One of my favorite restaurants in the Eastern U.S. is Cracker Barrel. It's a great place for a homestyle, southern meal. I especially love their chicken and dumplings and their meatloaf. It is one less reason to miss Hawaii that we have them nearby us.
Several times now we have gone to the one in Williamsburg and enjoyed it so much. Unfortunately, the one in Chesapeake, so tantalizingly near our home, well - not so much.
I love the array of tempting side dishes available at this chain, and particularly the lima beans, which are usually a "vegetable of the day" selection at many of the restaurants. But, the Chesapeake one doesn't have a "vegetable of the day."
OK, so last time we were there I decided to try the fried okra. I love okra in soups and stews, and thought the fried variety would be good. What a sad disappointment. They were lukewarm, and tasted mostly of the cornmeal in the breading. I began to wonder why southerners like their fried okra and fried green tomatoes so much, because this was not appetizing.
We are currently on a road trip to New Hampshire, and stopped for dinner at the Cracker Barrel in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. I had been sitting in the car all day, and wanted to be sure to eat as many vegetables with my meal as possible. Fortunately for me they did have the "vegetable of the day," and it was my favorite lima beans. I got the platter which came with three side choices, and ended up choosing the okra again, figuring at least I would eat my lima beans and side salad and leave it at that.
The kids were curious to see and taste what okra was, and I tried to downplay it, figuring they would not enjoy it. But, I thought I should at least have a bite to show them that mommy will at least try everything, just like she expects them to.
And now I know why southerners really love these - when they are well cooked, they are delicious! They were crispy and light tasting on the outside, and hot and wonderful on the inside. They tasted very much like well-prepared fried zuchini, another favorite vegetable of mine. Between the kids and I we polished them off.
This Cracker Barrel must have an excellent cook staff, because the salad was fresh and well-prepared, the lima beans were the best yet, along with the wonderful okra. Of course, the entrees and the biscuits were great - but then every Cracker Barrel we've visited has always done these items right. It was a very memorable, homestyle meal. I wish I lived near here.
I'm now excited to find a restaurant nearby that does fried green tomatoes well. I have a feeling that, if cooked right, I will love these delicacies, as well.