That’s what Cracker Barrel is all about

I came up with a good one planning the brunch with my terrific daughter Elisabeth and her marvelous boyfriend George Three to put another party on my dear wife Karen’s Birthday Week festivities.

We texted back and forth about the fact that the gift Elisabeth had carefully chosen apparently was stalled in a UPS warehouse in East Syracuse, according to online tracking. Karen was cool about this delay while Elisabeth was impatient. And then I picked for our get-together the Cracker Barrel in Brewerton, N.Y., just off I81 and the busy boulevard of Route 31.

Smiling as we wait for the table at Cracker Barrel are Elisabeth, George Three and Karen.

Smiling as we wait for the table at Cracker Barrel are Elisabeth, George Three and Karen.

Elisabeth agreed. She’d never been to the cozy Southern-influenced franchise, here or anywhere else.

I knew we’d have to wait a bit for our table on a late Sunday morning. This isn’t the kind of spot that takes reservations. But it is the kind of place where roaming the aisles to peruse all that stuff will open the eyes of any first-time.

We pulled in to find George Three walking from a spot near us way back in the parking lot. He’d dropped Elisabeth up front to go inside and tell the hostess we’d need a table of four. He’d been to a Cracker Barrel a time or two, he told us.

A 15-minute wait flew past in the busy store as Elisabeth’s eyes were opened by the clothes and candles and VHS tapes and decorative doo-dads that make Cracker Barrel what it is. Oh, yeah, then there’s the nostalgic food and candy. Moon Pies, anyone?

The hostess called out, “George, party of four,” and inside the bustling dining room we were led.

We all ordered off the breakfast menu, happily. Elisabeth picked the sugared ham as a side while George Three went for the country ham. I would have gone for the crispy, salty southern pig specialty of the two, along with George. But I ordered the thick-cut bacon to go with my over-easy eggs and pancakes. When the food arrived, Elisabeth experienced grits for the first time. She agreed with my comparison to oatmeal.

During our catch-up conversation, George nudged Elisabeth and said, “Did you tell them about …” Elisabeth shook her head no and interjected, “Let me start with the fact that everybody is OK.”

That got my curiosity and nerves going, both.

A few weeks ago, while all were sleeping in his parents’ house, an electrical fire started in the garage. Mom Susan sensed something was amiss first. She heard the garage door going up and down by itself. The smoke was coming into the house when everybody rushed outside and the fire department was called.

George Three grabbed the garden house and attempted to beat down the flames before the fire fighters arrived. One volunteer pulled up before the trucks and took the hose from him to go at it.

Then came many firefighters to put it out.

The good news: The fire did not spread into the house. And everybody was OK, even the dog who wandered back inside after Elisabeth led her out to the backyard.

The bad news: Susan’s care was totaled, with much of the innards melted from the heat. And everything inside the house needed to be cleaned of the smoke smell.

What a lesson for preparedness, I thought. George Three asked if we have a smoke detector in the Little Bitty. We do. His mom woke up even before their’s went off, he said.

Stress for the Venditti family. I commiserated. The insurance company and dealer are haggling about what to do with that new car that Susan is leasing.

We went back to our plate of communal biscuits thankful for our blessings. I said all six of us must plan a trip to see a Syracuse Crunch hockey game soon. Our American Hockey League squad is off to a 2-0 start for the season. We agreed it will be easier for all to go before this year’s bring-your-pooch night, and laughed about all the attention heaped upon our attentive Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle last season as she sat in a seat between Karen and I.

See you soon, we all said.

See you soon, we all said.

They went off to visit a pet store to play with puppies. We headed to the Wegmans for weekly food shopping. It was a good Birthday Week visit for sure.

Hover over any gallery photo for a description. Click on the bottom right photo in any gallery for an enlarged slide show.

A day later, UPS delivered the present from Elisabeth and George Three. Karen was delighted with her two new charms, perfect to add to the bracelet the kids had purchased her as a thank you during this summer’s Family Reunion trip to Colorado. And I got to happily text my daughter the photos to show it.

Do you enjoy visiting a Cracker Barrel restaurant, and why or why not? Have you had to live through a home fire, and if so, what happened? Have you had a gift hung up in the delivery process, and if so, how did you resolve the issue and how long did it take?

73 thoughts on “That’s what Cracker Barrel is all about

  1. Electrical fires scare the dickens out of me. I always check stoves, curling irons, coffeemakers before leaving the house. At night, I make sure my son didn’t fly any paper airplanes behind dressers, just to sit against electrical outlets. How scary! Glad they are safe and that you all enjoyed your Cracker Barrel visit. Over summer, my hub and I drove up to Oklahoma for a quick overnight of gambling for our anniversary. That night, we drove through the entire city of Lawton and noted that there was not one restaurant to be found, other than fast food and Cracker Barrel. So that was our anniversary dinner. It could have been worse. The service is usually fine, and there are tons of items to choose from. You are right that their grits are like oatmeal. We make grits with cheddar cheese and jalapenos, so a fork will stick upright in them. But CB is a good place to go to eat comfort food (and take picky in-laws) and enjoy the eye candy of nostalgic items.


  2. I’m glad everything is OK! There’s a Cracker Barrel by my house but I’ve never been. My boyfriend doesn’t like it so we haven’t gone. I might have to try it with a friend or family member though. If I take my son, he’ll probably want stuff from the store.


  3. Oh, Mark! So happy everyone is fine. Scary situation fir all concerned. The car should be easily covered. Did they figure out why thry had sn electricsl fire?
    Hope Susan gets full car replaced. Glad smoke inhalation wasn’t too bad, no one taken to hospital!
    I was with Cracker Barrel for almost 5 years, using tip money to pay graduate college fees. I earned the 4 โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†s and I got the coveted maroon apron instead of brown one. They test you a lot! I loved my discount in food shared with family when we were out of town. My favorite two meals are the Friday fish fry and steak, loaded baked potato and house salad with both blue cheese and Italian dressings. Fried apples and corn bread were so good and pecan pancakes. Their summer dessert special is Coca Cola cake with vanilla bean ice cream is delicious. They do have sugar free ice cream and sugar free apple pie, too. Now, I am hungry! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚


    • No surprise that you earned the coveted maroon apron, Robin. You’re that hard-worker every company covets. ๐Ÿ™‚ My favorite CB dinner meal was the steak salad, with Italian and crumbly blue! And they’re taken it off the menu. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’ve ordered it a few times afterward anyway, and they made it for me special. They do try to please the customer very much. I have enjoyed the sugar-free vanilla on top of the sugar-free apple pie.


  4. How scary!!!! I am glad everyone is ok, but that sucks about their car. We once had to order electric scooters for the boys for Christmas and we were sweating it as to whether or not they were going to arrive on time. They didn’t. I made some crazy story up about how the elves got mad at Santa because he was insensitive to their needs, and so they ordered pizzas and sat around and didn’t send the toys out on time. The boys bought the whole story because I added the elves has so much free time they were flicking boogers at each other.


  5. I love Cracker Barrel!!

    I’m glad everyone is okay in George III’s parents home That is the primary!

    I woke up one night, sat straight up in bed, could see out the window and could see the back of the outside of the house – an outside wall of the kitchen. I saw sparks flying from the outside of that wall. I said calmly “the house is on fire”. Fortunately we stopped it before any great damage was done. But oh how scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I kind of like Cracker Barrel. And Kentucky is Cracker Barrel country… My mother prefers to eat food with no nutrition and I like to be a bit healthier plus I can’t have wheat or dairy. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain places where she can eat the nutrition-free stuff and I can get something that suits me, especially the veggie choices. The Mallo Cup is the old fashioned candy that gets me if I let myself go near enough…
    I caught a pan of oil on fire once but my roommate got it out fast. And a refrigerator caught on fire at a housesit once but my friends and I caught on and got out quickly. I managed to yank the fridge plug from the outlet which the firemen said prevented the fire from getting into the wires and thus from spreading through the whole house. Good thing we were sitting right there when it started! House sit was over though and I had to stay with friends for the rest of my visit.
    Happy birthday to YDW Karen!


    • Nutrition-free food! Now there’s a ringing endorsement for CB. You crack me up, Leigh. Thank you for a chuckle. I think I know which side of the scale my CB choices are. Ha!

      Yes, vigilance saved the house with that fridge cord yank. Good job, there, Leigh.

      I’ll pass your wishes on to Karen. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. I enjoyed Cracker Barrel when we went years ago. I got chicken fried steak both times, a dish my mother made regularly.

    Interesting, we were just discussing getting a couple of extra smoke detectors yesterday. This house we rent is old and has funky wiring. It makes me nervous sometimes. Also a strange thing happened I never heard of ever before that reminded me to be safer in the house. My son was at a funeral this week and out in the parking lot these guys got out of a car. At first he thought they were hotboxing ( which would have been weird at a funeral) but he realized they weren’t, and said, “Hey man, your car is smoking.” Minutes later a fire started from inside or under one of the seats from the wiring.


  8. Glad things were not worse for George’s folks. Give those kids a hug from me..and the dear wife as well! The trick to grits is to load them up with butter, cheese and bacon. Perhaps plan to visit your cardiologist shortly after!


  9. We love the Cracker Barrel, but have to drive to Missoula, Montana, to reach the closest one. The farthest east Cracker Barrel we’ve tried was in Milwaukee,Wisconsin. The food is deliciously consistent.

    Regarding your other questions, house fire, yes, 2005. We lost all of our appliances, the smoke damage was awful and the flooring had to be replaced in the kitchen because of the water damage putting out the fire. It started in the oven when we had a power surge caused by an exploding transformer on a power line down the street. A semi lost control and hit the power pole supporting the transformer while trying to avoid a small car that made an illegal left turn in front of it. My take on the whole thing, patience is a virtue, but the story telling is the glory.

    Late gifts happen. That’s why birthday cards with IOU’s and a good story work until said item shows up. ๐Ÿ™‚


  10. History 101 Cracker Barrel-Started in Lebanon, Tennessee Highway 101 in 1969 a place people could stop grab a bite to eat, gas up and motor along. Subsequently stopped the gas before 1973 energy crisis and opened retail store with nostalgic items and went Nationwide. Headquarters still at the same location in Lebanon, TN (Outside Nashville, TN) just larger with a warehouse for the interior decorating. They are all situated near a major Interstate highway system throughout US. They are huge down South. If I need a gift I will stop by one on the mainland, grab a pop, rock a minute or two on the rocking chairs and leave. Not fond of their foods only because I had a friend work there and the stuffed has a lot of preservatives, processed unmentionables. It wouldn’t hurt you once in awhile to stop by one just cause you can!!! The Gatorette.


  11. One bad no, one good no…no Cracker Barrel, no house fires. Really, I don’t know if there is a Cracker Barrel near to us. It sounds interesting. I’m glad no one was hurt in the fire. How frightening.


  12. Every so often I will get a text that simply says “Cracker Barrel”. I know when I get that text M is either wanting something with sausage gravy, okra, or both. We go, I get blueberry pancakes for dinner, and then we spend time looking at the toys and such in the shop before paying our bill.

    I was sad to realize when we went a few months ago they stopped carrying BlackJack and Freshen-Up gum. I could always rely on them for the “discontinued” candy and such :/


  13. Ah Cracker Barrel…its sort of an Event with us, here in Ohio….and in Minnesota it is THE place to go on the way to and from the airport, and the MN contingent has CB on their favorite restaurants list. We love Cracker Barrel…they have the coolest, unusual gifts and yummy clothes, sweaters and scarves and the like. Pots and pans, “penny” candy (ok its now more like “dollar” candy, but that’s not their fault. By now that will be a Christmas fairyland sort of. Oh…oh…and their spiced warm apples with the pancakes…yum.
    OK, I’m done. ๐Ÿ™‚
    My late husband was a firefighter, so I try to be careful. Long ago a dog we had woke me up when the house was full of smoke, hovering over the bed … it was one of the kids in the kitchen caught a pan on fire…that was traumatic. Can’t be too careful…


    • Yes, everybody at the table got the spiced apples but me, Gradmama. Too much sugar. But I could smell how lovely they were. I’m glad to hear you enjoy the full CB experience, shopping and all. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m glad your dog was vigilant back then. Nice fail safe measure to add to the smoke detectors. ๐Ÿ™‚


  14. Oh Mercy… glad everyone is okay! Poor Elisabeth losing her car! Hope all works out well with the insurance co.
    Glad to see you are making sure your dear wife Karen is having a wonderful birthday!
    You are a good husband, Mr. Mark!
    Now I am off to make some biscuits!


    • It was George Three’s mom Susan who lost her car. Elisabeth doesn’t get garage rights at their house, for which I’m glad. I think Susan will sort out the leasing nightmare. Perhaps that’s better than a car you bought outright getting totaled? That’s what I told George at breakfast, anyway, uninformed and speaking off the top of my head. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks, Nancy. Now please pass the biscuits. โค

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sorry to hear about that fire. I am sure everything will work out fine. Never been to a Cracker Barrel before.However with the mention of country ham and communal biscuits I may have to reconsider.


  16. Wow, you guys have been busy Mark. Sounds like a wonderful Birthday week. I used to visit Cracker Barrel when I was in the south – they were a southern phenomenon when I traveled years ago. We still don’t have any here that I am aware of but i really enjoyed them.


  17. If you and Karen ever get to the Western New York area, I’ll have to take you to Gordie Harper’s near Medina. Their country store has Cracker Barrel beat by miles – and they have fresh baked bread, pies and other pastries. My daughter and I went there for the first time on our mini-wine tour.

    Several years back, my office building caught fire. It started on the third floor where a tenant had left for the weekend without turning off a space heater. The second floor suffered water damage from the fire hoses, and the first floor had serious smoke damage. We had to relocate for several months while the offices were cleaned up and repaired. I can still smell the smoke at times.


    • We’re in for the Gordie Harper’s visit, CM. That sounds pretty nifty to me.

      If you can still smell the smoke, my friend, that was a nasty fire. They left the relocation office too quickly, then, is my nosy opinion. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


      • If you like wine, I could take you both on the same mini-wine tour that I wrote about, including lunch/dinner at Gordie Harper’s. But now that we’re into fall, and it could snow any day, probably it would be best to wait until late spring, early summer. Wanna plan on an overnight trip here? I’m sure Archon could recommend a really good hotel in Batavia, or I can recommend one in the Buffalo area. I could, of course, treat for lunch/dinner and would act as chauffeur while you’re here, but you’d be on your own for the hotel. Wanna try for it? If so, send me an email.

        (PS: I managed to restrain myself from adding all the story links this time.)


  18. Sorry to hear about the fire, but glad it wasn’t worse. I cling to tales of Cracker Barrel as I do to vintage stories of exploring Amazonia, or seeking the source of the Nile–enrapturing accounts of adventure in otherworldly locales to which I think; someday I’ll venture thusly, into the caves of the unknown, bravely clutching fork and butter knife. Were the pancakes good? It’s all about the pancakes for me.


  19. i love cracker barrel, though i’m not there often, generally when on my way somewhere. coach harbaugh’s fav place to take the team for breakfast by the way ) glad everyone was okay and sorry about the car but at least it could be replaced. at cb, i loved to play giant checkers and sit in the rockers too, just jawing a bit after a good homecooked meal.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh my goodness! I’m glad all is well with the people! Interesting tidbit about the garage door.
    We did have a small house fire when I was in high school. A candle on the television (remember they were boxes?) didn’t stay out when it was put out, and the tv caught fire. My mother smelled smoke before the alarm as well. My parents put the fire out, bought a new tv, cleaned and painted the wall behind. Not bad at all for a house fire!
    Mark, you know I love me some Cracker Barrel! It’s one of my favorite places to eat when we travel! They must be more common here. Sometimes I go there just to buy things like Cheerwine, Fireballs, and apple butter ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I feel badly for George Two and Susan’s rigamarol post-fire to get things in order, Joey, but I’m sure glad she heard that door and got everybody out of there safely with her alert. Your family sure was lucky that the TV fire was as minimal as that back in the day, Joey. Oh, my!

      Yes, that’s the only Cracker Barrel in the Syracuse general area, Joey. They seem to put one per city in upstate New York, always situated next to the highway. Or maybe those are the only ones I spot, come to think of it. ๐Ÿ™‚ In any case, the dozen miles north ain’t nothin’ to eat this food and shop this store. Fireballs!

      Liked by 1 person

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