Rob has traveled extensively through the United States, but somehow always ends up back at a Cracker Barrel.
Why is Cracker Barrel Bad?
Cracker Barrel is a restaurant known for serving home-cooked southern-style food in an old-timey atmosphere. I've traveled all over the US and found every Cracker Barrel to be very busy. This astonishes me because I hate Cracker Barrel, and I think you should too. Here's why.
Approaching Cracker Barrel
This billboard reads "Comfort. Food." with the slogan "Old Country Store." If this is trying to imply that Cracker Barrel is a comfortable place to dine and shop, someone needs to punish their advertising department by making them visit one of their restaurants.
The billboard above is a classic example of the kind of expectations Cracker Barrel sets up and then utterly fails to accomplish. "Comfort" is probably their most egregious claim. With their long wait times, crowded interiors, and completely useless gift shop, Cracker Barrel's atmosphere is more or less the opposite of comfortable. Every time I go there, I turn into an anxious and frustrated mess. Here's a walk-through of my Cracker Barrel experience. You'll see what I mean.
Like I said before, every Cracker Barrel I've ever seen is busy from open to close. In my experience eating there, I've never witnessed anyone get seated right away. So, where can you comfortably wait for your table?
The problem: there are about 15 other parties trying to answer that same question. For each of these parties, there are two options: the rocking chairs and the store.
- The rocking chairs: If you just want to sit and relax, there are the iconic Cracker Barrel wooden rocking chairs in front of the store. Unfortunately, at least half of the 15 parties ahead of you already had the idea to sit down. It's rare to find enough open chairs for your party to sit and wait together. Of course, you'll probably need some alone time anyway to mentally prepare yourself for the ideal ahead.
- The store: Maybe you don't want to sit down. Your eye might have caught some fancy lookin' stuff in the store. Unfortunately, the other half of the parties ahead of you thought the same thing. To call it a "store" is quite a stretch. I highly doubt anyone goes to Cracker Barrel just for the shopping experience. This glorified gift shop is filled with useless novelties and lots of other hungry, annoyed people. The one section you think could be remotely interesting is already being browsed by another patron. So, you aimlessly squeeze your way around other people in the store until your party is finally seated.
Ordering Your Food
The "friendly" hostess leads you through a maze of tables, chairs, people, and screaming little children to your very own wooden table and bare wooden chairs. You find your place at the table and pull out your chair, which bumps the person sitting at the table behind you. In fact, the tables are so close together, the little kid behind you can't get up to go play checkers without their chair bumping you. It's probably best that they get up though because no one should have to be that close to someone else's screaming kid. Did I mention the chairs are bare wood? Outdoor picnic benches are more comfortable than these chairs.
You open your menu and consider your options: you have a wide variety of "comfort foods" to choose from. The term "comfort food" has a negative connotation to me. It implies that the food isn't necessarily for nourishment, but rather for some sort of emotional crutch. This sounds like an abuse of food to me, but I can understand wanting something to make you feel some comfort after the lack of it thus far. You order your comfort, and the waitress says, "I'll have this out for you in a few minutes," and walks away.
So far, so adequate. You look around for something to pass the time, so you reach for the classic golf tee game. The object of the game is to finish with the fewest tees possible, and it gives you an equivalent intelligence to your score. You almost always score 'idiot', which is probably right because you decided to eat at Cracker Barrel. Even if you beat the game, you're still an idiot, because you've spent way too much time at Cracker Barrel figuring it out.
After an eternity of staring at golf tees, your waitress serves your food. Cracker Barrel's food itself isn't bad, but when I go out to eat, I want something I can't have at home. The food they serve is the kind of food most people would say their grandma makes, but I'd bet most would also say their grandma makes it better. If you're eating at a Cracker Barrel, you're probably already on a road trip, since almost all of them are located next to an interstate. Why not just go to grandma's house instead? I bet you'd be a lot more comfortable there.
To conclude, while Cracker Barrel's food is adequate, the entire ordeal required to get it is in no way worth the greasy mac and cheese and boring backed potato you're likely to get at the end. Do yourself a favor and make it a home, go to your grandmother's, or frequent literally any other establishment. You'll thank me later.