I’m often humbled by the size of the universe. When you gaze out at all the stars, at the sheer vastness of it all, you can’t help but feel insignificant.
Such is the experience of dining at Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Sons. The place is a meal factory. After standing in a line that wraps around the outside of the building, you check in at the Maitre D’ stand, halfway down the block. The Maitre D’ leafs through the pages on her clipboard, jots a quick note, then hands you a laminated index card. The card is coded by color and number. You bring this card around to the front door, where you hand it to a second Maitre D’. My card apparently said 3rd floor. The second Maitre D’ handed the card back and escorted me to the elevators. I jabbed the button for 3. The doors slid closed and I was whisked upstairs. There, I was greeted by a 3rd Maitre D’. I handed her my index card and noted that there are fewer checkpoints at the airport. Not amused, Maitre D’ number 3 adjusted her headset and summoned a team of border collies to herd me to my seat.
As ridiculous as the check-in process is, you can’t help but be awed by the efficiency of the place. The restaurant seats 330. Which means thousands of people come through for each and every meal. There’s a traditional menu, but most diners opt for the all-you-can-eat-buffet.
Here, an assembly line of servers frantically bail buckets of fried chicken from the kitchen to the buffet. I smiled, picturing the scene in the kitchen. Food rising from the floor like flood waters. The cooks, waist deep at this point, wildly shoveling drumsticks into buckets. Desperate to keep their heads above chicken.
I grabbed a plate and decided to pitch in.
All-I-could-eat turned out to be a lot more than you’d expect. The problem is, the buffet is huge, so you can’t help but stuff yourself silly. And, being the diligent student of cuisine that I am, I had to eat everything. Fried chicken, collard greens, cabbage, black eyed peas, pot roast, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, lima beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a cheese biscuit, a fried corn cake and peach cobbler. To name a few.
I’m pleased to report that the line around the building was for good reason. The Lady and Sons is comfort food at its very best. I overheard one diner say, “this is like the best dish that everyone’s grandmother makes. All brought together on one plate.” Or, in my case, three plates.
After cleaning the last bit of peach cobbler from my dish, I signed my check with bloated fingers and waddled to the elevator. I wondered if it could handle the weight. Fortunately, it could. The doors slipped opened and I lumbered slowly out of the restaurant, apologizing profusely to the buttons on my pants.