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Cracker Barrel - why?

OK - I'll admit, I've only dined there once (forced to - had no choice) in some remote location in Tennessee a few years ago, but could someone please explain to me why there are huge lines and long wait times? I generally don't wait for any restaurant, there's always some place else, but what is this mass amount of humanity waiting for Cracker Barrel?

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  1. I wondered the same thing so my family pulled one up on the navigation system on a recent trip through New York I knew there was one outside of Albany. So I waited till we were relatively close to Albany and pulled up the nearest one and called and asked if they were outside of Albany. The person who answered didn't know and I herd her ask someone else if they were outside of Albany. Now Albany is the capital of the State of New York how many people in America don't know what major city they are near. When we got there as I remembered from the on time we had tried this restaurant before it had a full wall of windows over looking the city of Albany. We got there and were seated right away but the food took forever. We were all disappointed with our meals and we will not be stopping at another Cracker Barrel. Our previous meal was not very good either but it was a few years earlier before we had kids and we thought the kids would like the gift shop. Well the candy section of the gift shop was the highlight of the detour and perhaps that’s why they keep you waiting usually.

    1. I have no idea.

      This place is terrible.

      DT

      1. i like their buttermilk pancakes and the fact that they give you as much maple syrup as you want

        1 Reply
        1. re: ericalloyd

          Yeah, one time I walked out with like a half gallon of the stuff down my pants. They didn't say a word, just backed away slowly.

          Actually, some of their side dishes are pretty decent, particularly the greens. But most of the main courses are fair to lousy and going there just to wait and have sides makes about as much sense as going to a particular steakhouse for the creamed spinach and potatoes, even though the steaks suck.

        2. Dunno what you guys ordered when you were disappointed with your meals - the best thing is to not stray from anything brown or battered. The battered chicken livers with battered okra were just excellent, I thought.

          But then I've only eaten at Cracker Barrels in Oklahoma. Maybe there's a lot of variation between states.

          I think people like Cracker Barrel because it's hard to get that kind of food in that kind of environment. Maybe you want a huge platter of deep-fried, brown food but you don't want to go somewhere too trashy. I think that's why those awful chain Tex-Mex places thrive; because people don't necessarily want to go down to the taco cart with their whole family in tow.

          6 Replies
              1. re: frenetica

                They really are great and probably more of a southern thing. I had them for the first time when I was living in Florida years ago. Never saw them growing up in Brooklyn and haven't seen them since moving back up to the Northeast years ago. They sure aren't good for you, but for those of us who like chicken livers, they are quite the treat!

              2. re: Atahualpa

                I think he means deep-fried chicken livers, not the kind that are victims of domestic violence.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  There's some other way to do chicken livers? :)

              3. I like their pancakes for breakfast with sausage, the hashbrown casserole and their grilled cheese for lunch.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  I've only had breakfast there. I used to love the biscuits and gravy, but my most recent trip landed me some pretty stale biscuits and so so gravy. maybe it was a bad day, maybe i've grown up. But yes, the maple syrup is wonderful, as is anything they'll serve to put it on.

                2. I like Cracker Barrel a lot, mostly because they are very consistent. (This also includes consistently long wait times and bad service.) When I'm in the mood for comfort food (or breakfast) that's where I go. I just make sure to avoid it on Sundays at all cost. :-)

                  Things I love: their mac n cheese, biscuits, grilled chicken tenderloins, chicken portabello sourdough sandwich (which I can only find in the Daytona Beach one, BTW), dumplins, carrots, the fact they serve breakfast all day, sweet tea.

                  Things I don't like: hash brown casserole (they will prepare normal ones on request), the corn muffins (not sweet enough for me, but DH loves them).

                  Make sure you ASK for biscuits/cornbread before your meal, otherwise you have to wait for them.

                  1. We are Canadians who knew nothing of southern US food until our daughter was hired by a Tim Horton's Camp in Kentucky. Taking her to her new job required a few days in the area and that is when we discovered Cracker Barrel. For us, it was a revelation: all those things that we knew about only from books/movies were right there on the menu: chicken fried steak, greens with pork, buttermilk pie, chitlins. We sampled a number of these new-to-us items. Found the service to be friendly.

                    No, the food was not superb, but it was different for us "northeners".

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: LJS

                      Not to hijack this thread, but LJS can you recommend a Canadian equivalent of Cracker Barrel so that us "southeners" can get a test of, for example, "real" poutine and peameal bacon?

                      Thanks.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Peameal bacon is so ubiquitous up here that, if you're in Canada, anywhere you have breakfast will probably offer the item.

                        Poutine can be a great thing. But, it depends on the convergence of three things done well. It requires good fries that are crisp, good gravy that is somewhat rich, and real cheese curds -- not grated mozzarella (as so many places offer). That is hard to get anywhere outside of Quebec.

                        The Canadian burger chain 'Harvey's' offers up a decent version -- each element is OK (no more than OK though).

                        1. re: Atahualpa

                          Dumb question: How do you pronounce it?

                          poo teen?
                          poo tahn?

                          1. re: rockhopper

                            It comes out kind of like "poot-seen" in French, and "poo teen" in English.

                          2. re: Atahualpa

                            That's nonsense about cheese curds- I live in Calgary and I have never had any problems finding "real" poutine with real cheese curds, and not only at smoked meat places (among which there are many in Calgary, lots of ex-Quebeckers in these parts)

                        2. re: LJS

                          You need to try some real southern cookin'. Then you'll be impressed. Some of the best foods I've had came from a little "Meat and 3" place in the south and way off the beaten track.

                          DT

                          1. re: LJS

                            I think that's why I like Cracker Barrel - I grew up in the southern US but have lived in Canada for almost 20 years. Nowhere else can I get biscuits and grits. The hash brown casserole isn't something I grew up with but it would have fit right in in my family :) If I'm there for lunch/dinner, then it's all about the okra - even though my homemade fried okra is much better and I can get it year round here in many a place. Not to mention the thirty-six (yes) okra plants that were planted in my garden last weekend. Cracker Barrel isn't great, but it reminds me of home.

                          2. I don't mind Cracker Barrel for some items. Sure, they don't have a steller menu, but for breakfast they have some enjoyable items. I like the eggs in a basket, the biscuts with apple butter, husband likes their pancakes, but I find them too sweet.

                            For dinner, not much I like, so we don't go but maybe once or twice a year for dinner. I do enjoy the meat loaf and the sugar cured ham.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Kari

                              I ate breakfast at a Cracker barrel outside of Asheville NC and thought that they had to be spending the food budget on marketing because the food quality/service was a joke.

                              I would much rather have breakfast at a IHOP or Bob Evans than step foot in a CB again. I think that Bob Evans does a a much better job at serving informal country food than CB does. I prefer to eat at a local(non chain )diner or roadhouse when possible, but CB is more marketing than good food.

                              IMVHO

                            2. The buttermilk pancakes with sugar cured ham and real mapla syrup are wonderful and a bargain.

                              1. Why? Because Grandma likes to go there? (At least that's how it works in my family!) The only thing I've liked is the hashbrown casserole and I get pissed off every time because they only give you like 2 T. and when you ask for extra when you order, they give you 3 T.!!!

                                  1. I like Cracker Barrell as it is one of the ONLY restaurants (outside of the Southern cafeteria chains) where you can get a variety of vegetables. You don't see that at many independents or other chains.

                                    And tehy carry a good variety of old-time candy products that are generally not available elsewhere.

                                    1. I know exact;y where the restroom is in every single one. We drive cross country a lot.

                                      If you hit it at an off hour, you can get in and out quickly. Food isn't bad...coffee is always fresh.

                                      1. Heavily processed, salty and bland. The only reason I went was because I was an out of towner visiting relatives and at the time never heard of the place.

                                        The attached giftshop was a real hit. I must have watched them sell a couple hundred dollars worth of junk in 30 minutes. There's really nothing much else to do while you wait. You sure don't want to be looking at the food that you're about to eat.

                                        Popular place for the tour bus crowd.

                                        Right up there with Old Country Buffet

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Chrispy75

                                          I only ate there once because all the good restaurants in the small town where I went to college are closed on Sundays. Only the chains stay open, so we thought we'd give it a shot. The food was so bad I don't even remember what I ordered.

                                          I know a lot of people who enjoy breakfast from there, but I've never been back to see if it's any good.

                                          On that one trip the gift shop provided countless minutes of entertainment for my husband and I (then my boyfriend). We had to wait a long time so we wandered around the shop wondering who in their right mind would buy any of the stuff in there. The best part was when we were making fun of this colored ball on a stand and one of the salespeople overheard us and started telling us about how great these reflecting balls were. We couldn't stop laughing.

                                        2. One person's junk is another person's treasure! Cracker Barrel sells Boyd's bears, which my mother collects and they carry a nice selection.

                                          1. because it's the only restaurant where you can get chicken and dumplings with a side of dumplings? and it's better than denny's when on the road? well not by much.

                                            1. I have no idea. It's consistent, maybe -- you know what you're going to get. It's better than Denny's or Shoney's, worse than IHOP.

                                              I can't stand it.

                                              1. Consistently clean bathrooms and the CB policy of renting books-on-tape throughout the USA. Pick one up in California, trade it for another in Texas, Kentucky etc. Great alternative to the local library for longer trips.

                                                You don't have to eat there to use either of these benefits.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Sherri

                                                  That's a really cool idea. Didn't know they did that.

                                                  1. re: cbauer

                                                    Pilot service centres do it too.

                                                    DT

                                                2. Cracker Barrel is basically a brilliant marketing concept. Think of all the Sunday breakfasts you have had to wait in line for at the local diner--Cracker Barrel makes it palatable to a vast number of people by virtue of its gift shops. Yeah, the stuff is kitschy, but a lot of people like the nostalgia items, the foods, the horrendously dowdy clothing... Kids love the toy section. Sometimes they have some nice housewares/kitchen stuff at the one by me. You're entertained, and the company makes money off of it to boot...

                                                  The menu is heavy on the comfort food and pretty huge--something for everything so it's the perfect place for families and multiple generation groups. The atmosphere and the food are very nostalgic, very pseudo "down home" which I think a lot of people are drawn to in our high-tech society. The familiarity (or perceived familiarity) appeals to people. And like Wal-Mart, the company has gone out of its way to woo the road-trippers and RV users.

                                                  As for the food, well... I live in New Jersey. The Southern theme is a bit of a novelty up here, even if it's not really Southern food. But no one I know will touch that white gravy that seems ubiquitous there... What goes into that stuff???

                                                  I have had good burgers there, though. And I do love that hashbrown casserole--kind of like a stealthy way of having cheese fries for breakfast.

                                                  Yeah, I've thought about this a lot. Usually when trapped at Cracker Barrel with a pack of elderly relatives...

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Heatherb

                                                    Theoretically, the white gravy is flour, fat (butter or bacon grease) and milk, with salt and white pepper.

                                                    1. re: Heatherb

                                                      Don't knock the white (Milk) gravy. It's fantastic.

                                                      It's especially good when it's sausage (Sawmill) gravy and served over biscuits.

                                                      DT

                                                    2. Basically, thats how you make gravy at home. I like to fry up sausage into crumbles and use that as the fat...Yum.

                                                      1. I would rather eat at a CB than at many other chains. In fact, when we moved from Arkansas to Mexico, two of our meals were at CB, another at Jason's deli, and our last US meal at Fuddrucker's. The CBs were welcome stops as we were tired and very stressed. The staff is competent and the atmosphere is fairly soothing. The food is, indeed, comfort food. Just what we needed.

                                                        1. The only dish I enjoy at CB is their apple butter. Other than that, I'm good playing over-sized checkers and then heading back out on the next road trip.

                                                          1. But,but, hash brown casserole......

                                                            1. Breakfast. Breakfast with fried apples and hash-brown casserole.

                                                              1. I lived in GA, then LA and the only reason we stopped at Cracker Barrel was for the books on CD when we were traveling. You purchase the CD, then return them when you're finished and they refund your purchase minus a nominal fee - depending on how long you keep it. When we went to Dallas for the weekend, we'd get a CD in LA, listen to it on the way and back from Dallas and return it to the same place a day or two later. Great program!

                                                                1. I've never been there for dinner, but loooove the breakfast! I don't eat eggs and often have a hard time finding breakfast options. Not only do they have all the mini meals to choose from, but they let me substitute another hash brown casserole for eggs on their combo meals (most breakfast places won't let you sub eggs).

                                                                  I almost stopped for dinner one time, but opted for Shoneys and spent the next 10 hours for my road trip in agony. I'll opt for CB on any road trip.

                                                                  Another fun fact- they offer great discounts on their holiday items after Christmas. I cleaned up last year on some really nice ornaments!

                                                                  1. i ate at cracker barrell's twice. one breakfast - cold, runny eggs but good biscuits. and one dinner which was utterly forgettable. the manufactured cutseyness of the place grates on me too. one more reason i'll never go back. they have a long history of discriminating against their gay employees. gay isn't corporate's idea of "family."

                                                                    1. If you are traveling on Interstates in the South and want biscuits and gravy without the hassle of getting off and searching for a town with a mom and pop cafe ( or trying to find the recommended place in your tattered old copy of Roadfood) go to Hardee's. Biscuits are fresh, sausage gravy is better than CB.
                                                                      If you get their steak biscuit (and the steak is freshly made)a dollop of gravy makes it food for the travelers gods.

                                                                      1. CB has always been a fave of mine, I can usually depend on a good meal my choice is usually the Sunrise Sampler, the sausage and bacon and ham all lean and smoked and you walk out full and content for less than twenty dollars between a couple that is good! and as far as them being more "family" oriented well maybe thats why so many of us go out of our way for ole CB maybe we like that conservative feel and thats what we support, now I live in the Northwest and haven't had decent place to eat for less than 40 bucks and I have to eat in not so family friendly oriented places for less quality..

                                                                        1. I've had breakfast there once and was not that impressed. My bacon was burned, the sausage gravy was only so-so, and the grits were runny. Grits should not be runny. And they should use a little salt. If I have to eat in a place like this, I think Bob Evans is better. (For this kind of food.)

                                                                          1. Oh why why why would you go to Cracker Barrel when you can go to Bob Evans? or Country Kitchen? Dear god why?????

                                                                            In all seriousness though, I think one of the most revolting tv commercials I ever saw was an ad for CB featuring some manner of baking crockery filled with something that may have been mac & cheese, mixed with sausage, pepperoni, and chicken. GAH.

                                                                            On the plus side, the books on tape thing is actually brilliant.

                                                                            1. It's all a gimmick, from the gives-Southerners-a-bad-name food, to the tacky knick-nacks, to the hokey atmosphere.

                                                                              And folks, there are many types of "Southern Food" - not all "Southern Food" is this sort of low-born vile nonsense.

                                                                              1. Wow, the one's in Illinois are excellent! Sunday Homestyle Chicken-Fantastic, and can't get it anywhere else. And their Pot Roast-Fork Tender AND Tasty! and Uncle Hershel's breakfast is really great. Their Apple Dumpling is an experience!

                                                                                While you wait (or after) eating you can peruse their country store which is fun, nostalgic, educational, a trip down memory lane and reasonably priced.

                                                                                We try to go every Sunday. (For that Homestyle Chicken) YUM! Crunchy coating with juicy tender chicken on the inside.

                                                                                1. This is an old thread brought up new, but the best thing about Cracker Barrel is getting real maple syrup for your pancakes or whatever at breakfast. But. I'd gladly go to other places, and I'd even pay extra for it. It's really surprising, as last I recall eating at CB the real syrup was standard. Given the fact that so few places even offer real syrup, I always figured the vast majority of people actively would choose the fake pancake syrup instead. But then CB is definitely a place that caters to the vast majority of people. Hmmm.... Anyway, if you're stuck eating at one, at least you can get real maple syrup. Go for something that comes with it and hope it comes out well. Otherwise, I find it to be another chain choice that if all else fails you know what to expect. They're not plentiful around here so I never went regularly.

                                                                                  I'd like to know where on a Sunday morning (unless you're very early) there would always be another place with no line. I suppose if you keep driving long enough you'd eventually reach the right time when there is no line, but otherwise this is silly. Everywhere has a line on Sunday morning in my experience. We were in First Watch one time, happened to be Mother's Day morning (this wasn't a special event in our case, just happened to be that day). And people actually turned around and walked out for like a 20 minute wait. LOL Anyway, it's been a long time since I waited more than 10-15 minutes for any restaurant. There may still be somewhere else, but it would take that long to get there. As for longer waits, if it's 6:30 or 7:00 and Friday or Saturday night, the idea that you're somehow going to go elsewhere and beat the wait seems unlikely, unless you're going to forgo the table service and eat fast food. Waiting at non-peak times, though, that would be silly.

                                                                                  1. I can't get past the stinky candles and other stuff that attacks the nose in the "craft section" you have to pass thru to get to the tables. And then the food is only mediocre IMO. And then the stinky store on the way out. No thanks.

                                                                                    1. I don't know why...The food is disgusting!!

                                                                                      1. Why to eat some Chicken-Fried-Chicken, corn bread/biscuits, potatoes with extra gravy-lube.
                                                                                        -BnF

                                                                                        1. Sourdough french toast and a side of sugar cured ham--the best!!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: vegasmike

                                                                                            Dh and I stopped at one on I-81 last Sunday and I had the French Toast and it was some of the best I've ever had. Real maple syrup..mmmmm.

                                                                                          2. Since an average CB breakfast probably has enough calories, fat, and salt to last at least one day, 'd say it was because the customers just wanted to save time and eat one meal that day, but sadly, that's almost certainly never the case.

                                                                                            1. I have been to 3 of them 1 in SC 1 in NJ and 1 in PA. Breakfast only! In my opinion, I crave the hash brown casserole. Yummy and Eggs in a basket. All love the gift shop. Would not recommend for other then breakfast. Had a chicken salad sandwich (didn't think someone could mess that up)?
                                                                                              They did way to chunky and the mayo? or whatever it was disgusting.
                                                                                              I haven't been back since I found a Copy Cat recipe for the hash brown casserole! And can make my own now and already knew eggs in a basket. Nice atmosphere though, by fireplace seating.
                                                                                              If you want the copy cat reply and will post.

                                                                                              1. Mrs. Sippi knows I hate them but she was on a chicken fried steak quest on the trip down for thanksgiving. So in we went.
                                                                                                I too had the CFS and I have to admit, it didn't suck. But that's about all I can say. It didn't suck. Relatively flavourless meat that left me with gas pains for the last two hours of the journey.

                                                                                                To top it off, I got gum on my pants from the underside of my chair which ended up on the front of the drivers seat.

                                                                                                I have I mentioned lately how much I hate this place??

                                                                                                DT

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                  Your standards for "didn't suck" must be lower than mine, because "flavorless meat that left me with gas pains" would certainly qualify as "sucky" in my book. If I'm going to have gas pains, the food better have tasted better than that!

                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                    LOL

                                                                                                    I guess I was trying to be nice. The greens were decent so I guess that made up for it. Although the pepper sauce was almost flavourless. I didn't think that was possible.

                                                                                                    DT

                                                                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                      Never underestimate the ability of a chain restaurant -- especially a cheap one -- to suck all the flavor out of food. Basically, at those prices they're using the absolute lowest possible quality ingredients and pumping them full of fat, salt and/or sugar to make them palatable. That's what's wrong with chain restaurants -- not so much that they're chains per se, but that they're more interested in the bottom line* than in producing good food, and spend more money and effort on marketing than they do on ingredients.

                                                                                                      *Of course all restaurants want to make a profit, but ones that are run by actual chefs, not corporations, also take personal pride in what's on the plate.

                                                                                                2. I have never really liked the place, and would only go if I couldn't convince the group to go anywhere else.

                                                                                                  If I wanted to go out for a "home-cooked" meal, I wouldn't have gone out in the first place!

                                                                                                  1. There is only one reason to go to CB that I can comprehend. Their rest rooms are reliably clean, and they are located in a spot in the gift shop area that makes access to them easy. No need to patronize the place--plenty of fools to take care of that aspect for the accountants wherever they are--no need to even pass near the hostess stand. My dear sweet wife often has the urge, and there's always a CB just down the road when driving the interstates.

                                                                                                    I keep hearing about the audio book program they have. Might have to try that. But in good conscience I can't recommend anyone who cares about his food ever eat there.

                                                                                                    1. I get gas when I eat there. The food tastes okay, but I always get really bad gas. I don't know what they put in it. I am forced to eat there a lot because it is my father's favourite place. It's about on the same level as K & W Cafeteria, but K & W doesn't give me gas.

                                                                                                      1. I do an egg sandwich with bacon, hash brown casserole and chocolate milk. Never go when there is a wait. It is cheap and tasty. Everything else is crap.