Tennessee is more than the heart of country music, home of the Great Smoky Mountains and epicenter of smooth American whiskey. It’s also making its mark as a destination for mouthwatering barbecue.
You can now experience a unique culinary adventure in East Tennessee along the BBQ Trail in Loudon County, which is located about 30 minutes southwest of Knoxville.
Its chamber of commerce has teamed up with four BBQ restaurants to create the BBQ Trail Challenge.
How the BBQ Trail Challenge works
To participate in the challenge, travel to the four participating BBQ restaurants that are touted as some of the region’s best BBQ pit stops.
The chamber of commerce promises something for everyone. According to their website, “Whether you’re a smoky or sweet BBQ fan, you’ll surely find a flavor you’ll love. Be sure to try some of the signature sides and sauces as well — you won’t be disappointed.”
Once you visit each restaurant, be sure to save your receipt. If you visit all four restaurants, submit a picture of your four receipts on the BBQ Trail website to receive an $18 discount code to use on Visit Loudon County merchandise.
Available merchandise includes mugs, puzzles, shirts, totes and more. You will also receive a free collector’s button from each restaurant on the BBQ Trail.
The challenge is available year-round, so the adventure can be coordinated in conjunction with your next visit to East Tennessee.
Smokin’F BBQ & Barn
The Smokin’F BBQ & Barn is located in Philadelphia, Tennessee, and is run by Jay and Brooke Frankovich.
They run a food truck Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and dinner with live music at The Feed Lot Fridays and Saturdays from 4-9 p.m.
The food truck menu changes and is updated on their website. Menu items often include nachos and sandwiches with smoked brisket, pork, chicken or sausage and a few side options.
The Feed Lot menu includes smoked prime-grade beef brisket, pork, sausage, chicken, ribs and wings. Meats can be purchased in half-pound increments or on a sandwich.
Sides include cole slaw, potato salad, Texas tot casserole, smoked bacon mac, jalapeno cream corn and peach baked beans. They also offer a kid’s menu and desserts.
In addition to serving fresh barbecue straight from the pit, they enjoy bringing people together from all walks of life. At Smokin’F, kids can play and watch the animals while parents can enjoy live music.
Jay’s favorite meat to cook is brisket. He attributes that to his Texas heritage. He sources his beef from a farm in Georgia, where he knows exactly what the cattle are fed and how they are processed.
To confirm the food truck location, menu and hours, visit the Smokin’F website.
Located at 1562 Highway 72 North in Loudon, Tennessee, Taste-O-Texas Gourmet Barbeque prides itself on providing authentic Central Texas style barbeque in East Tennessee.
Barbecue is available Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They’re closed on Sunday.
The menu includes smoked sausage, brisket and pulled pork that can be ordered on a plate with two sides, on a sandwich or loaded on tater tots, nachos, a baked potato or mac and cheese.
Although their meat is typically served without sauce, they do offer four sauces on the side. Sassy is their sweet and tangy sauce. Their three spicy sauces include Smokin’, Blazin’ and Backdraft.
Available sides are mustard-dill potato salad, cilantro lime cole slaw, seasoned tater tots, fried okra, mac and cheese, smoky pinto beans and a garden salad.
They also offer a lil Texan kids menu, family packs and desserts, including specialty cheesecakes. For the latest on their menu and hours, visit the Taste-O-Texas website.
Calhoun’s has a chain of BBQ restaurants located across Tennessee. Its Loudon County location is at 4550 City Park Drive in Lenoir City, Tennessee.
It all started in 1983 when the restaurant’s ribs were named the best in America. They still use the same recipe today and have won several awards since then.
The Loudon County location is dockside on Fort Loudon Lake overlooking the Fort Loudon Dam. They have nightly entertainment on the deck.
The menu is substantial. In addition to their award-winning smoked ribs and pork, they offer burgers, sandwiches, steaks, chops, wings and salads. They even have hickory smoked prime rib on Friday and Saturday.
Appetizers include dishes like southern fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and bacon-wrapped beef brisket burnt ends. They have several sides, including baked cinnamon apples, Smoky Mountain baked beans, baked potatoes and spinach Maria.
Calhoun’s has a Tiki Hut located adjacent to the restaurant that caters to the boating community. It offers the same menu. Both locations also have a full drink menu with specialty cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic lemonades and aqua frescas.
Here are a few Food Drink Life cocktail recipes you can sip on while planning your BBQ Trail agenda.
For the latest on their menu and hours, visit Calhoun’s website.
“Our family loves to head up to the Smoky Mountains every few months and escape into the gorgeous views, delicious eats and fun activities. It’s our happy place. We are definitely foodies, and one of our favorite places to stop for a bite to eat is at Calhoun’s. The service is always solid, the menu has plenty of options for the whole family and we know we’ll walk away feeling satisfied after we visit. Plan ahead and get there early because it’s definitely a popular destination for many visitors. Be sure you slow down to enjoy all that the area has to offer. There is so much to take in and enjoy.”
— Nicole W., Everyday Thrifty
Sons of Smoke
The fourth stop on the BBQ Trail is Sons of Smoke located, at 304 Cedar Street in Loudon, Tennessee.
Pitmasters Chris Freels and Andy Walker started participating in barbecue competitions in 2012 under the team name Sons of Smoke. After winning multiple awards, the Loudon County natives opened their BBQ restaurant in downtown Loudon.
One of their primary missions is to give back to their hometown. Right on the front of their menu, it says: “Without the support of our community, we would not be where we are today.”
In addition to chopped brisket, BBQ pulled pork, ribs and smoke chicken, Sons of Smoke also offers smoked bologna and wings. All of these can be served on a plate with two sides or ordered by the pound, dozen or rack.
There are plenty of appetizers to choose from, plus all their smoked meats are available piled on baked potatoes, fries, nachos, sandwiches and quesadillas.
Sides include baked beans, potato salad, mac and cheese, cole slaw, green beans, onion rings and fries.
On Friday, they serve a thinly smashed and fried pork tenderloin sandwich. The pork is two to three times the size of the bun. Saturday, they serve up 12-inch pizzas and Sunday’s special is smoked meatloaf.
They also offer steak nights and holiday specials.For the latest on their menu and hours, visit Sons of Smoke on Facebook.
Other things to do in Loudon County
Loudon County is known as the Lakeway to the Smokies because the county has several lakes and rivers, making it an ideal destination for boating and fishing.
It’s also home to the East Tennessee Lakeshore Trail, which is a 31-mile accessible National Recreation Trail that travels along the Tellico Lake shoreline.
Loudon County prides itself in combining agriculture and tourism in engaging and enjoyable experiences. Families are invited out to several farms to learn about agriculture and purchase freshly crafted cheeses, wines and produce.