Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Lady and Sons

My daughter, Sophia, is a bonafide Foodie. She spends her money on cookbooks, asks to try new recipes and watches Food Network in her spare time. The first Food Network personality to hook her was Ms. Paula Deen, expert southern cook, lover of butter, and a Georgia native.

Her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, is on Congress St. in downtown Savannah, and we told Soph we'd give it a try. Now, friends, the word-of-mouth isn't good. I'd heard that the food was prepared without much care and that it was overpriced. But we wanted to give Miss Paula a fair shake so we checked out her website to see what hoops we'd have to jump through to get a table.

It turns out that they don't take traditional reservations. Instead, they open their hostess podium at 9:30 AM and arrange reservations for that day only. The Chupps rolled in at five past ten and were hoping for a lunch seating. Well, the line stretched to the end of the block. Mike drove around town with the kids while I waited in line. It moved quickly, but by the time I got to the hostess station, the earliest a party of five could be seated was at 8:30 PM.

When we got to the restaurant that night we had to wait in another line to check in. The hostess directed us to the Paula Deen Store next door, where she would collect us when our table was ready. It was full of the trappings one would expect at such a place: Paula Deen cookbooks and utensils, Paula Deen brand condiments and pre-packaged food, also t-shirts and aprons with sassy sayings for middle-aged, chubby home cooks to wear. We were seated on time, if not a bit early. We took an elevator to the second floor and walked past a fairly modest buffet to our table. The buffet was nearly $18 for an adult and it looked to be the cheapest thing on the menu, so that's what we all got.

We were each given a garlic biscuit and a hoe-cake to whet our appetite. I really liked the hoe-cake, eaten with syrup as suggested by our server. The buffet included fried chicken, ribs, pineapple dressing, sweet potato casserole, yams, collard greens, mashed potatoes, lima beans and green beans. There was a salad bar, but no dessert bar. Our server proudly told us that dessert came with the buffet and she brought out a tray of the choices: peach cobbler, banana puddin' and a butter cake. Between the five of us, we got to sample all three. Meh. They were OK. And the portions were small.

I was glad for the chance to try collard greens, since I never had. The mashed potatoes were good. I bet they had cream cheese in them. Everyone agreed that my fried chicken is better. But absolutely no one at our table at $18 worth of food. We weren't even tempted to eat $18 worth, because it was exactly the same meal as the truck stop in South Carolina. The one named "Restaurant." Now I'm not saying that Paula's not a good cook. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't. But I AM saying that it bums me out that that since everyone believes she's a great cook, she has let herself off the hook. Instead of making sure people get great food that keep them coming back, she makes sure you have to go through the gift shop to get seated. That is cheek, ladies and gentlemen.

I guess no one would call this review scathing or anything, but I feel a little sad posting it. I really wanted it to be better. I thought the Deen family would care more. And since they don't, it feels like I can't be friends with them.

Besides, shouldn't it have been WORTH this enthusiasm?

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