This past Thanksgiving, my family treated me to dinner at the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah's Tunica Casino. This was my second visit to the buffet, and I hoped that it would be more impressive this time around. As always, I try to be objective, not letting any prejudice influence what I write on this blog. That said, my view of Deen isn't positive, for she constantly promotes the unhealthiest of foods to those who least need it. By the way, I'm not a food snob like Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain who said that Deen is "the worst, most dangerous person to America." However, I can't get with anyone who promotes stuff like deep fried butter balls that is unquestionably bad. Deep fried butter offends me, and I'm not a healthy eater. Still, with more analytical emphasis, I was eager to try Deen's buffet again.
The first part of my dinner consisted of the traditional Thanksgiving fare of turkey, dressing and other fixings. Among the "fixings" that I had was the squash casserole, a delicious blend of squash and zucchini in a cheesy cream sauce. After looking up the recipe on Paula Deen's website, I discovered that the squash casserole I had wasn't the same, but it was good nonetheless. I felt that the zucchini slightly sweetened the casserole, which I didn't mind. In fact, the flavor of the casserole offset the taste of the dressing and gravy, which both my sisters and I felt was very salty. Everything else on my first plate, including the ham and peas, were about average in terms of taste. The turkey was moist and tender, but that was to be expected since it was chopped up when I got it off the serving line. Overall, the first plate met my expectations of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
For my second plate, I decided to go all out on the fried stuff that the buffet had. As shown in the picture, I had (clockwise from the top) chicken, catfish, green tomato, frog legs and shrimp. Despite Deen's reputation for frying anything that's edible, the entire plate was average in terms of taste. It's on par with most buffets and cafeterias (such as Piccadilly) that I've been to. If all of this was cooked according to Deen's recipes, then Ms. Deen is very overrated. More likely, all of this (and the spinach broccoli) was cooked according to Harrah's specifications. If so, then Paula Deen is a savvy business woman who knows the value of marketing her brand. Without Deen's endorsement, Harrah's buffet is indistinguishable from most casinos that offer this type of dining service.
In addition to my "fried" platter, I got a few side items to go with it. As you can see, my sides were (clockwise from top) Chicken Florentine, broccoli casserole, turnip greens and tartar sauce. In particular, I really liked the broccoli casserole for it was smooth and creamy. The Chicken Florentine, which featured a decent wine as an ingredient, tasted pretty good as well. Even the tartar sauce was great, for it was the freshest that I've had. Even though most of this probably wasn't made with Deen's recipes, it was all good. If I ever dine here again, I will focus more on the non-fried portion of the buffet and limit my amount of fried food. To learn more about Paula Deen's recipes for Chicken Florentine and broccoli casserole, click the links to her website.
To finish off dinner, I got a slice of vanilla cheesecake. After eating so much, I was surprised I was able to eat anything else. Compared to other places like Cheesecake Corner in Downtown Memphis, Paula Deen's cheesecake can hold its own.
Once I finished my cheesecake, I was DONE! I couldn't eat another bite if my life depended on it. The dinner had completely satisfied my appetite. On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give the Paula Deen Buffet a 3½ rating for both the food and the restaurant's staff for the preparation of the buffet. Even though I don't have complaints about the food or service, it still doesn't beat the variety offered by the Village Square Buffet at the Horseshoe Casino. Village Square is my favorite place to go when I want to get my grub on in Tunica. However, the Paula Deen Buffet is a decent restaurant that I wouldn't mind dining at again if I was at the casino to see a show (but not gamble, for I'm not into that). It’s just isn't a place that is worthy of a special trip, especially if I want the true Paula Deen experience. For that, I'll have to go to The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.
By the way, I want to thank my sisters for treating me to dinner and all the other things that they've done for me recently. I really appreciate and love them for it. Happy Thanksgiving!