Chain Gang: Rating the new healthy Fixins' at Cracker Barrel

Posted: September 27, 2013

Company description: "Homestyle meals with a lighter twist."

Chain: Cracker Barrel.

Location: 3611 Horizon Blvd., Trevose.

Order time: About 15 minutes.

Price: $8.49 for the pork chop with two sides; $7.99 for the chicken and two sides.

Calories: Depends on the dish, but most everything's 500 calories or less. The Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken Breast and Spice Rubbed Pork Chop platters we sampled had 500 and 420 calories, respectively. (Counts vary, depending on which sides you choose.)

Review: For Cracker Barrel's Wholesome Fixin's, the notoriously indulgent food chain uses just half a stick of butter per serving instead of a whole stick. Kidding! The Chain Gang is kidding! But for a good, home-cookin' kinda meal on a lighter, more calorie-conscious side, the two Wholesome Fixin's dishes we tried hit the spot.

The chicken tasted just like mom used to make - a solid dish, but not too heavy. Our sides were mixed seasonal vegetables and a baked sweet potato (supposedly 190 calories, but we're not sure that the cinnamon-sugar topping and sorbet-size scoop of butter were factored in).

The pork-chop glaze was tangy, with a hint of chili powder and cinnamon, and cooked right - juicy and succulent. Beware bones, though: The Chain Gang found two tiny potential chokers hidden in the chop. Our sides here were fresh steamed broccoli and brown rice pilaf. The broccoli was better than the pilaf.

Just desserts: We went to Cracker Barrel expecting rich country-food goodness, so with the calories we saved on main courses, we splurged on dessert - a blackberry cobbler a la mode that was warm, gooey and to die for, and a slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake (also a la mode). The cake was fudgy good, but the seasonal special cobbler was the winner.

Summary: If you're looking for hearty, home-style comfort food that won't blow your diet, Cracker Barrel's Wholesome Fixin's may suit. There are also breakfast items, with Egg Beaters and turkey subbing for eggs and piggy breakfast meats. The country charm of the place always gets us, too. There's something rustic about eating in a cavernous dining room under the watchful eye of a deer head. And ambience is half the battle when you're eating out.

Every other Thursday, the Chain Gang reviews the latest chain restaurant dishes.

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