Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant is the quintessential fall family activity. Before you head over to Carver’s, a bit of perspective is important. This is a small, family run business that has a general store with snack bar, orchards, and restaurant.You can experience one or all of these offerings. From the main road, you can’t miss the flashing lights and pink signs leading your vehicle to this place.
From the moment you drive up, you will recognize that Carver’s is first and foremost an orchard. Everything from the lush green landscape to the plain wooden buildings, makes this place feel like the working orchard it is. In fact, the Applehouse Restaurant is so neatly fitted into the existing country store and landscape that is hard to imagine it hasn’t always been part of the property.
The entire business started out as an apple orchard in 1942 when Kyle Carver began hand-grafting and planting apple trees in a former cornfield. Today, more than 40,000 trees and 126 varieties of apples grace 75 acres in Cosby (20 minutes outside of Gatlinurg). The setting, which is rolling orchards with the majestic Smoky Mountains behind them, is perfect for Instagram-worthy photos.
In addition to their own orchard, Carver’s works with local farmers to supplement their supply and ensure apples are available all year long. The staff members are full of knowledge! Regardless of which variety of apple you are purchasing (they have 126!), they are sure to have selection tips and appropriate recipes. If you have children in the group, it is not unusual for a staff member to offer them a free apple.
Orchard Country Store:
When you enter the country store, there is zero-doubt that apples are the main event. The whole right-side of the store is filled with bushels of apples, apple jams, apple jellies, and even full of charts on how to select apples that are perfect for any use. At the front of the store, there is a great selection of cold-pressed apple ciders that are simply to die for.
The orchard store also features all kinds of canned goods – from relish to jam – as well as Appalachian specialties like apple butter, candies, lye soap, and fried pies. They also have a great assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, ready to take home.
Don’t miss the store’s snack bar that is tucked in the back, right corner. Even if you aren’t eating at the restaurant, you can snag a homemade apple pie for only $2 here.
In the center of the store, you can expect to find a seasonal selection of local fruits and vegetables. On the day we visited, we found fresh okra, green beans, jalapeños, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, peaches, watermelons, roasted peanuts and fried peanuts. Since local farmers supply the fresh fruits and vegetables, the selection is constantly changing based on local supply.
At the back of the store, there is an old-school apple sorting machine. On a typical day during harvest season, you will find several employees running the machine and sorting the apples. Kids love watching this!
Applehouse Restaurant is known for its old-school Southern cooking and apple-related dishes. Stray too far away from those staples and you may not be as happy with your meal as you would like. Fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, catfish, and all things apple-related are what they’re famous for – and for good reason. The restaurant has spent decades perfecting truly Southern dishes, refining them. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a person to stop in for dinner and decide to return the next morning for breakfast.
There are a couple of things you can expect upon entering the restaurant. The first is to be greeted by friendly staff. Second, once seated, you will be brought a basket of apple fritters served with apple butter and a round of fresh apple cider. Nibble away on those fritters as you decide what else you would like to eat.
There are plenty of dishes to choose from, but these are some of our favorites:
Carver’s catfish is considered legendary, perfectly cooked with a flaky center. Pair it with pinto beans and fried apples and you have meal to remember.
Frequent visitors to Carver’s call their fried chicken “the best in the world.” That, of course, is subjective, but suffice it to say, visitors come back because of their chicken. Served with mashed potatoes and apple cobbler, it’s like being back in your grandmother’s house (if grandma was a great cook).
Chicken and Dumplings
There’s an art to chicken and dumplings that not everyone can get right. Carver’s does. There’s just the right ratio of chicken to dumplings to make it satisfying. Paired with your choice of two vegetables, it’s a hearty and delicious meal.
We’re obsessed with Carver’s breakfast menu, particularly this special. It begins with apple cider and crispy apple fritters (and homemade apple butter) and is followed by two eggs, grits or gravy, oven-browned potatoes or fried apples, and homemade buttermilk biscuits. This is a meal that will satisfy a large appetite and a great way to start a busy day.
-If possible, ask to be seated near one of the plate-glass windows. The views are stunning and will add to your overall experience.
-Be aware that Carver’s Orchard is not a pick-your-own style orchard. While they do have a wide variety of apples available by the bushel, they do not allow visitors to enter the orchards and pick their own.