Cherokee Grill in Gatlinburg TN has been, well, my favorite restaurant in the greater Knoxville Area. I can’t say East Tn., for Chattanooga has my true favorite. What does it take to be my favorite? I know your asking…. Well it doesn’t take kobe beef, or foie gras, it takes a few other things. Number one, fresh food, homemade, and made to order. Number two, it takes timely service with a smile, and number three, it must be a reasonable value. I don’t want to feel like I was just robbed to eat what they served. Now onto Cherokee Grill.
Cherokee Grill in Gatlinburg TN is owned by the same company that owns Calhouns, their breweries, and Copper Cellar. They do a consistent job, and offer items at a fair price. The reason we have enjoyed Cherokee Grill so much is that it didn’t fit the mold of all their other restaurants. You could tell they were trying to make it something new, offering fantastic menu items that you could not get anywhere else. There was a fantastic fresh factor, the ingredients were top notch, and the design, decor, ambience, everything in the place looked much fancier than a Calhoun’s concept. In the past three years we have eaten there 4 times, always going there whenever we are in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. If we lived closer, you would see us there more often for sure.
We went after might I say, a long straight up a mountain, muddy hike and couldn’t wait to get some of our favorite items. Youc an read about our hike in another post real soon. Arriving on tuesday at 4 p.m., in January, there was not much of a crowd. Obviously the tourists aren’t visiting during this time, which makes the town better for us! We sat down and a friendly server greeted us. Let’s talk about the service.
The service was great. The timing, although they were dead was perfect from course to course, he was around when we needed him, anticipated what we wanted, and did not bother us when we didn’t need him. The last thing he did right, is my pet peeve. It boils down to the dessert. Don’t forget to ask if we want any, and don’t ask us until you clear the last dish. You can’t ask someone if they want dessert if they haven’t finished yet, right? How would you know if you would still be hungry? He did it perfectly, with the last dish cleared in his hand, offered and mentioned several desserts. We were too full to eat anything though… I think his name was Arty. Since we go to restaurants to eat food, let’s talk about that.
We sat down and looked over the menu. It’s changed… Now I get changing the menu, make it better, seasonal, more cost effecient, whatever, but they removed just about everything that made the restaurant special. The size, look, shape, even the Font of the menu is now the same as Calhouns. The items offered on the menu, well, calhouns inspired stuff, like several BBQ dishes. BBQ sandwiches, BBQ entrees, you name it, BBQ. Then there is the same familiar cuts of meat on their menus as well. Oh well. Let’s order.
We started with the Chicken Tortizza. This was a flour tortilla, layered with creamed spinach, cheese, oven dried tomatoes, and chicken. It was served hot, fresh, flavorful. I loved the amount of creamed spinach they put on it, just the right amount. The tomatoes and chicken were full of flavor. This would become the highlight of our meal.
We ordered a house salad. It was full of fresh ingredients, enough to share. Served along side was warm bread. I would consider it a light wheat, multigrain bread. It was fresh and good. They offer several salad dressings. Among them, a cheddar cheese dressing. We ordered this and a second both on the side. I had to try it. It was really crazy. I would never put in on my salad. Maybe dip some chips in it though.
I ordered the Rotisserie Chicken (14.50). It was served piping hot over a fantastic bed of rice. The chicken itself had a great flavor but was very dry. Perhaps cooked in advance and then reheated. I would expect a rotisserie chicken to be pretty difficult to serve in a restaurant, especially during the off season when there are small crowds. It desperately needed some demi glace or some type of sauce. The only thing I could come up with to moisten it at all was smearing some of my bread butter on it. It didn’t help… The server offered everything they had in the kitchen, teriyaki or BBQ sauce. I ate maybe half of it. The side item was their spinach mac and cheese. One word, fantastic. I could have made a meal of it alone.
My wife ordered what she thought was here favorite item she ordered there for years. It was a hawaiian steak or something to that effect, marinated for several days in soy sauce, ginger, pineapple juice and who knows whatelse. What she ordered this time was the Teriyaki steak (19.50). What came out was a 10oz piece of sirloin, drowned in a not so yummy teriyaki sauce with a slice of pineapple on it. Served on the side was a healthy portion of mashed potatoes, which were homemade.
The presentation was not that great, while the cooks did a perfect job cooking to the proper degree of doneness (medium rare) there was nothing they could do to make this something worth coming back for. Speaking of the cooks, they cooked everything perfectly. It just isn’t great stuff. Her side item was grilled asparagus. An appropriately sized portion grilled perfectly and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.
We skipped the dessert.
In summation, the food and service were executed properly, but the powers that govern the menu and food selections of this menu have ruined what was once our favorite restaurant. We will continue to visit Calhoun’s, but there is no longer any reason to visit the cherokee grill and pay the extra cost. Our bill came to 52.29 before tip. Making an early dinner over $60. If in Gatlinburg, I recommend it, but only because I haven’t found anything really great up there yet. I’ll let you know for now I’m on the hunt!