The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Nashville’

Cracker Barrel (Dickson, TN)

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 27, 2010

On our way out of Nashville, heading to Memphis and later Little Rock, Arkansas, the Husband and I decided to get a big breakfast and skip lunch in order to get to Graceland with enough time before they closed for the day.  We were looking for a hearty breakfast and our choices we had narrowed it down to were Waffle House and Cracker Barrel.  We decided that whichever one we got to first that wasn’t too crowded would be where we would eat.  We first found a Waffle House just outside of Nashville, but the parking lot was packed.  Back on to I-40, we found ourselves in Dickson, TN with only a 10 minute wait at Cracker Barrel.

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An iconic symbol of Cracker Barrel is their front porch and rocking chairs.

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As you enter the building, prior to getting to the restaurant itself, you find yourself in their giant country store.  When there’s a wait, the hostess is standing at the door to the building taking names.  You then have however long your wait is to peruse the store.  The store is filled with all sorts of country knick knacks and interests.

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IMG_2671 This stand of candy sticks takes me back to my childhood when my family would stop at a Cracker Barrel when driving cross country.  I remember that I used to buy a handful of these with my allowance before getting back on the road.

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IMG_2673 One of the reasons Cracker Barrel was on the list of options for breakfast was that the Husband and I had heard about their Audiobooks selection.  You can rent an audio book at one Cracker Barrel and return it at a later location.  After looking through the selection, we learned that to sign up to the program, you have to pay the full price for the selection and then get a refund when you return it.  We also learned that there are zero Cracker Barrels in Nevada!!! We decided to skip getting one and stick to our ipods and the radio for the rest of the drive.

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After enjoying the store, we were seated.  The restaurant itself is covered in old-time paraphernalia.IMG_2675 IMG_2676

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An element I loved as a kid – games at the table!

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Enough of decor and on to food! The Husband and I each tried to determine what we wanted individually and decided to share some items we didn’t want an entire plate of.  When our food arrived, it looked like so much!

IMG_2679 The item we decided to split was an order of pancakes.  The Husband normally just uses syrup but I was in a fruit mood and had strawberries added to it.  Personally, I though the strawberries were better than the pancakes, but I’m not a huge pancake fan 🙂

IMG_2680 The Husband and I each ordered eggs over easy and a form of breakfast meat.  Turkey sausage patties for me.  (These were good!)

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And thick-cut bacon for the Husband.  Not as thick-cut as he expected.

IMG_2682 As side dishes, the Husband’s meal came with grits (he added sugar) and biscuits and gravy.  While he enjoyed the biscuits, he felt they were more like rolls than biscuits.  The gravy had something left to be desired.

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My meal didn’t come with a side but I was eyeing the Hasbrown Casserole.  Not knowing what would be mixed with the hash browns to make it a “casserole” I was a bit nervous.  I was very pleased though when I received cheesy hash browns.  Yum!

IMG_2683 Breaksfast was just like any other Cracker Barrel meal.  Fine, but not great.  I go, rarely as it is, as a travel restaurant to experience the atmosphere.  I leave you with a photo of one of my favorite parts of the Cracker Barrel porch.  I hope to one day have a similar scene on a porch of my next or future home 🙂     IMG_2691

Off to Graceland we go!

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Urbanspoon

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Caney Fork Fish Camp

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 26, 2010

After checking in to our hotel at Aloft Nashville Cool Springs, the Husband and I contemplated what to do with our evening and what to see in Nashville.  We decided on heading north to Opryland to check out the outside of the newer Grand Ole Opry House and to find a restaurant in that local area.  After looking at our options on Urbanspoon, I decided on Caney Fork Fish Camp.  There weren’t many reviews available and the Citysearch ones were very mixed (half one-stars and half five stars – the reviews for the one stars didn’t seem justified in their one star rating so we decided to ignore those reviews and give it a shot).

Caney Fork Fish Camp is located a very short drive north of Opry Mills, the giant mall at which the new Grand Ole Opry is located.

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I did a poor job of outdoor photography but the restaurant looks like a big cabin.  IMG_2641 When we arrived, we were concerned there would be a long wait (it was Saturday night after all) as there were was a huge group waiting out on the porch.  When we got inside though, we were immediately seated.  The hostess explained that those outside were waiting for a shuttle (we assume back to a hotel?).  We were immediately impressed with the decor (which we knew would be campy and somewhat cheesy from the reviews).

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As we wound our way through the restaurant to our table, we noted all of the cabin atmosphere, making it seem that we were seated inside and outside of multiple cabins.

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We were seated next to a fish pond with actual fish 🙂

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IMG_2645 As we looked over the menu, we saw that we had lots to choose from.  Across the board on the reviews, including the one-star reviews, everyone seemed to enjoy the Fried Dill Pickle Chips so we knew we had to order some.  They came with a Chipotle Ranch dipping sauce.  While we didn’t love them, we were glad we tried them.  I’m generally not a pickle fan and have only recently begun trying fried pickles.  What made these different than the others is that they actually tasted like pickles – the breading didn’t take their flavor away.  So, if you like pickles, you’ll probably like these 😉 I enjoyed the chipotle ranch sauce, though.

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Another love, across the board of reviews, was the complimentary Corn Fritters.  Those reviews were right on.  They were sweet, crispy yet doughy, and just heavenly.  I saved one for dessert later and was glad I did. IMG_2650

Our waitress, Kelsey, was phenomenal.  She was very friendly and attentive! The Husband asked for beer recommendations, specifically if they had any Tennessee beers on tap, and she recommended Yazoo Pale.  The Husband enjoyed it and thought it was an excellent example of a Pale Ale.  It had the appropriate color, flavor, hop aroma, and mouth feel.

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For my entree, I went with another review recommendation – the catfish.  I chose to go with the Fried Catfish Sandwich which came with lettuce, tomato, tartar sauce, and hot sauce on the side.  I had a selection of sides to choose from and chose to go with the Mac n Cheese made with Velveeta Cheese 🙂 While I enjoyed the sandwich, I particularly enjoyed the hot sauce.  While not particularly hot, it had a bit of kick and vineagar to it and I learned they make it at the restaurant.  The mac n cheese was awesome! Definitely glad I got it.       IMG_2658 The Husband ordered the Vegetable Plate for his entree which was a selection of three side items.  He also chose the Mac N Cheese, the Hushpuppies, and the Fried Okra.  He also added a side salad with blue cheese dressing.  He enjoyed both the mac n cheese and fried okra but didn’t love the hushpuppies.  Something about them were just off for him.  He was glad to get some fresh veggies in his salad.

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We decided to not get any dessert (I had my last corn fritter to enjoy!) as we were full and tired from a day full of travel.  Overall, we though this was a fun restaurant to go to.  We enjoyed most of our dishes and though the service was great.  The negative reviews we read we don’t feel were justified and our feelings toward the restaurant and the experience more closely match the positive reviews on the internet.  If you find yourself in Opryland and you’re looking for reasonably priced southern food, give this place a shot.




Caney Fork Restauraunt on Urbanspoon

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Aloft Nashville-Cool Springs

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 26, 2010

When planning out our cross country move, the Husband and I looked at our route, decided which cities would be good to stay in based on distance driven per day, and began searching for hotels to stay in.  While we could have driven each day and just found a hotel along the way, we were hoping to find unique hotels to experience and blog about.  Booking a hotel in Nashville in our price range was a bit difficult, likely because (as we found out later) the Country Music Marathon was the same day that we would be arriving.  I perused TripAdvisor.com as well as Hotels.com to get reviews and general price ranges before going to individual hotel websites to see what was available.  One hotel that caught my eye was the Aloft Nashville-Cool Springs.  It looked to be a bit farther outside of the city than I had hoped, located in Franklin, TN, but after lots of contemplation, I decided to book it.

The reviews on Trip Advisor were quite mixed, but I was interested to see what it was all about after seeing Aloft hotels pop up in Charlotte and Washington, DC.  The drive down to Franklin felt a lot longer than I expected, but it was a nice commercial area once we  got off of the highway.  We found a close spot outside of the hotel and headed in to check in.

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The lobby itself is was very overwhelming.  It’s both dark but brightly colored.  There were a lot of children running around and it made it feel like we were walking into Chuck-E-Cheese.  We didn’t want to judge right away as it could have been just poor timing on our arrival.  The reception desk was a circular section, oddly placed just off the the left but in the middle of the room.  I looked around a bit first to make sure I was headed to the correct counter.  Our once over of the lobby noted a bar, a lounge area, a seating area, and a place to order food.

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As some of the reviews I’d read said, it felt like they were trying too hard to be trendy.  Check-in was quick and easy, though, and we were soon headed up to our room.  The elevator was dark (were we in a club?) with a bright blue floor.

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The bright color theme could be found throughout the hotel including the hallways to the rooms.

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When we made it to our room, we were generally pleased with it.  One of the negative reviews of the hotel mentioned that the bathroom was in the room.  Perhaps that reviewer had a very different room than we did, but we really liked the layout of the room.  When you walked in, the bathroom was immediately on your left with plenty of mirrors and counter space.  The mirror on the far end slid closed to section off the toilet and very large shower.

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Across from the sink, was a “closet” – behind the current were numerous hangers, all the space you really need, if any, to hang clothes for a few nights.  There was a magazine rack, safe, coffee/tea maker, and a selection of coffees and teas (plus a free bottle of water). IMG_2624

IMG_2627The next morning, as a quick side note, the Husband made coffee and I had some tea.  The coffee/tea maker is a pod single-serve which apparently I’m not very good at using! So, for those of you like me out there who haven’t used one before, make sure the cup that holds the pod on top is seated properly AND that your pod itself is seated properly in the holder.  Otherwise, you’ll end up like me with tea not brewing directly down and dripping off to the side, losing half of your tea to the counter before you realize it.  Yep, keep an eye on it 🙂

Ok, back to the room! I’m a fan of checking out the toiletries hotels provide.  Aloft had foaming face wash (loved it!) and some body lotion and the usual soap at the sink. IMG_2625

In the shower, there were large dispensers of body wash (also a fan) and shampoo/conditioner.  While I didn’t use the shampoo/conditioner (I prefer separate, not 2-in-1), I love the earth friendliness of the mass dispenser (like a cruise ship). IMG_2626 On the other side of the wall (closet, tea maker, magazine rack) we found the king size bed and the rest of the room.  Personally, I love soft squishy beds and this wasn’t one of them.  It was a bit firmer than my taste but not bad.  I believe the Husband liked it.

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Facing the bed, there was a shelf, a bench and wall mounted television, and desk.  There was sufficient room to walk around and we were generally impressed with the economical use of space. The only frustration was that our tv would randomly lose sound, but we didn’t let it bother us (not enough to call the front desk and ask for help).IMG_2629

The hotel had free wi-fi, which we loved and appreciated.  Why don’t more hotels do that?!?! So very frustrating.

Overall, this was a unique hotel.  While we didn’t love it, it met our needs for the night.  We believe, based on our first walk through and our return later from dinner, that this is a very kid friendly hotel.  In the lobby, they had shelves of board games and good sized tables for families to sit down and play together (and the adults could enjoy some drinks if they so chose).  If you’re in the Nashville area and are looking for a fun atmosphere for your kids, this might be the place for you.

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Two Tennessee Towns

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on April 26, 2010

As we cruised from Charlotte to Nashville, we remembered that a rockslide had closed I-40 between Asheville and Knoxville.  The resulting detour would take us up I-26 to I-81 South, where we would re-engage I-40 West to continue our journey.  We were certain there was probably a shorter detour available, but we weren’t in any kind of a hurry, and the detour would surely be well-marked, so we decided to take the prescribed detour.

Well, we didn’t have any problems following the detour, but we would not say that it was particularly well-marked.  Several times we wondered if we were still going the right way, or if we had missed a turn.  Fortunately, we had not.

On our way up I-26, we came across a beautiful view of the mountains, and a scenic overlook.  We stopped for a few pictures. 

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As we continued on, it wasn’t long before we received positive feedback that we were moving along in our cross country cruise.

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On Bec’s suggestion, we stopped in Knoxville to see the Sunsphere.  Built as the centerpiece for the 1982 World’s Fair, the Sunsphere is a huge monolith in an otherwise unremarkable town.  Don’t get me wrong, the city, which still has a population shy of 200,000 people (according to Wikipedia), has a quaint edge to it.  It actually reminded me of a very large Lynchburg, VA, if you have ever had the opportunity to see the very, very, very subtle quaintness of Lynchburg.

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During a The Simpsons episode in the late 1990s, Bart and some friends acquire a car, and make their way to Knoxville to enjoy the Sunsphere.  When they arrive, however, they find the Sunsphere has been turned into a wig store, and has been renamed the Wigsphere.  Not so, however, when we arrived!  The Sunsphere, in all its ridiculous glory still stood, a tribute to the Sun and global energy (the theme of the World’s Fair in 1982).  266 feet tall, with the ball being 75 feet in diameter.  The glass is coated with gold dust to give it the gold luster. 

We took the FREE elevator ride to the observation deck (we expected to have to pay).  For free, it was a “must-do.’”  I would have been willing to pay as much as $4-5 for the trip, in hindsight.  It was a nice view, but it’s really not all that high, and the gold dust really distorts the color of the view. 

IMG_8327We came back down and took a couple more pictures, and departed the quaint downtown of Knoxville, on our way to Nashville.

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IMG_8338 As we departed Knoxville, we were getting hungry.  We had passed a Krystal on our way into town, and I realized I hadn’t had a Krystal in almost 8 years.  The Wife had NEVER had a Krystal, so we decided to indulge in some fast food, something we generally try to avoid, and find ourselves a Krystal.  We also agreed that if we passed any more remarkably-unique fast food locations, that we would give them a shot, despite our reservations.

IMG_2621 Our cashier, Juanita, was as old as the hills and as sweet as a bowl of cherries.  We ordered up a handful of Krystals and went on our way. 

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We were rolling toward Nashville.  Actually, we were headed “just outside Nashville,” as the Wife proclaimed, to our hotel.  When we arrived, we found that our hotel was roughly 20 miles from downtown, in the neighboring suburb of Franklin.  Our Aloft hotel was interesting, and will be the subject of a follow-on post.  It was just too interesting (not to build it up to much; it’s just a hotel) to not get its own post. 

We checked in, got unpacked, and decided to head out to Opryland.  It seemed like the thing to do in Nashville, when one only has a couple hours to spare.  As we walked across the parking lot for our car, we looked West, and saw looming storm clouds.  These clouds were the remnants of the weather cells that caused all the damage in Mississippi, and they looked mean.

IMG_8339 We got in the car and headed up to Opryland.  The weather did indeed find us, on the highway, and the torrential rains kept our speed low.  It was severe to say the least. 

We finally arrived at Opryland about 30 minutes later to find the Grand Ole Opry House (the new one, as we understand it, the original is in downtown Nashville). 

IMG_8342 Opryland has its own little complex/campus of buildings.  It’s well-themed and very quaint (there’s that word again) to walk around.IMG_8343 We even found that guns are prohibited on the campus, regardless of permit.  We tried to figure out what it meant that the permit part had to be explicitly stated.

IMG_8344 I took a couple pictures while the Wife checked out the gift shop. 

IMG_8350 A little wind would have made this one a great picture.

IMG_8352 We managed to escape any rain, also, while we walked around and took pictures, which was probably a good thing for the health of the camera.  By this time, we were getting hungry (it was almost 9 pm CDT, and our bodies were still on EDT), so we headed over for some dinner at the Caney Fork Fish Camp. 

The next morning we would be heading to Memphis and on to Little Rock.  Check back to see how Day 2 fared.

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