Ms. Lily’s Cafe

Ms. Lily’s Cafe in Townsend, TN offers up “Southern Cuisine for the Dicriminating Taste”. Those are their own words, and they more than live up to them. They have some of the best sandwich offerings on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, especially if Reubens are the taste you’re looking for.

Perusing the menu, Ms. Lily’s sandwich portion starts out with the black & blue, which is delicious, and the Hillbilly Philly – a sandwich, either steak or chicken and smothered in peppers, onions & cheese on hoagie, which sounds delicious and could be the reason no one is reading right now. If you’re on the way to Ms. Lily’s already we don’t blame. We were really close. We’ll see if we can make it down the rest of the menu.

Ham and cheese, a tuna melt, and the aforementioned reuben follow those before you come to something called a “Toadstool”. This sandwich is made up of marinated portabella mushroom with peppers, onions & provolone cheese on a sun-dried tomato focaccia. Geez, this post is getting hard to stay focused on the further down the menu you travel.

Rumbling stomach be darned, BLT’s and burgers follow and bow you’re at the BBQ portion of the show. Between the Smokin’ Pig, Yard Bird Sandwich, Mountain Man, and The Dude, you’re beginning to think you’ve stumbled upon an eclectic collection of music and film rather than south smoked barbeque with all the fixin’s. The Pig is pulled pork – easy enough, the Yard Bird is BBQ’d chicken, Mountain Man is a beef brisket sandwich, and The Dude is smoked turkey. Reading deeper into the descriptions, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Left up to us, we’d probably go the brisket route first, but that’s just us.

Local favorites include fish and grits, a tomato sandwich, and their own quesadilla…. An interesting selection if you make it past the BBQ, but delicious none the less.

Salads and a kids menu can be found further on down the menu and Ms. Lily’s serves a selection of premium beers for the thirsty hiker out there.

Don’t let us forget the deserts now. Between the Italian Creme Cake, Chocolate Ganache Torte, Coconut Creme Pie, Fudge Brownie Sundae, Apple Pie, and Key Lime Pie, we have no way to advise anyone on which delectable desert to choose. That’s a problem you’ll have to solve. We’re sure you’ll come up with an answer.

Next time you’re in Townsend, visit Ms. Lily’s Cafe and leave knowing that your taste in southern fare just got a little bit more distinguished.

Ms. Lily’s Cafe
122 Depot Street
Townsend, Tennessee

AJ’s Hearth & Kettle

AJ’s Hearth & Kettle in Townsend, TN has some of the best home-style cooking in the Smokies. Come for their breakfast bar and never leave hungry.

Trying to find that mom & pop spot that only the locals know about? Well, here’s a little Townsend, TN secret: If you want good, home cooking like you remember from trips to your grandmother’s house, AJ’s Hearth & Kettle is just the place for you.

And if it’s breakfast you want, they’ve got it. AJ’s famous breakfast buffet has kept Smoky Mountain visitors and locals alike coming back for years. Try it for yourself and see. The bar is loaded with southern breakfast favorites – bacon, eggs, sausage, grits, hash browns, pancakes, biscuits, french toast, fruit, and much more. Makes you wish you were smack dab in the middle of Townsend, Tn right now.

If breakfast is what you want but you’d rather have it served up to order to your table, AJ’s can do that as well. Eggs, biscuits, ham, and sausage in whatever order you’d like. add a pancake or two, or three, if you’d like. They also make some delicious omelets. Hey, you don’t have to convince anyone here, they know it’s good. They’ve even got cereal, or they can heat some toast for you. At AJ’s, the guest comes first.

Sticking around for lunch? Their lunch menu has a number of delicious sandwiches you can eat there or take out in the park with you. They have a number of hamburger platters to choose from and they all come with fries. If you’re just in the mood for a sandwich, each is served with chips and a pickle. Other sandwiches include fish, chicken, BBQ pork, roast beef, and the Hillbilly steak burger. They’ll even grill you up a wonderful grilled cheese like your momma used to make.

Dinners at AJ’s Hearth & Kettle get served with a choice of baked potato or fries and two vegetables. From the chicken strip dinner to grilled pork tenderloin to rainbow trout to chopped sirloin, AJ’s has something for everyone on their dinner menu. Every bite is cooked to perfection and the ribeye steak is good enough to write home about.

Next time you’re in Townsend looking for the place where all the locals eat, remember AJ’s Hearth & Kettle and taste what the Smoky Mountains are really about.

AJ’s Hearth & Kettle
7767 East Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882
(865) 448-6059

Burger Master Drive-In

Have you ever come out of the Little River in Townsend, after a day of tubing and thought:  “I am really hungry but I am soaking wet and no restaurant in town is going to let me in their dining room.”  Well, why not pull down to the Burger Master Drive-In and enjoy a tasty burger, some fries and a potentially some of the best ice cream in Townsend.

The Burger Master Drive-In has been a part of Townsend for years.  It is a great drive in.  You pull into the parking lot and walk to the window.  You place your order, the write it down and hand it back to the cook.  It is a small mom and pop style foodery that has been turning out greasy spoon style food for decades.  Burgers, fries, hot dogs – drive-in style food.  Half the fun is waiting in line for them to call your number out so that you can pick up your food.

Now, the fact of the matter is that it is hard to decide if the food is as good as you think it is or if the food is fantastic because of the atmosphere and the environment.  Eating at the Burger Master Drive-In is stepping back in time.  You are taking part in Americana.  You are taking part in nostalgia.  The Burger Master Drive-In is something unique that your kids may or may not have ever been to:  a mom and pop, down-home drive in.  No flash, no corporate advertising just goo food in a great location, right on the side of the road on the Peaceful side of the Smokies.

Next time you are in Townsend, whether you are in town for tubing or hiking or just exploring the area, stop by Burger Master Drive-In.  Maybe you just came off of Rich Mountain Road and you need some food before you head back to your hotel or cabin.  Get some great greasy spoon style food.  Have a seat on one of the picnic tables or take your food with you into the park and have a picnic.  Get your grub on at a restaurant with some tradition and a lot of history.

Burger Master Drive-In
8439 State Highway 73
Townsend, TN

Smoky Junction Restaurant

If you think there are quite a few country breakfast joints in Townsend, TN; well, you’d be right. It’s just what us locals prefer. We love our hot, country breakfasts and there’s no better places to get one than Smoky Junction.

At Smoky Junction Restaurant in Townsend there are literally specials all day long, everyday and Fridays feature their famous Friday Night Fish Fry. Also featured is a weekend breakfast bar and a Sunday buffet. There’s plenty to eat, it’s up to you to make it over to Smoky Junction.

Like the Smoky Junction Restaurant, let’s start with breakfast. Their breakfast menu begins with eggs – any style and with any breakfast side from sugar cured ham, country ham, bacon, pork chops, and ribeye steak to just plain eggs or eggs with cheese, whatever you prefer. Feel like an omelet? They’ll make them and add such toppings as ham, onions, peppers, cheese, sausage, bacon, the list goes on. Pancakes are a favorite at the Smoky Junction as well from plain to ones with blueberries, or chocolate chips, or pecans.

Still here? We don’t blame you if you’ve left for the Smoky Junction in Townsend already. Well, since you’re here we’ll move on down the menu to lunch. Burgers, cheese sandwiches, BBQ pork sandwiches, and various chicken sandwiches align the lunch portion of the menu. Soups and salads are also available and a children’s section rounds it out with steak, tenders, peanut butter & jelly, and pizza to their liking. Picnic lunches of ham, turkey, or roast beef can also be ordered if you’d rather eat in the park.

For dinner, the menu expands in scope and flavor. From steaks to chops to beef liver and county ham, and it doesn’t stop there. Rainbow trout, gulf shrimp and tilapia are just a few of the seafood specialties at the Junction. Burgers and various sandwiches can also be ordered from the dinner menu too. So next time you’re in Townsend, stop by the Smoky Junction Restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or dinner…. At least breakfast. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of those oh so good omelets.

Smoky Junction Restaurant
7735 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy
Townsend, TN 37882-4031
(865) 448-6881

Back Porch Restaurant

In the mood for some good ole Southern cooking like your grandmother used to make? Well, whether you’re coming off a mountain, or just meeting your family for dinner, the Back Porch Restaurant in Townsend, Tn has just the type of country fixins’ you’re yearning for.

Located in the heart of Townsend and right up against a peaceful creek, the Back Porch is open from 8 am to 9 pm daily and serves breakfast , lunch, and dinner. If it’s one thing they know how to do, it’s how to start the day off right with a heaping, hearty breakfast. Country ham, eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits and sausage can all be found on their breakfast menu, all cooked to your liking. On down you’ll also find an incredible selection of Belgian Waffles, pancakes, and french toast. Each can come as is, or pair them up with eggs, bacon, whatever you like. Here, breakfast is made how you like it.

Coming in for a bite to eat for lunch? Back Porch’s various steakburgers and cheddar steakburgers will definitely hit the spot. Maybe a BLT is more to your liking, or just a simple grilled cheese sandwich? They’ve got it on the menu here and you couldn’t go wrong no matter what you pick. The Reuben is pretty tasty as well if you don’t mind a little personal opinion. Each comes with a side of french fries and a dill pickle.

For dinner, the Back Porch Restaurant has quite a spread planned. From appetizers like buffalo chicken wings, fried mushrooms, cheese sticks, and onion wings to their various soups and salads, things are starting out pretty well. On down to the entrees and you’ll find such favorites as ribeye and Filet Mignon, as well as wild boar pork. Baby back ribs and chicken strips round out most of the major meats. Seafood offerings consist of clam and shrimp platters, catfish and rainbow trout. Also on the dinner menu are a few pastas – spaghetti with meat or marinara sauce  and fettuccine with alfredo sauce.

Bring the kids too, the Back Porch kid’s menu includes chicken tenders, corn dog nuggets, a junior steakburger, and spaghetti with meat or marinara sauce – all served with french fries except spaghetti.

Fill yourself up with some good southern cooking at the Back Porch Restaurant in Townsend, TN. You’re guaranteed not to leave hungry and with the savory offerings you’ll be back before you know it, or at least the next time you’re in Townsend.

The Back Porch Restaurant
7016 East Lamar Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882

Top Townsend Restaurants

Townsend is known for many things – it’s natural beauty; it’s quiet, small-town feel, Cades Cove, but a number of people come to Townsend, TN to simply get away from the tourist trappings of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Some even believe that the natural setting makes the food taste better. If that’s the case, Townsend’s restaurants better prepare accordingly. In all reality, it seems people have found out about Townsend’s proclivity for good food and great dining already. So why not take a quick look at some of the top eateries in town.

Being that this is an evolving group, our Top Townsend Restaurant list will grow and rearrange itself as more and more people become aware and get involved. For now, we’ll start off with three restaurants we have come to know and love in Townsend. Please, if you have any suggestions, or would like to nominate a Townsend, TN restaurant to the list, drop us a line in the comment box below.

Now then, our first pick goes to the Picnic Pantry Cafe, a nice, on-the-go spot:

  1. Picnic Pantry Cafe – You’ll see people stop in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Picnic Pantry Cafe (above right), which has become a great spot to stop before traveling into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for some outdoor fun. Their breakfast sandwiches are great. Pick up and sandwich for lunch and drop by for a glass of wine for dinner. The Townsend Farmers Market is also located next to the cafe and runs every Thursday.
  2. Riverstone Family Restaurant – Another of Townsend’s three-meals-a-day restaurants, the Riverstone Family Restaurant features omelets and some oh so tasty slices of country ham for breakfast. You want steak for lunch or dinner? They got it. Along with some delicious local favorites like trout and frog legs. You definitely won’t forget the first time you eat at Riverstone Family Restaurant in Townsend.
  3. Cades Cove Campground Store – The only place to grab a bite to eat in Cades Cove proper, the Cades Cove Campground Store has become known more for its ice cream over the years than its actual food. Pizza and burgers are on the menu here and they’re plenty tasty, especially after a long day of biking Loop Road or hiking one of the Cove’s many trails.

Well, let us hear from you. Would this be your list or would you ad a few more places? Who did we leave out? Let us know and we’ll get this list growing and keep the conversation going.

Foothills Milling Company

Fine Dining in Maryville, TN

Are you looking for a fine dining opportunity while you are vacationing in the Smokies?  Or maybe you are a local to the Smoky Mountains and you want to try something new?  Give Foothills Milling Company (FMC) a try.  They provide fine dining in a casual atmosphere.  They also provide fantastic service that is second to none in the Smokies.  This family owned and run restaurant has been providing dining experiences that keep people coming back year after year for special occasions and celebrations.

The owners and staff of Foothills Milling Company try to bring something different to the tables of their restaurant while still keeping the southern location of their restaurant in sight.  Their blend of the unusual and down-home cooking makes them one of the places for every foodie that visits the area to eat.

Let’s cut to the chase and look at the menu:
For appetizers:  goat cheese tarts made with Vidalia Onions, fried green tomatoes served with a tomato pepper chutney and pulled pork spring rolls – fried spring rolls filled with pulled pork – eclectic and very southern.

For Entrees:  venison on the menu (try finding that anywhere else on the Tennessee side of the Smokies), Shrimp and Grits, Foothills Choucroute Garni (duck leg, knackwurst, braised pork shoulder) and of course Steak & Potatoes done Foothills Milling Company style.

Foothills Milling Company is located near downtown Maryville.  If you are staying in the Townsend area or spending time in Townsend, on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, you are not very far from Maryville.  Follow Lamar Alexander Parkway out of Townsend and watch the signs for Maryville.  Call ahead for times and reservations.  You can even make reservations online and save yourself some time and a phone call.

FMC has gathered a loyal following.  Their dedicated staff wants to thrill your tastebuds.  They want to satisfy both your appetite and your need for a great night out.  Check their specials when you arrive, the chef chooses the special depending on what is in season and available at the time.  Remember, if you want great food in a great environment there is only one place you need to look:  Foothills Milling Company.

Foothills Milling Company
315 S Washington St
Maryville, TN

Picnic Pantry Cafe – Lunch, Brunch and On the Go

Townsend, Tennessee’s Picnic Pantry Cafe offers a wide variety of sandwiches and coffee shop fare for anyone looking to stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just to grab a snack before hitting the trail.

For many, coming through Townsend means a quick bite to eat on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or fueling up before hitting the trails for a few days. And that’s just the way Townsend, Tn restaurant the Picnic Pantry Cafe would have it.

Not only do they welcome visitors in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they’re always ready to send you on your way with a salad, sandwich, or other to-go snack in order to get you out in nature all the more sooner.

Those of you seeking breakfast, the Picnic Pantry Cafe offers a variety of breakfast sandwiches, wraps and yogurt. Daily specials include ready-made sandwiches and soups, as well as salads. Paninis, roast beef, turkey, ham, and pastrami are piled high on top of 9 grain wheat, marble seedless rye, croissants, freschetta, and sourdough bread. If you’re there in the afternoon, or evening, maybe it’s a refreshing glass of wine (try with a fruit or cheese tray) that’s more to your liking, or an ice cold beer. Expresso, lattes, and various hot coffees are also available.

As mentioned, for those of you looking to beat the crowd in the national park and hit the trail, the cafe offers numerous baked goods that can be wrapped and saved for later. Trail mix, crackers and jerky are also offered for numerous hiking junkies that make the pantry the final stop before getting back to nature.

The Picnic Pantry Cafe’s special events including cookie decorating classes for kids are always a hit around town. Every month the cafe seems to be offering something new and different, and July is no different. June featured a wine tasting event and July will feature one as well on Tuesday, July 14 at 6 p.m. This will be a four course meal that is paired with four wines. Reserve your spot by calling the Picnic Pantry at 865-738-3183.

Starting June 30th, the Townsend Farmers Market will be located in Trillium Cove Shopping Village next to the cafe.  It will run every Thursday, starting June 30th.

Picnic Pantry Cafe operating hours: Sunday and Monday : 11 am to 5 pm – Tuesday -Thursday: 8 am to 8 pm – Friday and Saturday: 8 am to 9 pm

Townsend Spring Itinerary

Cades Cove church

Spring in Townsend, Tn might just be the perfect time to be in the Smokies for some, though you’re sure to hear the exact opposite from those fall foliage lovers, but that’s neither here nor there. In actuality, both seasons offer ample opportunities geared at getting visitors back to nature – something Townsend excels at, no matter the season. From popular festivals to numerous hikes and bicycle tours around the Smokies and Cades Cove, we’ve compiled a list of Spring “to-do’s” in Townsend. Be prepared to spend a few days if you plan on getting to everything, or just use it as a daily reminder if you plan on coming back a few time this spring.

Strap on your hiking boots and pack something warm just in case as the first jaunt on the Townsend Spring Itinerary gets you off the beaten path and onto the trails of the Smoky Mountains –

  • Take one of the numerous wildflower walks and hikes offfered in the Smoky Mountains; rent a bike from the Cades Cove Campground store and bike the Cades Cove Loop Road or rent from one of the many locales in town and ride the Townsend bike path. One of the most popular day hikes in the area is the Abrams Falls hike by way of Cades Cove – an easy 5-miler that will cool you off halfway through with a quick dip in the pool below Abrams Falls. Definitely worth the hike.

Our next itinerary suggestion lets the traveler enjoy the best of what Townsend and the Smokies has to offer – Cades Cove –

  • Beat the crowds and tour the Cades Cove loop in morning. Take in an evening tour if you’re interested in the Cove’s wildlife and history. Guided tours are now available through Cades Cove Heritage Tours. Be sure to stop by the Cades Cove Campground Store for some of their fabulous ice cream.

So, you’re ready to get back and sample some of Townsend’s offerings, etc? Not only does Townsend offer a handful of great locally-themed stores, there are also a number of historical stops around town to introduce visitors to the history of Townsend and the Smoky Mountains.

  • Check out the arts and crafts of Townsend at some of its many galleries and craft boutiques. From Apple Valley Farms to Nawger Nob to Southern Fried Gallery, Townsend is ripe with local artistic flavor. During the spring there are numerous festivals including the Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day, as well as the Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival. For you history buffs, check out the Little River Railroad Company. It was there that the region got its start as loggers roamed the area before it was designated part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Did you miss anything while you were exploring? Use your final day to just mill around town, or ask the locals what some of their favorite haunts are –

  • Many people come to Townsend to fish. If so, stop by an Little River Outfitters and find out where the fishing is best to be had and pick up some of the latest gear too, eat a great meal at a distinctive local Townsend restaurant, or tour a Tennessee farm. Whatever it is, you’re sure to be back in town in no time. Townsend sort of has that effect on people – they drive through just looking for a way to get to the national park and end up staying for a few days. There’s sure to be even more to add to your list next time you’re in town, hopefully this is a good start.
Cars parked along Cades Cove loop road

The Cades Cove Campground Store

The Cades Cove Loop Road is everyone’s go-to point when discussing a trip to Cades Cove in Townsend, TN. But what about once you’re there, have traversed the loop, and now you’re deciding what to do next? Where can you take a break, or get a bite to eat?

The loop can be an exceptionally long 11 miles at times, something to quench your thirst or your appetite might be in order – especially if you’re traveling with small children Being in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, most people decide to go to the Cades Cove Campground Store. Most people don’t even know it’s there and that’s a real shame. At the Cades Cove Campground store you can purchase food and drink, convenience items, rent bicycles and get some of the best ice cream around during those hot summer days.

For those of you still thinking, “it’s only 11 miles, it won’t take that long”, you’d be surprised. Depending on the time of year, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours. On average, during the summer months especially, the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove is going to take a few hours. When you finish the loop and the kids are clamoring for something to eat, take a right when you come off the loop road. Across from the Ranger station you’ll see the Cades Cove Campground Store. Pull into the parking lot and head inside for something to eat. There is plenty of food for everyone, from burgers and chips to pizza and nachos; they’ve got all the summer staples. The store is also located right next to the picnic area, near River Road. So, if it’s a picnic you’re after, stop by the campground store for all the trimmings and enjoy your next meal in Cades Cove.

Bicycles to rent at the Cades Cove Campground Store.

Another of the perks offered at the Cades Cove Campground Store is bicycle rental. Bikes can be rented by the hour and taken around the loop. The one-way, slow traffic on the Cades Cove Loop Road means that you’re ensured a safe ride. The loop road only allows a meandering pace for cars giving cyclists an easy glide throughout the Cove. Geared bike rentals start at $6 per hour for adults and $4 per hour for kids. This is an ideal activity for anyone staying at the campground that has kids. Wednesday and Saturday mornings throughout the year the road is closed to motor vehicle traffic and bike riders have the loop road to themselves. You can choose to bike the full 11 miles or you can take the Sparks Lane cut off and bike only 4 miles.

Whether you choose to bike or drive the loop road, reward yourself with a snack when you’re finished. Many say that the Cades Cove Campground Store has the best ice cream in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a delicious treat as you’re traveling through Cades Cove. Be sure that the Cades Cove Campground Store is a part of your next Townsend getaway.