The Cracker Barrel Experience

Helaine was away this past weekend, at concerts in Illinois and Indiana. She and her friend Renata put a few hundred miles on a rental car out of Chicago.

As they drove through the countryside (certainly beyond the edge of civilization) they looked for a spot to eat. Somehow, early in the trip, they ended up at Cracker Barrel.

For the uninitiated (and until an hour ago, that included me) Cracker Barrel is a chain of absolutely identical kitschy restaurants with a country flavor. In the Disneyworld tradition, the only way in or out is through a gift shop!

Helaine ate her first meal and immediately picked up the cellphone. The food was so good… and unhealthy. It was fried and gravied and breaded beyond belief. It was yummy.

On her quick weekend trip she paid three visits to Cracker Barrel! Thank heavens she took a cholesterol test the week before she went.

As you might imagine, Helaine was anxious to get me to share the experience (and, selfishly, return for dinner herself). Tonight was our night, because as it turns out, there’s a Cracker Barrel in Milford just off the Turnpike.

Somehow we had gone through 21 years in Connecticut without seeing more than this restaurant’s sign, sitting high above the Interstate. We had directions, but even then it was a little anti-intuitive. You really had to know where you were going.

We turned into the parking lot, driving past the sign showing buses and RVs where to park. As we walked in, Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” was playing on the ceiling mounted speakers. A group from “Christian Tours” was lining up to pay and leave.

We were escorted to the back room. In the Midwest, this room was a smoking section. Not so in polite New England, where smoking is prohibited pretty much everywhere… certainly everywhere food is served.

Helaine ordered the “Chicken Fried Chicken” and I had an egg and meat platter. I know it’s sacreligous there, but I am still watching my weight.

While waiting, we played a little game, left on the table, with a rectangular piece of wood and plastic golf tees stuffed in holes. The object of the game was to do better than either of us did!

The food came quickly and was pretty good. My eggs arrived with whole wheat toast which allegedly has only 7 net grams of carbohydrates. Helaine’s chicken came with some sort of gooey, sugary, baked apple concoction and gravy thick enough to caulk a bathtub.

Overhead classic country played continuously.

We finished, got up and began to leave. As we did, the table to our side all let out, “Hi Geoff.” Ratted out again!

Dinner for the two of us was around $20 including the rectangular golf tee game Helaine bought to take home.

I suppose if I made the suggestion, Helaine would go back tomorrow night too.