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

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Smoky Mountains Area Features

Flavorful and “Smoky” Sensations

The mountains aren’t the only things that come off as smoky when you’re visiting this area. Many local food items also have smoky flavors. Here are a few we recommend you try!


Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Sometimes though, there may be succulent barbeque! It doesn’t matter whether you are staying in Tennessee or in North Carolina. If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll learn 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 smoked 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 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. Many of their products have a smoky flavor such as the Brown Sugar Hickory recipe or the Smokehouse Tradition Grillin’ Beans. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Bush’s Family Cafe and the gift shop. Taste some of the beans and try a few new recipes such as their famous Pinto Bean Pecan Pie (be sure to get to the café early to get a slice before it sells out!) With the purchase of a cookbook you can 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.

Hot Sauce

Those who like spicy sauces will love the vast selection available in eastern Tennessee. Made from every imaginable type of pepper and blend of peppers including chipotle (smoked jalapeno) and ancho (smoked Anaheim), thousands of different hot sauce concoctions can be found at the Pepper Palace. The store carries rubs and sauces for barbeque, salsas, and even a smoked pepper hot cocoa mix. 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 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.

Distilled Beverages

What goes well with all of these smoky tastes? Locally made bourbon and moonshine! To taste some authentic Tennessee whiskey, try Ole Smoky’s Straight barrel-aged whiskey. The smoky flavor comes from the barrel. Their sister distillery in Gatlinburg, called “the Holler,” makes moonshine and 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. 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.

These smoky foods are 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 regional cuisine. So venture out to try some of these and other great tastes of the Smoky Mountains. There is no shortage of great food finds in this region!

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