The Bottom Line: If you really love great southern cooking at a relatively low price point, this is an excellent restaurant for you and your family.
I remember when I was still living with my parents, Crack Barrel used to be a major part of lives. It wasn't because any of us actually worked there, it was because of how often we would frequent their establishments. The reasoning for this was mostly because of my father and his need to eat the food that he grew up with, but also because they provided such a great variety of food that everyone had something that they could enjoy. While my desire to eat at Cracker Barrel has waned over the years, mostly because of embarrassment by what Cracker Barrel represents to American culture, I still have respect for the restaurant and enjoy the food that it provides.
The Restaurant I am quite sure that everyone has heard of Cracker Barrel that has been in the United States for at least a few years. Over the years, Cracker Barrel has become one of the most well known down home cooking restaurants around and obviously one of the most successful as well. The reasoning for this success isn't coincidence, it is an obvious approach to business that has established the restaurant in its niche market while at the same time embracing current trends in the restaurant industry and consumer dining habits.
Cracker Barrel itself is a rather large chain restaurant, that takes a look at traditional American cooking in everything that it does throughout its operation. The first thing that is noticed at a Cracker Barrel is the decor and design of the building. Through the wooden building, the old style rocking chairs out front, even the carved wooden signs, you can tell that Cracker Barrel is staying true to their niche market.
Upon walking into a Cracker Barrel you'll notice a country store. The store itself is filled with obvious promotional merchandise that market the restaurant itself, but it also has a variety of other items as well. Typically you can find items related to country music, home decor items that you don't typically see everywhere such as wood crafts/ceramics/etc, and even different candles, lotions, soaps, and the like. Probably the only thing that I have ever purchased has been the different hot sauces that they provide. I go to Cracker Barrel probably 1-2 times a year just for their different sauces and for nothing else.
Sitting inside the restaurant you will be at wooden table, with a wooden chair. You will notice all around you, a plethora of southern nostalgia ranging from old Coca Cola signs to advertisements of products that don't exist anymore, and many other items that are sometimes insane. If nothing else, it really builds the theme of the restaurant and really takes the visitor on a trip back in time.
The Food The food itself is probably the main reason why people flock to the restaurant. The menu is geared towards traditional American food from both the north and the south, however most of the foods are primarily southern in nature. The menu features items such as mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, collard greens, fried okra, southern friend chicken, liver and onions, meatloaf, baked macaroni and cheese, potato salad, country fried chicken/steak, and of course of all of the other fried comfort foods that we have come to know and love. The food served here is what gave the start of the modern American food trend, with heavy fried foods, and an emphasis on flavor and coating.
All of the food served is very high quality, well cooked, and served in large portions. Whenever I go to Cracker Barrel, I find myself walking away incredibly full with lots leftover. There is definitely no skimping in this place.
As for the best foods, it really depends on what types of food you enjoy. Obviously if you don't like fried foods this probably isn't the place for you. But if you enjoy the traditional foods of the south, then you will love it. Personally, when I go to Cracker Barrel, I typically order the meatloaf. This is probably one of the best restaurants to get a high quality meatloaf worth bragging about. They also have an excellent fried chicken meal that puts any other restaurant chain to shame. The food isn't quite like grandmother used to make, but it is pretty darn close.
The great thing about Cracker Barrel is that even though my family and I used to travel a great deal and went to dozens of these restaurants across the country, the food was almost identical from one location to the next. This goes to show their dedication to maintaining their quality standard that their millions of patrons have come to know and love.
Cleanliness While the restaurant may look like a shed of sorts, it is probably one of the best kept restaurant chains. I have found that regardless of which location you go to, for the most part, the restaurant is kept in great repair, the tables are cleaned immediately, and everything is in great condition. You aren't going to be sitting in a torn chair or reading off of a dirty menu here.
The bathrooms which are typically the bane of any restaurant chain are always generally immaculate. It definitely appears that they have a program for regular checks on the bathrooms to ensure that they are clean, well stocked, and maintained. I have never once walked into a bathroom of theirs and thought poorly of it. In fact, I normally comment on home fresh they smell and how well cared for they appear to be.
Employees Even the low paid employees of this establishment are great. While they may not make the most money, even when compared to other restaurants, they really seem to enjoy what they do. I have always had courteous service not just from my servers but from the cashiers in the country store, even the hostess. The people are always polite, using sir/ma'am, they open doors for those coming and going, and they have always taken the extra step to ensure my complete satisfaction, especially when I had issue with a food item. In fact, at many of the locations, I have seen managers walking around mingling with the customers, asking them about their experience. To me, seeing a manager out with the customers is a great sign that a restaurant doesn't have anything to hide and that they want to ensure that they are adhering to their quality control standards and want to ensure great customer service. This to me shows that the restaurant is more than just a place to eat, but a place to go with family and truly sit back and relax. The management appears to treat the operation of the establishment as a culture and it is obvious in every aspect of the business.
Final Thoughts While there are numerous choices of restaurants to eat at, I typically find that Cracker Barrel is one of the best in all categories. While I don't normally eat at the restaurant that frequently anymore and will only eat there if someone else requests it, I still hold it in high regard. For me, eating at Cracker Barrel has become a battle of good food over the embarrassment of the stereotype it represents for Americans. As a world travel, there is nothing I hate more than what I call the "Texas Assumption". This is the assumption that all Americans, particularly white Americans listen to country music and tuck dress shirts into their tight blue jeans. While Cracker Barrel promotes and thrives off of this particular representation of Americana, I find it hard to mirror my own personal America with what is represented in the restaurant. Regardless, this is only a personal road block and it doesn't keep me from enjoying the food and ambiance that is Cracker Barrel.
Pros: Excellent Food Cons: Not enough of them - none in California! The Bottom Line: Good food - large menu - relatively speedy - caters to travelers. Cracker Barrel's whole deal is that they harken to "the Good Old Days" . Their decour is a sentimentalist signs and photos of Granny and Gramps on the wall, and old signs that you would expect to find alongside of Route 66. The menu itself is the standout … more
Before you rush off to start cleaning and planting, or whatever your springtime chores may be, stop by Cracker Barrel for a hearty country meal. Our Springtime Fixin's feature our Country Fried Shrimp Platter, and our Cherry Pancake Sampler. And you can finish off your meal with our Chocolate Cherries & Cream, just in case you've got a hankerin' for something sweet.