museum reflecting the Bush family’s history and exhibits that show how their “Best” beans are made. The company actually uses local mountain waters in the secret family recipe and then recycles the water onto growing plants. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Bush’s Family Cafe and the gift shop. Taste some of the beans in new recipes including their famous Pinto Bean Pecan Pie (be sure to get to the café early to get a slice before it sells out!) and purchase a cookbook to explore new ways to use Bush’s Best Baked Beans at home. You’ll be surprised to see how deliciously versatile these famous beans can be.

Distilled Beverages

To taste some authentic Tennessee whiskey and moonshine, visit Ole Smoky Moonshine at one of their three locations near the Smoky Mountains. Their distillery in Gatlinburg, called “the Holler,” is the most visited distillery in the United States. Free tours are offered of the quaint rustic facility and for a small fee, visitors can sample some of their unique creations. Their White Lightnin’ and Apple Pie Moonshine are usually in high demand as are the moonshine cherries that make the perfect garnish for your cocktail. At their nearby sister distillery, try Ole Smoky’s Straight barrel-aged whiskey or a flavored version such as Tennessee Turtle or Cinnamon. If you’re at Tanger Outlets in Sevierville, Smith Creek Moonshine is another distillery worth checking out. Smith Creek offers samples of its many flavored moonshines—from Sweet Tea to Butter Cake and even Chocolate Silk. In addition to purchasing a few bottles of their distinctive liquor, browse their store to find delicious jams, dry rubs and sauces to take home.

Apples

What’s more American than apple pie? Well, how about an apple from the lands surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Here, the climate is perfect for apple orchards to flourish. In Sevierville, visit the Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store for fruit fresh from the trees, treats such as apple butters and jams, or perhaps an apple fritter mix. For a refreshing apple beverage, adults should head to Foxfire Mountain’s Wyile Cider Barn to sample their two hard ciders—sweet and dry. A non-alcoholic cider is also available, making this the perfect family oasis after zip-lining or partaking of the other amazing outdoor activities on the mountain. 

Hot Sauce

Those who like spicy sauces will love the vast selection available in eastern Tennessee. Thousands of different hot sauce concoctions—they go very well with barbeque by the way—and other sauces, marinades and dips can be found at the Pepper Palace. Based in Sevierville, this popular store has 3 other locations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge where daring taste-testers can sample some of the hottest sauces imaginable before purchasing their favorite flavors. Many come from around the country, but some of these sauces such as the scorching Tennessee Fire Hot Sauce, are made locally. Please be advised that some of these sauces are so hot, you have to sign a waiver before exposing your palate to them, especially blends of ghost peppers, habaneros, or the world’s hottest pepper—the reaper.

So venture out to try some of these tastes of the Smoky Mountains—though this is just the start of your Smoky Mountains food journey. Throughout the towns surrounding the National Park, you’ll find fantastic restaurants, cozy diners, and establishments serving ethnic cuisine. Candy stores and ice cream shops abound, tempting children with their sweet delights. There is no shortage of great food finds in this region!

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