Just Like Grandma Used to Make – Cracker Barrel

Susan says…

Here at Fork You, we are just about to arrive at the point where we have forked all our favorite places, places in close proximity to work, and places that fit neatly into a lunch hour.  It is becoming more difficult to find new victims for the midday meal.  Thus, today’s review…

Cracker Barrel?”  you ask.  Indeed it is an unusual choice for me.  I am not as chain-averse as Daniel but I am averse to “home cookin'”.  However, on Fridays, Cracker Barrel has a fish fry special.  I do love yummy fried fish! 

The parking lot was crammed full of Lincolns, Cadillacs, and Buicks.  We were a bit worried about our chances to score a table quickly, but it was not a problem.  As we walked through the restaurant to our seats, I scanned my surroundings.  After performing some quick calculations in my head, I determined the average age of the diners to be approximately 63.  That explains the vehicles in the lot.

I had every intention of ordering the fish fry Friday special, but the price scared me off.  (This special begin at 11 am and lasts all day – that’s probably why the price is a little higher than we expected.) Lunch would be nine bucks plus drink (if it met my price criteria) and tip…wow – over $10.  I just wasn’t feeling a $10 lunch happening at the Cracker Barrel today. 


Much to my delight, they have a special section of the menu dedicated to low-carb offerings.  For real!  Maybe there are a lot more senior citizens on low-carb diets than I ever imagined…  The suggestions consist of ground beef and chicken prepared in different ways with bacon and cheese.  They even give carb counts for the side dishes that were ketogenerian-friendly. 

The last time I was here (years ago) I had the grilled chicken tenderloin sandwich.  It was on 2 slices of bread instead of a fluffy bun and I recalled that it was slathered in butter and then grilled.  I also recalled someone telling me that if you don’t want to absorb as many carbs, eat the carbs with fat.  Hmmm…..the justifications were swimming inside my head.

chicken tenderloin sandwich with fries

I order it for $6.99.  The menu says it comes with a sample of cole slaw and fries.  I don’t like cole slaw, so I asked for carrots instead.  (Side note: I can’t stand green beans cooked for three days until they can be gummed instead of chewed, especially when bacon or ham is cooked with them.  This is the way they cook ‘em at the Barrel.  Don’t order them at Captain D’s, either – they do the same thing even though they look crisp-tender in the photo at the register.)

I ask our server how much the cokes are and she hesitates, then states “1.79.”  Well, they are .29 over my soda ceiling price of $1.50.  But I really, really want a Diet Coke.  They always taste better when they are fountain sodas….I am already eating fries and bread….why not?  I’ll just go hog-wild today!

My carrots mysteriously came out WAY before our lunches.  They were yummy and I was wishing, apparently out loud, that I had a spoonful of brown sugar on them.  Misty made a genius suggestion: sprinkle a packet of Splenda on them.  Holy fake sugar cane, Batman – that tastes wonderful!

When my sandwich finally arrived, the bread had indeed been slathered with butter and toasted to perfection.  I had butter residue on my fingers…yum.  The marinade they use on the chicken is very tasty.  The fries are standard frozen steak fries and were a satisfying vehicle for the Heinz ketchup.

I saw a couple plates of the fried cod go by and it did look good.  Maybe next time I’ll get it…

Our server was always there with the refills and even offered me a to-go cup with a refill for the road.  I gladly accepted her kind offer.  If they don’t offer, a lot of times you can get this star treatment if you ask.  I picked that tip up from a former coworker and have used it many times, in many different restaurants.  To date, I have not been told no.  At least about the to-go cup.

My bill was a whopping $11.  What?  But I didn’t get the fish fry…something must be amiss.  Using my special accounting powers, I audited the receipt and quickly uncovered two discrepencies: 1) the cokes are NOT $1.79, but $1.89.  But that is only $.10.  and 2) I was charged $2.19 extra for the carrots.  Evidently we had a miscommunication.  I thought I was going to get carrots in place of the grody cole slaw and I (happily) did not receive any cole slaw.  I explained that to the nice lady who took my money and she deducted the charge for the carrots.

So Misty & I had a nice lunch with good food and good service.  Too bad we didn’t have time to look around in the shop before we went back to work.  THREE FORKS.


Misty says…

Susan and I decided we were going to have a girls lunch (well, it was really by default, because no one else was in the office) at Cracker Barrel on Fish Fry Friday.  The parking lot was full when we pulled in and I could see the fear in Susan’s eyes.  She was afraid that we would not get a table and we would end up at Arbys.  To Susan’s relief…as soon as we walked up to the hostess, we were taken to our seats. 

I was going to get the cod fish special but it when I looked at the menu, it was priced more than I expected for a special.  Now, I didn’t know what I would do.  Should I go with my trusty favorite…the country dinner plate- deep fried catfish, corn and hash brown casserole with buttermilk biscuits and grape jelly?   Or should I get the fish special?  Then, I saw someone else’s Friday special as it passed by our table.  There were 3 big pieces of fish with fries and cole slaw.  That was way too much for me to eat for lunch.  My mind was made up.  I would get the catfish country dinner plate for $7.19.

country dinner plate - catfish

In my world of instant gratification, I really like it when the server brings my biscuits and jelly with the drinks.  This one didn’t.  I forgot to ask or mention it, so it wasn’t her fault.  And I really can’t complain about the service at all, she was excellent.  She refilled our drinks several times during our meal and offered to make us a to-go cup when we were ready to leave.  I can’t remember her name…but she was great.

My food was also great.  My catfish was hot and crispy…right out of the fryer.  My corn was hot and very buttery.  My hash brown casserole was a little dry and lukewarm, but it was still good.  The biscuits were moist.  Let’s just say this meal was very predictable and consistent.  There’s not much left to say!  -Three Forks

Cracker Barrel
5720 Maccorkle Ave SE
Charleston, WV 25304
(304) 925-6004
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Urbanspoon

29 responses to “Just Like Grandma Used to Make – Cracker Barrel

  1. This is the first positive review of a Cracker Barrel I’ve ever seen on a foodie website.
    My experience is that they overcook and overprice cheap ingredients. Everything tastes horribly bland. They supposedly offer down home southern cooking, but to a southern foodie, it’s the worse offering of such faire. I suspect the yankees on their way to Florida love it.
    But glad you liked it.

  2. Maybe the reason I didn’t slam it is because 1) I don’t like home-cookin’ anyway so if it tasted like southern down-home vittles, I wouldn’t have liked it at all and 2) what I ordered wasn’t traditional home-cookin’ food.

    Mostly, my food was bathed in butter – bad for my cholesterol but like Paula Deen would say, how can anything covered in butter be that bad?

  3. oh yeah – and Daniel told me not to post a review of a chain. He’s embarrassed.

  4. For a chain, this one isn’t too bad. For the most part it’s consistent, but sometimes it’s off just a little. But I give it props for having several low-carb and healthy options. I really like the grilled chicken tenderloin and they have decent grilled fish too. The biscuits are difficult to pass on, so the best way for me to do that is to tell them not to bring me any.

  5. Susan, if Dan gives you to hard a time about the chain thing, ask him why he BEGGED me to review a hot dog from Hardees. I wouldn’t do it, though, because I have impeccable reviewer scruples: Local food blogs should not do chains, right? Right?
    Oh, that’s right; sorry girls.

  6. I was so happy when I started reading your comment, thinking: “how sweet, Stanton, the White Knight of the Weenie Wonks, comes to our rescue to defend us against Daniel’s snobby, discriminatory attitude. Then I read the last sentence.

    Just so you know, Daniel himself reviewed a chain. And a ballpark. And a cafeteria. Oh, that’s right – you ALSO reviewed the Capitol Cafeteria.

    And all the Sam’s hot dog stands in a 100-mile radius.

  7. demosthenes.or.locke

    I’d love to see a review of the breakfast joints in the area…. I think I have eaten everything on the menu at first watch at least twice.

    Crack Barrel makes me think of that because I eat breakfast there on occasion when I need a high grease to dollar ratio.

  8. 1st – I dared you to review Hardee’s as a public service.

    2nd – You won’t find any chains that review by me Solo. Just the one that others dragged me to – Steak Escape and First Watch (but it is a regional chain). The Fifth Quarter isn’t a chain anymore. Places with four or less regoinal locations aren’t really chains at least not corporate chains.

    I am not opposed to writing about chains, but I don’t like to rate them becuase they are all suppose to be Three Forks – Consistent and Reliable.

    Stanton – Thanks for getting my back , but how many Sam’s Hot Dogs have you reviewed? Is that a chain?

  9. Susan, I don’t see your point on cafeterias. Why wouldn’t they be fair game? And ballparks, for that matter. But you might have a point on Sam’s. It is a chain, albeit regional. There’s also T&L up north.

    OK, new rule: Local food blogs can’t review chains with more than 50 locations in more than 3 states.

    So let it be written.

  10. I was hurt…I lashed out…

    Wait until you read my Olive Garden review!

  11. I 2nd that motion.

    All in favor?

  12. Oh…I am worried now. If this passes, I won’t be able to do my local McDonald’s review.

  13. I think before we vote, we should have three debates on the issue. Can we get that chick from the Vice Presidential debate to moderate it? She’d let me get off track as much as I want.

    Really – I’m serious. I’ve been practicing my winking.

  14. my 2 cents is that the beauty of cracker barrel is in the breakfast. chains like this (and IHOP and Bob Evans) are good for one thing (although i like the bob evans more…), the volume of eggs produced each day means the cooks generally know how to cook a soft-poached egg correctly. one of my pet peeves is over-cooked poached eggs, so credit where credit is due here.

  15. I agree with kitchen geeking. The best thing about these home cookin’ chains is the breakfast.

    I like pancakes. Bob Evans has the best, IMO. As for the biscuits, I have to give the nod to the Barrel. Regarding bacon…well, I don’t think I ever met a strip of bacon I didn’t like, but Bob does have a thicker cut.

  16. I’m a poached egg snob. It is the ONLY item I will ever send back to the kitchen if it is NOT done to my specifications. Harsh, I know. However, Southern Kitchen and my grandmothers spoiled me on what a poached egg should and deserves to be! Even I practiced in my own kitchen until I could make the perfect poached egg.

    With that said, Cracker Barrel can hold their own on the poached egg. I like their country ham biscuits as well.

  17. oh i completely agree on the Southern Kitchen. I would also say that (other feelings about BGK notwithstanding) those kids poach a PERFECT egg too…

  18. I don’t know about Cracker Barrel, but I am pretty sure what you get when you ask for a poached egg at Bob’s is a basted egg. I have a remote memory of hearing that at CB’s, too.

    A basted egg and a poached egg are too different things. A basted egg is cooked on the flat top and water is put on the grill and spooned over the top of the egg.

    I prefer the egg white envelope of perfect you get with a poached egg like I have seen in pictures taken at the Bluegrass Kitchen.

  19. I didn’t review this place, but I have to say it suffers from what I’m sure the new Billy’s suffers from (I should note, I’ve not eaten at Billy’s and everything I say about it is pure rumor and speculation)

    The Cracker Barrell is too expensive for home cooking.

    Why is it called Home Cooking? Because it’s supposed to be Cheap and Easy. That’s why my mom made it, my grandma, etc.. Yours too.

    It was cheap and it was easy.

    None of which applies to this place.

    I hate it…. I’ll eat at Blob Evans any day but not here.

  20. i think CB does poached, but you may be right about Bob’s

  21. Got to agree, Bluegrass does make the best poached eggs ever.

  22. Oh crap. 21 comments and counting. This is going to give Susan more fuel to want to review more chains. (Insert my best Charlie Brown – Arrgghh!)

  23. Daniel- I was just thinking the same thing! Who would have thought that Cracker Barrel could spark soooo many comments.

  24. you could require combo reviews of chains with local alternatives…a cracker barrel/hardings double-post. rio grande/casa garcia. chili’s/blossom. etc.

  25. Just a few more and this will be our most commented post of all time!

    I can’t take all the credit though – half the comments were about EGGS.

    I like kitchen geeking’s idea of chain/non-chain combo posts. Daniel, get right on that, will ya? That way you can go to all the chains you like but pretend you “had to” for the sake of the blog.

  26. Mainly testing new account but I do love breakfast food. Locally Farm Table rocks!

  27. The Vegetarian Wife

    There are no chains that Daniel likes, as far as I know.

  28. I am confirming that BE does indeed BASTE their eggs.

  29. I have worked at CB for a couple of years, so I laughed when I saw this review. One step into their kitchen, and you would be horrified. The only advice I can give to anyone is this: NEVER ORDER THE SALADS! They are prepared far in advance and sit in coolers all day. And the croutons are in an open container in the server’s alley, which means every crouton that you pop into your mouth has been touched by a minimum of 8 servers. (Kinda like the candy jar at your nana’s, the servers are fond of digging to the very bottom to find the perfect crouton. This is after they’ve counted their tip money and taken the last table’s dirty dishes away, mind you.) There are spoons to put the croutons on your salad, but I have never honestly seen a server use one. Also, they under staff the kitchen so terribly that they’re always rushed. We’re urged by managers to pre-make food, and if anyone makes a special request (like “no onions”) to just pick them off, so I hope you’re not highly allergic!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s