The new Old Country Store

A major event occurred yesterday here in the land of sunshine, palm trees, and alligators, and I was right in the middle of the excitement. You’ve undoubtedly guessed by now … yes, the Cracker Barrel opened adjacent to our increasingly less active adult community.

Actually, I was sitting in the air-conditioning when a contingent of the Ladies of the Cul-de-Sac stormed into the house, forced me to put on pants and teeth, and rushed over to the familiar ersatz homeyness of a long porch crowded with rocking chairs and oversized checkerboards. If you have never seen the gift shop at a Cracker Barrel then it follows that you have never been to a Cracker Barrel since you are forced to maneuver through the gingham pot-holders, ceramic frogs, and Moon Pies before the line waiting to sign up to wait for a down-home feast even comes in sight. The question has been posed:  is it a restaurant with a large gift shop or is it a gift shop with food for the weary traveler?

When we finally were invited into the dining area, I noticed three things:  first, it was noisier than the Wild Wings on a Saturday night in football season; second, there appeared to be a minimum of three members of the wait-staff assigned to each table; and third, the biscuits looked more like Ritz crackers than fluffy southern biscuits and tasted like refrigerator biscuits two years past their pull-date. When you go to such an authentic home-cooked restaurant it seems incongruous to see these sort of things on the menu:  comes with real butter; genuine sugar flavored syrup; made with real eggs; our own version of the traditional down-home favorite.

There was an interesting comment made at our table as we waited for our food and sucked down root beers:  where did the young people come from? I guess a rustic restaurant on the edge of the waiting room for the Elysian Fields is understandably full of gray-haired people ordering prunes with their oatmeal and having their scrambled eggs cooked soft so they could chew them, but I actually saw two tables with baby carriers hooked up to the table or a chair … babies this close to the last roundup? I suppose they could be coming from Hilton Head Island or even the less obvious small towns around the area.

I suppose any restaurant in the vicinity of a restricted age community is going to do a healthy business in serving the gray-hairs. I know I always find it amazing that the local Mexican restaurant is so full of elderly people ordering soft tacos, guacamole, and refried beans. When we go out for Mexican, I don’t even have to pop in my teeth (I do put my pants on, however).

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