1295 Lakeview Drive
Romeoville IL 60446
June 12, 2008
I'm just going to come right out and say it. Cracker Barrel has the best pancakes I've ever tasted. I really wish I could award that distinction to some underappreciated, off-the-beaten-trail pancake house and not a national chain already raking in big bucks, but the simple truth is that I really, really like Cracker Barrel's pancakes.
Don't get me wrong, there are some very close seconds out there. Manor's pancakes and Honey's pancakes are both very tasty, and I recommend them. But Cracker Barrel pancakes have a certain texture I've never encountered anywhere else, light and crispy on the outside, tender and chewy on the inside. And they serve them with real maple syrup. I don't know exactly what they do to make them so flavorful. Fry them in pure butter or something, probably.
I got the Momma's Pancake Breakfast, which also comes with (unremarkable) eggs and sausage/bacon.
When you're waiting for your food, you can play the little game they have on all the tables. It's a wooden triangle with holes in it, and all the holes but one are filled with little plastic pegs. You have to "jump" over the pegs to remove them. The object of the goal is to end up with only one peg left. It's a cute little time-waster, but it's always bad on my self-esteem because it includes a little intelligence test: If you end up with one peg you're a "genius." Two and you're "purty smart." Three and you're "just plain dumb," and four and you're an "ig-nor-a-moose." I always seem to end up with three. No matter how meticulously I plan ahead, those plastic pegs outsmart me every time, and I can hear their malevolent little voices laughing inside my head. "You're just plain dumb!" they chant. My rage wells inside me like a tide of molten lava, but then the food arrives, placating the savage beast within.
Cracker Barrel also has a gift shop, filled with decorative wooden plaques bearing homespun cliches, garden ornaments, stuffed animals, scented candles and candy...in other words, stuff you could never possibly need, but somehow just being surrounded by a wonderland of unnecessary stuff makes you want to pull out your wallet, open it, and say, "Take it. Take all my money. I must have your things." For many visits, I resisted the evil, magical pull of the Cracker Barrel gift shop, but today I caved in and got a quarter pound of fudge.
Joe here. This was the fourth time I'd been to Cracker Barrel, but the first time I'd ever ordered breakfast at one. I'm always tempted by their "old fashioned" meals -- chicken n' dumplins, open-faced sandwiches -- which are about as traditional as meals get but somehow still feel strange and exotic to me. I've never seen anyone under 50 order a blue plate special or anything like these dishes in any other restaurant. Doing so myself gives me the same feeling I get when I go out for Chinese food, authentic Mexican food, or sushi.
I never would have guessed it, but Cracker Barrel has worked pretty hard to establish themselves as a breakfast force to be reckoned with. Their menu boasts of their profane consumption of the world's maple syrup supply, currently at 6%. Each order of pancakes comes with an individually-bottled serving, warmed and ready to pour. I'm sure than 99% of these bottles head straight for the landfill once their life on the plate is through. Kind of a waste, but it's a personal touch that keeps the customers coming back in, I'm sure.
Good pancakes, nothing earth shattering but great texture and presentation. Very filling. Worth coming back for, though you can get these in 40 other states, not just Illinois. Eggs and sausage were passable, though not as good as the hotcakes.
Surprisingly hilarious read here. Still don't know what "Cracker Barrel" means, always conjured up images of cheese and crackers for me as a kid, which I still can't get over every time I see that cheddar-colored logo.