So pull up a chair and let me tell you about a place where family values still mean something. Where the food is just like mom used to make and the service feels like family.
Ok, so that may be going a little overboard, but that’s the idea, an old timey place where you can get unique comfort food like no where else in town. The first thing you notice when walking in, it’s a store. Wait, where’s the restaurant? Oh, it’s in the back of the store. If you go on the weekend, you have to wait, which makes the store concept kinda nice. If you have a sweet tooth like me…you are in trouble.
This is a retro candy counter with all kinds of candy and treats that I highly suggest you check out, but do not buy anything before eating dinner. You may wander off with a case of Valomilk like often happens to me. You’ve never heard of Valomilk? Dude, you seriously need to get to Cracker Barrel, if not for anything else, for the Valomilk. I never leave the place with at least a few.
Once you get to the table you are presented with 2 GIANT menus. Breakfast, served all day, and Lunch and Dinner. Once again, I was given plenty of time to look over the menu, but not too much before it was time for something to drink. You don’t need to look at the menu for this. You want the Lemonade. My lemonade of choice, Raspberry, you only have 2 choices, that and regular. Normally it comes in a nice frosty mug which looks like it was carved out of giant piece of clear ice. Today though, just a mug. Still cold, tangy and oh so good. They have your standard sodas and Raspberry iced tea too, but I never seem to get past the lemonade.
The decor reminds of TGIFridays in the early part of last century. The tchotchkes are all antiques and remind of me of several museums I’ve seen. In the cold months, a nice fire is sparking, but today is a warm today, so fortunately the fireplace is just full of ash. You are distracted from the fact that it takes a long while to even order your food as they put a game on each table and off to the side, checkers. I beat this one though, twice, while taking pictures and still waiting for ordering food. Granted, they are busy, I’m seeing a lot of that lately and I’m impatient.
They are known for their Chicken and Dumplings. So of course I got the pot roast. I’ve had the Chicken and Dumplings before, and they serve flat noodle like dumplings, which are good, but just not peaking my interest. And seriously, how can you go wrong with Pot Roast? Fried Chicken, Country Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Lemon Pepper Grill Rainbow Trout, this is rustic hearty food. You get 3 sides which has a huge list to choose from. Carrots, Mac & Cheese and Mashed potatoes round out my meal.
Well, no style points for a clean plate, but hey, when did your mom ever serve you a pristine clean plate? First things first, mac and cheese. The flavor is perfect even if lacking in texture. Chefs always talk about cooking noodles until just al dente, these are not those noodles. I imagine trays of mac and cheese sitting in the back room for hours bubbling away and the mushy noodles are my proof. Lightly steamed carrots with a little bit of crunch…no. You could mash them with a fork, which wouldn’t be bad, mashed carrots because they are very sweet.
Ok, so mashed potatoes maybe? Yes, soft, fluffy, slightly chunky, skins included. These are very rustic and just like I imagine they should be. Now for the namesake, you don’t order sides, you order Pot Roast. It’s good, peppery, and completely soaked in gravy, just as it should be. Occasional you pull up these odd slimy translucent things, turns out they are onions. You’d expect all this food to be a giant salt lick, but surprisingly, they do not taste very salty. You’d be tempted to pour a couple pounds of salt to enhance the flavors, all of which are good if you can get over some of the textures, but I implore you, don’t. It’s really not necessary and I’m sure that if you really take a look, it’s probably plenty salty.
They serve with your mean, Rolls and corn bread. I LOVE cornbread and this is no cornbread. I expect a nice little light and fluffy puff of corn sweetness. The mealy texture present a flavorless and bland little hockey puck. I highly suggest you pass and go for the rolls. The rolls are good, but I’m pretty sure they are made with vinegar instead of buttermilk. They don’t quite have that creamy texture you get from buttermilk biscuits, but a faint hint of the vinegar twang. It’s better than the rolls I make at home, but I still think I prefer the rolls from KFC, yeah, that’s right, KFC.
I think it stays true to the hearty home cooked meals as long as your mom was like my mom and overcooked all the veggies (or used canned veggies). The menu is not TOO highly priced for the amount of food you get and the tastes are good, if the textures are not. All in all, you really need to go get Valomilk. If it were not for Valomilk, I am not sure I’d crave Cracker Barrel too often. But hey, sometimes you even crave McDonald’s right?