I will tell you straight up that, as far as food goes, I love the Cracker Barrel. I was not raised on country cookin' myself, but could always count on a good dose of it when I went to visit Grandma. Since she passed away I have missed the great taste of her dishes- and at Cracker Barrel I find it. Sure, it might lack the magical taste from her old gas stove, but it does offer me that one-of-a-kind country flavor- and I always enjoy it. I always enjoy the country vegetable plate- I can get 4 or 6 veggies of my choice for about six or seven dollars, and since it always fills me up completely I think that is a fair price. You can choose from about twelve different side items. Things like corn or green beans, mashed potatoes, a small salad, and even their fantastic dumplings- which rank right up there with Grandma's!!
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I also especially like the grilled chicken salad, which is about $6.50. It is huge, though, and plenty to make a meal on. Tender chicken strips, fresh greens, boiled eggs, tomatoes, colby cheese wedges and the best croutons there ever were. They are sourdough croutons, left a little soft but still a little crisp too- I love 'em!
I like the Cracker Barrel because they offer a lot of variety at a pretty reasonable price. Sometimes they might be a tad pricey on things, but you always get plenty. My husband loves the "Breakfast Served All Day" feature. We are not typically the type to eat a huge meal first thing in the morning- a bowl of cereal is usually it. So, even I enjoy the fact that, when I am in the mood for it, I can go get the fried eggs and pancakes I love but just can't think about when I get out of bed in the morning!
One of the things I always did love about Cracker Barrel, which I am sorry to see has obviously gone, was the baskets of wonderful biscuits and corn muffins they used to bring you to munch on before your meal. There was always plenty to get your appetite going, and still enough to have one with your dinner. Nowadays you have to ask for them, and it is like pulling teeth to get more than one or two. To me that was always one of the most unique things about Cracker Barrel. Almost any place will bring you a basket of garlic bread or sliced bread, but there was just something special about a basket of warm biscuits and corn muffins that made it unique, and I miss that.
So now I come to my major complaint with this restaurant, which just seems to get worse all the time. I don't know- maybe I have just been to a few bad locations, but it seems like the waiters and waitresses get ruder and ruder every time I go back. I just ate there today- and the waitress not only had no personality whatsoever, she was totally inefficient and did a terrible job. This is not the first time this has happened to us, nor has it always happened in the same location. I am not saying it is necessarily a reflection on the company itself, nor that this is a problem at every Cracker Barrel location, but I think it is something that should be looked into. After all, it takes a good bit away from the "down home" kind of atmosphere and experience they are trying to portray. I don't know about you, but where I come from, "down home" kind of folks are extremely friendly and helpful, and would never roll their eyes at you if you asked for a glass of tea the way our waitress did today.
I once applied for a job as a waitress at Cracker Barrel, and unless things have changed with their hiring routine, it is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life. My application process took over four hours. First you had to fill out an application. Then you went to an interview with the manager. Then you had to fill out some more papers. Then an interview with someone else. Then a battery of various tests- reminded me of the old aptitude tests from grade school. Logic problems. Math questions. Grammar skills. Psychological thought questions. I mean, it was utterly ridiculous. All this so I can say "May I take your order?" I never did get the job, but there IS a reason why I am telling you all this. They spend a great deal of time evaluating these type of skills, but I never saw any evidence of them evaluating my PERSONAL skills. In other words, while they are wasting time seeing if you can spell and add, maybe they should test for communicative skills and personality. Because the majority of the wait staff I have had at Cracker Barrel locations all over the place, those are the two skills which they lack the most.
I mean, it is only waiting on tables, not brain surgery. And when it comes to waiting on people and trying to help them have a pleasant dining experience, which should be more important? Math skills or a pleasant attitude?
Seems to me that some of the higher-ups at Cracker Barrel need to get back to basics in this area. I will continue to patronize this restaurant, because I am pleased with the food and the value. But I will also continue keeping the change for myself, rather than tip a waiter or waitress with a grudge and a frown.
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