It takes us six years and a cross country drive to set foot into one of the Cracker Barrel, thanks to Mudpie waking up right as a sign comes into view to show which exit to take from I40. (In my defense, Cracker Barrel doesn’t show up in the Bay.)
There are as many people in the store as antique candies on the tables and shelves near the cashier. We put our name on the list, then quickly merge into the buzzing about knick knacks and candles, preparing for a thirty minute wait. A mere ten minutes later our name echoes on the microphone, we get seated near the dining hall entrance, four menus swatted onto the wooden table, the waitress is a little disappointed that we aren’t ready to order yet.
… and the creamy chicken and dumpling with two side “vegetables“, choosing among cabbage, turnip greens, beans, corn, fried okras, macaroni ‘n cheese, cole slaw, fried apples, and a few others. The fried apples (pictured), almost crystal clear and melting like butter on hot pan, taste like wedges of soft brown sugar, but Little Mom and Mudpie love ’em.
They even say that it’s better than the glazed apples in my cider-braised roast pork shoulder. Mai disagrees. But they can’t deny that the supertender, honey-like pork triumphs today, accented with dried cranberries and pecan bits. Deservingly being an in-store special, it is so good I forget all about my backache and fork right in.
We could consider a fruit cobbler for dessert, however the check comes just as quickly as the food got served. They rush us out for the waiting patrons, which is understandable but makes Cracker Barrel’s atmosphere less countrily charming than Pickett House in Woodville. It turns out there’s a CB ten minutes drive from my parents, busy like a beehive even on Monday, and when it comes to chicken and dumpling, Little Mom decides she prefers CB’s to Pickett House’s. But if it’s country food, I prefer a little country style (and space).
1 chicken fried chicken ($8.99) + 2 chicken ‘n dumplings ($7.39/each) + 1 pork roast ($8.99) + tax = $35.05
Address: Cracker Barrel Store #617 (I never saw it before, now I see it everywhere)
5700 Redlands Road N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87120
Exit 155 from I40