During the holiday season when we Lunch Guys are going over the river and through the woods, we inevitably pass a Cracker Barrel.
So this time of year when we’re in the mood for turkey — and lots of it — we wanted to see how good the Barrel does at offering a Thanksgiving to go. That’s why we called ahead and ordered the Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Sandwich with green beans and mashed potatoes on the side.
Did this lunch put us in the holiday spirit?
Chris: Tom, half — no, 78 percent — of the charm of Cracker Barrel is the atmosphere. You know, the wooden sled on the wall, the golf-tee game on the table, the elderly RVers milling around in the country store not minding the 45-minute wait.
So when I grabbed my turkey sandwich, beans and potatoes and ran back to my car, I was worried how this lunch would appear in the harsh light of the modern day.
Well, I’m happy to say that besides the school-lunch-sized slices of bread, this lunch is good anytime, anywhere.
Ninety percent of the reason is the turkey. I’m so brainwashed thinking that the pressed deli meat turkey slices are what this bird is all about that when I have anything carved off the bird, my taste buds go into shock.
Cracker Barrel has better-than-Mom’s turkey, piled high in its tender, touch-of-juicy Thanksgiving-ness. And that’s enough for me, even though the smoky green beans and chunky mashed potatoes with liltingly peppery gravy both hit the spot too.
In fact, this whole meal was actually better than any lunch leftovers I’ve had the day after Thanksgiving.
Tom: I’m right with you. One bite into my sandwich with its butter-grilled toast and hunks of real turkey, I started singing that famous Johnny Lee country song, "Looking for Lunch in all the Wrong Places ..." That’s what we’ve been doing.
As you mentioned, our turkey universe previously consisted of perfectly uniform lunch meat slices. It’s like we’ve been living in some science fiction movie where we only ate highly processed food, then near the end we get to taste the real thing.
This, Chris, is the real thing.
The sandwich is piled with fantastic turkey and surrounded with tomato, a pile of leaf lettuce and sweet pickle slices.
The turkey itself has a tinge of dryness (as real turkey does), but those condiments and moistened-with-butter bread evened it out perfectly.
Chris, don’t get me started on the chunky mashed potatoes. They too were outstanding — not too dry, not too pureed. And for all the Northerners who think gravy is what’s found in the bottom of the roasting pan, opt for the delicious peppery white gravy. It puts the "cracker" in Cracker Barrel.
Chris: Besides the quality of the turkey here, I have to thank you, Tom, for turning me onto Cracker Barrel call-ahead take-out.
It makes the Barrel possible to do in one lunch hour and saves me from buying yet another dancing Santa while I wait for a table.
Tom: That helps, but until Cracker Barrel gets off the highway and starts catering to us "city folk" in offices, we’ll have to be content grabbing its goods on the way to or from somewhere. Either that, or become truck drivers.
Tom James and Chris Tauber are Orlando, Fla.-based writers.