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

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen is located at The Island in Pigeon Forge (photo by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen is located at The Island in Pigeon Forge (photo by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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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 family-style dining experiences in the Smoky Mountains area.

Read Also: Top 6 bizarrely out-of-place attractions in the Smokies

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.

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

Does Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen take reservations?

Unfortunately, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen does not accept reservations.

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.

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

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.

Read Also: Mama’s Chicken Kitchen review: How they saved me from hanger

The view from Paula Deens
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is conveniently located at The Island in Pigeon Forge with views of the dancing fountain (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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 a dessert of their choice
The Biscuits at Paula Deens
The biscuits are arguably the best part of the meal at Paula Deen’s (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

The cons:  

I find that the family-style spread, 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.

From Paula’s famous sides, we ordered the broccoli casserole, creamed corn, creamed potatoes and mac and cheese. For the main dishes, we ordered 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)
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

The banana pudding was not great. Stick with the other desserts. Don’t say we didn’t warn you (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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 classic Deen family 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.

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30 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinion: A review of Paula Deen’s Restaurant in Pigeon Forge: ‘Just OK’”

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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. ❤️

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. I have been there a few times. The food is good, but very pricey for someone who doesn’t eat a lot. Everyone should try it once. The views are great. But my favorite restaurant is the Old Mill Pottery Cafe. Love the food and the surroundings.

  11. My husband and I ate there shortly after it opened. The food was what I expected and a lot of it. By the time they brought our dessert, we were so full that we each took one bite of it and that was it. We left enough food on the table for two more meals!! What? Wasteful!!! They can’t re-serve it, so in the garbage it goes. Even our wonderful desserts that would have been great with a cup of coffee two hours later. I was raised not to waste food and that bothered me all evening!! Being the southern girl that Paula is, I would have thought she was raised the same way. A year or so later, I called to see if their policy had changed, but was told that you could still not take any food with you. We paid for that food. It was ours!!

  12. We went to Paula Deens in Pigeon Forge in 2017 and it was delicious…. went in 2021 and not so good … chicken was not done so I got another entree and the Mac and cheese was cold!!! Not worth the money with so many good restaurants from Seiverville to Gatlinburg!!

  13. Our experience was terrible, orderd the smothered pork chops, only they weren”t smothered. Will not go back.

  14. Thanks for the review. I probably would have tried this had I not read this. But I don’t do “family meal” restaurants. We shouldn’t all have to agree on the same foods when we’re on vacation. And when you have a child on the autism spectrum, you need a kid’s menu with the usual chicken nuggets or pizza options.

  15. Not being able to take your leftovers is a waste. Do they give them to someone else? I won’t go back to eat, but did enjoy the gift shop.

  16. We weren’t impressed to say the least. I believe my Meatloaf would put hers to shame. Mama’s Farmhouse 208 Pickle St Pigeon Forge has the same setup / style menu although their food is delicious, flavorful & homemade.

  17. I wasn’t impressed at all….so expensive for county cooking, like I cook at home! I’m a light eater and there was a lot of food left on the table. We didn’t even try a dessert because we were so full. I believe they let you take that one thing with you but it wasn’t explained to us, so we thought we had to eat that in the restaurant. Someone told us later you can take the dessert to go! 😡 Everything about that visit was sooo disappointing.

  18. I am glad, but disappointed that I read these reviews. We will not be wasting our time going out of the way to eat here. Too bad. It had such a grand play up, until I read the reviews.

  19. I see many critical reviews. The food is home cooking and it tastes good. Hard to mess up with fried chicken, roast, etc. we go cause I love Paula Deen. She’s like us. I think I cook like her, maybe I like my roast better. I asked where food goes that people leave and a waitress told me a pig farm. I like the idea of ordering a variety, let’s ya take a taste of a few things.

  20. We went there for dinner recently in pigeon Forge while on vacation. The energetic atmosphere was great, the gift shop downstairs was really awesome and super fun to browse before and after dinner. The waiter was really fun and nice. The food… We ordered fried chicken, roast beef and roasted chicken. The fried chicken resembled to a very very large degree, the fried chicken that is sold in most large grocery store delis. The green beans were delicious! The cream potatoes were also delicious! The cucumber salad was so sour I wasn’t able to eat it and I like sour flavors. Way too much vinegar. The biscuits were the one item that truly tasted fresh and homemade. I’m going to just say that I did not care for the plates that the food was served in, it was that plastic type of dish. I feel like they should go ahead and use real dishes in a restaurant like that. It just makes you feel like you’re in a cheap place but spending a lot of money after you eat off of those plastic plates. Also, we had a family of five, and a lot of people are commenting on this thread that there was way too much food left over, I felt like the servings that they gave us in these little tiny dishes for everyone to take a tiny bit from was really a small amount and we had to ask for more which is a little embarrassing. Actually super small dishes for restaurant that serves family style. So I guess if you only have two people you’re fine but we had five people and there was one small tiny dish of green beans, etc. no one in our family liked the desserts. The blackberry cobbler tasted like warm jam. The peach cobbler had the unmistakably well-known flavor of Cool Whip on top. A restaurant should never serve a dessert with anything like Cool Whip. It’s creams store-bought, and not homemade. One of the desserts actually did have a homemade whipped cream, which was great. The Ooey gooey cake was nothing special according to my daughter. I’m going to comment on the lighting in the restaurant… I guess most people don’t care about this these days and you see it everywhere but it’s this cheap lighting that has a very artificial look and it’s a very cool white look not warm at all. I don’t like that type of lighting especially in a restaurant. It saves the restaurant a lot of money, I understand that, but really the ambience suffers greatly, for me. This restaurant was very large and catered to a lot of people at one time, so they did a good job at getting people in and out of there and in general it was a nice festive atmosphere. But I really need to say that the food did not taste homemade to me but more like foods you would get in a grocery store deli. The exception of the green beans and the cream potatoes and a biscuit.

  21. Just ate lunch there today and was quite disappointed. The food tasted like diner/cafeteria food and I expected more. We had baked chicken,meatloaf, and pork chops, my mother’s country cooking and mine for that matter is so much better. I love country cooking and all of the southern food, but was quite disappointed with the menu. I was hoping to get a sandwich that she made that took her to where she is today! I bet they were special!!!

  22. Let me start out with saying I love Paula Deen, but……the restaurant on The Island not so much. I am a professional Chef so I eat a lot of different things and I give credit when credit is due…….Ms. Deen I love your shops, I loved watching your show but you’re menu is kinda sad and not being able to take food that we PAID for is completely ridiculous!! Happy customers are what keep us employed and I’m sorry but the meal my family and I had tasted like something from the KFC menu and it was brought to our table COLD. I asked our server to please bring our table hot food and she looked at us like I asked for an organ donation! I don’t know if you have lost your passion or your staff has, but I hope you get it back soon for the sake of your future customers.

  23. There are only 4 bathroom stalls in the women’s bathroom, downstairs only- to accommodate all of the hundreds of guests.. The sweet tea was amazing, but standing in line for the bathroom was ridiculous..Thinking back now, I think we only got 3 sides as well..🤷🏻‍♀️

  24. Quite possibly the worst dining experience I’ve ever had. Went for breakfast and the food was all cold and nasty. There weren’t many people there and they had opened only about 30 minutes before we sat so it made no sense. We would have been better off just going to McDonald’s.

  25. So many other places do a much MUCH better job at southern cooking. Like Cracker Barrel, and even they aren’t the best, but at least they do chicken & dumplings the right way.

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