I speak, of course, of Cracker Barrel Restaurant, a chain that has grown into a roadside standby from its humble origins in Lebanon, Tennessee back in 1969. There are over six hundred of them now, scattered across forty-two states; but in our little corner of the world they are especially thick on the ground.
I always call it “Crapper Barrel.” Or sometimes “Cracker Beebish,” for no discernible reason except to amuse myself. Fact is, we will inevitably stop there at least once on any given Road Trip... for while we never eat at any of its numerous local outlets, we find it
to be a pleasant enough alternative to the typical roadside fast-food selections.
Several weeks ago, as we worked our way northward to visit the Mistress of Sarcasm in her new digs, we stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel near Roanoke, Virginia.
A quick inspection of the dining room revealed why “Cracker Barrel” is such a well selected name for the place: The clientele could very well be described as a Barrel o’ Crackers.
Elderly white folks were thick on the ground... many of them thick in the middle as well. It put me in mind of a cafeteria dining room at The Villages, packed with hungry Q-Tips.
As with all CB’s the walls were festooned with miscellaneous memorabilia. Old Timey Shit. Cracked, stained photographs of people long dead, washboards, superannuated advertising posters shilling for defunct products. I had a passing vision of the Cracker Barrel of the Future, decorated with old X-Boxes, iPad cases, framed photos of Steve Jobs
and Bono, and microwave oven doors. Hello Kitty could even make an
appearance, right alongside Darth Vader.
With difficulty, I resisted the temptation to play with the dopey Golf Tee game while we waited for our luncheon selection to arrive. You know the one I’m talking about: you start out with fourteen golf tees arranged in a triangular pattern in a block with fifteen holes. By jumping one tee over the other (it must have an empty hole to land in) and removing the tee you jumped over, the skilled player (“Sweet Genius”) can finish with but a single tee remaining. I usually end up with a forest of tees still standing, which puts me somewhere between “Shit-for-Brains” and “Spent Too Much Time Chewing on the Stupid Loaf.”
Chicken fried chicken, a somewhat redundantly named menu offering.
Our entrées arrived, and I salted mine with a flourish. Mmmmm... chicken livers, dipped in batter and fried until they are the consistency of bluestone gravel. Dee, meanwhile, had ordered the pepper trout - always a good choice - and she munched merrily away.
On the way out, we ignored the massive display of knick-knacks and Semi-Obsolete Confections as I paid. The tariff was reasonable as usual, a little north of what you’d pay at a fast-food outlet but not excessive given the table service. Appetites comfortably sated, we eased ourselves into the car to continue our trek.