No trip to the Old South would be complete without a stop at one or both of these fine dining establishments. And while native Southerners might scoff at that statement, trust me, to a couple of born and bred Californians, these places are downright exotic!
Cracker Barrel serves heaping, artery-clogging portions of fried, boiled, and mashed Southern staples. It’s not great food by a long shot, but, depending on what you order it can be pretty tasty (the Chicken Fried Chicken pictured below is amazing — the chicken and dumplings, a little less so) and the prices can’t be beat.
Plus, you literally can’t miss the place…we counted almost 20 locations on the drive from Raleigh to Nashville alone. But the real star of Cracker Barrel is the front porch and Old Country Store.
Just the fact that they have a wrap-around front porch at all is cool enough, but when you couple that with the fact that they actually sell the rocking chairs (most start at around $149.99) out there, well, how can you not love this place?
And the porch is just the beginning. Step inside the swinging front doors and you find yourself in a country store straight out of “Little House On The Prairie”.
Loaded with cool vintage candies, jams, toys, Southern spices and seasoning packets, cookbooks and a plethora of John Deere merchandise for the home, this place rocks. And, since they have been a proud sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry since 2004, their collection of Cracker Barrel exclusive CD’s leaves Starbucks decidedly in the dust. So, go for the food, but stay for the store. And no, the rocking chairs do not count as a carry-on item. We tried.
Now, for the pinnacle of our vacation breakfasts, our old standby…Waffle House.
Simple, cheap and delicious, Waffle House is truly heaven-sent. Where else on this planet can you get a single freshly poured waffle for only $2.70! Yeah, you heard me, Denny’s, $2.70! Incredible!
Anyway, I usually order the chocolate chip waffle ($.35 extra, but worth it) with a side of eggs and hashbrowns and Christine gets the pecan waffle with a side of bacon. But everything we’ve ever tried there is fantastic. And that sweet slab of country ham pictured below is like, death-row-inmate-final-meal spectacular! A must try!
And when you go make sure to bring tons of quarters, because aside from the kick-ass breakfast selections, most locations also have a jukebox. And this is no ordinary jukebox, friends, for this one comes equipped with a whopping two rows of songs about Waffle House. Seriously!
This place is so good, people write songs about it! And the music is great. None of the singers are really famous or anything, but the songs are hilarious: “I’ll Take Mine With Hashbrowns”, “Working At The Waffle House”, and our all-time favorite, “Grill Operator” sung to the tune of Sade’s “Smooth Operator”. Trust me, you never heard music like this at McDonalds. True road trip classics!
So, save the fancier, bigger-budget food for dinner and get yourself some Waffle House waffles ASAP. You won’t be disappointed!
On the web front, Cracker Barrel has a pretty cool website with tons of hillbilly stuff for sale and an e-mail newsletter called Front Porch News, which sounds kinda rad.
But if you really wanna experience these places online, check out the Waffle House tunes for yourself at: http://www.wafflehouse.com/musicmachine.asp