Thorn Hill, TN — There’s something extremely comforting about stopping at a roadside restaurant for a cup of coffee and slice of pie when you’re on a motorcycle trip; something very Mayberry R.F.D. about the whole thing.

Last fall I traveled to eastern Tennessee on my Road King to learn about moonshine. That’s right, White Lightning; Corn Likker; Mountain Dew; Tennessee Tranquilizer; Granny’s rheumatiz medicine. I came here to ride the White Lightning Trail, a network of backroads used by bootleggers and moonshiners back in the day to transport their hooch. Along the way I met some fascinating characters, rode beautiful backroads and mountain ‘hollers,’ and ate some great food.

At Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant, I tried something I’d never even heard of before: Vinegar Pie. The Clinch Mountain overlook sits along the East Tennessee Crossing Scenic Byway–US 25E–which runs from spectacular Cumberland Gap in the north to Cherokee National Forest in the southern part of the state. When you pull off at the overlook, you’ll see a sign for the restaurant. But first, pull into the scenic overlook and soak in the incredible view of the lakes and valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains, then when you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the restaurant.

Restaurant owner Krystal Scott describes the taste as “like lemon with a kick,” and I wholeheartedly agree. The pie looks like lemon custard, but vinegar has been substituted for lemons. The recipe supposedly originated during the Depression when vinegar was cheaper than lemons.

After your first bite, and the initial shock of vinegar taste, the pie is sweet and tart at the same time–great with a cup of black coffee. I loved it. I met a couple other bikers at the restaurant — Steve Slagle and Walter McQueen from nearby Greeneville, TN. Walter said they love to ride the area: “This here is biker paradise, any direction you go.”  And they always try to stop for vinegar pie. Steve told me it “brings back memories of my aunt’s cooking. She lived to be 91 years old; she had her own recipe.”

When I told Krystal’s husband Wayne that I was doing an article for Rider magazine about moonshinin’ and the White Lightning Trail, he asked if I’d heard of Popcorn Sutton, a legendary and prolific local moonshiner. Sure, I said, did you know him? “Sure did,” Wayne answered. How well, I asked? “About 300 quarts a month worth,” he replied. Turns out Wayne once ran a watering hole that was supplied by Popcorn Sutton.

In these parts, moonshine and vinegar pie go way back.

View from Clinch Mountain

FOR MORE INFORMATION: — Krystal and her husband also run Krystal’s Clinch Mountain Cabins right by the restaurant. If you’ve had too much vinegar pie, or just want to spend the night overlooking a beautiful mountain valley, give them a call.

190 Lookout Mountain Rd.

Thorn Hill, TN 37881


Walter McQueen & Steve Slagle

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

View all posts by Glen Abbott »

  1. Dawn Cook

    February 23, 2012

    I have a vinegar pie in the oven as I type this! I grew up eating my great grandmothers vinegar pie and haven’t had any since she died 20 yrs ago. I didn’t have her recipe and didn’t want to waste my time trying to replicate it just to be disappointed. Luckily, I received a letter from my grandmother this week with Grams vinegar pie recipe enclosed.
    Hubby & I rode the DragonTail last summer while staying in Pigeon Forge for the weekend. Had such a beautiful ride through the mountains that we’re going back for vacation this summer. Will definitely check out Clinch Mountain Rest. and compare their vinegar pie to Grams. Gonna check out their cabins, too.

    • Travelin' Gringo

      February 24, 2012

      Sounds great Dawn, thanks for the comment. I also rode the Tail of the Dragon last summer and wrote about it for HOG (should be out this year). Great ride, beautiful area!

  2. eat-laugh-love-anon

    January 21, 2011

    I love the little glimpses you provide into American backwaters and byways.
    I thought drinking coffee and eating pie at roadside diners was only in the movies (like policemen eating donuts). You have just been elevated to a movie star in my books!
    eat-laugh-love-anon recently posted..The Wedding Shoe Shuffle

  3. Solo Travel Girl

    January 20, 2011

    Now I have to try vinegar pie!

  4. John in France

    January 20, 2011

    When I run out of lemons off my tree, I’ll know what to do now!!
    John in France recently posted..French Film Festival 2011 – Vive la différence!

  5. The NVR Guys

    January 20, 2011

    You had me at Pie.
    The NVR Guys recently posted..Why It Pays To Be Elite

  6. RidinWind

    January 20, 2011

    We take a ride to Clinch Mountain at least once a year – not only for the rides, but the Vinegar Pie is a Must Stop!! Good stuff!

  7. Adam

    January 20, 2011

    I love pie, and I love vinegar, so I would definitely give this a try. I always love the little roadside restaurants myself when we’re on a road trip. We just started paying attention and stopping at places like these instead of just getting to our destination as fast as possible. So many great places and experiences if you go a little slower and pay more attention.
    Adam recently posted..You’re Married Why Would You Stay in a Hostel

  8. Travelin' Gringo

    January 20, 2011

    Thanks TrevelBlggr! You’re actually braver than me… I didn’t try crickets in Mexico and don’t really ever want to!

  9. TravelBlggr

    January 20, 2011

    Vinegar pie is now on my bucket list of foods to try. And I thought I was being ballsy trying crickets in Mexico!

    Glad I found you blog on TBEX. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
    TravelBlggr recently posted..Heart Shaped Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

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