On school breaks, if you’re headed home to anywhere in the Tri-State area, about an hour into your drive you’ll most likely pass a Cracker Barrel. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on an interesting experience and fried, feel-good food; if you’ve gone but it’s been a while, there’s no shame in getting back on the bandwagon and stopping there for a late night snack. You enter a country store complete with knick knacks galore, currently decorated in both Halloween and Christmas themes. But don’t let the cheesiness fool you; these are decent quality products and tempting to take home, and there’s also candy and other edible goods to supplement your shopping.
After browsing through the shop, you can enter the restaurant side, which unabashedly continues the country atmosphere with kerosene lamps and walls covered in old school paraphernalia.
There are two menus to order from any day, any time: A breakfast one and a lunch / dinner one. You can stay healthy or you can splurge. There are sandwiches, which include burgers, corned beef, turkey, grilled or fried chicken tenderloin, catfish, BLTs, grilled cheeses, pork barbeque, meatloaf and ham. If you want to up the ante you can venture into the grilled sirloin or rib eye steaks, fried steaks, roast beef, fried shrimp or chicken and dumplings platter, pork chops, hickory smoked ham or chicken livers. There is also a never-ending array of sides from baked sweet potatoes to low-fat vanilla yogurt and macaroni and cheese to vegetables. What you really need to try though are the homemade biscuits. They are buttery and fluffy and come with irresistible white gravy to either pour on top or use as a dip.
But then there’s breakfast … You can pretty much order any combination of eggs, meat and grits that you can think of, along with pancakes, muffins, fruit and French toast.
I opted for a dinner dish however, choosing some country-fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cucumber and tomato salad and, of course, biscuits and gravy. I mixed the blatantly unhealthy with the healthy, making me not only feel better about how I was chowing down, but incorporating a variety of different texts and textures; in short, it was well-rounded and shamelessly enjoyable. The food never fails to tide you over for the rest of the ride home. And on your way out, maybe you can pick up one of those aforementioned knick knacks to keep you entertained. Bottom line, despite it being a themed chain, the restaurants truly have a lot to offer, especially for a family-style setting.