Top 6 Eats to satisfy hunger teens and tweens in this family-friendly mountain getaway.
One thing is for sure: your family will never walk away hungry for any of these Pigeon Forge restaurants! And if you’re looking to indulge with often-fried, southern comfort classics, you’re in the right place.
1/Mel's Classic Diner
119 Wears Valley Rd.
While it’s not the diner featured in the 1980s sitcom Alice, Mel’s Classic Diner does have a sassy, “kiss my grits” personality. We were charmed by our server, Mr. Ken, and his southern drawl. This retro diner has comfy booths and unbeatable prices. The $4.99 breakfast special, which includes two large pancakes, two eggs, and two strips of bacon, filled even my 6-foot-tall teenaged boy. The value is so exceptional that we returned that same night for Mel’s Famous Ultimate Banana Split with its six scoops of ice cream for a cool $7.49. $
2/The Old Mill Restaurant
175 Old Mill Ave.
Situated next to the historic Old Mill on the Pigeon River, The Old Mill Restaurant is a Smoky Mountains institution. If you plan on having dinner here, I’d suggest that you skip lunch… and maybe even breakfast, as my family has never been served so much food! The restaurant’s signature is made-from-scratch, southern comfort food. Here my boys and I ordered fried chicken, while my husband opted for the fried catfish (yes, as you may suspect, most of the specialities are fried). Every meal is served with muffins, corn fritters, corn chowder, fresh salad, and family-style mashed potatoes and green beans, plus a piece of homemade pie for dessert. (I’d suggest the pecan pie.) I have to admit that I was full before my chicken ever arrived. We had so much food that we feed six people from the leftovers the next day! Entrées and all the fixings run about $20/person. $$
KidTripster Tip: During peak summer hours, the wait time can exceed one hour. Try to time your visit during off-hours.
KidTripster Tip: Did I mention just how big these meals are?! Especially if you’re dining with younger children, consider splitting an entrée.
There’s no shortage of dining options in Dollywood, most with Southern fare. Our favorite is Backstage, a sit-down restaurant with much-appreciated air conditioning. The menu offers more variety than most restaurants in the park. It’s also a good option for vegetarians, who can make a meal out of the many side dishes like baked beans and macaroni and cheese. And be sure to order the Campfire S’mores, a oozy-gooey treat served in a mason jar, or the banana pudding. Paper table cloths with crayons help entertain the little ones while you wait. $$
During the peak summer months, Pigeon Forge can get crowded with tourists; frankly, it can be overwhelming. If you need a break from the throngs of families whose children are likely melting down in the southern heat and humidity as yours, Pigeon Forge Deli offers a quiet (air-conditioned) refuge. Admittedly, it’s a little hard to find, as it’s located in a strip mall that sits behind and up the hill from The Track Amusement Center. The deli serves fresh subs, sandwiches, salads, and soups at reasonable prices. And for dessert, order a hand-rolled soft pretzel and dipping sauce; my kids are partial to the cinnamon and sugar ones. $
5/Poynor's Pommes Frites
131 The Island Dr.
If you’re visiting Pigeon Forge with kids, you’ll likely find yourself at The Island. Pop over to Poynor’s Pommes Frites, where you can pretend that you’re at a bratwurst stand in Germany. Your tweens and teens will fill up on German brats (with or without sauerkraut), Belgium fries, and spaghetti ice… not going to tell you what that is. It'll be a surprise! $
131 The Island Dr.
If you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant at The Island, you may be tempted to wander over to Paula Deene’s Family Kitchen, but you’ll often find a line out the door. That’s not what you want to see when listening to, “we’re famished,” ringing in your ears. Instead try Timberwood Grill. Proving everything in the South can be fried, you’ll find Corn Dodgers, deep-fried pulled pork-stuffed corn fritters, and Gold Nuggets, deep-fried macaroni-and-cheese bites, as appetizers. There’s even a Bacon Mac & Cheese Burger on the main menu. But maybe even more delicious (and certainly healthier!) is the Copper River Salmon Avocado Salad. Top it all off with a flaky berry cobbler or frothy root beer float. $$
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah and her family traveled to Pigeon Forge as part of a 30-day cross-country RV adventure.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.