Paula Deen’s Kitchen

Paula Deen’s Kitchen in Harrah’s Cherokee Casino closed in 2013. Information below is maintained for historical purposes.

Cherokee stepped up its reputation in the eyes of foodies in 2011 by adding a restaurant named after Food Network Star: Paula Deen.  Since that time, Paula Deen’s Kitchen in Harrah’s Cherokee Casino has become THE place to eat when you visit Cherokee, NC.  Her signature take on traditional southern food styles is causing ripples in the culinary minds of tourists and locals alike.

The food is the main reason that you visit a restaurant, so we will start with the menu.  Deen chose dishes that fit every taste when she picked the menu for this restaurant.  From lowland favorites like Shrimp and Grits to seafood feasts from the boiler, the variety will fit every taste.  The portion sizes are not small, so make sure that you bring an appetite.  For instance, this restaurant produces one of the largest and best tasting chicken pot pies that you will ever have.  The pot pie is topped off by a huge puff pastry that, when soaked in the juice from the chicken pot pie, is amazing. The boiler pots of seafood are also huge and prepared to perfection.

Paula DeenThe food is paired amazingly with décor and the atmosphere.  The way the restaurant has been designed, it is quite and you feel as if you are the only people seated in the huge dining room.  And if the décor and the atmosphere is amazing, you will be floored by the service. Polite, pleasant and professional are the catchwords for the day.  Firstly, they allow you to make reservations.  As one of the hot spots in the Smokies, the tables fill up fast.  Secondly, they are nice.  The wait staff treats you like you are the only person in the restaurant and your experience is their only concern.

Of course, the fact that it is located in the home of gaming in the Smokies doesn’t hurt either.  Harrah’s is an ever expanding project in Cherokee, NC.  They have added lots of shopping, lots of dining experiences and of course with the addition of Paula Deen’s Kitchen they have added an upscale dining establishment that is still rising like a shooting star in the culinary scene of Western North Carolina.  Located in the casino itself, you are mere feet from a great meal when you are playing cards or trying your hand at one of the many video gaming machines.

Paul a Deen's KitchenCheck out Paula Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.  If you are looking for a memorable meal that will make you wish you had more room in your belly and more time in your schedule, this is the only place you need to eat while you are in the Smokies.  Go in and try Paula Deen’s take on southern tradition.

Deerpark Restaurant

dpr1One of my favorite places to eat, when I visit the Biltmore Estate is the Deerpark Resturant.  A trip to the Biltmore is not complete without good food and the Deerpark puts on a culinary show like you would not believe.  A buffet like no other, the Deerpark is something wholly different for the person looking for a great way to experience the opulence of a fine meal at the Biltmore.  Housed in a barn that was part of the original estate, you get to experience some history along with a good meal.

Let me set the scene:  you have purchased your entry into the Biltmore Estate and it is a glorious Sunday afternoon, around lunch time.  You and your family decide to go to the Deerpark, after a suggestion from the ticket office.  They call ahead for you and make a reservation for you.  You hop in the car and instead of stopping at the house, you continue through the beautiful grounds of the Biltmore Estate, following the signs, to the Deerpark.  From the time you pull into the parking lot you will feel that you are somewhere different.  You are at a barn that used to house some of the four legged residents of the estate.  The seating area is built around a central courtyard that at times has ice sculptures and can also be rented out for receptions throughout the year.

dpr2One of the staff members will escort you to your table and you will find that you are already experiencing the glory of the Vanderbillts. The table is laid out with beautiful stemware and silverware, cloth napkins and a fresh tablecloth.  They give you a brief rundown of the special of the day and then point you in the direction of the buffet. As you approach the tables of food you are going to realize very quickly that this is not your usual buffet.  No piles of over cooked food, no turines of processed soup, this is a gourmet buffet where the chefs of the Biltmore Estate get to experiment and dream.  Their dreams are edible, their experiments are delightful and the food the produce is amazing.  Fresh meats and vegetables prepared differently all the time sit side by side with field green salads and made to order omelettes.  And of course then there is the dessert table.  An entire table devoted to desserts.  From tartlets to pie to cake and cookies, the pastry staff at the Deerpark has been hard at work.

The Deerpark Restaurant is a place that everyone should experience at least once.  You need to make sure that you include it the next time that you go to the Biltmore.  Of course, there are also those people that make the Deerpark their restaurant of choice whenever they go to the Biltmore Estate.  When you are in Asheville you are going to want to spend some time at the Biltmore.  Make sure that you pick a good place to eat, pick the Deerpark.

Deerpark Restaurant
Biltmore Estate
One Lodge Street
Asheville, NC
Reservations – 828-225-6260

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant

Life is Short, Eat Fritters First!

The Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant (AFR) sticks in your memory after you have been there once and it is easy for it to become a place that you frequent a lot of you live here in the area.  For me, the Applewood Farmhouse will always be tied to the memories of working at the Louise Mandrell Theater.  The Applewood Farmhouse is located across the river from what used to be the Louise Mandrell Theater (now the Smoky Mountain Opry) and when I worked there, we ate at AFR a LOT!  The fritters became a staple part of all of our diets and of course, the food was eaten almost once a week at lunch, not to mention the number of tour groups that we sent to them over the years.  Add to that the fact that they were located right across the river and we had a restaurant that almost became our hang out.

Each and every meal that is served at the AFR is served with fritters.  They come to the table piping hot, served with butter to spread on them or to dip them in.  An apple fritter is a thing of beauty and when it comes with great food that they compliment to a ‘t,’ well you just can’t beat a fritter.  There were times at the theater when someone from Applewood staff would show up with a basket of fritters for us to munch on during the day.  That almost always guaranteed that we would end up across the river at lunch.

And the food they serve is as good as the fritters.  Their menu is full of southern comfort food.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served each and everyday throughout the week.  From fried chicken to chicken pot pie, from pork chops to beef liver, the menu is diverse and wonderful.  Full of the flavors of home and the tastes that you might have had at your grandmother’s house, the food takes you back in time.  The food becomes not only substance but a way to remember those days gone by.

In fact, just visiting the restaurant is a step through time.  It is housed in an old farmhouse, hence the name.  When you walk to your table you trod decades old boaords in the floor that have seen thousands of feet throughout the year.  This used to a be a farmhouse that was a stop on the way to Gatlinburg.  People in those forgotten times would stop at the farmhouse to spend the night, to get a bite to eat.  Now, for people visiting the area and for countless locals, this is a place to stop in for a bite to eat.  This is a place to spend a lunch hour or dinner after work.  This is a restaurant that is a first stop or that one special night out when you come to town for vacation in the Smokies.  The Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant is calling you back to another time, stop in for a visit.

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant
240 Apple Valley Road
Sevierville, TN

Dillsboro Chocolate Factory

When you are roaming through the streets of downtown Dillsboro, you are going to notice a smell in the air.  The smell of chocolate. If you follow the fragrance through the air you will eventually end up at the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory.  In this beautiful building, you will find a world filled with chocolate, candy and other goodies along with a great selection of gifts.  They are constantly making their own candies and confectioneries, that are served up fresh everyday and some of the best fudge that you will ever taste.

One of the most interesting things that the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory has to offer is the Shooter.  This is a chocolate toasting cup (yes, you read the correctly, the cup itself is chocolate), filled with a chocolate ganache that has been infused with a a touch of alcohol.  Now, this is literally just a dab of liquor as there is less then 3% alcohol in these wonderful creations.  They come in flavors ranging from apple martini to Irish creme so you will certainly be able to find a favorite.  If you are still having a hard time wrapping your head around the concept, imagine an open faced truffle.

dcf2Along with their shooters, they have tons of chocolate creations.  From truffles ti brio to bark to fudge, their are more varieties of chocolate in this shop then you will find in more stores twice its size.  You can find those items from the past that were favorites of yours as a child to new creations that are fresh from their research and development department.  For instance, they have an Aztec  “Spicy” Turtle.  This creation is just the right blend of pecans, caramel and dark chocolate with just a bit of spice to make it interesting.  Or maybe you are in the mood for something a little strange, like – Dark Peanut Butter Ritz Crackers.  These are honest to goodness Ritz crackers that have had a layer of peanut butter spread on them and then dipped in wonderful dark chocolate.  The slight bitter of the dark chocolate with the sweet of the peanut butter and the savory cracker is a treat that you will not believe.

Along with the chocolate madness, they have candy galore.  Jelly Bellies, jawbreakers, jujubees and much more, there is a flavor or style of candy for everybody in your group.  Whether you have that unusual person that loves licorice or the person that can’t turn down a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans, this is an awesome candy store that has a little bit of everything.  Almost all of it is homemade and made fresh on a daily basis.

Along with the the sweets they have a gift shop that you won’t believe featuring gifts that celebrate the Smokies and of course, gifts to warm the heart.  They are located right near downtown Dillsboro.  Roam the streets and stop in for some treats.  Sit down and enjoy the smells and sounds of a candy factory, take some fudge home to the neighbors and have a great time while you visit the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

Dillsboro Chocolate Factory
28 Church Street
Dillsboro, NC

Lodge at Buckberry Creek Restaurant

Fine Dining in the Smokies

Recently, on an anniversary date with my wife, we decided to try something new: the restaurant at the Lodge at Buckberry Creek.  This establishment had been recommended to us by friends and they told us that it was the best dining experience in the Smokies. I have lived here since 1996 and I thought I had heard about all of the supposed ‘best dining’ experiences an I had not heard of this one before.  Little did I know that we were in for the best meal we had ever had as a couple.

I called the Lodge at Buckberry Creek because it had also been suggested that we get reservations and that we sit outside if at all possible.  I spoke to a very nice lady at their front desk that made the reservation for me and when I asked if we could sit outside, said that was no problem at all and told me everything was taken care of.  She also gave me directions to the lodge itself.  We left our house in Sevierville and headed to Gatlinburg (it is great to live so close to the Smokies).  We arrived at the lodge and parked near the lobby.  The entrance for the restaurant is through the lobby area, so if you arrive and are trying to figure out where to go, just head to the check in desk.  We were taken straight to our table on the deck outside and were treated to the best view you can imagine.

The deck off the back of the restaurant looks out over the park to Gatlinburg.  You can just barely see Gatlinburg from the deck and there are none of the garish lights or noise drifting in from town.  This was in October so it was a bit chilly and the fall colors were perfect.  The waitress, a very professional and courteous young lady got a fire going in the outside fireplace and in moments we were toasty warm.  The staff at the restaurant is amazing.  Every single person that we dealt with was wonder, well-informed with the menu and ready to help in any way that they can.  She gave us menus, explained the specials and took our orders.  Throughout the meal she was the perfect waitress:  always there when we needed her but unobtrusive.  Back to the menu and the food

The menu changes all the time.  It is based on what ingredients are fresh and what the chef feels like cooking that night.  This use of fresh seasonal ingredients make for an amazing experience in the mountains.  I ordered a veal porterhouse and my wife had the beef tenderloin.  The sides were paired with the entrée to bring out all the flavors of the food.  The chef sent out a special to all the tables (in this case a special sausage that he had crafted for the evening) and the artisan bread was out of this world.  Quite literally this is the best meal that we have had in the Smoky Mountains and though we keep looking, we have not found a place to top it yet.

Lodge at Buckberry Creek
961 Campbell Lead Road
Gatlinburg, TN

Dixie Stampede

The Most Fun Place to Eat in the Smokies!

If there is one show that has made itself a stop for visitors to the area each and every year it is Dixie Stampede.  Dixie Stampede became the second big attraction from the owners of Dollywood and Dolly Parton herself.  The show is very simply a competition between the two sides of the audience with a faire amount of horsemanship thrown into boot.  They also happen to serve one of the best meals that you will find in Pigeon Forge.  Dixie Stampede is more than an attraction it is a destination

Dixie Stampede was the first dinner show in Pigeon Forge.  Opening in 1988, it has been in the same location since that point and was one of the attractions that opened up the south end of Pigeon Forge.  Before that point, the Herschend Company, that owns both Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, decided that dinner show would go along well with the burgeoning attractions in Pigeon Forge.  As Dollywood grew they decided to throw their hat, and the experience that they had with the live shows at Dollywood, into the growing live entertainment field on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.  From the time they opened, Dixie Stampede has become one of those places that thousands of visitors to the Smokies make part of the trips to the Smoky Mountains.

Dixie Stampede - Pigeon ForgeHere is the premise behind the show.  Once you walk in the door you will realize that you are in an indoor riding arena.  The horseshoe shaped seating area covers three sides of the dirt covered ‘ stage.’  The crickets chirping and the man-made stars in the sky lend to the atmosphere.  Once the action kicks off though you don’t have time to think about the scenery anymore, this high energy show will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Horses, trick riding, games, competitions and plenty of music makes the time fly by.  And the competition is the biggest part of the night.  The idea is that the two sides of the audience are competing.  Throughout most of the year, it is a competition between the North and South, during the winter months it is still the north and south but this time it is the North and South Poles.  And not only is the cast involved in this competition but the members of the audience get brought down into the arena itself.

Dixie Stampede - Pigeon ForgeBut let’s not forget the food.  The food is just as big a highlight as the show.  And because it is Dixe Stampede, the food is as big as the show.  You get a whole rotisserie chicken, pork tenderloin, corn-on-the-cob, potato wedges, creamy vegetable soup, a biscuit and dessert.  I know this sounds like a lot of food, and it is, but if you don’t finish everything they will bring you a doggy bag so that you can take the leftovers back to your hotel or cabin.  The food is amazing and the fact that they can serve more than a thousand people while putting on a multi-million dollar show means that you get to watch two shows in one:  the show in the arena and the show that the servers put on in the audience.

Make sure that you and your family have been to Dixie Stampede.  Make it a tradition, make sure that you have fun eating in the most fun place to eat in the Smokies.

Dixie Stampede
3849 Parkway
Pigeon Forge, TN

Carolina Smokehouse

The Carolina Smokehouse in Cashiers, NC has closed. Information is maintained here for historical purposes.

The people of the south and more importantly the people of the Smoky Mountains love their barbecue.  It is hard to find a town in the Smoky Mountains or even the whole of the Southern Appalachians that doesn’t have at least one BBQ restaurant.  In Cashiers, NC, one of the best places, one of the places that the locals flock to when they want good barbecue is to the Carolina Smokehouse.  They feature pit cooked bbq and barbecue sauce that has been featured on TV shows and that they have even made available online for those people that need their Carolina Smokehouse fix even after they have gotten back to their homes.

Whether you choose to go to the Carolina Smokehouse for lunch or dinner, you are going to find the same kind of food on the menu – great BBQ!  Chicken, beef, pork, all cooked slow, with low heat and a lot of love.  The juice gets locked in creating a moisture that is present in all great BBQ.  They specialize in chopped beef or pork, pork ribs and chicken.  If you are hungry, get their Plate Dinners, they come with fries, slaw, Texas Toast and soup with cornbread.  This is a meal fit for a king that is certain to fill you up and make your mouth water.

But what is BBQ without the sauce?  At the Carolina Smokehouse they are making homemade, traditional southern style BBQ sauce.  This sauce is so good that it has been featured on:

  • PBS – Southern Accents
  • Food Network – Feasting on Asphalt with Alton Brown
  • Southern Living

In fact they have recently started selling their sauce online do to the people clamoring to take some of their sauce home.  You can order the sauce online, smoke your own meat and pile on the sauce at the house to get that memory of the Carolina Smokehouse back on your taste buds.

The Carolina Smokehouse at the main intersection in Cashiers, NC.  It is easy to find.  In fact, if you are parked and walking from shop to shop in Cashiers, you can probably just follow your nose.  Around noon, when the crank up the smoke and get the food cooking, the aroma that comes from the restaurant is inticing, mesmorizing.  Just like in the Looney Tunes cartoons of old, you will find yourself lifted off your feet by the smell and drawn through the air to the Carolina Smokehouse.  Go inside, order some barbecue and make yourself at home.  Create some tasty memories and maybe take a jar of sauce home to be enjoyed later.

Carolina Smokehouse
281 Highway 64 West
Cashiers, NC

Harrah’s Cherokee

hcc2There is only one place to go if you are looking for world class gaming in the Smoky Mountains and that is Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, NC.  This casino and hotel opened in November of 1997 and it has become a desination unto itself in theyears since its opening.  The casino boasta hotel that contains 1,108 rooms and 107 suites.  The gaming area started with only electronic games but now it also has actual dealers for some games of chance.  Along with the hotel and casino, they have shopping world class dining and they bring in shows and celebrities throughout the year.

Over the years, Cherokee, NC has been trying to find ways to reinvent their town and bring in more and more visitors into their area.  With the addition of Harrah’s Cherokee, they have finally gotten a lock on the tourism market and they have used the new found draw to make continued improvements to Cherokee and offer more and more to the tourists and locals alike.  The casino provides jobs and is now the only gambling location in North Carolina and it boats the largest hotel in North Carolina as well.  The hotel, connected to the casino, is well maintained, beautiful and has amenities that you only find in huge resort areas.  Guests staying at Harrah’s Cherokee are treated to service that is beyond compare in rooms that are clean and well decorated.  Also, if you are there to game, you never have to leave the casino. You simply walk to the gaming floor, and get your game on.

hcc1And speaking of gaming, Harrah’s Cherokee has games to fit every taste.  State of the art video slot machines line all of the walls and most of the floor pace but their are also computerized versions of many of the game sof chance that you see in Las Vegas.  As of 2012, after attaining approval from the North Carolina legislature, Harrah’s Cherokee now has traditional hand dealt Blackjack, Roulette and Craps tables.  This live gaming, with live dealers, has taken Harrah’s Cherokee to the next level and brought in gamers that are looking for a more Vegas-style experience.  Whether you are into video gaming or live gaming, Harrah’s Cherokee has what you are looking for and has thousands of vsiitors each year.

But, let’s face it, you can’t game 24 hours a day and you are going to get hungry – Harrah’s Cherokee has you covered on that front as well.  Paula Deen’s Kitchen opening in the last few years, a Ruth Cris Steak House is also located inside the grounds of Harrah’s Cherokee, add to that an amazing buffet and lots of other culinary choices and you have more food than you can shake a steak at (pun intended).  There is also shopping located all around the casino so if you have a loved one that is spending a lot of time inside the casino there is plenty for you to do without even leaving the hotel.

Harrah’s Cherokee is a world class venue tucked into the shadows of the Smokies.  From gorgeous hotel rooms to world class gaming, dining and shopping – this stop on your trip tot he Smokies is more then memorable, it is unforgettable.

Harrah’s Cherokee
777 Casino Drive
Cherokee, NC

Riverstone Family Restuaurant

Riverstone Family RestaurantLooking for a great place to grab a bite just outside the National Park, but close enough to still feel like you’re amongst the trees, try the Riverstone Family Restaurant in Townsend. It still has that country feel as if you’ve stumbled across some off the beaten path eatery in a wooded clearing.

It’s also one of the few Townsend restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, meaning there’s always something for everyone on the menu. Whether it’s eggs sunny side up you’re craving, or just a sandwich to get you back on the trail, Riverstone is a great place to eat on the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies”.

Townsend makes its hay at maintaining its small town charm, but sometimes your culinary options can be pretty limited.  That’s one reason why there is only one fast food restaurant in Townsend. There are really only a handful of places to eat.  Finding a breakfast locale can be especially hard on the first time visitor to Townsend and the Cades Cove portion of the National Park.  Riverstone Family Restaurant’s breakfast choices are quite sumptuous. Whatever your heart desires, whether it is bacon to omelets to a la carte, there’s something for even the pickiest of breakfast connoisseurs on the menu.  A personal favorite is the delicious country ham breakfast – eggs, grits and hashbrowns are gathered up snuggly with a thick cut of country ham perfectly aged.  For those who grew up outside the South, country ham is salt-cured ham traditionally served on most Southern breakfast tables.

Riverstone Family RestaurantAnd don’t forget to stop back by for lunch or supper. Take a look at the appetizers first, the fried green tomatoes at the Riverstone Family Restaurant take a back seat to no one.  Breaded, thick cut tomatoes are a great start to any meal.  Let Riverstone Family Restaurant introduce you to fried green tomatoes.  The sandwiches are some of the best in the area as well.  The Riverstone Burger is simply gigantic and will leave anyone full.  The menu even has a new section for vegetarian selections, including a garden burger.  Still, don’t look past the entrees. Actually, aim right for it if you’re hungry.  The menu consists of Southern staples like steaks, grilled chicken, country fried steak, and the like.  A few of their specialties include country ham, rainbow trout, beef liver and onions, and frog legs.  Sample a few of their Southern specialties; it will do your taste buds a world of good.

The Riverstone Family Restaurant’s down-home atmosphere is one of the other reasons people keep coming back, even out-of-towners on numerous occasions.  The restaurant’s oil tablecloths and the numerous knick-knacks adorning the wall will take you back to your grandmother’s kitchen. Check out all the Townsend history on the walls of the dining room, you’re sure find a few memories if you’re from around here. During the colder months, Riverstone’s fireplace crackles in one corner of the restaurant as everyone gets that warm cozy feeling while enjoying their meal – a touch home that you won’t find anywhere else.

Combine the food with the atmosphere and it’s a memory you’ll want to revisit time and again, literally.  Come for breakfast and dinner, or breakfast and lunch, or all three at Riverstone Family Restaurant, it’s sure to be one of your favorite Townsend restaurants.  We dare you to find a better breakfast anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Been hiking all day and need a meal that is going to stick to your ribs? Well, I think you’ve found your destination.

Cheese Cupboard & Hofbrauhaus

If you blink, you’ll miss one of the town’s best kept secrets – the Cheese Cupboard nestled in The Village shopping area in Gatlinburg. It’s your classic Bavarian cheese shop with a wide selection of every kind of cheese from Brie to Gouda. Combined with the restaurant located upstairs and you’ve found a hidden gem in Gatlinburg that even the most detailed foodie might pass by.  The Hofbrauhaus Restaurant is known around town for its famous Reuben sandwich, which you must try to believe.

Cheese Cupboard & HofbrauhausThe Cheese Cupboard opened its doors in 1969 downtown.  For the small scale of the store, the variety of cheeses, imported chocolates and imported beers on hand is surprising.  It’s hard to find any empty shelf space in here.  From Brie to Blue, and cheddar to Camembert, the Cheese Cupboard is a turophile’s (cheese lover) dream come true in Tennessee.  Maybe you’re looking for something specific or you just want to shop for a new kind of cheese, the selection at the Cheese Cupboard will leave you satisfied.

Upstairs is where the real hidden treasure lies.  Literally, the back staircase goes straight up to a German connoisseurs buffet.  The narrow staircase leads you to a small dining area with an even smaller kitchen on the left hand side.  This is the Hofbrauhaus, a German restaurant the likes of which you read about travel diaries and children’s tales.  It’s a modest menu, but not lacking in delicious German fare.  Sandwiches, bratwurst, and cheese all align one side of the menu but the main reason for a visit is their Reuben.  They are renowned for this specialty, called the “The Super Reuben.”  Stacked high with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and homemade sauce, this incredible German sandwich is worth the trek up the stairs alone.  Melted cheese and tangy sauerkraut emerge out of every bite and tell your senses why it really is the best Reuben in the Smokies.  Coarse ground mustard, horseradish and relish can be found on each table so that you can condiment till your heart’s content.

Cheese Cupboard & HofbrauhausThe Hofbrauhaus dining area is also a large part of the appeal.  Cozy and quaint, with seating for no more than 12 or 16, this is one of those places where if you have a big enough group; you just might be dining alone, something hard to find in Gatlinburg.  The interior looks like a small, turn-of-the-century German gastro pub. Dark wood and furnishings highlight the dining area.  A little reminder, your waiter will also be cooking for you and bringing your drinks. They will also be the person working the register downstairs in the cheese shop. Patience is a virtue; good things come to those who wait.

During the week try something different in Gatlinburg for lunch, rather than going to a fast food restaurant, take time to seek out and stop by the Hofbrauhaus restaurant.  Our recommendation, get the Reuben, or one of the other fantastic sandwiches.  Butter it up with some fresh horseradish or mustard sauce and enjoy a great meal in one of those places that seems off the beaten but really isn’t.  Purchase some fine cheese from the Cheese Cupboard as a tasty souvenir.  People will ask you where you ate and won’t believe you when you tell them.