SWMBO and I love to cook, although she typically cooks indoors and I outdoors…which is a long story I have related and will likely do again-just not now.
But one thing, indoor or out, we share is an affection for Paula Deen. Her food, her personality, her up from the trenches story. She is an american success story that can out butter even Julia Child. That scene at the end of Julie and Julia where the happy couple visits the Smithsonian and Julie leaves a brick of butter beneath a portrait of Julia Child? Well, if it were for Paula one would have to leave a bucket of butter plus some cream cheese and sour cream…you know, just so she would have the fundamentals.
SWMBO and I have wanted to eat at Paula’s restaurant for some time, but have been turned away twice.
In 2006 on the way to The Happiest Place in the World, our family of five we stopped overnight near Savannah in beautiful Pooler, Georgia, at the best Holiday Inn in the world (and I say that quite seriously) and headed to the Lady and Sons (L&S) for dinner. We arrived at 6:00 PM and were told we could be seated at…9:30 PM. After a full day on the road plus three WMD (age 7, 5, and 2) that option was not an option…so we settled for the Deep South’s gift to fast food, Krystals.
Fast forward to June 2009. This time we are ready. We again are headed to Orlando, and again make reservations at the same Pooler Holiday Inn (and still, btw, the best Holiday Inn in the world). Two months in advance of the trip I try to make reservations at L&S, but a not very friendly and not very southern voice informs me they don’t take reservations for parties of fewer than ten diners, they do have a daily signup that starts at 0930 for the balance of the day, but if we want to take the (at $34 to $56 each) the Paula Deen Savannah Bus tour, then after the tour we would get priority seating.
I explained to her we were from out of town, second try at the restaurant, really wanted to eat there…but that cut neither ice nor butter from this dutiful Deen employee. No, she wouldn’t give me her name.
Since that pretty much adds a day to the trip to get to Savannah early enough to take a four hour tour, plus the additional room cost, plus a tour hit big enough for a grown up dinner at L’Auberge Chez Francois, we figured we would head down and play it by ear.
We timed the journey to put us in Savannah at L&S by 4PM…surely early enough to walk in for an early dinner. Plus, if we were wrong on the time the WMD were three years older so we could go later if need be. We phoned at 3PM to see what time we could likely get in if we were there by 4PM to either eat or sign up for later that night…and we were told that as of 1500 hours on June 23, 2009, they were already booked for the balance of the night.
Being of hardy pioneer stock, we tried to get in at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster joint. The nice lady there said certainly we could make a reservation…then hung up on us. When we called back, we got an answering machine where we could leave our names for a reservation, but nothing was final until we got a call from the establishment confirming the time.
I think you can guess how that turned out…
So we went away, disappointed that The Lady herself lent her name to an establishment so utterly unhelpful and cold. When we got home and told friends, several said we had not missed much, the restaurant was not all it used to be.
I chalked this up to good friends being supportive. Then…
The atmosphere wasn’t very welcoming.
The seating process wasn’t warm.
The food was good, but nothing to rave about.
The service was average.
If Paula Dean’s name wasn’t on the outside of the building I’m not sure how popular it would even be. Clearly it’s a tourist destination and is run like a theme park ride….but this ride had little magic.
And no Daniel Holm you will not go to Hell for giving an honest review-even if it was Paula’s joint.
Then I did the info review I should have done earlier, and sites like TripAdvisor.com show it is not the universally loved dining experience I thought it would be. I will confess to a blast of schadenfreude while reading of the woman who bought tickets on the bus tour and still had to wait thirty minutes for her “priority seating”.
So I imagine we will continue to enjoy Paula on television and cook her recipes…even though it seems unlikely we will have a chance to dine at her restaurant.
Oh, and Paula, if you are ever going to be near Burke, VA, drop me an email and the Bwana family will welcome you with open arms and southern hospitality…which is a good thing because they seem to have forgotten these concepts at the Lady and Sons.