Cracker Barrel is an American chain of restaurants, each with its own gift shop. All locations feature a front porch, lined with wooden rocking chairs and a stone fireplace. The service is Southern-style, friendly hospitality.

When visiting the USA, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to expect from different chain restaurants. Some are an easy guess such as, Red Lobster and the Olive Garden, but what are Applebees, Bob Evans, Ruby Tuesday and Cracker Barrel all about?

Chances are you’ll find something you like in any of the chains. Cracker Barrel has good food and service for a reasonable price.

The name comes the barrels that were used to transport soda crackers and then repurposed into makeshift tables in those old-time country stores.

These pictures were taken in the Davenport, Florida location – all the Florida locations we visited looked pretty much the same.

You enter via a gift shop full of simple toys, puzzles, woodcrafts and kitchen novelty decor – it’s mostly stuff that you can easily live without. Then present yourselves at the hostess station and wait for a table.

This catfish with fries and a side of mac’n’cheese was US$12.29.

And this roast beef and two sides was US$11.69.

A glass of cabernet sauvignon US$6.

Cracker Barrel also serve a thanksgiving dinner (fourth Thursday in November) when most other restaurants are closed.

When you receive your bill, don’t pay the server, but take it to the checkout in the gift shop. You can add a tip there as well. We haven’t worked out yet whether it’s better to leave a tip in cash on the table or do everything at the till.

If I ran Cracker Barrel, I’d have people pay at the table for these reasons:

  • Waitress is more likely to receive a tip.
  • There’s sometimes a line in the shop with people paying for stuff they bought in the shop.
  • Diners could leave without paying – maybe that doesn’t happen and I’m just being cynical.

Cracker Barrel isn’t fine dining, but you’ll have a good meal at a good price. – doesn’t always work outside the US