By Matt Ward, Knoxville News Sentinel
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I found myself in the parking lot of Harpoon Harry’s searching Wikipedia for the director of the movie “Donnie Darko.” You see, for the last few weeks I had been in a Tears for Fears phase for some reason or another. I must have come across the band through a random Pandora station and felt the unstoppable urge to revisit them. The music of Tears for Fears was prominently featured in the film “Donnie Darko,” specifically a cover by Gary Jules of the song “Mad World.” Hence the wiki search.

I rolled my windows down to take in the nearly 70-degree air on this Saturday night, the day after Christmas. It was 61 degrees at 10 p.m. From my spot in the parking lot my ears were picking up the sound of birds chirping spring songs and the band playing inside Harpoon Harry’s in Pigeon Forge. Warm snaps in the middle of winter always seem to confuse nature.

I don’t often venture to Pigeon Forge, and on this night I took the back way in from Knoxville through Seymour to avoid the delays perpetually associated with traveling down 66 from I-40. The final tiny, winding road took me past a graveyard that overlooked the gigantic King Kong statue on the side of the Hollywood Wax Museum.

Harpoon Harry’s is a massive restaurant that also has multiple bars and live entertainment. The restaurant is directly across the street from Magic Quest off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.

The restaurant has a stone water wheel out front as well as a fountain with a black bear and a bald eagle. Don’t worry, that isn’t the end of the American-as-it-gets imagery. I walked in the front door after taking a moment to look at the menus displayed outside. To the left as I walked in the greeters’ area was a long room full of tables with a stage at the end.

On stage was Stephen Goff & The Royals. They were playing the most rocking version of “Faith” by George Michael I had ever heard. Stephen looked a bit like Keith Urban. Directly in front of me was a sign with the band’s photo and name in the shadow of a 13-foot wooden sculpture of a bear attacking an eagle.

No Rebel flags, however, and no smoking, so it isn’t THAT kind of place. It is classy Southern, as if Daniel Boone’s ancestors made their money in black gold.

Harpoon Harry’s is a creation of Smuggler’s Restaurants in Punta Gorda, Fla. It combines the themes of several of their restaurants into what is the Pigeon Forge Harpoon Harry’s.

I took a seat at the bar, in front of a couple of children’s coloring pages. Bartender Christina greeted me quickly and warmly. We talked and she gave me my obligatory water and then a tour of the place. My goodness, the building is large. We walked upstairs and she showed me a completely different bar and dining area that was almost as big as the downstairs. I asked her “Have you ever seen this place packed?” “Yes, well, pretty close to it anyway,” she responded.

“I am continuously amazed at how all of these restaurants and hotels are able to sustain themselves in this area with so much competition.” I remarked.

Harpoon Harry’s is not your typical family-style Southern seafood restaurant. You know, deep fried everything, which is usual of your typical Southern style family seafood joint. Harpoon Harry’s also offers sushi. In addition, they have some seafood classics like Oysters Rockefeller, grouper, rainbow trout with pecans and of course fish and chips. They also do bucket of king crab, snow crab, Jonah crab and Dungeness crab. These items are all, of course, market price.

The late-night menu offers a more limited selection. For the nights when the restaurant becomes more of a nightlife venue, they have different offerings. You can still get sushi and fish and chips, but no buckets of crab. They have burgers, an oyster po’ boy and a soft shell crab hoagie on the late night menu as well.

So the next time your relatives come in from out of town and they insist on going to Dollywood or Gatlinburg, take them by Harpoon Harry’s and buy them dinner. Yes, YOU buy THEM dinner. Save up, plan, surprise them and get them some fresh seafood in a place where they can take cute mom-and-dad selfies in front of the massive bear fighting an eagle.