Revitalizing Downtown Sevierville with Reimagined Southern Dishes – The Appalachian Restaurant
You can walk into The Appalachian Restaurant to find couples celebrating anniversaries, business dinners, and families unwinding after a day in the Smoky Mountains. The restaurant is in downtown Sevierville, which is amid an immense revitalization. As locals and tourists experience the new downtown, they are welcomed with a brand-new vibe… and the unique style of Southern hospitality is capturing the hearts of all.
The Appalachian Restaurant in Sevierville is one of the pioneer businesses of the downtown restoration. We recently sat down with David Rule, chef and partner of Mountain Hospitality Concepts, to learn more about his fascinating background and his mission to tell a story through unique dishes. Mountain Hospitality Concepts includes The Appalachian, Trotter’s Whole Hog BBQ, and The Pines Downtown, which have all been assets to the city’s growth.
Locally Renowned Chef, David Rule
While there is no lineage of restaurateurs in his family, Rule was inspired by the time spent at his first job. At age 15, Rule worked various roles at the 411 Restaurant in nearby Maryville, TN. The “meat-and-three” family-owned establishment served homestyle, Southern food, which is what Rule grew up on.
“It took me a while before they’d actually let me cook,” Rule recalled.
He washed dishes and worked every position until ultimately, he got to cook. Rule grew to love the environment of working in a restaurant and from that, his career began.
Rule has since worked for the Aubrey’s Restaurant Group, Dancing Bear Lodge and Blackberry Farm where he learned many culinary skills including butchering. Chef Rule then opened The Walnut Kitchen in Maryville, TN, as a partner. Rule is a locally renowned chef who is self-taught but also trained by his experiences in these fine establishments.
With decades of hands-on experience and natural talent, Rule is locally admired as a master of Southern Appalachian cuisine. He stays true to his roots while exercising creativity. The proof is in the puddin’, or rather, Pots de Crème.
The Appalachian Restaurant is a Dividing Line
Just as Downtown Sevierville was donning its revitalization, this gourmet yet informal restaurant quickly sparked the interest of Smoky Mountain locals and visitors. As the establishment celebrates its 2nd anniversary, it stands proudly among many new neighboring businesses and sister restaurants. The Appalachian Restaurant is a creative partnership with local developer, Austin Williams.
“Austin and I complement each other very well but one thing we have in common is a sense of urgency,” Rule explained as he discussed how rapidly Downtown Sevierville has grown since The Appalachian’s opening.
Rule has witnessed a huge transformation in Sevierville’s downtown landscape. In 2020, the City of Sevierville completed a streetscape project which spurred the beginning of the city’s transformation.
“Really in a short time frame, they finished the streetscape project, the buildings have been improved, and really the biggest thing I’ve seen is the amount of traffic. It’s an awesome mix. What I like about this location is it’s a dividing line of the local population and the traveler’s population.”
Sevierville is known as the hometown of the Smokies. Sometimes overlooked for neighboring Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Sevierville provides locals with respite and treats travelers to a change of pace. Rule beamed as he explained how he enjoys serving local friends and family while also meeting visitors from all over the country. His passion and excitement for welcoming all guests was evident.
Downtown Sevierville’s Finest Dining
As downtown’s restoration is still in its infancy, there are already numerous shops, attractions and restaurants including The Appalachian. According to their website, The Appalachian “was created to tell our story and pay homage to the Smoky Mountain & East Tennessee region.” Rule explained that his goal is to present Appalachia in a modern and contemporary form.
“There’s some refinement here; there’s quite a bit of diversity, especially here and now,” Rule said. “While we pay homage to the past especially through our food, or with our language and hospitality, we also like to present things that might be a little out of the realm of what you would consider when you think about Appalachia.”
Caught somewhere between the Smoky Mountain’s rustic charm and the glamour of big-city life, you’ll find The Appalachian Restaurant.
The interior design of The Appalachian Restaurant is a unique mix of authentic Appalachian elements such as repurposed barn wood and hand-crafted tables. Modern finishes refine these rustic elements. A compelling vibe echoes through the restaurant as guests enjoy the grandeur of curated, reinvented Appalachian dishes.
Chef David Rule is locally acclaimed for his distinctive ability to disassemble traditional Southern dishes and reconstruct them in a contemporary way. His intent is to take a traditional dish, like fried chicken, and refine it with different techniques, pair it with other flavors, and take it to the next level. He is intentional in his methods and contemplative of what is in-season at the time.
Rule’s team sources quality, local ingredients and adapts the menu daily. East Tennessee is rich in agriculture. The Appalachian partners with many local and regional producers including farmers, artisan cheese makers, breweries, and coffee roasters. In fact, they proudly list their partners on the first page of their menu. The Appalachian manifests the farm-to-table movement, but perpetuates it as a way-of-life rather than a culinary trend.
Historically, “farm-to-table” is exactly how natives in rural Appalachia survived. Using in-season and locally sourced food is how Rule’s ancestors ate. He keeps that idea in mind as his menu evolves throughout the year.
The Appalachian’s Menu
The Fried Chicken Skins starter is a standout in The Appalachian’s menu. Of all of his reimagined dishes, this has been Rule’s favorite. Fried chicken is a Southern staple. With this item Chef Rule brines, breads, fries, and ultimately drizzles the skins with honey and West Virginia Sea Salt. The result is a unique yet familiar ode to the South’s most famous dish.
Chef Rule has picked up incredible techniques throughout his career. His time spent butchering at Blackberry Farm inspired him to create a delectable Hanger Steak entrée. If he could only serve one dish at The Appalachian, Rule admits it would be that meal.
This cut of meat was once obscure to the home-chef although prized by butchers for its rich flavor. Rule explained that he’s been refining the dish throughout his career. The hanger steak cut of beef is not generally the most tender. However when done right, as The Appalachian does it, the dish is perfectly tender and flavorful. Grilling the steak over a wood-burning hearth brings the flavor out even further.
“It eats well and has the most intense beef flavor of any cut of meat,” Rule explained.
Other dishes appearing on the menu include Rainbow Trout, Duck Breast, Lamb Chops, and Rabbit Confit as well as more casual items such as the Appalachian Burger, Fried Chicken, and Fish & Chips. Diners can order from a vast array of wood-grilled meats and a la carte sides. Starters and desserts round out the selections.
Rule gives his team credit for their contribution. He collaborates with them to craft new dishes and empowers them to be creative.
“I try my best to ensure that the chefs that we have on staff have quite a bit of creative input, because Its extremely important,” Rule says. “Especially as we’ve grown, the dishes that we have on our menu are definitely collaborative between myself and the chefs.”
Their work clearly celebrates the Appalachian region and transports guests back in time and simultaneously into the future with their culinary creations.
“We cook how we feel,” Rule stated simply.
What to Expect at The Appalachian Restaurant
Expect ambiance, refined yet relaxed cuisine, and an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the Smoky Mountains or East Tennessee. The kitchen is open and guests can see the chefs in action at the wood-burning hearth. From beginning to end, the thrilling experience is comforting at the same time.
The restaurant prints a daily menu, so guests can expect each visit to be different. The commitment to serving fresh food at its peak is a reality that guests appreciate. View the menu online; however, expect the exact offerings to be somewhat different during your visit.
Considered “fine-dining”, The Appalachian Restaurant’s atmosphere is not uptight. The restaurant’s relaxed service is the perfect example of Southern hospitality; there are no pretensions.
Rule encourages families to bring their kids for a unique experience. There is no kid’s menu, per say, although the restaurant offers smaller portions of some regular dishes for kids. The regular Hangar Steak rethought as steak and fries is an example of this. A meal at The Appalachian Restaurant is a great option for the entire family.
Chef’s Table Experience
There is a special table in the kitchen that seats up to six guests, and it is only available once per night. Diners who reserve this experience can indulge in a five-course chef’s-tasting menu, and also an optional beverage package. The Chef’s Table Experience is curated daily.
This experience, which can take up to two hours, provides guests with a front row view of the kitchen’s action and a fascinating behind-the-scenes feel for this unique restaurant. The Chef’s Table Experience is subject to availability and guests can call the restaurant directly to make this special reservation.
“Travelers coming into town are looking for an experience, and this is definitely an experience,” Rule said as he described the Chef’s Table option.
Visiting The Appalachian and Downtown Sevierville
Visitors can make general reservations on The Appalachian’s website. Before or after your meal, take in the excitement of Downtown Sevierville.
Resting at the foothills of the famous Smoky Mountains sits a charming little town full of vibrance, culture, and hospitality. See Sevierville for yourself and taste the story of Southern Appalachia. Historic Downtown Sevierville offers lodging, dining, shopping, attractions, and an experience unlike any other! It’s time to start planning your trip to the hometown of the Smokies, Sevierville, Tennessee.
Authored in Appalachia || Amy Morton