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In defense of Cracker Barrel

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At least the decor - http://www.theatlantic.com/national/a...

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  1. It's the only place I can find Diet Stewart's Orange Cream soda.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dinsdale45

      I miss the Stewart's Grape Soda that they used to carry...loved having that poured over their ice cold frosty mugs!

    2. What's wrong with Cracker Barrel?

      I think they make a pretty mean hashbrown casserole (*I always ask them to hold the cheese).

      4 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        "What's wrong with Cracker Barrel?"

        Guess it's OK if you crave canned / microwaved frozen food when traveling away from home.

        1. re: Clams047

          That sums it up pretty well...their food isn't horrible, but it's certainly nothing special.
          It does taste like canned/frozen food.
          There are worse places to eat though.

          1. re: The Professor

            I haven't eaten at Cracker Barrel in ages.I ate there last Thanksgivingbut should have gone to Marie Callander's instead.Didn't feel like paying an arm and a leg to eat at one of the hotels downtown in San Antonio.
            It was okay;but I think I would have been better off eating at Jim's a local chain.Or maybe even going to Golden Corral if they were open.I went to my brother's later for dinner which was much better.I can cook most of the same dishes plus i can cut out much of the hidden salt and sugar as well.
            I might try them again sometime.

            1. re: HollyDolly

              What do you recommend at Marie Callender's besides pie? I've only tried the pie.

      2. as an expat (and I know you can identify) -- it's near and dear for comfort food we just can't have in our adopted countries....

        ...somehow we manage to find ourselves in a Cracker Barrel at least once every visit.

        11 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Cracker Barrel - and found a very serious article about the Cracker Barrel antiques and American history to be fascinating.

          But in my lifetime, I have only ever been in a Cracker Barrel 3 or 4 times. But at one of those visits when I was a child, I tried fried okra for the first time. Don't know if I'd think that their held up now - but at the time it was a culinary revelation.

          1. re: cresyd

            I've never been to Cracker Barrel, but fried okra is food of the gods.

            1. re: JonParker

              I will always be appreciative of Cracker Barrel's role of introducing me to fried okra. I have no idea if I'd still find their version good today - but for making that intro, I am greatful.

              1. re: JonParker

                Yes, Fried Okra is indeed food of the gods. One of my most favorite things to eat.

              2. re: cresyd

                I don't remember ever seeing fried okra at the location I have been to. Are the menus regional?

                1. re: melpy

                  Every one I've been to has fried okra listed with all the other available vegetables. I had some just this week with my usual vegetable plate - green beans, okra, hashbrown casserole, and fried apples. Mmmmmm...

                  Their fried apples are not the fried apples of my childhood though...they're more like apple pie filling really.

                  1. re: melpy

                    It's not on the website either, I think something else mentioned here is missing too. Must be regional.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Unless their website is regional, I see it there, too.

                      http://www.crackerbarrel.com/restaura...

                      Breaded Fried Okra - under vegetables n' sides

                      1. re: Leepa

                        Huh. You are correct. Not sure what I was thinking!

                        1. re: julesrules

                          I didn't see it the first time either. Maybe the next time you go, they'll have it.

                    2. re: melpy

                      I've eaten at danged near every C.B. in every state I've traveled through, and the menus were the same in every one. Fried okra was always on the menu. Maybe they just don't sell much?

                2. I already wanted to go to CB. Now I want to go more! Look at those porch rockers!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: julesrules

                    You can buy the rockers. We have two on our front porch.

                  2. Cracker Barrel is still sort of a novelty for me because they are scarce around these parts (Westchester County, NY)
                    Great retro candy selection , bacon, eggs...terrific, friendly service...You will find no " tude" here!
                    Dining at Cracker Barrel for me, is like dining in an alternate universe.
                    The merchandise changes often, with every holiday and seasonally. Mixed in with the kitsch one can find some interesting/fun stuff. I picked up a great witches hat for Halloween a couple of years ago and a nice costume for my nephew as well. As a matter of fact we stopped into the Fishkill store on our way home from upstate NY this past Sunday and found a Colonial era shirt for him that was needed for a school project. Need a cast iron muffin pan, this is your place. They could serve shit on a shingle... kids, even those with discerning palates would still love the place.

                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                    4 Replies
                    1. re: chowdom

                      Lots of chains in the rest of the country are scarce in Westchester...luckily. Even the Nathan's by the Cross-County shopping center was knocked down (I only went there to play a 14-year old baseball game in the arcade, but the hot dog nuggets did it well sometimes).

                      And now, there's a Pepe's in Yonkers. What the heck?

                      Fact is, I'd rather have (I think) Cracker Barrel's ambience and service but IHOP's pancakes.

                      1. re: BuildingMyBento

                        Cracker Barrel pancakes are pretty darned good.

                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                          I finally got to go to an IHOP about two years ago. My friend I went with and I so hated the food, we threaten each other in jest, "If you're not good, I'm gonna take you to IHOP."

                          It was that bad.

                          1. re: Jay F

                            IHOPs vary somewhat. we have a very good one not to far away. they have these great grain and nut pancakes, and i use the butter pecan syrup. they also make a nice chicken fajita omelet that i quite like. good patty melts, too.

                      2. The founder of CB was an extreme racist. The institution still has racist tendencies.

                        They've been investigated by the department of justice due to the severity and number of claims by customers and employees. In 2004 they had to pay $8.7 million to settle federal cases in the state of GA.

                        http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/unio...

                        The food, from what I remember, was mediocre. Would probably go there once more since its been so long

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: vonshu

                          Old news.

                          1. re: vonshu

                            More than enough reason to just never talk about them again. bad food - horrible owners. . . . . .

                            1. re: thimes

                              I don't know the owners nor do I care about their horribleness. The food is just fine and, judging by the crowds at meal times, a lot of folks feel the same way.

                          2. We've taken a couple of weekend road trips with a couple born and raised here in rural West Georgia. While our friends were happy to try any restaurant we suggested while vacationing, the ride home had to include a trip to Cracker Barrel, where the wife knew she could get her fix of beans and greens. Many hometown restaurants in the South serve an extremely limited menu, and that menu means comfort to a lot of Southerners. Cracker Barrel isn't much of an example of quality Southern cooking, but if you've got a hankerin' for your pintos and collards, it's a sure bet.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                              I miss my southern comfort foods, but Cracker Barrel doesn't satisfy my yen. It teases it but can't fulfill it. I go there when there is absolutely no other choice. It's better than MickeyD's.

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                If I'm hungry, and my choices are Applebee's or CB (as sometimes can be the case near some interstate exits), I'll choose CB.

                                1. re: prima

                                  Sounds like you drive through my town on interstate 81. They are across the way from eachother.

                            2. There's a place that's identical to CB except the food is fabulous just south of Nashville that is rumoured to be where they got the idea.

                              As for CB, I avoid it like lepers.

                              DT

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Davwud

                                While this thread has become mostly about the food - the article in defense of Cracker Barrel was just talking about the decor antiques.

                              2. It's said to be the third worst place in America for gays to work.

                                <b>For years, Cracker Barrel had a policy of firing workers for being gay. The company actually issued a memo stating that people who did not demonstrate "normal heterosexual values" could not work for Cracker Barrel. On employee pink slips, managers would write this reason for the termination: "Employee is gay."</b>

                                http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/ar...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jay F

                                  i have to say ... wow. and i'm impressed with 1 and 2, whoever they are, that they could beat that.

                                  i once worked/traveled with a guy who believed it was, i suppose odd, to think about where you were going to eat rather than just stopping at the first place you came to, as you would a gas station. but he made an exception for cracker barrel--that was worth waiting for. i believe the chicken & dumplings were his dish.

                                2. I don't think Cracker Barrel needs any defense (it's politics notwithstanding).

                                  They serve up a very respectable breakfast for a chain restaurant.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                    The article is about the decor, not the food.

                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      Perhaps - but who the heck cares about the decor? Lol!!

                                      1. re: cresyd

                                        But most of the posts are about the food...

                                    2. Mr. Sueatmo likes to eat there, but I like it less. Yes, the food is homestyle, but is still not particularly well prepared. I've had the fried chicken, which is not authentic! A long while ago I had the biscuits, which were OK, but if I recall (its been a long time) the cornbread was overly sweetened.

                                      However, among the options along the interstate, it might be the best choice, I am sorry to say.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                        "I've had the fried chicken, which is not authentic!"

                                        How so?

                                        1. re: kengk

                                          It is chicken strips, I believe. Half the fun of fried chicken is eating it off the bone.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            They serve fried chicken on the bone too.

                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                              Much tastier on the bone, too.

                                        2. I have a soft spot for Cracker Barrel. In 2002, I had such a vile meal there that, having choked down the few bites I could, I have not eaten at a chain restaurant since. A tip of my cap to them for teaching me a lesson I took to heart.

                                          1. The worst thing about CB, IMO, is their "grits." If this is your only experience of this dish, you will wonder forever why on earth anyone ever eats such swill.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Wow, are you ever right. I ordered them once when forced to eat there, and they were just watery and tasteless.

                                            2. I usually have the Cracker Barrel Country Fried Steak with a Tossed Salad. Sometimes a Grilled Reuben Platter and a bowl of soup, chili, pinto beans with ham, or chowder depending on varied daily selection(s).

                                              Cracker Barrel menu: http://www.crackerbarrel.com/restaura...

                                              Cracker Barrel Locations and Hours: http://www.crackerbarrel.com/location...

                                              1. we enjoyed the rustic decor last time, and were next to the big fireplace.

                                                i love their breakfast with the fried catfish. i just wish the closest one wasn't some 40 miles away!

                                                their tartar sauce is hands-down the very best i've ever eaten. i wish i could find a clone recipe (because they don't sell it).

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  Tartar sauce, obviously you've never been to Luby's Cafeteria, a small Texas chain. It's way better than Cracker Barrel, even though I've never had it there. Insert smiley face semi-colon here, which I just don't do. Oh yes, the rectangular fried fish is a must, the real deal, complete with an occasional bone.

                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                    well, i'm headed to texas next week, so i'll see if luby's tartar sauce cuts the mustard, so to speak. ;-).

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      Where in Texas, it's kinda large? Please report on your trip.

                                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                                        houston, lake jackson, san antonio. looking forward to some excellent food. and there is a great wine shop we love in houston: "french country wines." friendly, knowledgeable people and value pricing. http://www.frenchcountrywines.com
                                                        best dry ros├ęs ever! lots of great french varietals.

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          Don't waste time with Luby's in while you are in Houston. Luby's is good, but Cleburne's on Bissonnet is so much better. Its in the area south of Lakewood Church, west of Kirby Drive.

                                                          1. re: GCBananaBread

                                                            i didn't go to luby's. i ate at goode's seafood and another time at this great new place, hollister on washington, which i highly recommend. (see my houston board post). we loved "nao" in san antonio (the CIA outpost). we also liked luke's (john besh's place). la fogata in san antonio was really delicious, too.

                                                            in san antonio, there is a great little texas beer and wine place with enthusiastic owners and a delicious texas beer selection. it is located right next to the river walk taxi ticket booth in the mini-mall.

                                                  2. re: alkapal

                                                    I'd be thrilled to have a CB just 40 miles away! Our closest is over 180 each way, and we go there once a quarter. I grew up Southern, so am well aware of the not-authentic issues, but it still hits the spot, both for food and nostalgia.

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      The catfish is an option on that Cousin Hershel thing I mentioned. Saw that and just knew that fried catfish and eggs was what I'd been wanting all my life. I was right. Funny thing - we've moved to SoCal and get to CB only when we go back to Nashville for a visit, but there's a really good little Mexican restaurant up the street from us with a small subset of "American" items on the menu, and fried catfish and eggs is one of them! No tartar sauce, though.

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        Also in SoCal, but we drive to Yuma (closest CB) for our CB fix.

                                                    2. Cracker Barrel reminds me of what John Steinbeck said after he had driven across the country collecting information for "Travels With Charley"---that on the whole trip he had never had a good dinner or a bad breakfast. CB does wonderful big Southern-style breakfasts.

                                                      1. Interesting.... I bet you that 99% of the people who eat there couldn't care less about the decor and have zero appreciation for the value of any antiques.

                                                        The times I have eaten there, I had no idea any of that stuff was real or had any significant value. I appreciated the old timey atmosphere and all, but I was basically just shuffling around waiting to be seated, to eat my yummy mushy southern green beans!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Mellicita

                                                          Actually I've noted the decor. I kind of enjoyed all the old stuff for the first few times, but I've decided that the old stuff all over the walls has grown tiresome. I'd rather eat in a clean, bright interior.

                                                          I give them this though--they have a large menu.

                                                        2. When traveling interstates Cracker Barrel tends to be my preference over the other chain options.

                                                          I ate at my first CB in the late '80's and it was really good. After experiences the last several years I now think the quality between locations varies widely. I have had some dismal meals at CB in recent years. I now keep one of their maps in my glove compartment and cross off the bad ones. Helps me avoid them a year later when making the same drive.

                                                          But when you hit a good one it can be a treat!

                                                          1. i too have found the potato casserole, fried catfish, and green beans fun enough. but i do feel a little slimey eating at CB with their rather blatant, and frankly culinarily ironic, discrimination issues.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: slowcoooked

                                                              Not that I agree with them about their issues... but how are they culinarily ironic? What is culinary irony?

                                                              1. re: Leepa

                                                                I believe that slow is referring to the fact that many of the folks CB has been known to discriminate against have a strong culinary association with the type of food CB serves.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  Oh. I thought their main discrimination problem was with the LGBT community and was trying to figure out what sort of culinary irony could apply there. Maybe there is and I just being culinarily stupid...

                                                              2. re: slowcoooked

                                                                These discrimination issues you mention, what are they exactly? Anything recent? Were they widespread or confined to one or two locations? Any links to hard facts?

                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracker_...

                                                                  I think if you Google, you'll find lots more.

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    So it seems, for the most part, these transgressions occurred quite some time ago.

                                                                    1. re: grampart

                                                                      http://setexasrecord.com/news/235183-...

                                                                      AFAIK, this case has not yet been settled.

                                                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                                                      I assume the LGBT thing has been settled; we and our friends were boycotting them for a couple of years, and then the gay guys said, "It's okay now!" and we all went back to getting our Cousin Hershel's Favorite fix on a regular basis.

                                                                      I know that we've never seen as large a proportion of black people in the several locations we visit as at, say, Waffle House, but those we have noticed appear to get seated in proper order, at whatever table is available, and waited on as promptly and politely as the rest of us. Anything else in this day and age would be noticeable, I think.

                                                                2. I love their croutons