Taste the peaceful side of the Smoky Mountains in and around Maryville, Tennessee.
By Hope S. Philbrick
In this particular case, I can blame the government for the weight I gained on a press trip.
The original itinerary included hiking in the United States’ No. 1 most popular National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We didn’t do it. Blame Congress, not laziness. The timing of this trip just so happened to coincide with the government shutdown, thus the park and all roads into it were closed.
So while you may Eat & Burn—and I do recommend you visit the park to enjoy its natural beauty and burn calories—all I did was eat.
I’m not complaining.
The food was scrumptious. Among the tasty discoveries…
The Chocolate B’ar
This cozy shop serves candy, pastries, cookies, ice cream, coffee and chocolate drinks. Chocolatier Bill Kraft’s signature creation is a dark chocolate cup filled with dark chocolate ganache and topped with marshmallow crème. Hand-dipped nut clusters are another popular items on the menu, but it’s not like you could go wrong with any treat. Coffee beans are from local roaster Vienna Coffee House.
Dancing Bear Lodge & Restaurant
Gorgeous space, superb dining and top-notch service—delivered by everyone from the server to the sommelier to the adorable, talented Chef David Rule. In a word: Fantastic. Read the full review.
Owned by Deborah Lee, a restaurateur for more than 25 years, this locals’ favorite serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lee says that she believes “in lighting up people’s lives” and “it is just as important to feed the soul as it is the body.” The café is named for that philosophy as well as the famed Synchronous Fireflies found in the Smokies (a species found only here and in Asia). Servings are generous, so arrive hungry and ready to focus on flavor, but forget your calorie-counter.
Whether you favor a high frosting-to-cake ratio or prefer the balance tilt in the other direction, something on this menu will satisfy: Most menu items tower with frosting but some classic flavors have more modest tops. Owner Katie McKinney Rayburn is as sweet as her treats and is the “exclusive baker of MoonPie cupcakes.” The menu boasts 80 flavor combinations; the best-seller is peanut butter cup. KupKakes are available in three sizes: mini, household and the large KupKaties.
Modeled after European grocers, “the concept, which launched in September 2008, is to bring a number of experts from different fields together under one roof,” says general manager Mike Adams. “We stock as many locally-driven products as we can,” including meats, produce, bakery goods, dairy products, packaged foods and more than 300 craft beers. Open seven days a week, this is where to stop and shop before leaving the area to fill that cooler in your trunk with tasty goodies to savor at home.
Smoky Mountain Brewery
The concept first launched in 1996 in Gatlinburg and is a community mainstay in Maryville after just three years in this location. Brew master Marty Velas trained in Germany and has 35 years of experience, skill that comes through each sip of beer. “Drinkability is my main objective,” he says. Menu items like soft pretzels, Philly cheesesteak, cheeseburger sliders, Buffalo chicken pizza and ale steak skewers are all beer-friendly.
Vienna Coffee House
Open since 2010, this is Maryville’s neighborhood coffee house—and you may well wish they’d open a branch near you. The menu features espresso drinks and freshly roasted specialty coffees from the adjacent Vienna Coffee Company Roastery as well as a variety of teas and yummy fresh baked goods.
More Food-Related Fun…
Bush Beans Visitor Center
Located in Chestnut Hill, you can see the original A.J. Bush & Company general store (circa 1897), watch two films to learn about the company history and brand marketing strategies, stroll through a museum, eat in the café, and shop in the extensive general store (which is like Cracker Barrel, but bigger; and not everything in it is emblazoned with the Bush’s Beans logo). Download Bush’s Pinto Bean Pie recipe.
These gorgeous designer cakes in downtown Maryville will make you want to get married or throw some sort of party just for an excuse to get one. Every detail on every cake is 100 percent edible, insists owner and cake artist Lisa S. Cunningham. Incredible.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
At the distillery in Gatlinburg, you can push through the crowds for a tour and tasting at Tennessee’s first legal moonshine producer. Located in the heart of a very busy tourism center, “The Holler” is America’s most visited distillery.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC