Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stacy's First Visit to Cracker Barrel

Now that I have been in the South for over four years, I decided it was high time to finally fulfill a rite of Southern passage. Now, I'm not talking about going to the rodeo, eating fried oreos at the state fair, goin' swimmin' in a swimmin' hole, or learning to love country music (been there, done all that.)

I'm talkin' 'bout Cracker Barrel!

Being a Yankee most of my life, whenever I passed Cracker Barrels on the highway I always thought they were souvenir shops, not the repositories of greasy Southern goodness that they are. When I discovered there was one mere minutes from my apartment, I decided my time had come.

50,000+ calories of artery-clogging goodness later, I am ready to deliver my full report to you all.

My Order:

  • Chicken fried chicken with gravy (I shit you not, that's what it was called)

  • Mashed potatoes with gravy

  • Steak fries
  • Green beans

  • Buttermilk biscuits

All of it deeeeelicious! The chicken fried chicken was a boneless chicken cutlet fried to crispy breaded perfection and topped with Sawmill Gravy. I liked having the taste of fried chicken without having to deal with bones.

The biscuits were pillowy bites of butter-soaked heaven. The mashed potatoes weren't stellar, but then again, I am a potato snob, and the fries and green beans were delicious.

Things I Loved About Cracker Barrel:

1) The store full of random ass things to look through while you wait to be seated.
Seriously, they sold everything from Patsy Cline CDs to vegetable seed kits to patterned quilts to old fashioned soda. It was like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dolly Parton had a love child on crack. And I loved it.

2) The front porch with rocking chairs. Yeah, the chairs cost over a hundred dollars each if you wanted to buy one. Yeah, they were covered in about an inch of yellow-green pollen (hurray, Durham in the springtime.) But I gotta say, it was delightful to plop down in these babies after an enormous belly-buster of a meal and just rock.

It made me long for days of yore....

3) The peg game at each of the tables. I hadn't seen one of these anywhere else besides my grandparents' house...I thought they had invented it and whittled the damn thing themselves. Imagine my shock when I saw them at our table.

Way more creative than a kids menu with crayons! Props, Cracker Barrel.

4) People watching. 'Nuff said.

Things I Disliked About Cracker Barrel:

1) The interior. Yeah, it had that barn-like charm you would expect. However, it eerily reminded me of those crappy restaurants you find at amusement parks like Six Flags. The whole place felt very mass-produced. There is something sort of inauthentic about a giant nation-wide chain that tries to imitate a small-town atmosphere.

But hey, at least there were some interesting knickknacks on the walls!

2) Massive, massive heartburn.

3) The "Low-Carb Menu." This simultaneously amused and angered me.

Let's imagine you are an under-educated, overweight Southern hillbilly. You look in the mirror one day and realize you're so fat you are about to bust out of your overalls, and you are beginning to resemble the hogs you keep out back.

One day you walk into your favorite local Cracker Barrel and order up some grub. You decide to play it healthy this time, and the Low-Carb Menu catches your eye.

"Low Carbs? What the heck are carbs?" you grunt at the menu. "I think I done heard those fancy science folks talkin' on TV 'bout them! This must mean it's healthy!"

So you open your menu to the Low-Carb section, and the first thing you see is:

Half Pound Bacon Cheeseburger-- Our half pound burger is served with no bun and topped with thick sliced bacon and two slices of melting Colby cheese. Served with your choice of side.


Either Dr. Atkins owned stock in Cracker Barrel, or these people SERIOUSLY don't understand healthy choices.

Stacy's Final Thoughts (Jerry Springer style):

Overall, Cracker Barrel offers tasty food, good service, a fun atmosphere, and low prices. But at what cost?

The fact that they serve up incredibly unhealthy food at dirt cheap prices is part of the reason why Americans are so grossly obeise. If this is the type of place many Americans go to treat themselves to a special occasion, what are we teaching people about the relationship between junk food and reward? If a half pound bacon cheeseburger is on the healthy option menu, how are we educating Americans to make good choices?

While I enjoyed my experience at the Cracker Barrel, I hope America isn't enjoying it too much.

What are YOUR thoughts about Cracker Barrel and other similar institutions? Fun greasy havens, or the root of all evil in the American diet?


  1. Fun greasy havens! Don't you know McDonalds and their crack-filled egg mcmuffins are the root of all evil in the American diet?

    Seriously least the "low-carb" options don't pretend to be GOOD for you...just low-carb, which they are. And, in a sense, they are healthy. In comparison to the rest of the menu that is. Hahaha.

    I don't think you can blame them for the obesity of America. I actually remember seeing more smallish people than large people when I was there.

  2. Way to give a shout out to your dinner company.