One Girls Crazy Outlook on life in Southern Maine

In December 2010 I moved to Southern Maine from a small town next to Bangor (Bangor is right in the center Maine and is one of the largest cities in Maine for those of you wondering if it's in Canada). Here are some crazy stories of outings, hikes, beer and just the general mayhem that is my life. Welcome. Enjoy. Love it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Overly Overrated Cracker Barrel

Location: 357 Maine Mall Road South Portland, ME 04106

Price: $-$$

Alright, so... hummm. Cracker Barrel. I am just going to start off by saying that this is one of the most overrated places I have ever eaten. On that note, I am going to try to be as tasteful as possible when describing my terrible experience at the infamous Cracker Barrel.

For starters when you walk into the building, you have to walk though a HUGE gift store with everything you could possibly imagine in it.This is a good idea as a selling idea, but a terrible entrance idea. You see, not only do you enter through the store, you also exit AND pay for your dinner in the store. To put it simply, the whole area is a cluster. You then have to weave your way up to the hostess, who is pretty much just going to tell you there is a twenty minute wait and takes your name. Alright, that's great, minus the fact that there is no waiting area. You can either wait in the store(while standing), or you can go outside and sit in the old country style rockers on the front porch.  This would be a good idea if we weren't in MAINE, where the temperature drops to below freezing in the winter once the sun goes down. Then, once your table is finally ready the hostess screams your name though the crowd. You would think they would have those fancy little vibrating disks, but then again they don't have a waiting area so I guess I shouldn't expect much.

The front porch at Cracker Barrel. A good idea in the spring and summer. Not at all practical in the winter in Maine.

The gift shop at Cracker Barrel. As you can see it already looks like a huge cluster without people in. Just imagine it packed with entering and exiting traffic. Shoppers and people waiting.

Now, lucky me I missed the chaos of waiting. This happened for a couple reasons. The timing was a little off and I don't live in Portland or South Portland. It takes me about twenty minutes to get to the city, so by the time I got there the friends I was meeting had already been seated.

This is when the ridiculousness that was Cracker Barrel" started. Luckily my friends had been seated right by the front, so it didn't take me a long time to find them. When you walk into the dinning room it is just a huge room with people YELLING. It was so incredibly loud in there that I could not hear myself think.  My butt had literally hit the seat, I said hi to my friends who I haven't seen for months, and then the waitress was all up in my face. I hadn't even had a chance to open the menu! Uhhh... not only was she hounding me, she was incredibly annoying about it. When I explained to her that I had no idea what I wanted she decided to start naming off all of the specials. Really? I will just have chicken tenders...She then very rudely demanded that I tell her what I wanted for sides. I didn't even know what the sides were, Nor did I see a list of them ANYWHERE. I chose the mashed potatoes with gravy and the cole slaw..The dish also came with a side of biscuit's.

This is not the actual meal that I got. I just wanted to show you a picture of the chicken tenders. I did not get a side of mac and cheese (although I should have). The green smush to the left that looks like spinach? Those are "green beans." My friend ordered those, she did not eat them.
My sides consisted of Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Cole Slaw.

Another thing about Cracker Barrel is they supply you with a never ending supply of corn bread and biscuits.

 They aren't good.

They are very very dry. They pretty much fall apart when you pick them up. Just imagine the massacre when you try to spread butter on them. I think I had half of one... That was enough for me.

Then the chicken tenders came. What an incredible disappointment. They were your typical fried chicken tenders. If I didn't know any better, which I don't, I would think they were the frozen tenders you buy at Walmart. The honey mustard sauce that came with them though was very good.
The mashed potatoes were the worse. They had the consistency of instant mashed potatoes. The gravy that was on top was a very think country style gravy. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't good.
The cole slaw was your atypical cole slaw that you can get anywhere.

The beer I ordered... oh wait, nope. Cracker Barrel doesn't serve alcohol. That's right, you read that correctly, no alcohol. Awesome! I had... Water.

Looks drunkenly awesome huh?

My friend got a side salad in addition to his country fried steak. It was HUGE. It was the size of a regular salad. Just the side salad would have been enough for a meal.

Cracker Barrel is a great "experience" restaurant and a great addition to Portland as far as this type of place goes. However, my experience at Cracker Barrel was terrible. The food was very disappointing. The service was not good, and the setting is terribly set up. I have, however, heard their breakfast is pretty good. If you are going to go, check out the breakfast, and if you do, let me know how it is. Otherwise, stick to the local places in Portland...they are much better and authentic.

If you want to look at the menu (unlike I was able to) here is a link to the Cracker Barrel Website the menu is on there somewhere.


  1. I work at cracker barrel, so maybe I am a tad biased, however I think you had a bad individual experience and should not take it out on the cracker barrel as a whole. I am a server and whenever someone asks me for more time or that they are not ready, I offer to bring them a drink while they look over our huge menu. I do remind them to consider our specials because we only have them once a week.

    As far as the "Green Beans" either you don't know what your friend ordered, or the waitress misheard you, because pictured there are turnip greens a southern specialty.
    The chicken tenders were of course atypical, Cracker Barrel tries to have options suitable to everyone. If you would have tried something that adults actually eat like the chicken and dumplings, or one of the specials, maybe you would have enjoyed it more.
    I don't love cracker barrel, but I do appreciate many things about it.

  2. I go to plenty of places where I have ordered chicken tenders and loved them. Cracker barrel is disgusting. I won't be going there again... I won't be recommending it to my friends. You don't have to like it. I didn't write my blog to please minimum wage waitresses like you. Sorry.

  3. Ps. If you had read the caption under the photo of your precious "turnip greens" you would know that that is just a photo of the tenders. Not the actual meal I ate.

  4. Kristen: You are the one that stated above "The green smush to the left that looks like spinach? Those are "green beans." My friend ordered those, she did not eat them." So you actually did try to identify what the picture of "smush" was... Don't slam Kelsey for correcting you.

    Cracker Barrel is basically a step up from fast food. It's typically a place to grab a fast bite while on the road of something other than the typical burger/taco/chicken places that line the highway. When we travel, we do stop now and then at a CB, but I've never expected from them more than a hot meal.
    These places are basically cookie cuttered, so the one in So. Portland is the same as every other CB across the country.

    I agree with you that the meals are not overwhelming at best. Definately a place I wouldn't want to meet up with friends at. But for a family on the road, CB makes a good stop to stretch, unwind, and sit down to a meal. BTW: They actually do have some good meals... But it's mostly Southern fare, so has to be taken for what it is. (my wife calls it truckstop food!).