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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Road to the 2016 USA Barbecue Championship: Cracker Barrel in Kingman, Arizona


A place I have always wanted to try is the Cracker Barrel. The last time I had seen one was on another road trip back in the 1990s. We had stopped by right after it had closed for the day and hadn’t been to one since. But, after 25 years, a Cracker Barrel location was just within reach for this particular trip in Kingman, AZ. They have 641 locations across the USA with the first location opening back in 1969 in Lebanon, TN. It is country cooking, comfort food, and down-home hospitality that keeps Cracker Barrel going strong even after all these years. The other fascinating fact about Cracker Barrel – all of the locations are corporate-owned, no franchises. 

The Kingman location opened on April 5, 1999, and has been serving locals and travelers alike for almost 18 years.

Here’s a look at some of the country cooking we experienced:

On Fridays starting at 11 a.m., Cracker Barrel serves their Fish Fry ($9.99). You can choose from four cod fillets hand-dipped in their own special batter and fried to a golden brown or their U.S. farm-raised catfish, cut thin and tossed in a blend of cornmeal and seasonings. Both are served with steak fries and coleslaw. The cod was lightly battered for a crispy exterior and delicate, succulent interior. The batter could use a little more seasoning but salt and pepper is on the table to season up to your liking. The fries were golden brown but due to the thick cut on the steak fries, they were a little underdone inside. A minute or two more in the fryer would do the trick. The slaw was light, crisp, and refreshing. It had just the right amount of sauce for the perfect coleslaw. Rating: 4/5

Fried Chicken Livers ($7.99) are served with your choice of two country vegetables plus homemade buttermilk or corn muffins. Any time I see liver on the menu, it is my first choice as I do not see it very often. If I have a craving for it, I just have to make it for myself at home. Cracker Barrel’s version does not disappoint! They are battered like a good fried chicken with a crispy, golden brown exterior and tender on the inside. You can tell that they use very fresh chicken livers as it was very clean tasting with no gamey or irony flavor. I ordered cheese grits and fried apples as my sides. I love cheese grits and loved the texture of Cracker Barrel’s, creamy with a little bit of chunkiness. It needs a bit more cheese and salt, but great otherwise. The fried apples tasted more like baked apples with a syrup glaze. I think this would be paired better with the Grilled Pork Chop or Sugar Cured Ham Plate. I would probably choose whole kernel corn or cole slaw next time. Rating: 4.5/5

Baked Apple Dumplin’ ($4.29) is covered with pecan streusel and premium vanilla bean ice cream n’ apple topping. First thing I can say is, “OH MY!” If you’re thinking that you’re going to go for the fruit dessert because it is lighter, think again. This is a heavy hitter in weight and in flavor. You’ll definitely need to split this someone. It resembles a very, very deep dish apple pie. The dumplin’ crust is where the heaviness lies with a richness that only a grandma can create. The pecan streusel adds more richness from its rich nutty flavor along with cinnamon. The creamy vanilla ice cream slowly melts and becomes a “country” crème anglais. Rating: 5/5

Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake ($3.69) is a rich, warm double chocolate fudge cake made with real Coca-Cola and served with premium vanilla ice cream. In comparison to the Baked Apple Dumplin’, this is on the lighter side. It is a light, chocolate cake with a very moist texture. There is a slight hint of Coca-Cola flavor, but I think the chocolate flavor dominates. The vanilla bean ice cream balances out the fudgy chocolate flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

I am so happy that I have marked off another restaurant on my foodie bucket list. The funny thing is that I traveled to Alabama a week later and saw a multitude of Cracker Barrel locations and billboards on my drive from Mobile to Orange Beach. Of course, I was driving very early in the morning to and from, and you guessed it, they were not open yet. I’ll stop by next time!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
3520 Stockton Hill Rd.
Kingman, AZ 86409-3005
+1.928.757.9000
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Seating: Interior

Cracker Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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