Although our cabins have all that’s necessary for eating in, when we go on vacation we usually end up eating out quite a lot. To us, because we cook most of our meals at home, spending a lot of time cooking during our vacation is not super attractive. We’ve tried the majority of restaurants in the area (not all, but most of them). There’s a few places that have become our “go-to” places for a fabulous, memorable lunch. Here’s our recommendations for the best places to grab lunch in Pigeon Forge.
3. Smokies Cuban Cafe
We’re not going to lie. When our realtor, Jared, first told us that there was a delicious Cuban restaurant that we just had to try, we were a bit skeptical. Truth be told, Cuban food isn’t something you’re likely to be exposed to in our home state of Michigan. We have learned to trust our realtor, because he hasn’t lead us wrong yet. Not to mention, he looks a lot like a younger Nicholas Cage and who wouldn’t trust someone who looks like a young Nick Cage?
Smokies Cuban Cafe is a very small restaurant located in a strip mall (right by our cabins in Brookstone Village – Bigfoot Crossing, Sasquatch Ridge and Hoedown Hideaway). When you walk in, don’t let the small space and simple decor fool you, this is a place you need to try!
We are obsessed with the Cuban Sandwich and Stuffed Potatoes. The Cuban Sandwich is huge and one is enough to feed both of us when we each order a stuffed potato to eat with it.
What is a stuffed potato, you ask (or at least you may be asking if you are from a Northern state that is sadly deprived of Cuban food options)? It’s seasoned beef surrounded by mashed potatoes and then deep fried. In other words, it’s a ball of savory happiness.
Perhaps you are skeptical about taking advice about Cuban food from Northerners who are admittedly lacking in Cuban food knowledge. Who could blame you? We made some friends who also own cabins in Pigeon Forge. They live in Florida but originally are from Cuba. They also recommend this restaurant to others for authentic Cuban food.
2. The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille
There is a lot to love about The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille. Located in the historical Old Mill District in Pigeon Forge, there is plenty to see and do around this restaurant. Make no mistake, though, if this restaurant was in the middle of nowhere, we’d go out of our way to go there!
First of all, it’s simply a beautiful place. Every season, you will find the restaurant and surrounding area artfully decorated outside. Plan some extra time to enjoy the gardens around the restaurant. If the weather is nice, see if it’s possible to be seated in patio area in the back (pictured).
Before you even walk in the door, your nose will guide you inside when it picks up the scent of delicious fresh-baked bread. The menu is varied, but this is primarily a sandwich, soup and salad restaurant which is why it’s a favorite lunch destination for us.
We highly recommend the ribeye steak sandwich. We’re not joking when we say that it’s the best sandwich ever made, any place, ever. Order it smothered with provolone cheese, peppers, mushrooms and caramelized onions (or pick and choose between those options) to elevate the sandwich from awesome to simply spectacular!
Bigfoot Tips: If you’re not a big eater or are looking to save some room to gorge yourself at dinner (this is a no judgement zone, gorging yourself on vacation is completely acceptable and encouraged), consider splitting this sandwich with someone else and pair it with soup or salad. Also, if you are staying longer than the weekend, try to visit this restaurant on a weekday. This place is well known and there can be a wait for seating.
1. The Deli at Publix
I know what you’re thinking, “Did they seriously rate a grocery store deli as the best place to get lunch in Pigeon Forge?” Yes, my friends! We did! Here’s our logic behind this bold proclamation.
We know how it goes. You did a little research before you left for vacation. You thought that the time you were going to be in Pigeon Forge was going to be enough. Now you realize that there are not enough hours in the day to see and do all you want to. On top of it… everybody has to eat!
Here’s our advice. Take at least one day and plan a picnic lunch. Publix is our top pick for picking up items for such a lunch because they have a great grab-n-go section with pre-made subs, sandwiches and salads. If nothing looks quite right in the grab-n-go section, they have a counter for custom made items, as well. While you’re there, you can grab some drinks, snack items of your choice and even ice for your cooler.
Once you have your picnic lunch purchased, head into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Your picnic options in the national park are endless. You can choose to eat at a picnic table in a designated picnic area, or stop to eat at one of the numerous pull-offs throughout the national park. Picnic next to a rushing stream or at a spot with gorgeous mountain views.
At the end of the day, you ate a grocery store sandwich (albeit a really good sandwich) and it will be one of your favorite memories from your trip.