"Smoky" Flavors

By: Jackie Eurice-Kenney
Barbeque ribs in Pigeon Forge

When it comes to local flavors, the foods and beverages in the Smoky Mountain region are delicious! The area’s restaurants are diverse and often have something for everyone. However, if you’re looking for a taste that exemplifies the Smokies, try some of following items. Most of them go very well together!

Baked Beans

Bush’s Best Baked Beans is one of America’s most famous bean brands and it has been around for over a century. In 1897, the A.J. Bush & Company general store opened about 20 miles away from Pigeon Forge. As a free destination for area visitors, the building now houses a museum reflecting the Bush family’s history and exhibits that show how their “Best” beans are made. The company actually uses local mountain waters in the secret family recipe and then recycles the water onto growing plants. Many of their products have a smoky flavor such as the Brown Sugar Hickory recipe or the Smokehouse Tradition Grillin’ Beans.

If you plan on stopping by, don’t forget to check out the Bush’s Family Cafe and the gift shop. Taste some of the beans and try a few new recipes such as their famous Pinto Bean Pecan Pie (be sure to get to the café early to get a slice before it sells out!) With the purchase of a cookbook you can explore new ways to use Bush’s Best Baked Beans at home. You’ll be surprised to see how deliciously versatile these famous beans can be.


Who doesn’t appreciate succulent barbeque that has been smoked over hot coals for several hours? Whether you’re in Tennessee or North Carolina, you’ll learn that the locals love their barbeque! And even within the two states, you’ll find varying styles of barbeque. Eastern and western North Carolina have different approaches to preparing their recipes, and in Tennessee, you’ll find Memphis-style in the west that is completely different in the east. The differences in these recipes include: what meat is used (chicken, beef, or pork); the type of sauce it’s served with; whether the meat is smoked while covered in sauce or with a dry rub; and the list goes on, with each pit master bringing a new subtle technique to the table. In the Smokies, you’ll most likely encounter succulent smoked pork that was pulled from the shoulder of the pig (not the whole hog) and served with a thick tomato-based sauce with sweet flavors and a sticky consistency. This barbeque style never disappoints and goes very well with baked beans or corn. Each bite is fall-off-the-bone tender! Order a meal from Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que or Buddy’s Bar-b-q to taste their unique styles of barbequed meats including ribs, brisket and wings.

Hot Sauce

Sauces made from some of the hottest peppers on the planet are found throughout the Smoky Mountains. Maybe it’s because hot sauces are so good on barbeque, or maybe the people in the Smokies simply have a taste for adventure. Whatever the reason, you’ll have to grab a bottle and try some on your food. Made from every imaginable type of pepper and blend of peppers including chipotle (smoked jalapeno) and ancho (smoked Anaheim), thousands of different hot sauce concoctions can be found and tried—if you dare. Please be advised that some of these sauces are so hot, you have to sign a waiver before exposing your palate to them, especially blends of ghost peppers, habaneros, or the world’s hottest pepper—the reaper.

Distilled Beverages

Locally made bourbon and moonshine are the perfect accompaniments to these smoky tastes! For some authentic Tennessee whiskey, try Ole Smoky’s Straight barrel-aged whiskey. The smoky flavor comes from the barrel. Their sister distillery in Gatlinburg, called “the Holler,” makes moonshine and is the most visited distillery in the United States. Free tours are offered of the quaint rustic facility and for a small fee, visitors can sample some of their unique creations. Their White Lightnin’ and Apple Pie Moonshine are usually in high demand as are the moonshine cherries that make the perfect garnish for your cocktail. Newly opened Junction 35 Spirits distills whiskey, moonshine, vodka, and rum at their facility and has multiple flavor variations of some of the liquors. Visitors can try their premium spirits for a small fee and will even receive a shot glass keepsake to remember their tasting journey. The bartenders are skilled in creating quality cocktails to accompany the food prepared on-site at their kitchen. Be sure to buy a bottle of your favorite liquor to take home.


Slated to open this July is Mountain High Brewing Company, which is sure to be the new hot spot on the Mountain Mile in Pigeon Forge. Visitors can sip a hand-crafted beer while listening to music and enjoying the rustic mountain feel of the brewery. Visit to try one of the many beers they have on tap including pale, brown and amber ales, stouts, porters and even a raspberry whit. Mountain High Brewing Company will serve-up delicious pizza to their hungry patrons from their wood-fired oven so you can enjoy a slice of pie with your pint.

Venture out to try some of these and other great tastes of the Smoky Mountains. Throughout the towns surrounding the national park, you’ll find fantastic restaurants, cozy diners, and establishments serving superb cuisine made with local ingredients.