Some of the favorite things at Dollywood cannot be found at the top of the roller coaster high in the air, nor will you run into them with your bumper car. You'll find them at the dozens of eateries — both full-service and walk-up kiosks — scattered throughout the park.
You'd be workin' 9 to 5 for days to sample them all, so here's a list of some of the favorites. Do your homework ahead of time at dollywood.com, where you'll find a list of all dining possibilities in order to plan your trip. And through June 7, the Flower & Food Festival, one of the premiere festivals at Dollywood, you'll find foods served only during the flowery, colorful celebration of spring as well as the return to Dollywood after a year of uncertainty.
With large crowds and limited seating, it's a good idea to make reservations at the full-service restaurants. Do this when you get to the park to ensure a table, then enjoy the music and rides.
Granny Ogle's Ham 'n' Beans
Located in Craftsman's Valley, an area filled with shops and demonstrations of Appalachian crafts, Granny Ogle's is named after the mother of Dolly's longtime friend and personal assistant, Judy Ogle. Granny Ogle was a marvelous cook, and the menu reflects what she might serve on any given day, such as ham and beans, deviled eggs, fruit cobblers — any number of hearty dishes that are a tradition in the Southern kitchen.
Till & Harvest Food Hall
Wildwood Grove is Dollywood's newest section and is one for kids — or the kid in you. Along with rides for tykes and an exciting, albeit short, roller coaster, The Dragonflier (for kids 39 inches and taller), Wildwood Grove boasts a new open-air food hall serving favorite Mexican fare with a Smoky Mountain twang. It's similar to other build-your-own burrito or bowl places — think Chipotle or Mojo Burrito. But try a bowl with grits as the base rather than rice. What would Dolly do? Grits, I believe.
Aunt Granny's Restaurant
COVID-19 brought changes to Dollywood, and Aunt Granny's in River- town Junction was one. Once a buffet restaurant, it has transitioned into a full-service restaurant — at least, for now — with servers dressed in country costume bringing bowls filled with Southern specialties to the table, such as fried chicken, pot roast, chicken and dumplings, pinto beans, mac and cheese — a literal smorgasbord. Aunt Granny is a family name — it's what Dolly's nieces and nephews call her, and it's an all-you-can-eat gastronomic experience, so come hungry and leave as full as a tick.
Front Porch Cafe
Showstreet is the first section you'll come to when entering the park, or the last section you'll visit when exiting. Whatever your direction, sit a spell at the Front Porch. Enjoy a glass of sweet tea and a burger, fish tacos, soup or salad. Showstreet is also the section where the popular concert venue, Showstreet Palace Theater, is located, as well as the Spotlight Bakery, where you'll find Dollywood's famous 25-pound apple pie. Yes, 25 pounds. Buy a slice or the whole pie — $189. It'll serve a crowd, and the tremendous cast-iron skillet it's baked in comes with it.
The Grist Mill
There's more to this Craftsman's Valley bakery than cinnamon bread, the park's most-popular food item. This is a working grist mill built in 1982 at Silver Dollar City, the precursor to Dollywood, exactly as it would have been in the 1800s when settlers in the Smoky Mountains relied on the mill's water wheel to grind corn and wheat. Today, you can take home a bag of grits and cornmeal ground at the Dollywood mill. Check out the baker's case for a delicious assortment of freshly baked cookies and other confections. The Grist Mill also has a variety of jams and jellies for sale.
Items you purchase at any of the retail outlets — from cinnamon bread to art from one of the craftsmen in the park can be delivered to Package Pickup for pickup as you leave the park (minimum $25 purchase).
NEW ON THE MENU
While there are no new restaurants at Dollywood for 2021, there are new items on the menu at some of the park's favorite eateries.
- Miss Lillian's BBQ Corner: The new slow-smoked brisket sliders are capturing diners' attention. Tender smoked brisket, tossed with citrus chipotle barbecue sauce and crisp citrus slaw, has become a house favorite. Try it with a side of corn salad. Miss Lillian's is in Craftsman's Valley.
- Festival Culinary Booth: The menu at this Rivertown Junction eatery changes with the festivals. During the Flower & Food Festival, through June 7, you can get a taste of the Caribbean with its Cuban sandwich. It's piled high with marinated mojo pork, Virginia ham and Swiss cheese, then grilled and served with plantain chips and mango salsa.
- Victoria's Pizza: Every park needs a good pizza place, and Dollywood has two. Victoria's Pizza, in The Village, has just premiered a new line of flatbread pizzas. Try the mascarpone cheese pizza dressed with arugula, artichoke hearts and prosciutto drizzled with balsamic and made even prettier with edible flowers on top. The other pizzeria, Lumber Jack's Pizza, is in Timber Canyon.
OUTSIDE THE PARK
- Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud: When your day at the park is done, the fun doesn't stop. As you drive into Pigeon Forge, you can't help but notice the billboards advertising what was one of the longest-standing feuds in American history — that between the Hatfields and the McCoys. This is a rousing evening of fun and food — lots of it. It's a humorous take on history, with foods such as pulled pork barbecue, coleslaw, corn on the cob and some fried chicken along with mashed potatoes.
Tables are arranged along tiered seating in a massive show hall. It's a spectacle of highfalutin excitement with all-you-can-eat Southern food, bluegrass music and fun. It's one of several area venues owned by Parton's dinner show company, World Choice Investments. Reservations: hatfield mccoydinnerfeud.com.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org or annebraly.com.