Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Autumn Weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains

The Cheese Cupboard and Hofbrauhaus Restaurant
The Village Shops
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Fall 2011

Unfortunately, at the end of summer/beginning of fall my husband and I had quite the disappointment in life.  The exact nature of the disappointment doesn't need to be discussed online, but just know we suddenly felt the need to accomplish something positive and get away for a bit.  To help us brush off our sadness and appreciate the gifts we do have, we decided to attack the 14 mile round trip hike to Mt. Leconte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We had previously spent a few mini vacations hiking around the Smokies during spring breaks and had always talked about doing this hike.  We decided now was the time. 

I had grown up going to Gatlinburg and spending time in the mountains during the summer with my family, but I had never before had the privilege of seeing the mountains in all their fall glory.  What a treat it was and how lucky was I to have the perfect weekend to spend on a mountain top! 

We arrived in Gatlinburg early afternoon.  Too early to check in to our cabin; but late enough that we were ravished for lunch.  I had spent many of fun filled afternoons wandering the Village Shops with my parents when I was little, and there was an old fashioned ice cream shop I was especially fond of visiting.  But we had never eaten at the Hofbrauhaus Restaurant.  I had read how many people love this place and consider it a must stop when in Gatlinburg, so we decided to give it a try.  As we parked I was amazed at the beauty of the fall foliage in the mountains surrounding us, and was excited it was still warm enough to shrug out of my jacket and put on shorts.  It was much colder when we left Ohio early in the morning!  I was also shocked to see how busy Gatlinburg was in the fall.  However, considering the gorgeous fall views, I really shouldn't have been.

This was the traffic we had to contend with just to get into the Smoky Mountains!

A view of the Village Shops and all the people.  At the bottom of the mountains the trees were still mainly green, but they were changing up top. 

The Hofbrauhous Restaurant is actually on the second floor of the Cheese Cupboard, which would also be a great place to pick up some picnic snacks to take along with you on a hike.

To get to the restaurant you walk through the cheese store and and then up the back stairs (see, for those that are confused, there is a sign saying 'Restaurant' with an arrow pointing up in the picture).  At the top you are greeted by a friendly waitress in a small and dark room with tables, booths, and a bar all smooshed in where they can fit.  The place was busy and cramped, but I loved the feeling of being transported by a flight of stairs into an old common pub in Germany.  You kind of felt like you were hidden away from the rest of the world and definitely away from the "cheese" of Gatlinburg (those who have been there will know what I mean). 
The Cheese Cupboard has been open since 1969 and I got the feeling that their fixtures and recipes had been too.  But I love when good things don't change. 

The restaurant is known for their super reubens and since Erik and I both love reubens this is what we went with.  This one was pretty classic with corned beef, sauerkraut, sauce, and Swiss chesse on a Pumpernickel roll.  It was served with potato chips and a dill pickle spear. 

The bread was good, soft, and fresh.  The corn beef and sauerkraut were also decent.  I probably would have liked more sauce, but I like my reubens fairly wet.  All in all this was a typical, good reuben.  But I wouldn't drive out of my way for it like many others do.  I did, however, love the condiment tray that was brought out with our lunch.  We were brought out dishes of a spicy mustard, a pickle relish, and horseradish to doctor up our sandwiches as we wished.  Being a condiment queen and all, I loved this addition. 

On the negative side, the chips and pickle could be improved.  I know they're not the main attraction, but sides can either add to or detract from your dining experience.  The chips were your typical low budget ones out of box from a place like Sam's or Costco.  They get the job done, but they're nothing special.  The pickle was limp and lacking a fresh crunch. 

Overall, would I go back?  Sure.  Will it be a must stop whenever I'm in the area?  No. 

Bill Total:  2 Reubens, a soft drink, a German draft beer, tax, and tip = about $27

Overall Rating:  3 buckeyes

And just for fun, we took the tram up to Ober Gatlinburg after lunch.  We decided to take the easy way up into the mountains, because the next day we were definitely going to be working for our views!

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