Is this really the best sign to put above your booth?

TheQuick: Machine Shed

Is this really the best sign to put above your booth?

It was a bright and beautiful Sunday morning in September when my tum tum told me it wanted some hotcakes and bacon. Somewhat reluctantly I hit the masses in search of a spot to put my appetite to bed. Rightfully apprehensive for fear of the Sunday crowd. Around these parts many a folk are quite acustomed to attending church and then religiously converging upon any and all area restaurants to discuss everything but the morning's sermon. Far be it for me to deny my stomach's desires though so I sallied forth. After driving passed a few crowded eateries by some miracle I found one near empty. I gave it no further mental debate for sake of my previously stated reason and I quickly parked and headed on in to this place called the Machine Shed

For those unaware this massive nugget sits just across the border of Woodbury (which is why it's probably still in business) in Lake Elmo and is joined by a hotel called the Wildwood Inn. This Cracker Barrel clone seems to have pulled out all the stops at trying to be an old timey establishment. So much that they even decided to forgo flavor in many of their dishes, opting for using only spices available in the 1600s. Now let me make it clear that I'm not mocking Cracker Barrel, cause they are top notch in my book when it comes to old timey cooking. However this clone (not that there's anything wrong with cloning) and it's concept of home cooking is not one I've ever had or wanted. I'm not sure what was worse, the fact that the name of the place instantly caused me to imagine sixteen variants of Slaughter House and Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies at once, or the fact after ten minutes of hearing non-stop country music I wished someone would chop me the hell up to put me out of my misery. By the way who's bright idea was it to serve drinks in frakking preserve jars anyway. It's not cute, it's hardly nostalgic, and I always seem to dribble on myself when trying to drink from them. Back to point this restaurant/bar/hotel is what one would call a theme restaurant, minus old time photos, and daily re-enactments of working on farm machinery which at first glance i thought they'd have. 

I wonder what they'd bring if I actually asked for water

So I made my way passed the hay ride and into the lobby which like the Cracker Barrel was a store adorned with an array of wonderments from fine apothecary products to overpriced piggy banks shaped like barns. So consider it a bonus if you're looking for one stop gluttony and gift shopping. In the lobby I was greeted by smiling and friendly staff (like five people) and I was wisked away to the dining area. I immediately had seen why there were no church goers here, wooden benches for the booths. I keenly recall from my church going days how painful those benches could become. At any rate I was cool and the gang since I didn't have to wait in line. I was seated in a wooden booth with a table so large I could only assume it's former use was by the town doc for performing child birthing procedures. The kind waitress told me Jimbo would be my waiter and said she'd be back with some water. In less than two minutes later, before me appeared the first of many preserve jars and a pitcher of water which looked as if she was kindly asking me to wash myself. As Mr. Hammond in Jurassic Park would say they spared no expense. It's all about quantity in this place. My massive tum tum violently erupted reminding me to shrug off the aesthetics and get my grub on, so I asked the kind wait staff for the breakfast menu. Thus begins the scary portion of this ride, no breakfast, Sunday is brunch day. Had I known I would have worn my Kentucky Derby hat and ordered a mimosa, forgive me for not knowing this fun fact. So I said what the heck I reckon I'll partake in the brunch buffet. If anyone actually reads this who owns a restaurant, if you have a buffet decorated with steel hoppers filled with food, please either label them or make sure I can easily identify what's in said hopper. Opening these unlabeled hoppers had my face contorting more than Jim Carrey's rubbery mug whilst passing a stone. All I can say is that two of the four hoppers were yellow, one was brown with red on it, and one was biscuits and gravy. As I walked through this brunch buffet I could feel my stomach wanting to retreat as my lips trembled and I fought hard to hold back the tears as Tim McGraw whined in the background. 

After a bit of emotional turmoil which I shall leave omitted from this entry I had myself some bacon and what I think was a scoop of hashbrowns. Being the pig I am I then asked for the dinner menu and ordered up a brisket sandwich. Simple enough right, just moving on from the hoppers of doom ride and easing into something simple and small. I dipped my towel into the pitcher of bathwater provided to me and wiped up the dribbled soda from my clothing and waited for my brisket. After a few short minutes of restlessly moving to find a comfortable position for my ass, here came back Jimbo with this abomination.

In retrospect I now realize that this is apparently what you get as an appetizer or pre-dinner treat instead of an option of soup or salad. Not that I would want either but to bring me this massive plate which is so gracefully adorned with what I consider lumpy pus is just torturous to my kind stomach. All I wanted were some pancakes and they wouldn't give it to me.  In summary this house of gargantuan portions is not my jar of sassparilla, however I would be content with large portions if it was the shit I actually wanted. I didn't ask for water, lumpy pus, or a large chunk of bread. In the end I did get fed and have a sore ass to show for it, so let's just cut to the quick before all this whining turns into a country song. 

The Good

  • There's no waiting to get in and if there is you can always spend some time browsing the delectable curio shop.
  • In the event of a zombie apocalypse this is a good place to keep in mind for finding food supplies when the grocery stores are empty.
  • If you like large portions of everything and anything this is the spot.
  • The staff is courteous and helpful.

The Bad

  • The fact that it's an almost exact replica of Cracker Barrell had me expecting more out of the place but it just fell so far short.
  • Quality falls short and quantity takes precedence when it comes to the food.
  • The brisket itself had little flavor and it was caked in sweet bbq sauce. Not the best pancake replacement or for those who have a passion for good bbq.
  • You can get the same thing if you walked into any restaurant and ask for all the meat they hand on hand minus any flavor. 
  • The reason I came into a restaurant is cause I don't want home cooking, why make it a selling point. 

The WTF

  • I'm no farmer but something tells me that farmer's could care less about tin pigs and chickens adorning the place. 
  • Unless you're about to bring me a moonshine jug full of some tasty spirits keep the damn jars and serve me in a glass.
  • I'll never know or wish to find out what hopper #4 had in it that was red, purple, and full of raisins. 

Suggestions

  • Quit with the mixed signals of a cloth napkin and cheap jars. Are you a fancy place or old timey themed? If you're gonna go old timey go all the way. I envision wash basins at the end of the table that you can use after eating or after visiting the John Deere sponsored Machine Shed experience. Where people get to spend an hour working on an authentic tractor, or in the slaughterhouse prepping a delicious supper feast.
  • Offer a bad harvest night where patrons are given an old leftover ear of corn to eat no matter what they order. 
  • Offer a city slickers menu with items smaller in quantity but better in quality. 
  • If you're going to be like Cracker Barrel get the rocking chairs out front too. 

 

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