Not having lived in D'ville long, we hadn't yet visited the local Cracker Barrel (hereafter, CB) until yesterday. For the past three years while living on Long Island, NY, we were sadly deprived of the delicious and delightful comforts of CB's, as there are none. At all. Yes, I know that is unbelievable, but, as they say in NY: it is what it is. So, the only time we got 'comforted' in said way during said period of time, was when we traveled off the Island and you can be sure it was usually our first stop. We formerly lived in the St. Louis area for over 8 years, and were so privileged to have what was then the #1 Cracker Barrel in the USA (on I-70 in St. Charles) and it was consistently EXCELLENT. We never once got a bad meal or had a bad experience there. It was rightfully #1--and may still hold that distinction. We love CB.
This is not to say that ALL CB's are created equal. We have, on occasion actually walked out of one. Can't remember what state it was even in, but I do remember we were on a long trip, we were hungry and tired and it was getting late. We stopped at a CB and were seated in the sparsely occupied dining room...and left to wonder. We actually (and unbelievably) sat there nearly 45 min. with just a glass of water and no one to come and take our order. So, we simply got up and left. And no one even asked a question! But, that was another day, er, night, and another time. This is now, and the place is Douglasville, GA.
Yesterday was a very, very rainy day (as in the days of Noah, LOL!) and we arrived semi-soaked from a house-hunting excursion. I had not had one bite of food all day--just a cup of coffee, and it was around 3:30 p.m. We needed comfort...in the form of food. REAL food. Not fast food. CB was the perfect place to go.
Our waitress was very, very nice (sorry, didn't get the name) and very helpful. But, I had a sinking feeling when she said brightly, "You'll notice that our menus have changed....." after which, her voice sort of faded into the background as I searched frantically for 'what I always order'--the grilled roast beef. I didn't see it. Anywhere. I almost hated to even ask, because I knew I did not want to hear what I'd figured out already. It was gone. "Oh, you know, I don't remember seeing that...that was on our 'low carb' menu wasn't it?" Yes, it was. So where is it now? You cannot be serious, I'm thinking. The best item on their menu, and it is gone without a trace. Yes, I know you have the regular roast beef. But you don't understand. THAT bears no resemblance to the GRILLED roast beef. It was in a class all its own: Slices off the top of a perfectly done roast, quickly grilled on the grill with a delightful tossing of onions and mushrooms, all served with three delicious sides of my choice. You are serious. No grilled roast beef. I am crestfallen, and I know that eating at CB will never be the same again.
Okay, plan B. What other food was I so deprived of for three years? Fried catfish, that's what! And CB knows how to fry catfish the right way: tender on the inside, but oh, so crispy/crunchy on the outside. So, catfish platter it was....with a side of the oh-so-warming mac & cheese, their legendary southern-style green beans (with nary a snap or a crunch when eating them :-) and instead of my usual order of fried okra, I ordered the coleslaw--because you just have to have slaw with catfish. Its the southern way. And no biscuits, please, just cornbread. With butter.
The iced tea was great, as expected, and when the fish arrived it was even better than I remembered. And what huge filets! Good heavens, next time I'll order it on the smaller plate... as one would've been plenty. It was absolutely scrumptious--and that is high praise from me. I come from the #1 catfish producing state in the USA, where fried catfish is a way of life and an at least once every week or so meal. Say what you will about MS, but catfish is king there, and they wrote the book on how to fry it. (See my review for Cock of the Walk in Jackson, MS).
Let me tell you, though, the cook here 'did GA proud', as this fish was fried to perfection, and served piping hot the way it is supposed to be served. It would rival any MS catfish (and if the truth be told, I'd bet the catfish WAS from MS...theirs is simply the best in the world, imho).
The mac & cheese was somewhat of a mystery, tho. Every now & then we'd taste a 'fruity' flavor in it, so I wondered if they may have used a cobbler pan or something to make it in. But, it was still good. The green beans were as yummy as ever--cooked just like my Mama cooked them, and the slaw was... pretty good. To me, it was a bit 'dry', and needed more mayo...but I let that slide, as the rest of the food more than made up for it. I was thinking they used to include a couple of hush puppies with the fish (which were not present), but I didn't care, as I've never eaten a hush puppy out of the states of MS or FL, that was worth eating, anyway. I can't make them worth eating, either, so I don't throw stones about that.
I would LIKE to say that everything we got was out-of-this-world good, but that would be less than honest (and would render the rating a 5 out of 5 rather than a 4 out of 5), because the corn bread muffins, which usually vie for top billing, were not hot and were not baked long enough. Granted, we were there at an odd hour (between lunch and dinner), but it was a Sat. and travelers stop at all hours, so I know they are probably baking those things all day long.
Now, in the interest of fairness, let me give this caveat: I am southern born and I am a true southern cook. My mother drilled me well with her insistence that the very last thing that goes on the table is the bread from the oven, which is ALWAYS and ONLY served fresh and hot. She made absolutely sure that the bread wasn't even removed from the oven until all were seated and waiting for the blessing. So, for me, either serving or being served cold bread, (internally) approaches the realm of insult.
I would never dream, in a million years, of simply opening a package of rolls and placing them cold on a platter to be served to guests! But, that is the way I was brought up in the deep south. I remember a long-ago dinner at my first 'conference' out of the south--I think in Baltimore. The dinner rolls were presented with a flourish in large, silver bowls replete with the hotel linens tucked around them. As it was passed to me, I reached for a roll, and instantly recoiled. I said aloud, "This bread is cold!" The other diners looked at me quizzically, as if to say, "And?" I repeated it, because obviously they couldn't hear properly. "THIS BREAD IS COLD!" Again, I got blank stares. So I tried again, "They forgot to heat the rolls!" One of them kind of looked at me through narrowed eyes and said, "You're not used to hotel food, are you?". Well, no, I guess I wasn't, and if THIS was an example, then I was glad to be spared the fate. I just couldn't believe that they were all sitting around eating cold rolls with rock hard butter! They thought I was terribly quaint and endlessly funny, and I, in turn, thought they must be some sort of barbarians. Of course, at the time, I'd never lived north of the Mason Dixon, so, what did they expect :-) During our three years on Long Island, my friends often laughed at my absolute aversion to cold bread, and refusal to either serve it or eat it...and no doubt, to this day think I'm the odd one, LOL!
So, getting back to the CB...really, what I should have done was to ask for some fresher, hot corn muffins. But, I guess I was just so hungry and the rest of it was so good, that it didn't really occur to me at the time. But, because of that, we didn't really enjoy the cornbread like we normally do. On a brighter note, I because of that, I didn't eat but one of them instead of my normal 2+, so I shouldn't complain :-)
Since that was our only meal of the day, I opted to order one of their wonderful apple dumplings (with an extra scoop of ice cream because I don't like sharing my ice cream--even with my hubby), which is huge and WAY big enough for 2 people. I thought they were very stingy with the ice cream. I love ice cream, and I especially love it over apple pie or apple dumplings, so, when I order an extra scoop of ice cream, I mean literally a whole extra scoop: i.e. double the amt. As it was, these were tiny scoops so I ran out of ice cream long before I ran out of my half of the apple dumpling, so I quit. Which, again, was probably a good thing.
In conclusion, it appears that the D'Ville CB is a good one, and I am so glad. I am, however, still grieving over their removal of the grilled roast beef from the menu. It literally was the best entree they served, in my opinion (and my sister's, as a matter of fact...she was the one who told ME about it years ago!). Also, the whole store was spotlessly clean, beautifully arranged with all the lovely and unique things that make CB the favorite stopping place of so many of us, and, the staff was very friendly. It was, as I have come to expect from CB, a comfort to go there.
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