Dining at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store isn't just about enjoying delicious comfort food, the atmosphere also adds to the experience.
It's no wonder the restaurant has been repeatedly ranked at the top of America's favorite family-dining restaurants.
Cracker Barrel is "a place for people to stop, take a break, have a real meal, maybe shop for a little bit," said Chris Ciavarra, Cracker Barrel's senior vice president of marketing.
In each of the chain's 635 locations, people are able to enjoy food, as well as an "old country store" while being surrounded by decor that makes it look like you're in grandma's attic.
Every location is filled with 1,000 unique "artifacts" that are chosen specifically for the particular restaurant. These old items, including vintage signs, old gadgets and dishes, all come from a special antiques warehouse owned by the company.
That's right, every knickknack you spot at a Cracker Barrel restaurant is authentic. When they're not on display, you can find them at the 26,000-square-foot Decór Warehouse located about 30 miles outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
Over the years, antique expert Larry Singleton and his family have acquired hundreds of thousands of relics for the company. There are currently over 90,000 artifacts in storage, and 700,000 on display in stores.
"Probably my favorite part of the job is finding stuff," Singleton told Today Home. "I think anybody in this business, they're treasure hunters, you know? They're looking for that pot of gold or that unique thing to find."
Singleton, whose parents furnished the first Cracker Barrel with antiques from their store, added, "The biggest part of what I do is sourcing, looking for, digging, trying to locate the pieces we use. Trying to track down old country store memorabilia, from signs to tools."
Today Home recently took a tour of the space and revealed that the place is full of treasures, including "old radios, guitars, telephones, cooking utensils, even wagons and bicycles."
There are also more than 5,000 food containers, including coffee cans and butter pails.
Singleton explained that among the thousand of items there are a few you will always find in every Cracker Barrel: "an ox yoke on the front porch, a horseshoe over the front door, a traffic light above the bathrooms and a deer head over the mantle."
So how do they decide which antiques restaurants get?
Once the antiques arrive to the warehouse, they are cleaned and cataloged before Singleton and his team start using them in mock layouts until they're able to re-create an old country store atmosphere. The items are returned to the shelves in the front section of the store until they're sent to a new store.
Singleton's team also does research about a town and its people before assembling a batch of antiques that reflect them best.
"The decor creates a relaxed atmosphere," he explained. "People don't feel rushed. They're not in a hurry to eat and get out. They can sit there with their family and enjoy a meal, and you know, maybe their grandson says, 'Pa, what is that?'"
You can get a better look of what the warehouse looks like in the video below:
Next time you're at a Cracker Barrel pay extra attention to the decor, and take the time to appreciate the thought and effort that has been put into making the nation's favorite restaurant as uniquely American as possible.