Panclog #41: Cracker Barrel
Cracking wise about the Barrel
G’Day mateys! Panclog is back and better than ever. We took a bit of a break. But have no fear, for I am here to declare there will be THREE new panclogs before the year is up. I am very excited you to enjoy them all. Today’s clog is brought to you by the roadtrip wonder, Cracker Barrel.
Location/Environment: There are 5 Cracker Barrels in the Kansas City area. The Panclog Pals went to the closest one to both of us. This happened to be the Strang Line location in Olathe. It is located near a large movie theatre and in the same parking lot of Heartland Church. The first impression you receive is of a butt-load of rocking chairs on the front porch. The second impression is of a general store that you walk into from the front door. There are old timey items and as-seen-on-TV items. Pretty eclectic. The dining room is very wooden cabin chic.
Service: Service at Cracker Barrel was a breeze. Granted the panclog pals arrived shortly after 7 AM. The place was in old timey fashion, a ghost town. Coffees stayed filled and plates were cleared when the mission was accomplished.
Menu/Selection: Cracker Barrel has a juggernaut of a menu. Just check out how many different sections they have on their online menu. They have everything that you expect from a down home restaurant. It plays out like more of a southern family restaurant than a greasy diner. The breakfast menu is loaded with various options and choices. Like a lot of breakfast places though it seems to reconfigure the same set of 5 options in different ways to come up with differing menu items. Using the same 5 individual items, choosing 2 or 3 per plate, and you end up with two pages of breakfast choices. In my opinion, this is exactly what Cracker Barrel did with a just couple of “specials” here and there. I cannot say that there is anything wrong with this, but it does lack creativity. Something that needs to be pointed out is Cracker Barrel’s incessant need to brand their menu items. i.e. Momma’s French Toast, Grandpa’s Country Fried Breakfast, and Uncle Hershel’s Favorite. The menu does feature a beautiful phrase. Check it out!
Momma’s Pancake Breakfast (Brent)
The Breakfast Buddies finally made it over to a restaurant seen all across America’s highways, the Cracker Barrel. I was actually not aware that Cracker Barrel served breakfast until a few years ago when your Pancloggers decided to add the restaurant to the list of sites to clog. Up till that time I assumed that the Barrel was a lunch and dinner place only. Makes sense that the Barrel would serve breakfast given that it markets itself as classic downhome cooking.
It is the rare circumstance where I frequent the Cracker Barrel outside of a road trip. I cannot say for sure why, but the restaurant always seems to taste better after 5 or 6 hours of driving. On the rare occasion that I or my family have gone to Cracker Barrel after church for instance, I seem to have walked away slightly disappointed. The restaurant is an oasis at the midpoint of a long drive and that fact cannot be undersold.
Walking into a Cracker Barrel is a somewhat unique experience. The first thing you are confronted with is a “front porch” loaded with rocking chairs available for sale. We sat in a few of them while there and all I can say is that they are fine. Given their price I would hope that they were more comfortable. But, who buys a rocking chair on a road trip?
Immediately passing through the entry doors you are confronted with an old-timey “general store”. At least that is the goal of their marketing department: to give the patron the perception of a general store. You will find the shop loaded with various kitschy items that will make you laugh, feel warmth and comfort, and seem perfectly reasonable while you are in there. My only advice is this, don’t buy anything. You do not actually want any of this stuff. Unless of course it is a pile of candy, snacks, and puzzle books for the remainder of your road trip.
Cracker Barrel seated us immediately once we arrived at the hostess station. Upon looking at the menu I was struck with a couple thoughts, first it is big. Second, it is rustic looking, implanting the idea that this is a downhome establishment. The downside to this is the contrast between the content of the menu versus the background is not great. So I wonder if a color blind individual can easily read the menu.
I elected “Momma’s pancake breakfast” which included the combination of pancakes, choice of meat (bacon in my case), and eggs.
Jared reminded me that I made the promise to try eggs cooked different than scrambled. So I elected for over hard. My impression is that eggs cooked over hard taste eggier than scrambled eggs. Not a bad thing of course, just something that surprised me a bit.
The bacon was quite tasty and cooked exactly like I like it. I am a fan of bacon that is crispy but still retains a little bit of give in the bite rather than the crumbly snap of overcooked bacon. Granted I will take the crumbly snap over bacon that is undercooked and floppy. Cracker Barrel did quite nicely in the bacon’s preparation.
The main item of “Momma’s Pancake Breakfast” is of course the pancakes themselves. My plate came with three cakes and one small, pat of butter that was just enough for one individual cake. I am not sure why restaurants are stingy with butter, but they I would rather they place a large amount on the side. Seeing one small, barely melting pat, sitting in the center of the top pancake bums me out a little.
By default the cakes were served with maple syrup on the side. In a nice twist, Cracker Barrel serves their maple syrup in small, airline sized, sealed bottles. This allowed me to avoid soiling my pancakes with maple syrup. I did have to ask for various jellies on the side. Speaking of jellies, Cracker Barrel only offered two options, Concord grape, and Strawberry. As everyone knows Concord grape jelly is a vile substance. I opted for the Strawberry jelly to spread on my cakes.
Cracker Barrel’s pancakes have a nice crunch on the edges which I am a fan. This crispness on the edge added a nice twist to most other breakfast places that I enjoyed a lot.
Momma’s French Toast Breakfast (Jared)
First things first. YES I do have 2 of those mini syrups in my glove box.
Did you know that Golden Corral and Cracker Barrel are NOT the same restaurant? I don’t know why but my mind always puts them in the same box.
I’m not saying anything negative about either, just saying my mind is a sick place that equates chocolate fountains to rocking chair city.
The past few months of breakfast buddy life has been extra full of morning joy. I have been able to pick up my boy, Brent, dine with him, and take him to work after. These extra moments have given me not only reason to keep my car tidy, but also a few more conversations about fantasy sports and music trivia. I can not recommend enough the joys of driving around with friends.
Cracker Barrel is known for being the roadtrip restaurant. They have 658 locations in 45 states. This leads me to sharing my favorite Cracker Barrel fact. They are known for their extensive audiobook selection. The cool part of this audiobook selection is that you can rent these books by the week for $3.49 and return them to any Cracker Barrel. How freaking cool is that. Another fun Cracker Barrel fact is that they have put out some albums exclusively. They are not just in food game.
Shall we chat about my dining experience? We shall. I had Momma’s French Toast Breakfast. It came with 2 eggs and 2 pieces of meat. I chose sausage patties. I used to be a sausage link guy, but i switched teams for a few reasons I have received undercooked links at breakfast before and they are gross! I also believe that you can get seasoning throughout in patty-form. Yes patties are much more likely to be dry, but a patty done well is worth that chance. The sausage on this visit had a slight funk to them. Not a gross taste. I believe it was a spice mixture issue. I should probably go back and give them another shot.
I need to point out something.
This syrup is 100% syrup. But sadly is not 100% Maple syrup. Once you have had the amazing complexities of pure maple syrup, you shake your head gently at anything beneath it.
My French Toast was standard. Not too egg-y. Not too bread-y. It was right down the middle. I will say it was on the griddle for the perfect amount of time. It wasn’t crispy nor overly moist. Cracker Barrel seems to have a few signature latte drinks on their menu. My mother has been craving them since she heard about them. I now know where she and I will be having a meal next time we hang out.
Cracker Barrel serves breakfast all day. Please call your senator, representative and local government officials and ask them all to make it law that breakfast be an all day affair.
I am thankful for everyone who took time to read this. This is your gift.
Overall: Cracker Barrel is a beautiful roadtrip oasis. Outside of travel, the restaurant struggles to hold the same appeal.
Brent: Don’t take the negatives too seriously though, Cracker Barrel’s breakfast is fine. I wouldn’t put the Barrel in the regular rotation but I would not refuse someone who suggests it. Cracker Barrel earns a C-.
Jared: C- is the perfect rating for CB.
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