Pharmacist and gentleman farmer Bill Kilpatrick was worried about his failing tobacco crop. Advised to grow apples, he grew so many, his wife and son sold them from the garage of their farmhouse in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Fast forward a few decades and that farmhouse is Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, part of a thriving complex that houses the Applewood Farmhouse Grill, retail shops, ice cream shop, winery and cider mill. Kevin, the little boy who sold apples and grew up in the farmhouse, works at Applewood, along with his father.
You can enjoy all things apple, but the fritters are the star.
The Complex at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant
As we made out way into Sevierville on a narrow, twisty back road into town, we drove right past the Applewood complex on our way to the hotel. I was surprised at how large it was, stretching about as long as a strip shopping center.
The bright white of the buildings was punctuated by the red, white and blue banners and the bright red of apple symbols, set against the green hills of the apple orchard.
Applewood is like Disney meets Cracker Barrel, and I mean that in the best sense. The grounds are clean, the smiling staff members are dressed in period costumes, there are several themed shops and the parking lot is huge with plenty of room for large buses.
With its waving flags and apple-based products, it has a wholesome quality to it, which I imagine is just one of the reasons more than 1 million people visit every year.
The restaurants are so popular that sometimes lines can sometimes rival those at Disney. But no worries if you encounter a bit of a wait. There’s plenty to occupy you and you’ll get a text when your table is ready.
Take a peek at the taffy makers as they roll out sheets of striped sugar and cut them into small strips. Or step into the cidery or the winery for a tasting. Visit the Christmas shop or candy shop to pick up a few gift items or a few things for yourself.
Or head to the large general store, housed in a barn built in 1910 where you’ll find fun gift items and just about anything apple-related.
Related story: Things to Do in Sevierville, Tennessee, Edge of the Smoky Mountains
Dining at Applewood Farmhouse Grill or Restaurant
Our first meal was breakfast at Applewood Farmhouse Grill, the second restaurant to open to handle the growing crowds at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.
As soon as we sat down in one of the several dining areas, we were greeted with a glass of complimentary Apple Julep, a refreshing mixture of apple, orange, lemon and pineapple juice.
It wasn’t long before our server placed a warm basket of apple cinnamon muffins and the famous apple fritters served with apple butter. They are truly delicious, but I knew if I ate more than one, I wouldn’t be hungry for breakfast. If you want to try those famous fritters you can buy a box of mix at the general store, or try the recipe below.
I had a Southwest style omelet, which seemed large enough to feed a family. My husband, Chris, couldn’t resist the cinnamon toast pancake with bacon and eggs.
We dined with Scott King, Director of Sales, who shared some fun tidbits about Applewood with us, like the fact that a couple sitting at the next table comes there every single day for breakfast and asks for the same server. And that the staff here tends to stick around. More than 200 of the employees of Applewood have been there an average of 20 years.
While old favorite menu items remain, Chef Roman Campbell, who joined us at breakfast, told us he adds new menu items every year, some inspired by his travels. The idea for the cinnamon toast pancakes came from a hotel in Las Vegas.
For dinner one night we visited the old farmhouse built in 1920, which is now Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant where Kevin Kilpatrick grew up. Scott pointed out the beautiful hand-carved cabinetry that was made by Lewis Buckner, a free slave who worked on several homes in the area. The home has been expanded and has several seating areas and a large outside seating area.
As you may have guessed about a restaurant that specializes in southern comfort food, the dinner menu includes items like meatloaf, fried chicken, pork chops, chicken and dumplings and fried cod. Entrées includes a section of all-you-can-eat sides like collard greens, fried okra, broccoli casserole and mac & cheese. Chicken is popular here, with ½ million pounds consumed every year.
We had to try the vegetable soup, a tradition here and the one recipe that is not shared. Much like the recipe for Coke, it’s a closely held secret. But other recipes are available in the “Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant & Farmhouse Grill Southern Comfort Cookbook.” You can find it in the general store or the online shop.
The sides are all-you-can-eat, but I didn’t need to ask our friendly server to bring me extra portions of anything – there’s no way I could finish what I had. I enjoyed the fried chicken, broccoli casserole and green beans, while Chris had fried cod, fried okra and collard greens.
Applewood does not serve alcohol, but you can bring your own with you and no corkage fee is charged. If you’re fond of sweet wines, stop in the Applewood Winery and pick up a bottle to bring. All the wine is produced on site.
If you’ve got room left, try one of the desserts like peanut butter chocolate chip pie, double chocolate cake, banana pudding or blackberry cobbler. And yes, the portions are just as large as you may imagine.
Lunch items include quiche, grilled cheese, Applewood pecan chicken salad and steak burgers.
Applewood also does to-go orders and if you’re traveling with a group, check out the Cabin Packs to take back and enjoy.
Recipe for The Famous Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant Apple Fritters
(From the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant & Farmhouse Grill Southern Comfort Cookbook)
1 cup milk
3 cups cake flour
1 orange, rind and juice
4 Tbsp margarine
¼ cup sugar
4 cups oil
1 Tsp vanilla
½ Tsp teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tsp baking powder
2 medium apples, chopped
Beat egg. In a mixing bowl, combine the milk, egg, sugar, and melted margarine. Add the orange juice, rind, chopped apples (skin may be left on), and vanilla to the mixture. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Sift together the flow, salt and baking powder. Stir into milk mixture with a spoon until blended. Do not over mix!
Preheat oil in a 2-quart sauce pot to 350 degrees. Drop end of tablespoon into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. Turn so they brown evenly. Allow to cool.
Tip: Serve with apple butter or honey butter. Honey butter: 2 parts softened butter to 1 part honey. Sprinkled with powdered sugar.
– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief