The place we usually eat breakfast on the weekends doesn't open particularly early, so I suggested to Terry we go to Cracker Barrel. Neither of us had been to one before, and all I knew about it was that old people liked to go there. Terry said he didn't want to eat with a bunch of old people, but I said it was just hearsay, I don't know if that stereotype was true or not, so we drove out to Waynesboro to give it a try.

First of all, although you could see it as soon as you got off the interstate, it was a little tricky to actually get to it. First we just made a U-turn at the first light to drive towards it, but that did us no good since although we were only a few yards from the parking lot we were on the wrong side of the service road and couldn't get to the restaurant that way. We had to backtrack and tray again, this time making a left at the second light and driving a long way around behind it to get over to it.

I didn't expect the "country store" part of the experience. There is a fairly large gift shop when you first enter the building. It's got all sorts of things, from T-shirts and sweatshirts to capes to toys of all kinds. We gave our names to the hostess and looked around the store while we waited for a table. Although the place was packed, it's also large, so we didn't wait long at all.

The menu was about what I expected. The food is much like what you'd get at an IHOP. Of course, we went for breakfast which is served all day, so I'm not sure if they serve non-breakfast foods later since I didn't examine the menu in great detail.

They were featuring "skillet" meals, so I got one of those, and its tastiness exceeded my expectations. I got the ham & cheese skillet, but the fresh vegetables were the highlight for me. They added just the right kick to the meat, potatoes, and eggs, and the cheese wasn't too heavy but was included in just the right amount to add some savory richness to the mix without weighing it down. The portion was a reasonable size, not excruciatingly large like some breakfast places (IHOP) serve up. I felt that although the meal was hardly low-calorie, I did get a wide assortment of nutrients with all the different food groups represented (I requested apple butter with my biscuits so that was my fruit). Plus I thought it tasted really good.

Terry got pancakes, eggs, and bacon, which were pretty standard, like you'd get at an IHOP or Waffle House or any diner. They looked to me like they were cooked properly, but there wasn't anything unusual about them. Which is many cases is a good thing, you don't always want challenging food first thing in the morning.

The coffee was average, but they did a good job making sure we didn't run out. Overall, I liked the service. Our waitress was friendly and efficient without being fawning, a rarity in chain restaurants it seems.

While the food was about what I expected a place called "Cracker Barrel" to be about, I was not prepared for the decor. The place was totally decorated. Very much like an old TGIF or Ruby Tuesday before they modernized. The walls were covered with artifacts-- old telephones, vintage ads for Coca-Cola or cigarettes or ice cream, antique fans, you name it. I had always imagined the interior would be sunny and bright, since the sign I've seen from the highway is in a gold-yellow color. But the actual interior was kind of lodge-y. We were seated not far from a large wood-burning fireplace (which was nice, since it was a rainy, dreary November day). The walls (what you could see of them under all the artifacts) were a weathered gray, and the ceilings were very high. Terry couldn't believe we were still in Virginia-- the whole vibe of the place made him feel like he was in Pennsylvania or upstate New York on the way to a day of skiing.

It seems that breakfast joints are the one type of restaurant where Terry and I don't strenuously object to going to chains. We like going to IHOP and Waffle House. Yet for dinner we almost never go to places like Applebee's or Outback Steakhouse or Ruby Tuesday's or anything like that. Maybe once or twice a year, if it's convenient for some reason. But we usually gravitate towards independently owned restaurants. I guess since the Bluebird Cafe and Southern Culture both closed down, and the Blue Moon diner often has too long a wait, we just don't have any locally-owned breakfast places that we favor (except for Uncle Charlie's out in Crozet, but like I mentioned we were going to go there but they just weren't open early enough for us today).

So I think we're going to add Cracker Barrel to our list of preferred breakfast spots. I can't believe I've gone so long without ever having gone in before. But I predict we'll be running more errands in Waynesboro than Charlottesville now that Waynesboro has a really convenient concentration of shops, and if Terry is with me, I guess Cracker Barrel will be our new favorite lunch spot out there.