Calhoun’s bills itself as “the taste of Tennessee,” and they may just be right about that. Sure, there are other places around the country that can lay claim to good barbecue – Texas, Kansas City, etc. – but Tennessee is really where the barbecue is made – especially pork barbecue. Within the boundaries of Tennessee, stretching from Memphis to the North Carolina border, you will find the world’s best barbecue shops. The king of barbecue in East Tennessee is Calhoun’s. The company has nine locations around the Knoxville area, and we recently visited the Gatlinburg location (where else would we go?) to see what all the fuss was about.
Calhoun’s in Gatlinburg is located at 1004 Parkway, not too far from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains, and an easy walk from the Inn. It has a comfortable, rustic feel, like a lot of places in Gatlinburg.
Calhoun’s has a fairly large menu of meat items – from hot wings to steak to barbecue (obviously). Given that this joint bills itself as “the taste of Tennessee” and boasts of having “the best ribs in America,” you can bet we went with the barbecue. Our favorite way to really get a good idea of what a place is about is with a sampler platter, so we ordered the “Calhoun’s Trio,” which consists of baby back ribs, chicken tenders, and hickory smoked pork. The dish is served with coleslaw, and we added Smoky Mountain baked beans as the other side.
The first item at the table was a selection of breads – biscuits, garlic bread, and a beer grain muffin that has kind-of a gingerbread taste. All of the bread was excellent, but the beer grain muffin was our favorite.
As for the entré, it was delicious. The barbecue was well smoked and tender. The ribs were lightly covered in sauce, but there was plenty of sweet sauce available. The chicken tenders tasted like chicken tenders should taste. The beans have a wonderful tanginess and are some of the best baked beans we have had anywhere.
Were the ribs the best in America? You know…there are so many good rib restaurants in America, it would be really hard to say if that is true. But were they excellent? Yes. If you’re a rib eater, you will not be disappointed. All in all, the food and experience gets an A+.
If you’re not a big meat eater, you can still enjoy Calhoun’s, as their menu includes a selection of salads and various appetizers.
The service was very polite and efficient. We did have a slight billing problem at the end of the meal, but it was dealt with professionally and promptly. Mistakes are going to happen, so we’re not going to hold that against them, and the situation was quickly solved to our satisfaction.
If you’re a barbecue fan, do yourself a favor and visit Calhoun’s the next time you’re in Gatlinburg. You won’t be disappointed.