Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cracker Barrel: A Low-Carb Diet Utopia

Cracker Barrel is the only major restaurant chain catering to low-carbers

On my recent trip from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee for that obesity conference I attended there, Christine and I stopped for lunch in Lebanon, Tennessee at the Cracker Barrel franchise. I've always been a fan of these unique restaurants because of their reputation for being a fun, family-friendly place for good down-home cooking.

In fact, when we went on vacations in the 1980's, my mom often took us kids to Cracker Barrel because she knew we could occupy ourselves playing the little peg game, browsing around in the Old Country Store, or playing checkers on that big board outside while rockin' in those famous chairs lined up along the front. This place brings back a lot of happy memories for me, especially all those plates of homemade Chicken 'N Dumplins I downed. :)

But, now I'm in my mid-30's and that option isn't on my low-carb lifestyle anymore (gladly so!). Most places I have to come up with my own low-carb menu choices and they work with me to make that work. But have you been to Cracker Barrel lately? Not only do they make options available for low-carbers, but they actually CATER TO US with our own low-carb menu items! WOW!!!

Look for the "Low Carb Offerings" section of the Cracker Barrel menu

When I opened up the menu for Breakfast, I was flabbergasted that they actually used the phrase "low-carb" on their menu. Now that's a switch considering restaurants like Ruby Tuesday are running away from the low-carb market. And yet there it was staring me right in the face--"Low Carb Offerings" for Breakfast.


They explain why they have this separate low-carb section on their menu.

"Here at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store we know that many folks are watching what they eat, so we’ve prepared some of our favorite choices with fewer carbohydrates. From our Country Grilled Sampler to our Double Meat Breakfast, you can enjoy a low carb breakfast without sacrificing great taste."

Incredible!!! They also offer a lower-carb whole wheat bread option with "real butter and low sugar fruit spreads" for those who prefer to eat a few more carbs, but still want to watch their carbohydrate intake. They even offer Splenda as a sugar substitute--surprisingly, this is something not all the chain restaurants have done yet.

But wait, there's more! :)

Cracker Barrel also has a "Low Carb Offerings" for Lunch & Dinner with a whopping 11 genuinely low-carb meals to choose from, including roast beef, grilled chicken tenderloins, spicy grilled catfish, grilled steak salad, and so much more. These meals range from 0-10 carbs each--well within anyone's definition of a low-carb meal!

"We know many folks are watching what they eat, so we've prepared some of our favorite dishes with less carbohydrates. All salads served without croutons."

They even offer Blue Cheese crumbles as an added low-carb delight to any of their low-carb dishes. Side items that are excellent for people who are livin' la vida low-carb include Green Beans, TABASCO® Spiced Pork Rinds, Turnip Greens, and Tossed Salad with Blue Cheese, Peppercorn (my favorite!), or Buttermilk Ranch dressing.

While restaurants like Applebee's try to sneak in a low-carb menu item without explicitly calling it that, it's nice to know that at least one of America's top sit-down restaurants actively markets themselves to the low-carb dieter. With companies like Subway taking away our favorite low-carb menu items, perhaps the time has come to spend more money at Cracker Barrel.

Is it any coincidence that Cracker Barrel is the leader of their genre of restaurant for the past several years? They're innovators for the restaurant industry to mimic. As a strong support of the low-carb lifestyle, all I can say to them is THANK YOU for getting it and reaching out to people who are trying to limit their carb consumption. You don't know how good it feels to have a company willing to at least acknowledge our wants and needs with a menu that's actually low-carb.

The only complaint I have (and it's minor) is there are no low-carb dessert options. Ruby Tuesday used to have an outstanding cheesecake which had only 2g net carbs and was out of this world. Now, we're left with restaurants like the Olive Garden pushing a "no sugar added" dessert for diabetics and low-carb dieters that has an eye-popping 69g carbs in it!

EEEEEEK! We'd love to have a real low-carb dessert, Cracker Barrel, although I realize you sell some sugar-free, low-carb candy products in your country store. Just some food for thought to tweak your low-carb menu even more.

We appreciate your decision to include the low-carb customer in your in-store marketing efforts and it will not go unnoticed during the upcoming summer vacation season. I challenge everyone who supports livin' la vida low-carb to be on the lookout for Cracker Barrel restaurants along your traveling path this summer (they're EVERYWHERE!) and make an effort to stop in early and often to show them our support for being a low-carb diet utopia.

And if you appreciate Cracker Barrel's decision to meet your needs as a low-carber, then be sure to let them hear from you about it. Express your appreciation to them by writing or calling TODAY! Then go pay a visit to see for yourself what an awesome low-carb menu they have!

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Blogger Diamondwife said...

I also enjoy Cracker Barrel because it is very affordable and a nice option when we are traveling.

5/25/2007 8:01 AM  
Blogger Lewis said...

Cracker Barrel actually discontinued the Low Carb menu for a brief period last year but quickly brought it back due to the outcry. I still get "You want biscuits or corn bread?" from the waitress when I order the LC spicy catfish with green beans and turnip greens.

5/25/2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger Sparky's Girl said...

Cracker Barrel is one of our favorite places. Even before they added "low carb" to their menu, they would gladly work with you to suit your needs. I'm so glad they haven't caved to the media craze and dumped us like the rest of the chains have.

Oh.. and the spicey grilled catfish is awesome! :0)

5/25/2007 9:43 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Yeah, Lewis, training the employees about what "low-carb" means is another issue completely.

I used to work in the restaurant industry, so I understand the obstacles of helping low-wage earners to "get it."

Perhaps you and I can continue the education and training process for them so the next low-carb diner can benefit from that knowledge. :)

5/25/2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

Cracker Barrel is great for us low carbers. We have one fairly close, so we eat there occasionally. I also find most other restaurants very accomodating of my requests to substitute veggies for starch. There are a few places out there that cater to low carb. I even found a couple of local mexican restaurants that offer grilled veggies in place of rice & beans. Most other mexican places will substitue guacomole for the rice & beans. Last time I was at Ruby Tuesday's, I saw they had mashed cauliflower as a side and substituted that for potatoes. You can eat out and keep up you low carb lifestyle if you try and aren't afraid to ask for substitutions.

5/25/2007 2:09 PM  
Blogger PLC said...

I wrote an article last month on my blog about the same wonderful it is to have a restaurant that we can count on to offer us real low carb meals. It's funny to see how similar our remarks are on it.
(you can check it out on ) Cracker Barrels in our area also used to carry Asher's low carb chocolate bars, but quit for some reason! They were wonderful, and I would love to see them restock those terrific candy bars. They were as good as any low carb desert. The only sugar free candies they offer now are the "GoLightly" brand...and they are aptly named, as far as I'm concerned!

5/25/2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Jimmy Moore... I have a BA in education and I happen to be a "low wage earner" at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Maybe next time you should be a little more tactful. That was truly offensive.

Since it seems you've never waited tables I'll inform you. Many people that order food at Cracker Barrel happen to be idiots. About 75% of the time they order the low carb options with bread or mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. So when I have someone order from the low carb menu I may ask, "Would you like the whole wheat toast, biscuits, or cornbread?" because if I don't ask then and then don't bring any bread 75% of the people will say "You forgot my bread!"

2/01/2008 4:33 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Erin, I'm sorry you were offended and none was implied or explicitly stated in my blog post. The "low wage earner" comment is just plain true--what's the minimum wage of a server these days, $2.16 an hour or so. The tip is what makes that occupation worth it.

Actually, my dad owned three restaurants when I was growing up so I'm well aware of the challenges of waiting on the public. I realize people can be finicky, but a "low-carb" menu will not have bread on it by very definition of the term. That's something that Cracker Barrel and any other restaurant purporting to have "low-carb offerings" for their customers should realize through common sense.

I don't blame you for asking that if it is the brand standard for your company. And again, this does not reflect on you, but rather your company who should stop trying to promote "low-carb" just for their bottom line and actually offer low-carb foods on those particular menu items. In no way, shape, or form is toast, biscuits, or cornbread EVER a part of that equation.

THANK YOU again for sharing your first-hand perspective as a server at Cracker Barrel and I wish you nothing but continued success in your pursuit of education. Take care! :)

2/01/2008 5:33 PM  

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