While on our vacation last fall in the Great Smoky Mountains (click here to see the entry on that visit), we stayed in Gatlinburg, TN. While we didn't care much for Gatlinburg, we did happen to find a couple places that served us some pretty good meals. One of them was a little out-of-the-way supper club by the name of the Greenbrier Restaurant. I call it a supper club mainly because it was similar to supper clubs that you'd find in the Upper Midwest. We decided to give the Greenbrier a try the last night we were in Gatlinburg.
In the late 1930's, a lady by the name of Blanche Moffet built and opened the little cabin lodge and named it the Greenbrier Lodge. Ms. Moffet catered to hunters, vacationers and other travelers, but also did a good business as a boarding house for people working in the area. The present day lounge area was once two rooms where married couples slept. (When you see a picture of the lounge area later in this post, you'll wonder how there could have been two rooms in there at one point.) Upstairs where Ms. Moffet slept and it was also the sleeping quarters for single women who stayed at the Greenbrier. Single men slept in bunk beds on the downstairs level.
Ms. Moffet fed her guests breakfast in the morning and then they either went off to work, off to hunt, or would lounge around the lodge on a sun deck overlooking the wooded area around the lodge. Later on, Blanche Moffet built the first concrete in-ground pool in Gatlinburg for her guests.
One of the more frequent guests at the Greenbrier were the young actors and actresses who went to the University of Tennessee in nearby Knoxville. In the mid-50's until the mid-70's, many of these actors and actresses stayed at the Greenbrier Lodge while performing at the Hunter Hills Theater in Gatlinburg. The amphitheater was one of the first in the Southeast and hosted plays, musicals and ballets during the summer months.
In 1980, Blanche Moffet sold the Greenbrier to Dean and Barbara Hadden. With the help of their six children, the Hadden's turned the property into a restaurant and the family ran it for over 21 years before leasing it out just before Dean Hadden passed away in 1991. The people who leased the restaurant only ran it for a few months before closing the place down. In 1993, Barbara Hadden - with the help of her son, David, and his wife, Becky - reopened the restaurant. David and Becky continue to run the Greenbrier Restaurant today with the help of their son, Jordan.
For fans of the paranormal, it's said that the Greenbrier is haunted. There have been reports that over the years workers at the Greenbrier have seen the ghost of a lady by the name of Lydia who was spurned at the alter by her fiancee. She had supposedly stayed at the Greenbrier the night before the wedding, got dressed into her wedding gown the next day and went into town to get married. After waiting for her husband-to-be at the church for a number of hours, she went back to the Greenbrier. Consumed with anger and anguish, she went to a second floor landing, tossed a rope up over the rafters and hung herself. She was buried in an unmarked grave not far from the lodge.
Local lore has it that the man who left her at the alter was killed days later in the mountains surrounding the area by a mountain lion. But it was a caretaker at the lodge who was said to be rustled from his sleep at night in the weeks after Lydia's death with a mournful cry of a woman repeating, "Mark my grave. Mark my grave...", over and over. After a number of nights of this, the caretaker finally went down to where the body was supposedly buried and placed a makeshift gravestone. The mournful cries at night went away after that. But workers at the Greenbrier Lodge and subsequently at the Greenbrier Restaurant have reported seeing an apparition of a young woman from time to time. The interesting thing about all this is that the Greenbrier seems to embrace the legend that it's haunted and even hands out pamphlets regarding the ghost of Lydia.
The Greenbrier is off the beaten path located at the end of a winding hilly road off of Highway 321 heading east out of Gatlinburg. (see map) There was a long parking lot in front of the place and we walked in around 7:30 that particular evening. The first room you see is the main entry way to what was the old lodge. What looks like the original fireplace sits on one wall with a bearskin rug hanging above it. A hostess came out to greet us and we told her that we didn't have reservations, but wondered if we could get in. "We don't take reservations," she said almost cheerfully. "We can get you in, though."
We were seated in the dining area that was built by the Hadden's on what was the former sun deck to the Greenbrier Lodge. It was long and narrow with large floor to ceiling windows looking out into the woods. It was getting dark and you really couldn't see much of anything out the windows after the sun goes down. But we were told that it wasn't unusual to see a black bear roaming around outside the dining room, sometimes even coming up to the windows on the end to look inside.
We were given menus and our server for the evening, Dena, came over to greet us and take our drinks order. I asked her what kind of beers they had to offer and she couldn't remember what they had on tap that particular evening. "They change them from time to time," she said. "I'll have to go check."
I told her not to worry, I wanted to go see what they had on tap in the lounge. The lounge was just around the corner from where we were seated in the dining area and I went in to take a quick gander at what they had.
I encountered a small room with a small bar - it sat, maybe, five people - with a like number of taps behind the bar. Now, remember what I said earlier about the lounge formerly being two rooms where married couples slept at the old Greenbrier Lodge. I took this picture literally with my back up against the wall in the lounge. It was not a big area. It's sort of difficult to imagine this being two rooms at one point in time. I found that they had a White India Pale Ale from the Big River Brewery out of Chattanooga. I asked for a sample and decided that I liked it enough to order it up. Cindy got a glass of house chardonnay from the value-oriented Rex Goliath winery from Central California. The rest of the wine list at the Greenbrier was pretty basic.
The main entrees at the Greenbrier are prime rib, steaks, a pork ribeye, seafood and fish dinners. They also have a stuffed pork chop, fettuccine Alfredo, and a stuffed tilapia dish. They also feature something on the menu each night called the Chef's Choice. That evening it was a grilled swordfish filet lightly dusted with Cajun seasonings. That caught Cindy's attention and she ended up ordering that.
One of their signature items at the Greenbrier Restaurant is the Chicken Vera Cruz - Dena said they were famous for that dish. They take a chicken breast and stuff it with a crabmeat dressing, bake it in the oven and top it with provolone cheese. I normally don't get chicken all that much in restaurants, but I'd had so much beef lately that I was sort of getting burnt out on it. (I know! As much as I like beef, sometimes I get tired of it.) Dena talked me into the Chicken Vera Cruz.
Before we got our meals we got salads. Cindy got a dinner salad with a vinaigrette dressing and I got a simple salad with creamy blue cheese. They were fine - nothing fancy.
Cindy's swordfish filet - she pointed out that it was shaped like a heart (awwww....) - had some Cajun seasoning on the top and she ordered mixed vegetables to go along with it. It was light and flaky without a hint of any fishy taste. She let me have a bite of the fish and it was very good.
My Chicken Vera Cruz was something to see. It was a thick chicken breast to begin with, but stuffed with the crabmeat dressing made it even bigger. It was thickly-covered in provolone cheese. I knew this was going to be a pretty rich meal. And Dena didn't steer me wrong - the Chicken Vera Cruz was outstanding. I also got a twice baked potato with my meal, but I don't think I took a bite of that. The Chicken Vera Cruz was delicious, rich tasting, and very filling.
After dinner, Dena tried to entice us into some dessert. Cindy noticed that they had key lime pie on the dessert menu. She asked Dena if they made it in house. "We do," she replied. "But we put it in the freezer so it will keep." We decided to give it a try. It wasn't bad, wasn't great. We've definitely had better. But it was a nice ending to a good meal.
The Greenbrier Restaurant is more comfortable and cozy than fancy and elegant, and that's exactly what we were looking for in a restaurant that evening. The food was above average and the service was efficient and friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed my Chicken Vera Cruz while my wife was more than satisfied with the Cajun-seasoned swordfish that was the Chef's Choice that evening. This was a good find on our trip to Gatlinburg. It's definitely off the beaten path and well worth the trouble to find the place.