Dillard House

If you are visiting the Smokies and you are looking for a truly epic meal, then let me recommend going to the Dillard House in Dillard GA.  The restaurant is part of one of the best family run inns in the Smokies and the food is to die for.  The entire meal is served family style and all you can est.  So, the rule of the day is come hungry and plan to be there for a while.

dh2The Dillard House is first and foremost an inn, a place to stay.  It has been a place to rest your head since 1917 when Carrie and Arthur Dillard open the doors to travelers passing through the Georgia Mountains.  These folks were in the foothills of the Smokies and after the founding of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the volume of people through the area increased and the inn has grown right along with the demand.  People of the early 20th century expected a place to eat that went right along with the place they were staying, the dining room opened and meals started to be served.  Over time the food they were turning out was so good that it started turning heads as well. People began to come to the inn just to eat.

Nowadays, not only are people flocking to the restaurant as well as the inn, it has been written up in magazines such as Southern Living and it has been on TV on shows like the Fix 5 Atlanta Morning Show.  This publicity has made the restaurant a destination.  And the food they are turning out is incredible.  For instance, this is what the dinner menu looks like:

  • dh1Fried Chicken
  • Virginia Sugar Cured Ham
  • Country Steak
  • Prime Rib
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Green Beans
  • Creamed Corn
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Harvard Beets
  • Ford Hook Lima Beans
  • Cole Slaw
  • Yeast Rolls
  • Cornbread
  • Cobbler a la Mode

All of this is delivered to your table at one time and if you find that one particular thing ran out a little too quick then you can just ask for more and they will bring it and keep bringing it until you are done!

Here is what to expect.  If you get there right around supper time you are probably going to have a little bit of a wait.  Between the people that come out from the inn and the people that are coming in just to eat.  After you are seated and they get your drink order you are going to notcie one thing very quickly – the huge platters of food being delivered to the tables around you.  In a few moments, one of those platters with the mountains of food will come to your table.  And whether you are just there with that special someone or whether you are with a huge group the same kind of food comes out to each table.  Start passing the sides and the entrees around the table, make sure that everyone gets a share.  Start trying to figure out what your favorite is and of course besure to leave room for dessert.

Dillard House needs to be on your itinerary the next time you end up in North Georgia.  Stay at the end but make sure that you eat at least one meal at the Dillard House.  Come hungry and leave after having one of the best meals that you will have while you are on vacation.

Dillard House
768 Franklin St
Dillard, GA

Carver’s Orchard

If you ever find yourself in Cosby, Tn, make sure you ask the locals about a little place called Carver’s Orchard. There, you’ll not only find the orchard, you’ll also find a farmer’s market and a restaurant at Carver’s that boasts one of the best fried apple pies in East Tennessee.

The View from Carver's OrchardCarver’s Orchard is a well-marked spot and easy to locate. Carver’s, surrounded by apple trees, really is a roadside wonder. The best way to reach Carver’s is to follow Hwy 321 out of Gatlinburg. The intersection of 321 and the Parkway is at traffic light No. 3 and it will take you straight out of town and past the Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts community. The route from traffic light No. 3 in Gatlinburg to Carver’s Orchard is a hare above 22 miles and takes you through the Smokies and its natural beauty. You’ll pass the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on your way before turning off at the Cosby Campground exit. Eventually you will end up in the middle of Cosby, TN.

Cosby’s beauty certainly shines through at Carver’s Orchard. Apples that grow on the trees in the orchard are processed there. In all, there are more than 40,000 trees to pick from during the process. Included in the orchard are 126 varieties of apple, from standard fare to heirlooms. Literally thousands of apples are processed during the annual harvest. These delicious red apples of various sizes and shapes roll down the conveyor belts to be sorted by hand into bushels. Next, the bushels are packed up for the farmer’s market or loaded on to trucks to be shipped out across the country. The apples that find their way to the farmer’s market floor are then judged by cooks and apple coinsurers before the best are picked. Most markets will even let you sample the apple before you buy it just so you know you’re buying the best of the bushel.

The orchard’s restaurant also benefits from the yearly yield. Appalachian home cooking abounds at Carver’s. A basket of apple fritters is brought out as a starter for each meal as well as a glass of cider. This is quite a beginning and some would even say they could make a meal out of it. Still, if you chose to stop you wouldn’t be able to experience the rest of the menu. The catfish is a particular favorite. They have a wide selection of sandwiches and if you’re out that way early enough you can even get breakfast served to you. And don’t forget to order a slice of Carver’s fried apple pie for desert. It’s definitely not to be missed.

To put it simply, their fried apple pies are amazing. This area is a haven for foodies and when you’re searching for something good, yet off the beaten path and away from the city, Carvers can’t be beat. And not only are they sold in the restaurant, you can purchase their pies in the pastry as well. Have one with ice cream or by itself. A Carver’s Orchard fried apple pie will leave you full and dreaming of the next time you’re in Cosby, Tn. Fried apple pies carry a bit of southern charm and take you back to the good ole days as folks around here like to talk about. If you or someone you know haven’t gotten to taste one, run out quick to Carver’s Orchard in Cosby, Tennessee.

Park Grill

Fine Dining in Gatlinburg

The Park Grill in GatlinburgGatlinburg has a lot of traditions.  If you are looking for the traditional live show in the Smokies, it is Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre.  If you are looking for a great traditional attraction, it is Ripley’s Odditorium.  And if you are looking for that special place to eat then you need to give the Park Grill a shot.  A great menu, combined with tradition and a familiar mountainy look have made the Park Grill a tradition for thousands each year.  They come to enjoy the food, be waited on by an amazing staff and soak in the feel of the mountains and of Gatlinburg itself.

The Park Grill is a sprawling log cabin.  The beams on the inside, the ones  that hold up the roof, are full timbers, like a traditional log cabin.  Whole logs, bigger around than a man.  The interior is sparsely but eloquently decorated.  The booths and tables are designed to give you privacy in a public setting and the staff is there to make sure that you have a great time while you are eating at the Park Grill. From the moment you walk in the door you will know that you are in for something special.

The Park Grill is one of those iconic buildings in Gatlinburg. If you drive down the Parkway, as if you are headed to the National Park, you will see the Park Grill on the left hand side of the road near traffic light 10.  There is parking in front of the restaurant and there is parking in the rear as well.  Of course, seeing as you are near to a lot of the hotels and motels in town it is always nice to stretch your legs and walk to the restaurant before a wonderful meal.

The food though is what they are famous for.  From their world class salad bar to the specials that are indicative of the mountains.  Rainbow trout, Moonshine Chicken and other items dot the menu.  Their steaks are amazing and their ribs are to die.  The ribs come on a plate that they are almost too big to for.  Hanging off the side, the ribs have been given a signature rub and they have been cooked for hours so that the smoky goodness has been cooked in.  But it is their desserts that stick with you.  In particular the Jack Daniel’s Crème Brule.  This dessert of custard with the crunch sugar torched to a crunchy brown on top is a staple on their menu.  They move fast so order yours when you sit down and get ready to taste Crème Brule perfection with just a hint of Jack.

The Park Grill needs to be on your list.  It needs to be a stop you make in the Smokies at least once.  And I bet, after you eat there once, that you will go back each time you come back to the mountains.

Park Grill
1110 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Fluent Flavor Spoken Here

One of the premier restaurants in Asheville has recently expanded to the other side of the mountains.  Tupelo Honey Cafe strives to take southern cuisine to the next level.  They take the traditional and the extremely southern, you know soul food, and they turn it on ts head and put their own spin on it.  The original location in Asheville expanded there to a second location.  Now, with the new location in Knoxville, Tupelo Honey Cafe is bringing their take on southern tradition to the next level.

Their menu reads like a Sunday dinner at your grandmothers house… but different.  They take those comfort foods from our youth and make them their own.  Cheesy Grit Cakes, Appalachian Egg Rolls and Homemade Pimento & Cheese are on tap for the starters.  If you are looking for a good sandwich then you can sink your teeth into When Shrimp Met Taco, Southern Fried Chicken BLT or a Grateful Dead Black Bean Burger.  Their menu items cover everyone’s taste.  From those in your group that live a vegetarian lifestyle to those that want BBQ, there is something for everybody.  And part of the something for everybody includes their selection of Main Courses.  Shrimp and Grits, Chorizo-Crusted Colossal Sea Scallops with Basil Cream Sauce and a BBQ plate.  Go look at their menu online and you will feel your mouth start to water.

And now, because dessert is as southern as…well as apple pie, let’s look at their desserts.

  • Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean and Caramel Sauce
  • Honeybee Apple Pie
  • Naked Chocolate Cake a La Mode
  • Banana Pudding
  • Blueberry Hill Thrill Cream Cheese Pie
  • Old Fashioned Soda Parlor Float
One thing that has become a part of our culinary choices is a gluten free menu and the gluten free menu at Tupelo Honey Cafe is terrific.  Full of flavor and wonderful, the gluten free menu is extensive and gives the choice of southern favorites without gluten but with all of the flavor.


Downtown Asheville
12 College St
Asheville, NC

Market Square Knoxville
1 Market Square
Knoxville, TN

Southside Asheville
1829 Hendersonville Rd
Asheville, NC

Make the Tupelo Honey Cafe a stop on your next trip to the Smokies.  You can choose either side of the mountains now and enjoy southern favorites with a more modern style.  Experience the flavor and thrill of eating at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

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Jarrett House

Jarrett HouseThe railroad has always been a vital part of Dillsboro, NC and the town’s economy, especially during the late 19th century.  The train would bring travelers to town and many of those visitors would stop by the Jarrett House to rest, relax, and eat, while awaiting the connecting train.  The house itself has since become a historic landmark and currently serves some of the best food in Western North Carolina.

Frank Jarrett bought the inn in 1894 and was able to capitalize on the burgeoning tourism industry of the Smoky Mountains as people from other parts of the country flocked to the region.  The Jarrett Inn gave the people who rode on the railroad a place to stay. Meanwhile, the food made the Jarrett House famous all over the country.  From his wife’s fried ham and redeye gravy to the biscuits that seemed to float off the plate, this was truly southern food in an authentic southern setting.

Their menu is a huge draw still and whether you are there for lunch or dinner you are in for something special.  It’s family favorites with a southern flare and all the sides are served family style.  For lunch you get to pick your entrée from selections like fried catfish, fried chicken or chicken and dumplings (the chicken and dumplings are incredible).  For dinner you will see some of the same options as lunch but with the inclusion of country cured ham, mountain trout and pot roast.  Every meal includes a family style portion of the following:  Cole slaw, candied apples, buttered potatoes, green beans, pickled beets and hot biscuits.  You will feel like you are back in your grandmother’s house for Sunday lunch.  One thing will really stick out on the menu though and that is one of their desserts:  vinegar pie!  Don’t let the name fool you; it is delicious.  Imagine pecan pie without the pecans.

Jarrett HouseStepping foot in the dining room of the Jarrett House is like stepping back in time.  They have captured the feel of the early 20th century.  From the table cloths to the stem ware, there is not a detail they have missed.  You can look at the nick-knacks on the wall or the furniture in the hall and the look of the antiques really sets the scene.  You have just stepped off the train.  You are ready to check into your room and brush the travel dust from your clothes.  You are hoping for a good meal but you are not really prepared for the mounds of food that await you.

Next time you are in Dillsboro walk across the main street to the Jarrett House for a meal.  Step back in time and pull your chair up to the table.  Order the country cured ham and experience southern style salt cured ham.  Order the chicken and dumplings and sop up the juice with a homemade biscuit.  Be sure to order a slice of vinegar pie for dessert; trust me, it is better than it sounds.  Visit the Jarrett House; it will be an experience you will talk about for years to come.

Cashier’s Farmers Market

Cashier's Farmers MarketWestern North Carolina is home to a number of small resort towns – each unique in their own way. One of those Smoky Mountain towns is Cashiers, known for its natural beauty as well as its ever-growing and regionally popular farmers market.

The Cashiers Farmers Market is easily located in the center of town and provides shoppers the chance to purchase fresh produce, fresh meat, jellies and jams, and even made-to-order food from the area. There’s something new each day as the selections are constantly changing with the seasons.  All the plants that are in bloom are brought out for sale in the spring. The market’s produce selection seems to change week to week in the summer and early fall as the harvest comes in.  Meanwhile, during the winter you will find Christmas trees lining the outside of the market and putting everyone in a festive mood.

Local farmers from all around the region bring their produce to the Cashiers Farmers Market.  Vegetables, fruits and other locally grown items overflow from the tables.  When you buy produce straight from the farmer, it just seems to taste that much better.  The meat too, it comes straight from local farmers.  From cured hams to fresh eggs, they have the farm fresh products you are looking for at the Cashiers farmers market.  You’re guaranteed to have the freshest offerings from local growers.  Each fall bushels of North Carolina apples are available as well as pumpkins for Halloween and various autumn decorations.

Cashier's Farmers MarketJams and jellies align the walls of the market, as well as other sauces and marinades.  You’ll see apple butter made with local apples to marinades from some of the finest area cooks and caterers. Don’t won’t, there’s always someone giving out free samples. With as many jams and jellies as they sell, it’s really THE place on the eastern side of the Smokies to dress up a biscuit.  Whether you prefer a creamy consistency, or you’re more of a jelly lover, they have the jar for you.

Oh, and don’t forget the barbecue. Cashier’s bar-b-que or simply BBQ, might be the closest you get to heaven on earth.  The smell of their sandwiches attacks your nostrils before you step out of your car.  Just to the right of the store stands the BBQ pit – a new addition to the original market structure. Let your nose be your guide and follow it to the counter and order some of the market’s delicious BBQ. Rather than the usual lowlands BBQ with the North Carolina vinegar-style sauce, the farmers market’s BBQ is a sweet, southern barbecue.

Whether planning your next meal or walking around town browsing, the Cashiers Farmers Market is certainly one of those places that deserve a special marking on the map as a “must stop”. Sample the home made jams and jellies, get some BBQ for the road, buy a few local crafts to take home with you or just sit around and talk to some of the local farmers.  It’s a local business stop, but it’s very much a tourist attraction as well.

Puleo’s Grille

It is nice to find a local chain of restaurants that you love.  One of those places in East Tennessee is Puleo’s Grille.  Puleo’s bills themselves as having ‘Southern Roots with Italian Heritage’ and they live up to that concept.  Their food is simply amazing, the atmosphere and the service is second to none and they have locations all over Knoxville and as well as one in Murfreesboro, TN.  Puleo’s should be on your dining agenda while you are visiting the Smokies.

Puleo's GrilleWhile you are on vacation, it is important to find a place where you feel comfortable taking your friends and family.  You slide into one of the booths and immediately you are in your own little world.  Each one of their restaurants is designed to let you have your privacy while you are in a public restaurant.  You don’t have to scream to be heard over everyone else.  You don’t have to yell your conversation to the rest of your dining party.  It is laid back and the service is some of the best you will find anywhere in Knoxville.  Whether you need a place to celebrate with that special someone or if you are looking for a place to bring your spouse and kids, Puleo’s is the place.

There are 5 Puleo’s in the Knoxville, TN area.  They are headquartered in Knoxville and they have expanded as their customers have demanded it.  When they found that they were having more customers than they could handle they simply added another location in a different part of town.  The nice thing is if you get to Puleo’s and one location is full, you can just drive to another one.


  • Puleo's GrilleAlcoa
  • Cedar Bluff
  • Deane Hill
  • Merchants / Cedar Lane
  • Strawberry Plains
  • Murfreesboro

Here is the most important part:  the food.  I have yet to have anything at Puleo’s that I would not have again and again and again.  I do seem to have a problem though… I am stuck on their Shrimp and Grits.  They are my favorite version of this low-country delicacy.  Made with Taso sausage and gravy, there is no part of the dish that doesn’t shine.  The grits are cooked to perfection and the peppers and onions that are sautéed in the same sauce are the perfect counterpoint.  The last several times I have been to Puleo’s I don’t even get a menu because the Shrimp and Grits are so good.  If I had to pick something else to recommend it would be the Rattlesnake Prime Rib which is a pan seared prime rib with an indescribable dry rub topped with a cheese sauce.  My mouth is watering just thinking about the Shrimp and Grits though.  I may be at Puleo’s tonight.

If you are passing through or if you are in the Smokies for a week-long vacation drive back toward Knoxville or end a day in Knoxville eating at one of the best local chains you will ever find.  Puleo’s has a full menu and there will be something for everyone in your traveling party to enjoy, but if you are a seafood fanatic, get the Shrimp and Grits.