One of the best parts of exploring a new destination – or even an old favorite – is immersing yourself in the local food culture. And nowhere is that truer than the Smoky Mountains around Maggie Valley. These ancient mountains may get their name from the iconic mist that dances around its peaks, but locals will tell you that the real smoke in the Smokies comes from its delicious BBQ. Just follow the sweet and savory haze down Soco Road with an aroma that stretches to Waynesville, Franklin and beyond.

It all started back in the 19th century when the resourceful Appalachian people had to make do with what they had at their disposal. Pigs were a low-maintenance source of meat, and pork barbecue grew from a lowly staple to one of the most popular meals across the Smokies. From dry-rubbed ribs, sauce-drenched pork shoulder, homestyle smoked BBQ – and even, beef, chicken, and shrimp – Maggie Valley does BBQ right.

Join in the big debate with BBQ loyalists over which sauces and seasonings reign supreme. Revel in dishes that are bursting with flavor and indulge your tastebuds in these three spots where locals go to eat the best BBQ in Maggie Valley.

Pop’s Butts on the Creek  Maggie Valley, NC

Satisfy your cravings for the best hickory-smoked meats in the mountains at Pop’s Butts on the Creek. Dive into award-winning homemade sauces at Maggie Valley’s oldest BBQ restaurant. Order a sandwich plate or a large picnic-style meal and grab a table on the outdoor deck. Soak up scenic views and mountain breezes as you pig out beside the burbling Jonathan Creek. And don’t skimp on the sides. You’ll get fresh seasonal vegetables, and the mind-blowing desserts – like all the other items on the menu – are always homemade.

1584 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751 | 828-926-7885

Haywood SmokehouseDillsboro, NC

Serving up the best Texas-style BBQ outside of Texas, Haywood Smokehouse is a must-visit. Passionate about their food, the folks at Haywood Smokehouse say that it all comes down to great meat. They smoke their brisket for 16-20 hours and butts for 14-18 hours with only local hickory wood. The result? Fall-off-the-bone BBQ that will have you coming back for more. Add in their flavor-filled house-made sauce and classic sides like green beans and mac-and-cheese, and you’ve got an unforgettable meal to fuel the rest of your BBQ journey around Maggie Valley and on into the Smokies.

403 Haywood Rd, Dillsboro, NC 28725 | 828-631-9797

Fat Buddies Ribs & BBQ Waynesville, NC & Franklin, NC

Legend has it that Great, Great Grandpa Buddy started smoking meat to get through the lean times. What began out of necessity turned into a mouthwatering tradition that was passed down throughout the generations. And you can join in on the family’s secret when you stop by Fat Buddies Ribs & BBQ in either Franklin or Waynesville. Their skill in basting the slow-cooked meat creates an incredible smoky flavor that all BBQ fans crave. Try their Rack Attack, a full rack of smoked baby back ribs, or opt for the BBQ chicken platter. No matter what you order, you’re guaranteed to get some of the best BBQ in Maggie Valley.

311 Westgate Plaza, Franklin, NC 28734 | 828-349-4743

193 Waynesville Plaza, Waynesville, NC 28786 | 828-456-6368

Make the Meadowlark Motel your home base as you taste your way through Maggie Valley. Check out our rooms and cabin rentals and book your stay here!

Want to learn more about Maggie Valley? Check out this episode of the Gateway to the Smokies podcast, where Meadowlark Motel owner Joseph Franklyn McElroy talks with Teresa Smith from the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce & Area Visitors Bureau.