Paula Deen

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

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.

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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.

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.

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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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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.

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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.