The days of the Oregon Trail trading post are all but over, but Cracker Barrel keeps the tradition alive
Every Southerner-in-training is required to become acquainted with Cracker Barrel. Its huge, affordable down-home menu and the calming presence of its rocking chairs would be enough to make it the greatest chain restaurant in the world. But the gift shop. My God, the gift shop. Here are the nine best things from the Old Country Store.
9. The Epic Toys
Normally a toy store is a parent’s worst nightmare, because it usually precedes a temper tantrum. But even your folks love Cracker Barrel’s toy section. It features low-tech throwback toys that even adults still love to play with from time to time.
8. The Yankee Wall
Perhaps the only Yankee thing about Cracker Barrel is its candle selection. The colorful, good-side-of-smelly array will make your home anything from a cookie factory to a beach resort, depending on your mood that day. Our only real complaint is the lack of a Cracker Barrel-scented candle, because the tangy aroma of chicken and dumplings is unbeatable.
7. Your Grandma’s Closet
Every Cracker Barrel has the “old lady section”, and we mean that in the least disparaging way possible – when I’m old, I will clothe myself primarily in Cracker Barrel attire. The flowy shirts and garden-y sandals, and, of course, some tasteful button-ups, are a necessary addition to your grandma’s wardrobe. Take the pledge. Bring a grandmother to a Cracker Barrel today.
6. Happy Holidays
The ephemeral decoration station is always front and center, and with good reason: the average Barrel patron takes festive decor very, very seriously. This side of Hallmark, you can’t find a better place to get Betsy Ross-inspired aprons for the 4th, enormous plush turkeys for Thanksgiving, or Cracker Barrel tree ornaments (!!!!) for Christmas.
5. Country CDs
There is only one genre for the Cracker Barrel, and the Cracker Barrel has chosen country. Over the stereo you’re guaranteed to hear Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley and George Strait. If you ever feel that your country library is lacking, Cracker Barrel’s CD selection is – and we do mean this literally – bigger than your local Barnes and Noble.
4. Jump-One Peg Game
The thing that stinks about the Cracker Barrel is that after you order your food, you have to wait for it to be cooked. I guess that’s the price you pay for high- quality food at such wallet-friendly prices. But thank goodness we have the option to play the beloved peg game. If you’re still peeved that you couldn’t get past the eg-no-ra-moose stage before your tantalizing ribeye showed up, not to worry: the game is for sale in the gift shop!
3. Show Your School Spirit
Cracker Barrel being the epitome of southernness and all, they understand that college football is a serious endeavor below the Mason-Dixon. That’s why they ingeniously sell college pride apparel depending on your location. This picture was taken in Athens, GA (Go Dawgs), but hop on over to Knoxville, and it’ll be Rocky Top for as far as the eye can see.
2. Ye Olde Candy Section
You can’t get Clark Bars or old-fashioned cream soda many places these days, but, as with all things in life, the Barrel has you covered. The candy section here is tantamount to the Wonka Factory, and who knows how long some of these treats will be around. There’s something innately satisfying about using an arm sized scoop to purchase jelly beans.
1. Giant Checkers
But let’s stop playing around. The real star of the Cracker Barrel Country Store is the giant cloth checkerboard. It’s portable, laughably mis-scaled and the perfect way to pass the time when you’re trying to remain calm during a 45-minute wait. Just make sure that small children don’t hallucinate from sheer anticipation and mistake the game pieces for Cracker Barrel’s warm, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.