The Best Donuts In Tennessee Are Hiding In This Smoky Mountain Shop

Over half a century of pure sweetness.

Gatlinburg TN Village Shops Donut Friar
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Every morning before the clock strikes 5 a.m., the Smoky Mountains get a little sweeter. That's when the first round of donuts is ready at The Donut Friar, the longtime purveyor of perfect glazed treats at The Village Shops in Gatlinburg.

These days it's hard to imagine Gatlinburg without the European-inspired mini-mall known as The Village Shops. The quaint collection of gift stores, ice cream shops, cafés, and galleries first opened back in 1969. Among that collection of small businesses was The Donut Friar, owned by Carolyn and James Ryan. In fact, according to local news outlet, WATE, the Donut Friar now bears the title of being the only original shop still operating in The Village and, reportedly, the second oldest continuously run family owned food establishment in Sevier County. Needless to say, they know what they are doing with those donuts.

Both Carolyn and James died in 2021, but their legacy lives on in their beloved shop. After more than 50 years, the friendly staff of the Donut Friar are still there every day putting out perfect powdered cake donuts, French crullers, Bavarian cream-filled wonders, cinnamon twists, chocolate glazed, coconut coated, and rainbow-sprinkle covered treats. Of course, man cannot live on donuts alone, so the Donut Friar also sells cinnamon bread, eclairs, danish, croissants, and date bars for those who want a more well-rounded diet.

A donut and coffee doesn't cost 25 cents like it did when the Donut Friar first opened its doors, but it still offers breakfast for under $5 which is hard to find in this world. (Three doughnuts count as breakfast, right?)

If you're looking for the best donuts in the Smoky Mountains—if not the South—head over to Gatlinburg and fill up. Just remember to say please and thank you.

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