There’s a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” in nearby Gatlinburg, but the Wild Bear Tavern wins my vote as the area’s most unbelievable phenomenon: an excellent German restaurant attached to a hotel along a tourist-trod corridor in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
How excellent is it? Ease a knife through the crisp breaded crust of a pork schnitzel cutlet and savor just how sweet it is. Fork up unctuous shreds of griddle-cooked potato pancake and sweet and sour red cabbage. The flavors are big and brilliant, so well accompanied by frosted mugs of Dunkel or a glass of Hopler pinot noir.
It’s a three-meal-a-day menu; and while there are good, ordinary breakfasts to be had, if you come in the morning, tell your waiter that you have come for Oma’s Stack. That’s an off-the-menu powerhouse pile-up of potato pancake, bacon nuggets, grilled onions, and cheese topped by a thick, griddle-sizzled slice of leberkase (classy bologna) and a couple of eggs. O.M.G., what a fantastic way to start the day!
At dinner (after 5pm), you can have a monumental pork shank served atop a bed of mashed potatoes or German pot roast simmered in red wine sauce. The rest of the day, there’s a German-themed menu of bratwurst and other sausages, glorified potato pancakes, a liverwurst board, and a giant Bavarian pretzel served with mustard and spiced cheese. It also is possible to have a short-rib & brisket hamburger, a club sandwich (on pumpernickel) or — if you’re kinder (under 12), a regular hot dog, grilled cheese sandwich, or chicken fingers.
Dessert: black forest cake, apple strudel, German chocolate cake.
The bottom line is: If you are looking for a memorably good meal in Pigeon Forge, put Wild Bear at the top of the list.