That Food Guy
Saturday, May 12, 2012
  Cracker Barrel - Revisited
Cracker Barrel - Revisited
4011 Ulmerton Road Clearwater, FL
33762 (727) 572-8685

It was to be an early day in downtown Clearwater, a hearing before the County Commissioners about a zoning matter; the end of a long and arduous process. On the way we would pass by the wife’s favorite Aunt and Uncle who offered to go along for the moral support. It was agreed that it would also offer the opportunity for a brunch if the proceedings were short, or perhaps a lunch if it were a protracted affair. It was open, to be played by ear… Que sera, sera.

As luck would have it, it was nearly the first item on the lengthy agenda and the motion was passed. It was now a done deal at last. It was time to go and eat some eagerly awaited breakfast. A quick check of the local phone book and a familiar name popped up – Cracker Barrel. There is a certain wisdom in choosing a know name when in an unfamiliar part of town. With a large chain like Cracker Barrel you pretty well know what to expect beforehand and that engenders a certain bit of confidence about the meal. It was quorum and Cracker Barrel it was to be.

This was our first time in this particular Cracker Barrel. It is much the same as the others in general layout but I sensed a bit different, perhaps a bit smaller. I did notice that the fireplace, usually on the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room was at the end on an outside wall. Other than that, perhaps to suit the individual site, it was much as any other cracker barrel in furnishings and décor.

It was not busy and we were escorted swiftly to a large table with a window view. Our server was promptly on the scene and we were sipping coffee and perusing the menu in just a few moments. It didn’t take long before we were ready to order. Aunt Effie and Uncle Gilbert ordered the Buttermilk Pancakes.

“Buttermilk Pancakes with 100% Pure Natural Syrup The secret to our pancakes is in the buttermilk. You see, buttermilk actually activates the mix so it rises higher for more tender, flavorful pancakes - just the way we like them. Enjoy three pancakes, made from scratch and topped with real Butter. Served with a bottle of 100% Pure Natural Syrup, warmed up especially for you.”

The three large pancakes are served on a platter with a dollop of butter and the trademark little bottle of syrup. If one bottle is not enough for you other are brought on request. The pancakes were a nice golden brown, cooked through but not over cooked. Bothe Effie and Gilbert enjoyed their meal. Gilbert noticed something that may have changed – the syrup bottle not pure maple syrup. It is a mixture of maple and cane syrup. My memory, sometime faulty, recalls that it used to be pure maple syrup. Nonetheless, it didn’t appear to change the flavor and Gilbert said it tasted just like he remembered.

My wife Janis ordered the buttermilk pancakes with cherry topping.

“Buttermilk Pancakes with Fruit Toppings Three buttermilk pancakes served with your choice of Golden Delicious Apples, Marion Blackberry, Sweet Peach or Montmorency Cherry toppings. Topped with Real Whipped Cream.”

Again, three large well cooked golden brown pancakes served on a platter. There was a copious slathering of cherries and syrup and three dollops of whipped cream. She seemed to enjoy her selection very well. Suffice it to say that Janis, usually a light eater, didn’t ask for a doggie bag on this occasion.

I, on the other hand are a bit of a trencherman and I chose Grandpa’s Country Fried Breakfast.

”Grandpa's Country Fried Breakfast® Two Eggs* cooked to order with Grits, Sawmill Gravy and Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits along with real Butter and the best Preserves, Jam n' Apple Butter available. Served with your choice of Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole and Chicken Fried Chicken or Country Fried Steak. $7.99”

Of the choices, it was a hard pick of the hashbrowns over the fried apples; both are so good. I often times try to imitate the hashbrown casserole with copycat recipes. They come close but not exactly; but one day… I also chose the country fried steak. It is the South and the meal comes with grits, a de rigueur of Southern cuisine. I always think they taste like Cream-of-Wheat which was never a favorite from childhood. I called them wallpaper paste. As for the rest of the meal: It is an imposing array of three plates in front of you. The eggs were cooked to order, over medium. The hashbrowns were succulent. The country fried steak was perhaps a bit over cooked; just enough to make a few too crispy edges. Otherwise it was tender and tasty. For a deep-fried steak it was well drained and not at all greasy. I saved the biscuits and gravy for last and the biscuits were flaky and the gravy just right; they have the gravy down to a science. (I hope my cardiologist doesn’t read this blog.) I cleaned my plate (well, most of the grits went back to the kitchen) and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a certain comfort in being in a familiar place as you know what to expect. The staff at the Clearwater Cracker Barrel fulfilled those expectations very well with good service and tasty well prepared food. The fact that we were sharing the day with dear relatives certainly added to the enjoyment of the day; not to mention that Uncle Gil picked up the tab. An enjoyable day was had by all.

PS Memory was correct. I rummaged through the pantry once we got home and found a bottle of syrup from a much earlier visit to a Cracker Barrel; 100 per-cent maple syrup.

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