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Meal Times in Past Times

Article by Kathleen Walls
Photos by Martin and Kathleen Walls
The Old Mill

Pigeon Forge began with Love. Literally. Isaac Love opened the first business there on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in 1820. Since Isaac was a blacksmith and the business was a forge, the town combined the name of the river with the forge to get Pigeon Forge. Then in 1830, his son, William, built a mill. Mountain folk around Pigeon Forge considered the mill a hub. Taking care of the chore of grinding their corn became a special treat. Farm families would converge on the mill with their grain to be ground by its massive water powered stones. While waiting their turn, the men could converse about drought, pests and what was happening in their lives. Women could gossip about clothes, the kids and what was happening in their lives. Kids could frolic, play and talk about what their parents expected them to do and what was happening in their lives. It helped provide food for the table and a recreational place for the entire family. The mill was one of the favorite places in Sevier County then. It still is today.

The Old Mill Restaurant on the banks of the
Little Pigeon River

The Old Mill District is still a hub. There are shops, cute and eclectic, like the Old Mill General Store, Toy Bin, Farmhouse Kitchen and Sassafras, where you can find a unique gift or special souvenir. Old time craftsmen and women are is still present in the form of Pigeon River Pottery where you can watch a potter create that special vase or bowl. But some things never change. Food is still at the heart of the Old Mill.



Display at the Pottery shop


You will find an old fashioned ice cream parlor and a candy kitchen and two restaurants, The Pottery House Café and Grille and the district's very special signature restaurant, The Old Mill Restaurant. People from all over drop in at the Old Mill restaurant for its great southern-style food. They can relax as they look out the window at the same Little Pigeon River farm families tarried besides over a century ago. They can talk about fashion or the economy or what is happening in their lives. Yes, some things never change.



Dining at the Old Mill Restaurant feels like a trip back in time. The ambience is old timber frame. There is something special about real wood. It's not laminated, or plywood, or fancy polished paneling. It's honest wood just like the wood used to build the original old mill. The food isn't fancy gourmet dishes either. it's down home Southern dishes. But, oh man, is it GOOD!

The corn chowder, salad and all the trimmings

Your meal should start with the Old Mill Restaurant's signature corn chowder. Yeah, I know. You've had corn chowder before. Trust me. It wasn't like this corn chowder. This stuff is special. Then there are the corn fritters. Another "must try." After the soup and fritters, you're on your own. All the food is good so you can't go wrong. I had the chicken pot pie and just made a pig of myself with it. Martin had the Fried Seafood Platter. Another winner.

The fried Seafood Platter

If you can make your conscience stop whispering "cholesterol" there are the good ol' Southern fried foods those of us who grew up in the South enjoyed back before "high fat content" became dirty words. County Fried Steak,(naturally it's slathered with a heaping helpin' of that delicious gravy) Fried Chicken, (big healthy servings) Southern Fried Pork Chops or Fried Country Ham, (those pack a double wammee) or you could go all out and have Fried Liver. All the other Southern dishes are present here too: Chicken and Dumplings, Turkey and Dressing, then there is Pot Roast or Bar-BG Pork Ribs. Notice there is a lot of pork choices. That's Southern!

But if you want to be more health conscious, they have great seafood and even vegetable plates. But don't worry about getting your required serving of veggies no matter what you order. You get a salad and the best tasting green beans ever along with almost anything. But you aren't going to get nutritional advice from me in this article. I'm not your doctor, I'm just a food and travel writer. I'll tell you what taste good and let you deal with that pesky conscience.

Is that pecan pie to die for or what?

One more order here: do save room for dessert! That is important. It comes with the meal. Again there is only one right choice here. Trust me on this matter too and order the Pecan Pie. It's made with fresh pecans and baked right there.

Just to prove I'm right about the chowder and the pie here are the restaurant's recipes. Trust me again when I say it's a lot more fun to go and try then out there instead of cooking them at home.


Corn Chowder

1 tbs margarine
3 cups diced onions
3/4 cup crumbs (from unsalted oyster crackers)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups water
1 cup clam juice
2 cups chicken, beef or ham broth
3 cups diced potatoes
2 cups half and half
2 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted


1 red and 1 green pepper, chopped and sauteed briefly in butter, add salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste.

Mix liquids and butter, add potatoes and onions, and cook until done. Mix cracker crumbs, flour and seasonings. Add to potato and onion mixture. Add red and green peppers, mix well, bring to a boil, add cream and corn, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

We use special chowder seasoning which is not available at grocery stores. To compensate for this ingredient, season to taste with garlic powder and onion powder.

Makes 2 quarts

Old Mill Pecan Pie Mix

4 whole eggs
4 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of cool water
1 jar Old Mill Restaurant Pecan Pie Mix


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine pie mix with the 4 eggs, 4 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of water in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine all ingredients, but do not incorporate a lot of air.
Pour mixture in a 9" deep dish pie crust, or 2 regular 9" pie crusts.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until set.

Cool at room temperature before cutting. Pie becomes firmer as it cools.


For more info: www.old-mill.com

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.


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