Townsend offers unique variety of tastes | Mdt Special

In Townsend, going out for dinner could mean eating beside the rush of a river, in the pews of a former chapel or on a hilltop overlooking the city. The population is less than 400, but Townsend offers a wide variety of locally owned restaurants, tap rooms, sweet shops and cafés.

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Apple Valley

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro emphasizes farm-fresh food inspired by ancestral Appalachian cuisine. The dishes are designed to showcase the history in a tasty way, Media Director Ashley Box said.

On any given day, visitors may find co-owner Janice Fillmore in a sun hat and gloves tending to the Dancing Bear garden.

“When it’s 100 degrees out and she’s out there picking and pruning and weeding, we can hear the Japanese beetles flying, and she’s out there rippin’ all those off,” Box said.

The smell of grease-sizzled patties greets guests at the door of Apple Valley Café. When in season, the burgers feature garden-grown toppings from across the field.

Apple Valley fried apple pie historically has been a big seller for the brand.

“We took it a little further two years ago when we started putting it in a milkshake,” Box said. It’s fried apple pie spun into cinnamon ice cream, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel.

The Dancing Bean is the most recent addition to the family of businesses. An assortment of games sits atop the fireplace on the inside of the little cabin.

Planters hang around the patio where people can sip coffee roasted in house, and dogs will devour a treat topped with whipped cream.

Box was proud to explain their recently purchased coffee roaster that eliminates the harmful air emissions regular roasters release into the air. In addition, the “bearistas” also bear-tend. Guests 21 and older can choose from an assortment of liquors to create a coffee cocktail.

Fun flavors

The Artistic Bean is another coffee café in the area. Owner Ashley Hepperly is an artist and musician and carries that vibe into the environment. She wants anyone who visits to feel welcomed and safe to express themselves, serving a “liquid hug in a mug,” she said.

Workers also serve breakfast sandwiches and desserts made by Townsend residents. Hepperly recently added a stage inside and hopes by summer to book live music.

Good Vibes on the River Café and Bakery is a small, colorful building in a gravel lot by the Little River. There is a variety of live music ranging from blues to rock and gospel on Sunday. Co-owner Devon Leonard hopes that by this summer the menu will include wine and beer from area breweries once an alcohol license is secured.

“It’s a place that people want to come to grab a quick bite to eat, but they usually end up stayin’ for an hour,” Leonard said.

Trailhead Steak and Trout, they’ll instantly be greeted by a cuckoo clock the owner purchased at auction, which is how many of the decorations inside the former-cabin-rental-turned-restaurant were found.

“I love working here. It was my first job coming out of high school, and I’ve just been here ever since,” server Makaila Manning said. The staff members are all friends and extend that familiarity to anyone who comes to dine.

Riverstone Restaurant is attached to the Riverstone Lodge and allows lodge guests access to food. Steak, seafood, Italian and BBQ dishes are on the menu, with the recent additions of pasta and po’ boys to add variety.

Trinaty Reza, a desk clerk at the lodge and former server in the restaurant, said the environment is family friendly and the staff always welcoming. The interior design is like a cozy cabin with photos of the surrounding mountains and creatures that dwell there.

Last summer, Dan and Jillian Estes reopened The Carriage House, now

Dan Good Foods at the Carriage House, after buying and renovating it. They kept the 1970s vibe alive on the outside but modernized the inside with their own artwork, such as wood-burned wine boxes and unique paintings of the family.

The Esteses prepare all the food on their own. Dan brought his own recipes into the family-owned restaurant, including one of the most popular dishes — Mimaw’s secret recipe for chicken breast.

Townsend Pancake House and Restaurant opens early in the morning and closes at 3 p.m. The menu consists of a variety of classic Southern breakfast foods like country ham, biscuits and gravy and — of course — pancakes.

Burger Master is preparing to open May 1 after finishing construction to provide more seating and shaded areas. It’s a classic diner experience with ice cream, burgers and fries. Although ownership has shifted many times since the restaurant was originally constructed in 1967 by J.C. Morgan, in 2016 his grandson purchased it to preserve its historical presence in the community.

On tap

Little River Pub and Deli is most known for its taproom, which rotates six different craft beers brewed in East Tennessee, but it also has a range of appetizers, sandwiches and food for the kids.

Owner Steve Roper wanted to start a business with good, family-friendly energy. It’s a good place for tourists to come after they’ve hiked or tubed down the Little River, he said.

Townsend Abbey is the other taproom in the city limits. Janice and Steve Fillmore transformed the wedding chapel they owned into a place for families, musicians and beer lovers. Their taps originate and range from Country Boy to Gypsy Circus, all within six hours of Townsend.

“A taproom differs from the restaurant I had,” Janice explained, “in that in a restaurant, you go in and sit down and you spend time with your family and friends. In a taproom, you go in, you sit down and, typically, you make new family and friends.”

Fridays are a big hit when Steve fixes ribs with his own barbecue sauce and rub. Janice said they’re usually sold out in an hour. She hopes they can hire and train more staff to open the Abbey more hours throughout the week.


The Chocolate B’ar, which makes all of the candies there in the store. Janice wants to install a glass in the storefront so customers can see the candy being made. The shop also has coffee drinks and baked goods, such as pastries, cookies, brownies and pies.

They package the products and sell them at the Abbey and wholesale to places in Gatlinburg. The ice cream shop is also a new addition to the Chocolate B’ar.

The other sweet shop is on the edge of the city, on the left before the next destination on U.S. Highway 321, Pigeon Forge.

Fudge Kitchen and Sweet Shoppe in the Little River Village has a large variety of fudge and ice cream.

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