Unpopular Opinion: A review of Paula Deen’s Restaurant in Pigeon Forge: ‘Just OK’

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen at the Island in Pigeon Forge

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You’ve been asking for it and it’s finally here – our review of Paula Deen’s restaurant in Pigeon Forge.

Is Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen worth it? Here we’ll break down the experience, the price and the overall atmosphere to help you decide.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen opened in Pigeon Forge in 2015, seemingly on the heels of Deen trying to reinvent herself after being let go from The Food Network.

You could say that this restaurant is one that might feel out of place in the area, but for the sake of this review, I’ll simply focus on the restaurant.

And it is one of the more unique dining experiences in the Smoky Mountains area.

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I took my mom to eat at Paula Deen’s for a Sunday lunch.

The wait time was only 15 minutes, and you get a text when your table is ready.

I appreciate the text method, because it means you can sneak off and sip moonshine samples across the street at Ole Smoky if there’s a long wait.

But as a disclaimer: If you show up for dinner, you’ll probably be waiting somewhere to the tune of about three hours.

They do not accept reservations.

The line wrapped around Paula Deen's Family Kitchen on Christmas Day (Photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
The line wrapped around Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen on Christmas Day (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Since our wait was short, I spent the few minutes shopping around at the downstairs shop, which is full of southern memorabilia and cookbooks of Deen family recipes.

After I received the text, we went up the escalator to wait in another line and checked in at a desk.

Then we waited in a third line for our party to be called.

It sort of feels like waiting for a ride at an amusement park — the kind where you think you’re about to get on, but instead, around the corner, you find another section of line.

It’s quite the operation for a restaurant, but for the most part it moves pretty smoothly, even though you kinda get the feeling you’re being herded like cattle.

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The Gift Shop at Paula Deen's Family Kitchen
The gift shop at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is full of southern memorabilia and cookbooks (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

The most important thing to know about this restaurant is that it features family style dining, which means everyone at your table must agree on the main entrees and sides.

This way, I suppose, it feels more like home cooking.

There are two main choices, “The Albany” and “The Savannah” — which is a fancy way of saying “pick-2” or “pick-3” for the main entree.

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Is Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen worth the price? 

To be honest, I wasn’t completely blown away by the food, but it’s not all bad. So here’s some pros and cons:

The pros: 

  • This restaurant is at a prime location in The Island in Pigeon Forge
  • You get a great view while dining
  • The appetizer biscuits are fantastic
  • The food keeps coming with unlimited helpings
  • Everyone chooses their own dessert
Bread and Sweet Tea (Photo by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com)
The biscuits are quite tasty at Paula Deen’s (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

The cons:  

I find that the family style dining, although unique, doesn’t necessarily feel super practical.

If someone in your party has food allergies or dietary restrictions, good luck finding something that can work for everyone. And in case you’re wondering, kids don’t get their own special menu items, either.

I understand that we’re supposed to feel like we’re gathered around for a traditional meal at home, but I find customization one of the main perks of eating out.

Secondly, the food is just okay.

For the sides, we ordered the broccoli casserole, creamed corn, creamed potatoes and mac and cheese. For the main dishes, we ordered the fried catfish and chicken and dumplings.

Out of all of those things, I really enjoyed the catfish, macaroni, corn and potatoes. The rest was just … not bad.

For example, let’s start with the chicken and dumplings. I have to rely on my mom’s opinion here because I didn’t try them due to caution around my peanut allergy.

But, we didn’t have a choice because my mom doesn’t eat red meat, so that left us with only one option (the catfish) that could work for both of us.

The interaction went something like this:

Waitress: “The chicken is fried in peanut oil.” 

Me: “What about the chicken and dumplings?”

Waitress: “Yeah, that’s the same fried chicken.”

Wait, what?

Did this restaurant just admit to using fried chicken in their chicken and dumplings? I don’t claim to be a great cook, but even I know that traditional, southern chicken and dumplings is not made with leftover fried chicken.

But even without this interesting revelation from our waitress, my southern mama could instantly tell that the dish was sans yummy chicken broth, and she was not amused.

For the sides, we ordered the broccoli casserole, creamed corn, creamed potatoes and mac and cheese. For the main dishes, we ordered the fried catfish and chicken and dumplings (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How much does it cost to eat at Paula Deen’s?

Some of the “Down Home Dishes” include options such as beef pot roast, fried chicken, meatloaf and ribs.

For lunch, the pick-2, ahem, “The Albany” starts at $18.99 per person and the pick-3 is $19.99 per person.

Kids cost $9.99.

If you enjoy paying more, the same menu options are available for dinner to the tune of $22.99-23.99, and $10.99 for kids.

Read Also: Frizzle Chicken Review: Go for the pancakes, stay for the singing chickens

About Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen serves up southern-inspired comfort food in a family-style setting.

The restaurant’s recipes were birthed from the same recipes that launched Paula Deen’s career. Every southern style entree, side dish and dessert comes from Paula’s cookbooks.

Paula Deen has even been spotted visiting this location on The Island to greet guests and train kitchen staff.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is located at 131 The Island Dr #8101, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.

For more information or to view the full menu, click here.

Where do you like to eat when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

10 Comments

  1. We ate breakfast there right after it opened. Have not been back. We want our food hot and when the breakfast casserole came it was cold and therefore the cheese on it was hard. Biscuits were not good. I expected homemade biscuits and these were not. There are better places to eat breakfast around there.

  2. Ate at her Savannah place. Not worth time and expense. I think my cooking was better.

  3. Same as above. Ate there last year, food just mediocre. Would not go back. Certainly would never wait 3 hours!

  4. We have eaten lunch at the FOLEY location . Each person chooses the entree and sides. Everyone having to decide on the same items at the table was not the case. The creamed corn was very good as was the chicken.

  5. I really enjoyed my experience there in August 2019, and would definitely return. I thought the food was very good and loved the view too. The gift shop had a lot of interesting and fun items. The wait was minimal.

  6. We ate there a couple of years ago. Found it to be expensive for average to below average food. Sooo many better options in Pigeon Forge.

  7. We enjoy both the P F location and her Savannah one. We most usually enjoy the P F locale, and love the pot roast/white rice. We definitely will be back at least once a year….wish I could have the peach tea to go. ❤️

  8. We ate breakfast there in Dec. 2020. We didn’t haven’t to wait,went right up. The food was terrible. Everything was cold. Way to expensive. There are way better places to eat in Pigeon Forge.

  9. We ate our evening meal at Paula Deen’s in PF in September 2020. We didn’t have to wait to be seated and our waiter was fantastic. Our food came out quickly and it was hot and delicious. We really enjoyed ourselves, the atmosphere and the food. I would highly recommend it. It was a little pricey and we opted for the 3 meat choice so we could try a variety. We were on vacation and it was a great evening out.

  10. Ate at Paula Dean’s while at the Island in Pigeon Forge this past week and needless to say was not impressed at all. Food was bland and had no taste at all. My wife’s cooking taste a whole lot better. Dont waste your money because there are a lot better places to eat for a lot less. Like the Old Mill for example.

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