Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

August 26, 2017

I feel like it's been ages since I've stepped foot in a Cracker Barrel restaurant. If I'm not mistaken, the last (which was also my first) time eating there, was something like 4 years ago. So yeah, it's been a LONG time, but I finally made my way back and by the looks of it, nothing has changed. 

If you're not familiar with Cracker Barrel, it is a chain restaurant that serves a whole lot of American "comfort food," with their unique edge being the fact that the restaurant also doubles as an "on-site general store/gift shop." So when you walk through their doors, you're not immediately greeted by a hostess, as is custom in most other restaurants, instead you're literally just at the entrance of an general store. They carry a little bit of everything, from clothing items, to a variety of snacks, little trinkets, souvenirs and I'm sure there's a whole lot more I'm failing to mention. But when you make your way through their store, you can typically find the evening's hostess next to the cash registers before you make your way into the dining portion of the restaurant.

**Quick side note- these same registers in the gift shop is also where you go to pay for your meal. Your server gives you your receipt before you've even finished your meal (at least this was the case for me), but don't worry, it's not because they're being rude (because that's what I thought at first), it's just because this restaurant's layout is quite different from most. So you just take your slip when you've finished, and head back into the shop to pay!**

If you couldn't already tell, Cracker Barrel has a very homey, Southern feel to it and I know I wasn't able to capture this, but there is also a lot of very charming old-fashioned decor EVERYWHERE. The front of the restaurant is also made to resemble an old-school front porch- lined with wooden rocking chairs and sometimes checkers boards.

While the overall ambience may be a thumbs up, let's get into what really matters- the food! I think the first thing worth noting is how reasonably priced Crack Barrel is. For the amount of food you receive, I think it's quite the steal! As for the quality, I can only speak on what I've tried. 

So on this particular evening, I was able to have a taste of their Country Fried Shrimp Platter and Grilled Sirloin Steak. Each main dish came with 3 sides of my choice (there are about 22 different sides to choose from, if I'm not mistaken) as well as a choice between their Buttermilk Biscuits or Corn Muffins. For my sides I had mashed potatoes, fresh steamed broccoli, 2 mixed green side salads, steak fries, and cole slaw (also worth mentioning, all of this food was NOT just for me lol). And because two main dishes were ordered, I went ahead and tried both the buttermilk biscuits, as well as the corn muffins (each order gets either 2 biscuits or 2 muffins fyi). Oh and for dessert, I tried the Cracker Barrel Campfire S'more.

I think I'll start with the biscuits because they were my absolute favourite! These were the best buttermilk biscuits I have ever had from a restaurant- truly "homestyle." They were so buttery and soft, perfectly fluffy and anything but doughy and dry. Typically, most biscuits served in restaurants tend to absorb every bit of moisture in your mouth as you chew, most times leaving you in desperate need of a drink to prevent you from choking; Cracker Barrel buttermilk biscuits are the complete opposite! Oh my gosh, I never thought I would love biscuits this much. Damn.

The corn muffins were also quite good, but in my eyes, they pale in comparison next to those biscuits. In terms of the sides, salads were fine- pretty standard stuff, cole slaw was good (you can't really mess that up), the steamed broccoli was also nothing to complain about (except maybe it could've done with a pinch of salt), steak fries were also standard, but the mashed potatoes I wasn't too keen on. I'm someone who really loves a well made mashed potato dish, so maybe my expectations were too high, but Cracker Barrel's version was really underwhelming. They were quite clearly homemade, still having little bits of potato skin mashed in there (which I don't mind at all), I think it was just missing some good seasoning and a tad more "mashing," that's all.

As for the main dishes, the shrimp was perfectly cooked and seasoned well, the breading was also not too thick where most of your bite would be breading with a little shrimp, and it wasn't too thin to the point that it would flake off, exposing the shrimp (kind of how the Cheesecake Factory's calamari breading is, no shade). The ratio of breading to shrimp was perfect for me. There were also a few hushpuppies (basically a deep-fried corn meal ball) in the shrimp platter, which were fine. I don't particularly care for them in general so I could've done without it, but no complaints regardless. As for the steak, seasoning-wise it was fine, but it was a bit overdone this time around. But this wasn't something that left me all "up in arms," it was fine. The dessert was also quite nice, although I am not the biggest fan of Hershey's chocolate (it tastes so artificial and overpowers any and everything), I really enjoyed the other components.

Overall, I was very pleased with my meal and the service at Cracker Barrel, so I'll definitely be going back. I think you really can't go wrong with their prices, especially for the value of what you're getting. Sure it may not be some 5-star restaurant, but their niche is American comfort food, and I think they do it well.

Do let me know if you've ever been to Cracker Barrel and what was your experience like?


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