PAULA DEEN’S FAMILY KITCHEN
GOING LARGE IN TEXAS!
Let’s clear the air about one thing right now. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is not, I repeat NOT, for dieters. If you’re Keto or Paleo or Gluten-free or Vegan, for God’s sake go somewhere else. You will not be accommodated here!
For those who have been living under a staircase for the last decade, Paula Deen is the Queen of Southern Comfort Food.
And with big hair and a giant personality to match, she spices her conversation as freely as her menu items with liberal helpings of “Bless your heart!” or “Ya’ll!” As in “Butter ya’ll!”, that I interpret to mean is the key ingredient to nearly everything she concocts.
In this respect Paula Deen is like going home. My dearly departed sweet mama had a life-long struggle with her weight and at one point went to the doctor to talk about weight loss. During the exam, the doctor asked what my mom’s favorite food was, and she replied matter-of-factly, “Butter!”
But the overall effect is reminiscent of Ann Richards, former homespun, loudmouth governor of Texas, with none of the negatives.
So Texas provides a perfect pairing for Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen which opened alongside Bass Pro Shop at The Rim about four months ago. If you haven’t heard the good news yet, it’s because they started with a soft opening and just began promoting the business about two months ago.
Paula Deen’s only has a few select locations in the country including Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so San Antonio is very fortunate to have been chosen for a site.
It seems as if Ms. Deen drew inspiration from Cracker Barrel, and then blew it up. I mean expanded it. Like several times. And then made it upscale but kept the prices roughly in the ballpark.
Walking past the rockers outside, you enter immediately into the gift shop which actually has room to shop without bumping into other shoppers. Unfortunately, part of the reason for that is there is limited merchandise. Virtually all the inventory is Paula Deen branded. But, hey, it works at Disneyland!
Did I tell you that Ms. Deen’s motto is, “Go large or go home”? Not really. But the space the restaurant is located in is HUGE! They opened up the ceilings and accentuated the space with – what’s another word for large or huge? —a great big ol’ chandelier that must have come out of an ambassador’s residence or maybe was a set piece for Phantom of the Opera.
Have you ever seen the Chuhuly glass sculpture at Central Library? Now think Gone with the Wind. There you have it!
Diamond (apparently that’s her real name) was very helpful in seating us in a spacious booth with an outsized window looking out over a Texas landscape with a creek running through it and lined with mammoth boulders. Really, really big boulders. In a really, really big landscape.
Now for the big reveal…. Everything is served Family Style! You can select two entrees with three sides with unlimited refills and a dessert for $13.95 at lunch. If you have a larger party and wanted to share three entrees, it’s only a few dollars more per person.
The entrée items are not numerous but offer a well-rounded selection including favorites like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, spare ribs, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish.
Ashley promptly arrived at our table and before long presented us with fresh out-of-the-oven, hot house rolls, a garlic-herb buttery cheesy biscuit-roll. Cracker Barrel has some worthy biscuits, boy, but the inspiration here was definitely Red Lobster. But again, Paula Deen’s version is over-the-top! HINT: Don’t bother with appetizers. The biscuit-rolls are more than sufficient.
While catfish is not a favorite of mine, it seemed like the thing to go with, and I was not disappointed. Advertised as “Georgia Fried”, it was in fact, hands-down, the best catfish I ever ate.
The portion sizes were trimmed just right to insure thorough cooking throughout the filet. The batter was light but ample enough to provide a crunchy snap when I bit into it. And it had just a tiny bit of burn from the spices it was dusted with.
All that just complemented the flavor of the fish which must have been farm-raised because there was no fishiness to it at all. My sense was that it had been pre-soaked for at least 6-8 hours in milk or perhaps buttermilk to leech it.
We selected the poppy seed tossed salad, squash casserole, and brussel sprouts as our sides. All were very good though I would have preferred more pan sear on the brussel sprouts which would have made them a little more tender.
Ashley was prompt in attending to us without hovering, but our order for refills seemed to take much longer to arrive than the original order. I suggest ordering second helpings as soon as the initial order is served to avoid gaps in your dining.
Remember, there’s still more to come!
Dessert options include Paula Deen’s signature Ooey Gooey Butter Cake in a variety of flavors, which included pumpkin on our visit, topped with an ample scoop of vanilla ice cream. My wife, a fan of all things pumpkin, quickly made her decision.
Wanting to try something different, I was left with a choice between Banana Pudding and Baked Cobbler which may contain different fillings on each visit. On our visit, it was apple, also served with ice cream.
I was very pleased with my selection of the cobbler which I was only mildly surprised to discover was made from fresh apples instead of the canned pie filling variety. Thank you, Lord!
Unfortunately, no refills on dessert are offered. But you can pick up the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake mix in a box in the gift shop on your way home!
And ya’ll come back, hear!