Since it opened in 1946, Howard’s Restaurant – Gatlinburg’s Oldest Restaurant- has been a locally owned and operated restaurant. Touting itself as a Gatlinburg tradition, this eatery states it’s the place with the best burgers and steaks in The Smokies. They also claim to serve the best Bloody Mary in town.
Howard’s has two levels. The downstairs area houses the steakhouse and the upstairs is a pub called The Wild Boar. The atmosphere is laid back and there’s a charming outdoor eating area in the rear. At The Wild Boar, partiers sometimes can enjoy live music. It’s advisable to call ahead if this is something you’re interested in. Live entertainment isn’t a regular thing at this pub.
The outside of the restaurant looks similar to an old saloon, with clapboard siding and metal roofing. Inside, the restaurant is dimly lit and the decor could use updating. The outdoor seating area is wonderful aside from the metal tables. The mostly-shaded patio overlooks a creek where you might spot wildlife like racoons. In the evening, twinkling lights make the deck seem somewhat magical.
Howard’s Restaurant offers typical steakhouse fare including appetizers like potato skins and fried mushrooms, grilled meat meals, steaks, burgers, and sandwiches. The prices are high when compared to other steakhouses in the area. The least expensive steak dinner is a chopped steak, not one of their hand-cut steaks, with two sides and a salad for $20. The cheapest sandwich is the $10 steak burger and the blue plate specials are over $15.
The menu offers a range of choices from appetizers to cocktails. The hand-cut steaks include filets, rib eye, KC strip, T-bone, and porterhouse. Some notable menu items include:
Extreme Appetizer Platter –
This assortment of restaurant favorites includes mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, fried mushrooms, potato skins, buffalo wings, onion rings, and catfish bites. Cooks make all sauces in-house.
Smoky Mountain Trout
This platter boasts a fresh, whole trout that’s skinned before being broiled, char-grilled, or fried. Popular sides choices are the vegetable medley, broccoli and cheese, or baked potato.
Steak for Two
Choose from a choice filet or 10-ounce rib eye. Order one of each or two of one kind. The meal comes with salad and four sides.
Old Mountain Burger
A typical burger, this is an 8-ounce steak burger with bacon and American cheese and served with fries. The kaiser bun is a bonus.
Overall, the food is average quality, but sinceHoward’s Restaurant prides itself on having wonderful steaks, it’s not a surprise that the steaks are perfectly cooked and well-seasoned.
Howard’s cocktail options include a Bloody Mary that’s dubbed the “best in town.” Cocktails come in 20-ounce mugs, so they’re not too small for the price. The mixed drinks are a little pricier than similar restaurants, with top shelf drinks coming in at almost $10. Draft beer is fairly priced for its mug size and bottle beer isn’t overpriced at all.
Does Howard’s Restaurant have the best burgers in the Smoky Mountains? Maybe. While some burgers are dry, others are perfect. It’s really a matter of who’s cooking. Are the Bloody Mary’s the best in town? Not in our opinion. A common complaint is that the service at Howard’s Restaurant leaves much to be desired. The wait staff works long hours dealing with touristy customers, and it shows. Their smiles aren’t genuine and they don’t seem to like what they’re doing.
Howard’s is an outdated eatery that needs some work. Inside, it’s missing ceiling tiles and has dangling ductwork. The staff could be friendlier and more attentive. Most of the food is okay, but the steak is fantastic! For the money, other steakhouses are better.
For better service, visit early in the day or right before dinner rush.