I’ve always been a big fan of Thanksgiving. Family and friends, football, crisp weather that strikes a perfect balance between wading through a pool of your own sweat and feeling as if every bone in your body has been replaced by thin, jagged icicles. The occasional pumpkin beer that doesn’t completely suck, a random Thursday off work, parades, the Geller Cup -- it’s all great stuff. But Ross and Monica’s freakish troll trophy aside, none of that stuff would even matter if it weren’t for the real star of the show: the food.
We’re talking stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, biscuits, green beans, yams, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, apple pie -- I live for it. It’s the best meal of the year. You know it, I know it, and you know who else knows it? Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. They love it so much they don’t even wait until November to toast the turkey gods. Apparently any old schmo can order up the full spread -- a piping hot pile of turkey, gravy, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, two country vegetables, buttermilk biscuits and/or corn muffins -- every Thursday starting at 4pm.
You’re telling me there’s a place where Thanksgiving happens every single week of the year? What kind of culinary fantasy world is this? I obviously had to check it out.
To my dismay, I quickly discovered that my hometown, New York City, is -- surprise, surprise -- a Cracker Barrel deadzone (don’t let the “Cracker Barrel Deli” in Staten Island fool you, you’ll be very disappointed). No bother. Armed with a ZipCar, Google Maps, and a cleared Thursday night schedule, my fiance Emily and I set out for Mt. Arlington, New Jersey, a suburban enclave about an hour west of the city that neither of us knew existed until that very evening. Our ETA was 8pm, perhaps a bit late for the regular CB crowd, we guessed, so we called ahead to make sure they still had the special in stock.
“What did they say?” I asked as Emily hung up the phone.
“He said, ‘Well yep, yes we sure do. But you better hurry!’” she said, adding that he sounded “very cheerful.”