Just got back from our quick trip to the south. It’s a nice post-Christmas getaway with lots to do and awesome shopping!
One thing you can count on for the south is Jesus and Fried Food! Amen!
This past trip, I noticed that pretty many restaurants are switching to a Family style of dining – meaning, it’s a buffet right at your own table. I have mixed thoughts on this – but, I’ll explain later. Let’s get to some food.
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is located on The Island in Pigeon Forge. If you’ve never been there before – parking is far to the right but there are trams and trolleys that will run you from the parking lot to the shopping/dining area. Do that.
Also, our first attempt at Paula Deen’s, there was a 2 1/2 hour wait at 8PM. Yeah…not going to happen. Call ahead and you can eliminate an hour of your wait time! Do that.
We called at 4:30 (the next evening) – got to Paula Deen’s around 5:20 and we only waited another 30 minutes. There are lots of rocking chairs outside, a fabulous Paula Deen gift shop AND tons of fun specialty stores on The Island, too. The wait goes by pretty fast.
When I finally got THE text (table is ready!), I went to the hostess stand and she told me to go upstairs via the escalators. The restaurant is beautiful and the view of The Island, especially at night, is awesome. In the land of (self-proclaimed – it’s on practically every sign!) hill billies, this restaurant is trendy and gorgeous. Definitely a bit classier than a lot of restaurants in Pigeon Forge.
Family Style at Paula Deen’s means that for 21.99/person (kids 5-10 are less) you get to choose 3 meats and 4 sides – plus, everyone gets biscuits and a dessert. All items (minus the dessert) are re-fillable too.
We started off with these awesome cheesy garlic biscuits, sitting on top of hoe cakes (fried corncakes) with sweet potato butter.
Game over. We can stop right there. I would have been perfectly happy with foodie life with just those items. Yum. I made a trade with my son, since I was getting full – 1/2 a biscuit for the rest of his hoe cake. He accepted.
For our meats, we choose Fried Chicken (do this!), Fried catfish and lasagna. I needed something other than a fried food. ;)
Our sides – corn casserole, creamed potatoes, sweet potatoes and mac’n’cheese.
EVERYTHING was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t find fault with a single item. The fried chicken was old school – double dredged in seasoned flour, fried in peanut oil for a super crispy, light breading. My daughter was doing a happy dance while eating it. The fried chicken is the only item we got re-filled. I focused on the catfish – light and flaky and the homemade tartar was fantastic too. I blended the tartar with Paula’s hot sauce – it was fabulous (I bought a bottle downstairs at the gift shop).
My only losing item was the dessert – choices…banana pudding (puke, hate bananas), peach cobbler (puke, hate hot fruit) and the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, which proved promising until we discovered that it was a pumpkin cake that night. Boo. My son hated all the choices too.
I think our server (who was fast and friendly – always there with smiles and refills) had a crush on my husband because he was being indecisive and she gave him two desserts.
Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake
I ate a couple of bites – I was too full to really care about dessert anyway.
That Paula Deen REALLY knows what she’s doing cooking wise. But, in general, I’m not a fan of the family style (aka: buffet) dining. I get that Pigeon Forge is crazy busy (and let’s face it, pigs) and it makes sense to focus on limited items.
But, for our family, it just doesn’t make sense. We had a ton of food leftover and we definitely didn’t eat enough to justify a $130 check. You also don’t get to take any “leftover” food – which I get if it’s food that you’ve refilled. But, what if it’s your original amounts of food? (We didn’t finish a single thing and/or refill anything minus the fried chicken) Seems like a LOT of waste going on there. Keep in mind, I’m not a “cheap” person. With that said, because the food is awesome, we’d be willing to go again – we DO only go once a year. PLUS, I got key lime chap stick in the gift shop – HELLO!
Paula Deen – you make my foodie heart sing. Even though I really need a salad and some broccoli right now. ;)