Dining around a theme park isn’t always a desirable adventure, but that’s not true at the Queen of Country Dolly Parton’s self-named theme park in the Smoky Mountains, Dollywood. Whether you wanna escape the heat and sit for a spell over a family-style meal of fried chicken, feast on pork rinds with pimento cheese between roller coaster rides, or just stop at a quick-service kiosk for kettle corn or funnel cakes — this is the ultimate Eater’s guide to all things dining (note: but not drinking, since it’s an alcohol-free family theme park) at Dollywood.
Aunt Granny’s Restaurant (Rivertown Junction)
Garnering national recognition as one of the best U.S. theme park restaurants, consider this your go-to for what could easily be Sunday supper at Grandma’s house. Traditionally served as a buffet, the pandemic necessitated a family-style service for everything from fried chicken and fish to pot roast and city ham with every side imaginable. Take one of those homemade biscuits or cornbread muffins and sop your plate, because pie’s a-comin' too from a dessert bar that’ll make you wanna kiss Aunt Granny (that’s the name Dolly’s nieces and nephews call her).
Front Porch Cafe (Showstreet)
Some of Dolly’s favorite meals comprise this full-service menu. Fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and pork rinds for dipping head up the appetizers. A multitude of entrees grace the menu, but don’t pass on the meatloaf sandwich topped with mashed potatoes and green beans with gravy (think hot brown, but in the key of Dolly). Save room for made-from-scratch strawberry shortcake.
Red’s Drive-In (Jukebox Junction)
Named after the small 1950s restaurant in Sevierville where Dolly tasted her first hamburger, this diner offers all the classics with service as quick as the Lightning Rod coaster nearby. From thick and frosty shakes to golden crisp crinkle fries, you’ll definitely need one of those juicy burgers to round out the full experience.
Spotlight Bakery (Showstreet)
The aromas of freshly baked something-or-another permeate the park’s entrance where this full-service bakery sits mere steps within. Pastries, cookies, and the signature cinnamon rolls are just a few that adorn the bakery’s case. Though, it’s the whopping 25-pound apple pie folks clamor for — ordering by the 3-pound slice. And if you want to share the love back home, you can have a whole pie shipped to your door complete with a Lodge Cast Iron skillet.
Sweet Shoppe Candy Kitchen (Showstreet)
Follow your nose for all the treats your heart desires. A rotating case of 10 hand-dipped Mayfield Ice Cream options greets you at the door with all the makings of a sundae atop a homemade waffle bowl to accompany. Find all of the candy favorites here too, alongside a case chock-full of custom confections. Try the showgirl truffles, the prettiest girls in the case.
Till & Harvest Food Hall (Wildwood Grove)
While the name “food hall” might be a tad misleading for those accustomed to sprawling food halls in big cities, it’s possible to sample the Smokies’ take on full-service (or on-the-go) Mexican food here. Grab a seat in the “hall” or dine al fresco to feast on mixed grills, burrito bowls, and some vegan-friendly options at this park’s highest point. Sweets and treats can be found within the hall as well for those with a hard-to-ignore sweet tooth.
The Grist Mill (Cinnamon Bread) (Craftsman’s Valley)
People line out the door for the Grist Mill’s cinnamon bread, which is baked in an open kitchen and drizzled with icing. Other offerings, such as jellies, jams, and cookies, are all great items to take home — a safer souvenir since it’s unlikely the cinnamon bread will make it home. (Pro tip: If you do have bread leftover, it can be used in a dessert panzanella that will blow your dinner guests away as you regale them with tales of Dolly.)
Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ Beans (Craftsman’s Valley)
Nothing like a big bowl of beans, greens, smoked ham, and cornbread to warm your soul (and sate your hunger). But don’t stop there. Fresh-baked cobbler rounds out some of the finest Appalachian country cooking to pass your lips, Within a theme park, at least.
Market Square Big Skillets® (Rivertown Junction)
A rotating seasonal array of meats and veggies sizzle on a giant skillet between Showstreet and Rivertown Junction. Whether you choose the beef or sausage cheesesteak-style sandwich loaded up with peppers and onions, you’ll no doubt be asked “Hey, where’d you get that?” on more than one occasion while enjoying your roadie sandwich.
Hickory House BBQ (Craftsman’s Valley)
Let’s be honest: few theme parks can pull off barbecue in any self-respecting fashion. But, here, Dolly does it again, with piled-high pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and bread for sopping up all the barbecue sauce. You can feel like the queen herself with one of those giant smoked turkey legs to rival that of any renaissance fair. And, if the kiddos aren’t feeling it, there’s chicken tenders and fries.
Dollywood’s Dream More Resort and Spa
Staying at Dolly’s nearby signature resort comes with privileges. You’ll have a TimeSaver pass to ride up to seven rides without waiting in line and a complimentary shuttle service. But remember Dollywood is dry, y’all. So, enjoy the poolside cocktail service, or belly up to the bar once back at your digs with mountain views. Southern-style buffet service at Song and Hearth could be the ticket for dinner, before heading out to the resort’s fire pit for s’mores upon request.
Executive chef Christopher Seabrook recently joined the team at Dollywood, so stay tuned to see what menu changes and new options he adds as he settles in for the holiday season.
- 15 Essential Restaurants Near Downtown Knoxville [ENASH]
- Dollywood [Official Site]