An Honest Review of the Famous Paula Deen Restaurant in Pigeon Forge

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)

Tennessee native lists pros and cons of this famous Smoky Mountain eatery

Typically, I find that people have really strong opinions about Paula Deen’s restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Some people love it. But others … not so much. First of all, you could say that this restaurant might feel out of place in the area. After all, Deen is a Georgian at heart. Still, her family-style restaurant is one of the more unique dining experiences in the Smoky Mountains area. So what do people love about this restaurant and why do others criticize it?

RELATED VIDEO: Is the Paula Deen Restaurant in Pigeon Forge Worth It?

What it’s like to eat at Paula Deen’s

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. For lunch and dinner, there are three main choices, The Albany, The Savannah and The Georgia – which is a fancy way of saying you can pick two, three or four entrees from the menu, respectively. The menu features Southern dishes that come from Paula’s cookbooks.

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? 

Paula Deen’s can be a little pricey, and to be honest, I wasn’t completely blown away by the food, but there are also pros to eating at this restaurant. For example, one of my favorite things about the restaurant is its location. Depending on your seat, you have a good chance of having a great view of The Island in Pigeon Forge or perhaps even the fountain show. Another bonus is that the food has unlimited helpings. Just note that you can’t take them home with you at the end of your meal. And as a lovely final touch, everyone gets to pick their own dessert. But perhaps my absolute favorite thing about dining here was the complimentary biscuits. Those delicious, flaky biscuits alone are worth a return trip and could have been a meal on their own.

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)

So what’s the bad news?

Personally, I find that the family-style spread doesn’t necessarily feel super practical. If someone in your party has food allergies or dietary restrictions, it can be difficult to find something that can work for everyone. And in case you’re wondering, kids don’t get 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. Also, I thought most of the food was just OK.

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 (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

What to order from the menu

I enjoyed my order of Georgia Fried Catfish. But I can’t necessarily recommend the Chicken and Dumplings since it did not taste authentic. Or, at least not authentic for Tennessee. The other main meats include items like Beef Pot Roast, Chicken-Fried Pork Chop, Spare Ribs and Roasted Chicken. From Paula’s famous sides, I recommend creamed potatoes, creamed corn or baked mac and cheese. Those were the most delicious side dishes to me as I thought those had the best taste and flavor. And for dessert, I’d go with the cobbler as I wasn’t too impressed with the banana pudding. You can view the full dinner menu here.

chicken and dumplings at paula deens
Our staff was not a huge fan of the Chicken and Dumplings (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

I haven’t visited Paula Deen’s for breakfast yet, but considering how good the biscuits are, I am willing to bet it’s good. The main dishes include options like Chicken and Biscuits, Sweet Piggies in a Blanket, Ooey Gooey Butter Pancakes and Apple Cinnamon French Toast. The breakfast menu is available here.

an array of dishes including broccoli casserole and salad from paula deen in pigeon forge
Our staff did enjoy the poppyseed tossed salad (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What you should know: Parking, cost and reservations

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge does not accept reservations. In my experience, if you show up for lunch, you might get lucky and only wait about 15 minutes. That being said, if you show up for dinner during the busy season, I have heard the wait times can be somewhere in the neighborhood of about three hours. But because the restaurant is located inside The Island in Pigeon Forge (a large shopping/entertainment destination) you can always explore a bit while you wait. Another bonus of the location is that parking is ample and free, but you may just have to walk a little bit. But, there’s also a tram that goes to and from the parking lot to make things easier.

Breakfast is the most affordable meal starting at $16.99 per person. For lunch, the pick-2, or The Albany, starts at $19.99 per person and the pick-3 is $21.99 per person. The pick-4 entree is $23.99 per person. The dinner menu is the same, except it’s a few dollars more expensive. Kids pricing is also available, but remember that all prices are subject to change.

a cup of pudding from paula deen's with whipped topping
Each person gets a dessert. But our staff was not impressed with the banana pudding (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

The restaurant is located at 131 The Island Dr #8101, Pigeon Forge, TN. Have you tried Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at info@thesmokies.com.

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30 thoughts on “An Honest Review of the Famous Paula Deen Restaurant in Pigeon Forge”

  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.

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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. ❤️

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!!

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  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!!

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!!!

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  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.

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  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..🤷🏻‍♀️

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  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.

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  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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