Think you're a Cracker Barrel super fan? Prepare to be impressed.
Michael Magnotta, of Cape May, New Jersey, has long loved the Tennessee-based chain since he went to his first store in
Kingsland, Georgia, in 1998. "I was with my grandparents. I had flown down to Florida to see them over my Spring Break and we were driving back up to Jersey. They knew I wanted to stop and actually eat at a Cracker Barrel. That's really when it all started," Magnotta says of his love for the company, which has now taken him to 100+ outposts.
Some 20 years later, as Magnotta approached his 100th store visit in the spring of 2018, he thought it would be the perfect time to celebrate the milestone in Cracker Barrel's home state—with his wife Nicole along for the ride. "Once I took that first road trip, all I wanted to do was travel. I've now been to almost 80 percent of the Cracker Barrel's up and down the East Coast. I pretty much have the East Coast covered," says Magnotta of his mission to visit as many stores as possible.
Never one to shy away form a fun road trip, Michael and Nicole, drove all the way from New Jersey to Cracker Barrel's second store in Lebanon, Tennessee–the hometown and headquarters of Cracker Barrel–on a four-day journey down South. So what draws this Jersey boy to our neck of the woods? Magnotta says of his first meals at Cracker Barrel in the '90s, "I was excited. The food was good. At that time, I had never really traveled. I was intrigued by the South in general and when I saw the different type of food–cornbread, biscuits and gravy–I was all in. We don't get that stuff in Jersey!"
When the couple's son, Michael was born in October 2018, they took a short break from their adventures, but knew they wanted to do something to mark Michael's first birthday this year. When Cracker Barrel found out that Magnotta's 101st store visit in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, would be the setting for their baby first birthday celebration, they decided to do something a little extra for the family. In a sweet gesture, the company made a custom “Rising Star” apron, a nod to the stars on Cracker Barrel employees' aprons and the company's Personal Achievement Responsibility program. To ring in baby Michael's big day, the toddler got to indulge in his first kids' meal at the store and spend quality time with family and staff alike.
“For me, Cracker Barrel is more than just the friendly service and hearty, southern food. It's always been a part of our road trip adventures, as it allows us to stop and discover new towns or areas that we've never been to or never thought of visiting. In the past, it was all about eventually getting to that 100th store, but now that I've done that—it’s changed some," says Magnotta. "Since having Little Michael, hitting those new locations comes with new meaning. Now when we visit new Cracker Barrel locations, we will be sure to take home a kids menu that is dated, numbered and has the location written on it just like me (Dad) used to do with the old locator maps—because I always thought there was nothing better than getting to explore this great country and discovering American through its highways and byways. Now we get to teach and share it all with him, which of course includes stopping for some great country food along the way.”
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Where is the Cracker Barrel farthest from home that you've ever visited? Do you have Magnotta-style mania for the Southern eatery?