Restaurant News & Reviews

An expert opinion: What you need to know about the Cracker Barrel opening in Sacramento

I like it. I love it. I want some more of it.

The day is almost here, folks. Cracker Barrel’s second California location is opening Monday in Arden Arcade, and I could not be more excited.

Since moving to Sacramento this summer from North Carolina, I’ve had my share of homesickness. But a big void will soon be filled: The American chain with a Southern country flair is opening at 1000 Howe Ave.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cracker Barrel or don’t share my level of enthusiasm quite yet, here’s what you need to know:

The experience

When you arrive outside the front of Cracker Barrel, you are greeted with a long row of rocking chairs, an enlarged checkers set and a spacious wooden bench. A flow of rustic charm sweeps over the place upon impact.

The first thing to know about Cracker Barrel is that it’s more than just a restaurant – it’s also a store. As you walk through the front doors, you are greeted with a wide selection of shopping items, ranging from pinstriped candy sticks to DVDs of TV shows you’ve likely never heard of.

There’s something in the store for everybody. Pro tip: If the store is too crowded and you don’t feel like waiting outside, make a sharp right upon entry and hide along the back walls until your number gets called over the intercom. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Be advised not to suck up all your time shopping. After all, you probably came to Cracker Barrel with a clear mission and an empty stomach. It’s meal time!

Maria Aguilar emotes at the menu at the Cracker Barrel in Sacramento, Friday, August 17, 2018. The Cracker Barrel opens to the public on Monday, August 20, 2018. Daniel Kim

The food

No matter what you do, get yourself some warm biscuits. A choice of biscuits or cornbread comes free with most meals. Make sure to ask your server for a side of jelly. Apple butter and strawberry rank at the top of my list. Here are some classics on each of the two menus.

Breakfast: It is served all day, whether you arrive when the doors open at 6 a.m. or scurry in before they close at 10 p.m.

You’re probably a little “hangry” because you’ve been waiting in line by this point and want the best bang for your buck. If this is the case, Momma’s Pancake Breakfast is the way to go. You get a couple of eggs, choice of bacon or sausage and three tasty buttermilk pancakes. The individual warm bottles of syrup they give you are also a huge plus. Want a little something of everything? Go ahead and get a grandma or sunrise sampler. Want a meatier plate? They also serve steak and ham.

If you’re looking for something on the light side or simply want a healthy alternative, look no further than the Fresh Fruit n’ Yogurt parfait. The oats are great, the fruit tastes fresh and the sides offer a little something extra for you to munch on.

Lunch and Dinner: You name it, they got it. I wouldn’t know where to begin here. Starting at 11 a.m., the lunch and dinner menu is wide open. They have fish, shrimp, steak, chicken, salads, sandwiches, the list goes on over multiple pages. But I recommend the chicken fried chicken. It features a generous portion of a fried chicken breast fillet topped with white gravy (though you can get the gravy on the side if you prefer). It also comes with three sides, which brings me to to the most essential part.

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The mac and cheese is a great side for whatever you order. You also can’t go wrong with a baked potato, baked sweet potato or mashed potatoes with brown gravy. I’m also a big fan of the fried apples. If you’re looking for traditional vegetables, green beans and pinto beans are a solid choice. Whatever you do, don’t order the homestyle fries. They taste fine, but you can get fries anywhere. You’re in Cracker Barrel – c’mon, get something different!

Dessert: Still got room? The dessert menu is a bit on the smaller side and changes from time to time. Here’s the real deal: The apple pie is good, the frozen mug sundae is better and the fruit cobbler with ice cream blows everything else out of the water. If they have blackberry cobbler, order it while you can.

The fun

At every table, there is a small wooden peg game that has drawn the ire of many over the years. So how does it work? There’s a triangle with 15 spaces and 14 pegs. Your job is to jump each tee and remove it with the goal of only leaving one left. If you have no more moves and multiple pegs on the table, it’s time to check the scoreboard to see how you did:

Leave only one – you’re genius.

Leave two – you’re purty smart.

Leave three – you’re just plain dumb.

Leave four or mor’n you’re just plain “Eg-No-Ra-Moose.”

It’s a good way to test your intelligence (and your patience). Don’t go on YouTube looking to solve the puzzle either. The game is quick, so you’ll likely be playing over and over again. If you decide you want to buy it for around $5 before you leave, make your way back to the store – where you will also hand the cashier your check.

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