Friday, March 24, 2023


The story behind America’s beloved Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Chances are you’ve eaten there or perhaps parked your RV overnight in their parking lot. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is a favorite restaurant for folks who love homestyle comfort food. It’s also a fun place to shop for toys, clothing, snacks, and more! Have you ever wondered how this iconic business started? Me, too!


Dan W. Evins opened the very first Cracker Barrel in the fall of 1969. Evins served as a sales rep for Shell Oil Company at the time and was looking for a way to increase fuel sales. So, he built the restaurant with a gift store just off Interstate 40 near Lebanon, Tennessee. Traditional Southern-style foods served included turnip greens, biscuits and gravy, grits, dumplings, and country ham.


The original Cracker Barrel Old Country Store was so successful that Evins incorporated the business in 1970. Soon afterward he leased land near busy interstate gasoline stations and opened several more stores.

Evins’ inspiration for the business came from his childhood memories of local country stores in the South. Back in the day, soda crackers were shipped and sold from barrels. People often gathered around the barrels to discuss local news and gossip. Evins fashioned his restaurants to look like old-time general stores featuring a large front porch and rustic interior. The company used antiques and local artifacts to decorate the interior of each store to further establish the country theme.

Fuel shortages

When gasoline fuel shortages hit in the late 1970s, Evins began building stores without fuel pumps, hoping that the restaurant and gift shop could compensate for the loss of gasoline revenue. It worked, and Evins continued to open more stores throughout the South.

Iconic logo

In 1977, Evins met with a local ad agency to redesign a logo for Cracker Barrel. Bill Holley met with Evins and after discussing the possibilities, Holley drew a logo sketch on a napkin. Evins was so pleased with the drawing (a man sitting next to a cracker barrel) that he hired the Nashville artist. Today the logo is well-recognized throughout the country.

Cracker Barrel man

People often wonder about the man in the Cracker Barrel logo. Holley’s sketch wasn’t inspired by an actual man. Instead, it came from Evin’s description of farmers he remembered from his childhood. The man featured in Holley’s logo was dubbed, “Old Timer.” Later, he was renamed “Uncle Herschel” because Evin’s real Uncle Herschel enjoyed promoting Cracker Barrel. He often strolled through neighborhoods, handing out gold cards to people in the community. Folks could redeem the gold card for a free meal at Cracker Barrel.

Continued growth

In 1981, Cracker Barrel became a publicly traded company, and Evins used the money to grow his business. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the company continued to expand into almost every area of the United States. Cracker Barrel added local regional dishes to its menu, but retained its original Southern favorites. By 1993, Cracker Barrel enjoyed revenue that was almost twice that of any other family restaurant in business at the time.

By 2011, Cracker Barrel had restaurant/gift shops in 42 states. Dan Evins died from cancer in 2012.

Do you like to eat at Cracker Barrel? Have you ever parked your RV there overnight? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



4.9 14 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

I am from Michigan and the one I ate at years ago had horrible food and the menu was too complicated to figure out. But under duress to go again from my daughter who said the food changed and so did the menu I went to one in Orlando outside of WDW last September and yes we did spend the nite there, found the food really good and was impressed. I get pictures from my friends who when traveling eat there. I do not eat out much due to cost but will return when I travel back to Maine in May. Thanks for the history. Did not know this. But I do love to browse there while waiting for a table.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

We do eat at Cracker Barrel restaurants. We also have overnighted at three different Cracker Barrels in the last 5 years — one in Kentucky, one in Mississippi, and one in Tennessee (Manchester, not Lebanon).

Nita Taylor
1 month ago

I recently won a Cracker Barrel gift card and we used it at our local Cracker Barrel in West Little Rock. We have eaten there many times before and the food was good and the menu selection was large. Our recent visit was very disappointing, the menu was smaller, service was slower and the food was not what we have come to expect at a Cracker Barrel. It’s unfortunate. I really like eating there and I loved to shop in the store, but we probably won’t be going back.

1 month ago

We have done both, parked overnight and eaten several meals at cracker barrel.

1 month ago

As far as I know we don’t have any in Washington. I have never seen one in any of my closer states. I would for sure stop for the night, if allowed, and enjoy a meal, from what I’ve read about them…..
Thanks Cracker Barrels!

Kevin Smith
1 month ago

Just returned to MN after journey to Puerto Vallerta, every night outside of Mexico was spent at a Cracker Barrel and I enjoyed a meal (either evening or breakfast) there. I get that crabby old folks are taking a shot at them for being “woke” now that they’re offering “impossible meat” substitutes but come on, turn off your faux rage machine and enjoy what life you have left. Unlike Walmart (my previous safe boondocking refuge) CB is quiet without truckers spewing exhaust and using parking lot for dumpsters. Many thanks CB, see you soon…

Chris P. Bacon
1 month ago

We used to LOVE Cracker Barrel and would stop at several along our journey. Occaisionally we’d take advantage of their RV parking to spend the night.

But they’ve recently lost their way; the new menu has removed many of our traditional favorites and the addition of “adult beverages” hasn’t improved the offerings. As a result we rarely, if ever, stop there anymore.

My wife and I kid that we’re “living in the post-Cracker Barrel phase” of our lives.

Gail Keel
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris P. Bacon

I agree 100%. They’ve gone woke and forgotten about family values. Food is no longer cooked fresh in store but come in in pre-packed plastic. Sausage contains no meat and takes like sawdust. My last few times there, they have been out of bread, milk and or creamer, chicken, and fish. Not worth the trouble. If I wanted a drink or wine, I’d go to a bar – not Cracker Barrel.

Mark Stevens
1 month ago
Reply to  Gail Keel

I’m confused. When did “Woke” have anything to do with packaging food in plastic?

Jeff Craig
1 month ago

Been there once back in the early 1990’s, and the food was marginal at best. Then, I learned of their litany of scandals over racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny and food safety. I’ll stay at Cabelas/BPS or (Ugh…) Wally World instead.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeff Craig
rodman Roebuck
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Sounds like you’ve included most of the media identified and en vogue societal ills. You should’ve included that university studies have concluded that Cracker Barrel policy includes kicking stray cats and shooting BB’s at homeless puppies. All validated by the media and publicly funded studies, of course.

Mark Stevens
1 month ago
Reply to  rodman Roebuck

Look, this is pretty simple. Go into a Cracker Barrel and walk around looking at all those nostalgic pictures of the old South and count how many Black people you see in the those pictures. When the number is greater than one maybe I’ll think about returning. Maybe.

John I
1 month ago

We actually plan our trips around CBs, always enjoying 2 meals, and buying gift cards for friends and relatives!

1 month ago

Yes my wife and I loved the Cracker Barrel as the first we ate in one was on our honeymoon travel from Nebraska to Nashville Tennessee. That 1990. We had never heard of the place but was very impressed as we both were born and raised on a farm and ranch. We still stop at a Cracker Barrel every chance we get.

Dennis M
1 month ago

We stayed at Cracker Barrel’s for years going to and from NASCAR races when still working and needing to travel late. Had a couple we stayed at regularly. Usually rolled in after they were closed and parked out back, had breakfast and hit the road. Forget about the “RV Spaces” when they are open! As a previous poster said they are usually full of cars anyway. We were 65′ feet long, so we always parked as far away along the perimeter as we could.

Terry Haynes
1 month ago

Yes we love Cracker Barrel and stop when we go by one. But there isn’t one within 2 hours of us 😩

Susan Grant
1 month ago

One of our favorite restaurants, never had a bad meal. We find it expensive to stay overnight in their parking lot because we eat both supper and breakfast there. We do find the rv parking spots are too short and frequently filled with autos. We spent 2 years in Oregon and Washington, was thrilled when CB finally arrived.

jim Antt
1 month ago

Cracker Barrel recently opened a restaurant in Bakersfield Ca and for years they would not open in Calif or Oregon or Washington

1 month ago

I think we ate at one back in the 70s traveling across the country. So far there are none near me but I know a lot of nomads that use them for overnight stops.

1 month ago

My inlaws raved about CB, having tried it I would describe it as stodge as we Brits say.

Alice Beamer
1 month ago

Frequently stayed in the parking lot of a CB after eating a meal and asking permission. Recall one who was so glad we were there as he always liked an RV’r parked when he left with the day’s receipts!

1 month ago

We have stayed at several Cracker Barrel locations and it was a great experience. Some are in busy commercial areas, but the convenience of dinner, then breakfast is appreciated by the “resident chef”. Makes a nice easy stop on a long trip.

Bob M
1 month ago

I have never stayed overnight at a Cracker Barrel. I enjoy the food at their Wilkes Barre, Pa location except for their breakfast. I hate grits and their not good with allowing substitution. Even after the pandemic they always have adequate staff and food comes quick. Sometimes I hate going there because they have such nice stuff in their store and I always want to buy something.

Gary Byler
1 month ago

I purchased my 1st TT in 2009. Volunteering at National Parks & National Forests about 85% of the years (talked a lovely lady to join me in 2010), spent a couple years delivering new TT and 5th wheels and lived full time for 8 years. In our travels we tried staying overnight in Cracker Barrel’s parking lots about 95% of the time while in transit with our own unit. We would always have breakfast there and usually dinner. Much to our dismay health required us to sell our 5th wheel in January 2020 (not Covid-19). We still eat at CB when traveling. Spending the night there is the best kept “non secret” ever.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.