I love the stores and restaurants in town that have been around since Gatlinburg began to really boom. They usually have a great story to go along with a great product. The Pancake pantry has been around since 1960, so you know that they are doing something right! The original restaurant was opened by Jim and Jill Gerding who got the idea after vacationing in Gatlinburg for several years. The restaurant claims to be the first pancake specialty house in Tennessee. Though I will say it is tough to substantiate those claims. It is similar to saying “world’s greatest dad.”
The original restaurant went through several iterations before 1975. Since that time, it looks almost as it did in the 70’s. They have added, and continue to add, dishes to their menu. But you can always expect to find something to make your mouth water here. It is called the PANCAKE pantry for good reason. They offer 24 different types of pancakes here. You can get everything from your standard buttermilk pancakes to blueberry pancakes, and even things like Swiss chocolate chip pancakes and orange walnut pancakes. My wife would be upset with me if I didn’t mention their French Toast. Cinnamon, powdered sugar, butter, and their special cinnamon syrup makes this one tasty dish. Regardless of what you order, you will get enough butter with it to have a small coronary. If you actually run out of butter here, you should seriously reexamine your eating habits! All kidding aside, If you come here, bring your appetite. The portions are monstrous. You could easily split an order with another person and both leave the place full.
I only have a few small complaints about this place. First, the size of the sides are really small. You can get sides of bacon or sausage, but you get very little for the price. For example, bacon is $3.50 and you get two slices. Its not really worth it. Also, the glasses are really small. It is easy to go through a glass of water or soft drink quickly and be out luck before the server comes back again. I’ve had trips where i have had 4-5 refills simply due to the size of the glasses. It might not be as big of a deal if they weren’t very busy, but they are! More on that in a minute.
In addition to the breakfast offerings, they do offer an array of lunch fare (after 11:30am). These include six varieties of burgers, eight different sandwiches such as The Continental, Smoky Mountain Grilled Ham and Cheese, and others. They also have a few salad offerings. I would say that the breakfast food is far superior to what they offer for lunch. If you aren’t a breakfast person, you could get one of the other offerings. The lunch food might not blow you away, but you will leave satisfied.
A couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to give this place a try. First, it is busy. And I mean BUSY! It’s not like a TGI Fridays on a Friday night busy. It’s like stand in a line for the hottest club in Vegas busy! There is almost always a line out the door of people waiting to get in and be seated. It is actually quite a sight. Your wait in line can range anywhere from 10 minutes to nearly an hour. The line often stretches around the building and into The Village shops. The biggest problem with this is there is literally no place for you to sit and wait. The space inside is so full of tables that there really is no lobby area to sit down. So, until they call your name or number, you have to stand OUTSIDE. That can be a real pain in rain, snow, and even extreme hot/cold. Speaking of name/number, you don’t check into a desk like you do at most restaurants. A guy (or gal) with a clipboard will come to you at some point in line and ask you how many you have. He’ll give you a number and on you wait. Here’s a tip for you. If you are traveling with two, you will be seated far faster than groups of 4 or more. If you have a larger group of around 8, you might want to consider breaking up to get seated more quickly. You are not seated by a place in line. You are seated by the tables they have available for your party size. My wife and I usually go by ourselves. We almost always end up getting called into the restaurant past 30 people that were there before us because we only need a small table. After getting the evil looks from the people still standing in line asking why we got to “cut,” we are starting our breakfast. The busyness continues inside. The tables are crammed in to allow as many people as possible at one time. It often feels like dodging traffic in downtown Chicago to get to your table. People are coming and going rather quickly and the turnover is fast. However, all of those people at all those tables sometimes make service a bit slow. This is where the small glasses I mentioned could be problematic if your server has too many tables. You might wait for quite a bit before the refills of drinks or syrups come.
Here are a couple other points to ponder. The hours for the restaurant differ depending on the season. The hours are 7am-4pm June through October and 7am-3pm November through May. They are not open at all for dinner. However, they are open 7 days a week except Thanksgiving and Christmas. I would recommend getting there as they open, between 10-11, or the last hour they are open to help avoid the crowds. It is still going to be busy, but it won’t be as bad during those times. And sorry, they do not take reservations. The other thing that trips people up about this place is that they are cash ONLY. That’s right, they do not take credit or debit cards at all. This point has really annoyed me over the years, but it does not seem to affect their business, so I don’t see it changing any time soon. Be sure to bring some cash. They do have an ATM inside, but you will be charged a fee to use it. Be sure to take out enough for your party. The food is good and plentiful, but it is a bit pricey for breakfast. We usually end up spending about 30 dollars for two people. As someone that does not eat breakfast that often, that is pretty pricey,but again, the food is pretty great.
Today, you will literally find dozens of pancake houses in every town surrounding the smokies. They are everywhere. Many of them do stay pretty busy, but the difference between this place and the others is pretty obvious. The food quality is much higher here, while many of the others are on par with a Shoney’s breakfast bar. Even if you are like me and not much of a breakfast person, I encourage you to check it out at least once. I doubt you will walk away disappointed.