After entering the Cracker Barrel parking lot (1000 Howe Ave.) at 1:30 p.m. on a Sunday, I drove at least four laps around before I finally found a place to park.
At that point, I should have known that the restaurant might be a little crowded.
However, despite the full parking lot and equally full front patio – which was practically overflowing with families anticipating their Sunday lunch – I was still in shock when the hostess told me we’d have to wait 80 minutes for a table for two.
Cracker Barrel is a common chain restaurant in the south and midwest. Its original location opened in Tennessee in 1969; today, Cracker Barrel has 665 restaurants in 45 states.
Its first California location was opened this year in Victorville. The Sacramento location is also one of the chain’s newest additions.
So it makes sense that the first Cracker Barrel in Sacramento would be crowded, especially since it is one of only two in the whole state. And the crowd seemed to suggest that the food would be worth the wait.
The front patio, which was definitely meant to fit a waiting crowd, helped make the long wait a little less unpleasant. It was equipped with an excess of benches and rocking chairs, as well as a few checkers tables.
When the loudspeaker finally announced that my table was almost available, junior Emma Boersma and I entered through the main doors of the restaurant and were shocked to find that we weren’t walking straight into a restaurant, but rather into an old, country-themed general store, which sold everything from children’s toys and candies to Christmas decor and skin care products.
After browsing through the shelves for a few minutes, we were finally led through a doorway and into the actual restaurant.
To match the country theme, the walls were ornamented in a hodgepodge of antique-looking items: croquet mallets, tennis rackets, golf clubs, fishing rods, old fashioned signs and antiquarian advertisements.
The furniture in the room was equally rustic in appearance. The tables were made of dark wood and adorned with decorative oil lanterns.
As for the food, Cracker Barrel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and each menu includes a variety of options. However, all the food falls under the same southern style of dishes, such as chicken and biscuits, meatloaf and fried fish.
Sandwiches, burgers, steak, chicken and fish basically encompass most of the choices.
The menu also offers over 20 side dishes.
Every main dish costs around $8 to $15 and are all very large. The drinks cost about $3, although they do include bottomless refills.
Anticipating large portions, Boersma and I ordered only one dish each.
Our very perky and talkative waiter, who seemed to fit in with the rest of the up-beat, country ambiance splendidly, also suggested that we try one of Cracker Barrel’s signature iced lattes.
The other drinks offered also include lemonade, Blue Sky crafted sodas and both hot and iced teas.
Deciding to order off the breakfast menu, which is served all day, Boersma ordered the Grandma’s Sampler platter ($10.19), which comes with two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs and your choice of bacon, sausage or ham. It also includes a side of either fried apples or Hashbrown Casserole.
I ordered a fried chicken BLT (9.99), which comes with fries and coleslaw.
Accounting for the number of people in the restaurant, the food came pretty fast.
We both agreed that the pancakes were definitely above average – fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside – and the syrup was delicious as well, but nothing else really stood out. I liked my sandwich, which had a sort of sweet, barbeque flavor, but it wasn’t exceptional.
According to Boersma, the sandwich “tasted like a sandwich.”
After being at the restaurant for over two hours, we didn’t feel like staying longer for dessert, although the berry cobbler did look very appetizing.
Even though we didn’t order dessert, we did end up having to stay longer than expected, because after getting the bill, we had to wait in line for about 10 more minutes to pay for our meal.
Overall, the atmosphere was fun and different than what you would usually find in Sacramento, but it’s definitely not worth the wait.
—By Anna Frankel