Intro: Paula Deen started as The Bag Lady, making bag lunches in her home for sons Bobby and Jamie to deliver to local Savannah offices. Her cooking because so popular she opened her first restaurant, The Lady, in the Best Western Hotel in 1991. In 1996 she moved to the old Sears & Roebuck building in downtown Savannah. By 2003 she had acquired enough property on West Congress Street to open her current 330 seat restaurant, The Lady & Sons.
Oprah highlighted her story as a single mother overcoming trials and tribulations while raising two sons. Her cookbooks, television shows, kitchen products and much more are so popular she has become her own brand.
The lure to her restaurant is two-fold. The old-fashioned down-home southern recipes give the traveler a sampling of traditional southern cuisine. In addition, a visit to Lady & Sons is a pilgrimage of sorts for her fans. It is a way to honor Ms. Deen and all she has accomplished as a classic American entrepreneur and outstanding southern cook.
Everyone must start somewhere, and this is where Paula Deen makes it all happen.
Location: 102 West Congress Street, Savannah, Georgia.
Menu: Most of the menu hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened. Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp and Grits, Chicken Pot Pie, Fried Shrimp and Fried Chicken. It is the only restaurant I have been to where you can order a piece of fried chicken as a side dish for $3. This is traditional classic, southern fried food.
For those who can’t decide what to choose, and want to sample many classic southern dishes, the daily buffet is the way to go. The offering changes slightly each
Dessert samplers of peach cobbler, banana pudding,
Ordering off the menu is perhaps the best choice for those paying attention to portions. The restaurant pays homage to the roots of The Bag Lady days, with a delicious chicken salad sandwich and soup of the day combo. There is also an asparagus sandwich, something I have only seen offered in this part of the country. Think classic Rueben, with pumpernickel bread and thousand island dressing, then substitute a few stalks of grilled asparagus for the pastrami. Finish it off with some Jack Cheese and red onion. It seems to be one of the healthier items on the menu.
The parmesan crusted fried catfish with cheesy stone ground grits and coleslaw is popular in a southern city that relies so heavily on its waterways for food. The crab cake burger, crab stew and seafood gumbo, as well as deep fried shrimp give a variety of options for the seafood lover.
“I’m not your doctor, I’m your cook,” quipped Paula Deen when asked about her style of cooking. However, since her diagnosis with diabetes, a few healthier options have made it onto the menu, many with credit given to her sons.
Bobby’s Salmon uses Deen’s “Hook, Line & Sinker” seasoning blend. It is served with a mustard dill sauce, fresh wilted spinach, cherry tomatoes and tri-colored couscous. Son Jamie gets credit for the New York Strip, a 14-ounce grilled steak with burgundy mushrooms, cheddar mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
The southern cheese steak used the Deen Brothers’ “No Bull” seasoning to flavor this classic dish.
It wouldn’t be a southern restaurant without an offering of key lime pie or pecan pie. Yes, a la mode is an option.
Thoughts: It’s not fancy, and it can get crowded. But this is a great place to stop for rest and nourishment on a Savannah sightseeing day. It is on the route for all the tourist trolleys. Reservations are suggested, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time waiting for a table. We chose a 2 pm lunch, when the lunch crowds were disappearing. This was our main meal of the day.
The lunch and dinner menus are similar.
There is a shop attached to the restaurant where all the Paula Deen and Deen Brothers products are sold. Occasionally, Paula stops in for a book signing.
Price Range: Buffet $16-18 for Adults, $8 Children ages 4-9. Appetizers $7-12. Soups and Salads $5-13. Entrees -Lunch $14-17, Dinner $19-30. Desserts $6-7.
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