Buckhorn Inn | Gatlinburg | RTX Traveler Magazine

02-Buckhorn-Snow-printThe Buckhorn Inn is nestled on a hillside just east of Gatlinburg with uninterrupted views of the Great Smoky Mountains. The inn will celebrate its 75th year in 2013, and welcomes the public to its dining room each evening for a seasonal southern-influenced four-course meal.

Entering the Buckhorn Inn’s restaurant is like sneaking in the side door of a good friend’s home. The fire is crackling, classical music is playing, and the candles in the wall sconces are flickering. Naturally, guests of the inn dine there, but several locals and visitors staying elsewhere make frequent appearances as well. The staff will greet you and seat you, and Lee Mellor, who has owned the inn with her husband for 14 years, will likely stop by to say hello and chat with each table before service begins.

The only menu on your table is a wine menu, with a variety of reasonably priced choices by the glass or bottle. You can also bring your own vintage if you prefer. The house baked bread brought out once you’re seated is well worth a try even for the carb-conscious as it is far beyond the standard French bread served in many restaurants. Warm, soft and slightly salty, it doesn’t even need a touch of butter, though there is some waiting on your table if you must.

03-Buckhorn-CoupleDining-printExecutive Chef is Robert Neisler has worked at the inn for about 18 years. A native of West Tennessee, he is self-taught and has been working in the culinary industry for about 40 years, both in East Tennessee and at resort communities out west. He has earned a well-deserved reputation for his southern-influenced cuisine and fresh, seasonal offerings.

Each course is a surprise as you only know what’s coming when the server places it in front of you and describes the dish. A sweet potato and leek soup with buttered pecans is the perfect start to a meal on a chilly night. As diners are served conversations quiet and the clinking of spoons commences. The velvety soup has a savory crunch of leek and the sweet chew of the pecans. Following this bowl of heaven is a fresh and crispy romaine salad with bleu cheese, garlic peppercorn dressing and fresh colorful veggies.

The main course arrives and you might think it’s meant for two, but sure enough, each diner has a bone-in pork chop with a fruit-based Cumberland sauce, smashed potatoes and peas with pearl onions. After savoring the perfectly prepared pork and the balanced flavors of its accompaniments, dessert arrives in the form of an extremely rich chocolate ganache cake.

Once you’ve digested with a cup of coffee, it’s time to bid farewell with memories of an ideal atmosphere and a perfectly prepared meal that will ensure a good night’s sleep and prepare you for the next day’s adventures.

Good to know: Reservations are required. Dinner is served each evening at 7 p.m., and they ask that you arrive around 6:45. The menu changes each night, so please let them know in advance if you have any food allergies. The meal is $35, and the price does not include wine.


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