Chain Restaurant Cornbread Ranked Worst To Best, According To Reviews

Slices of cornbread
Slices of cornbread - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Like all soul food, everyone knows that the best cornbread is made at home. Native Americans have been grinding up corn to make this tasty dish for thousands of years, and it remains a staple of family meals in the Deep South to this day. Whether you're cooking up chili, stew, or some classic barbecue, cornbread makes for a sweet, filling side that tastes best hot from the skillet.

Chain restaurants across the U.S. have been trying to replicate the magic of homecooked cornbread for years, but it's a tricky side to master. Too crumbly, too dry, or too sweet, and you have a side that sits untouched and gets thrown away at the end of the meal. Good cornbread needs to veer toward the texture of a cake without becoming a bonafide dessert while also being slightly gritty, but not too gritty. The exterior should be golden brown and crispy, which means cooking it long enough to crack the surface, but not dry out the inside.

It's an art that few restaurants -- especially chain restaurants -- have mastered when baking cornbread en masse. Fortunately, some have got it down to a tee. We've ranked chain restaurants from worst to best, using the experiences of real customers to establish which chains have perfected hot, tasty cornbread (and which ones you may want to avoid when the next cornbread craving hits).

Read more: Steakhouse Chains Where The Sides Outshine The Steaks

11. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel cornbread muffins
Cracker Barrel cornbread muffins - OKCFitFoodie / Instagram

Some restaurants serve cornbread sliced up like cake or bread. Others opt to cook it like muffins. Cracker Barrel falls into the latter category, serving its cornbread in individual muffin portions with a side of butter alongside hearty dishes such as its Roast Beef Dinner, Hickory Smoked Pork Barbecue, and Country Ham Steak.

We had high hopes for these muffins; it's always easier to wolf down cornbread when it serves as a vessel for other foods, and they're the ideal shape for scooping up leftovers. A huge point in Cracker Barrel's favor is that its cornbread muffins are almost unanimously described as moist. That's the biggest hurdle -- even the most flavorful of cornbreads are unsalvageable if you struggle to swallow them.

Unfortunately, that's where most of the praise ends. Multiple diners have described Cracker Barrel's cornbread muffins as bland. Blogger Wichita By EB lumped it in with the biscuits -- another Cracker Barrel bread item that they found equally disappointing -- and claimed "meh" was the best word to describe both. "The cornbread was dense and more on the plain side than sweet," they wrote. "Just not much of a taste to it." Meanwhile, Timmy's Takeout on YouTube found that it did have a taste, but it wasn't necessarily good. Instead of having the natural sweetness of corn, he described Cracker Barrel's cornbread muffins as being too salty and almost acidic in flavor. They get the job done, but there are definitely tastier cornbread muffins out there.

10. City Barbeque

Cornbread and bowl of stew
Cornbread and bowl of stew - City Barbeque / Facebook

City Barbeque is a nationwide barbecue chain that proudly serves "competition quality" grub. No barbecue is truly complete without cornbread, so it stands to good reason that it should serve up side dishes on par with its Pulled Pork and Beef Brisket. But while its Hush Puppies and Sweet Vinegar Slaw are crowdpleasers, City Barbeque often falls short in satisfying customers with most of its sides -- including its made-in-house cornbread. As one unimpressed diner put it on Tripadvisor: "The side dishes need help. Nothing was bad but rather uninspired."

This sentiment rings true in a lot of written experiences at City Barbeque. Although the cornbread is frequently described as moist, the flavor has proven divisive. Some find it just sweet enough, while others think it's a little too bland and tastes too much like it came from a pre-made mix in a box. On the plus side, the portion sizes are pretty generous, considering it's not an entrée.

9. Roscoe's House Of Chicken And Waffles

Mac 'n' cheese cornbread
Mac 'n' cheese cornbread - Undercover Connoisseur / Instagram

The main event at Roscoe's is and will always be the chicken and waffles. If you dive deeper into the menu, however, you may be pleasantly surprised. Warm, sweet slices of cornbread are available as a side for any meal and tend to be a crowd-pleaser. At least, for the most part.

For those who are big fans of Roscoe's cornbread, the selling point is its sweetness. It skillfully treads the fine line between sweet and saccharine, providing the perfect counterpoint to the saltiness of the fried chicken, fries, coleslaw, and other sides. What lets it down for some diners is the texture, with the vast majority of complaints once again focusing on the fact that the cornbread is dry, dry, dry. "I didn't know it was possible to make cornbread this dry," claimed one Yelp user. "It crumbled apart in your fingers and I had to eat it in clusters of little, brittle crumbs."

Once you slather on the accompanying dollops of butter, the cornbread is vastly improved. However, this ultimately depends on whether you have a butter-and-cornbread kind of appetite, or if you prefer to judge the dish on its bare, most untainted form. As another Yelp user pointed out, the best of the best cornbread really needs to stand on its own to succeed.

8. Boston Market

Mini cornbread loaves
Mini cornbread loaves - Boston Market / Facebook

Rotisserie chicken may be Boston Market's pièce de résistance, but the East Coast chain has plenty more to offer -- including cornbread. Each location bakes its own mini golden brown loaves in-store each day, with customers having the option to order just one or six for just $6.89.

The good value is one of the perks most mentioned by reviewers, but the taste is a very close second. A Yelp customer who was otherwise largely unimpressed by their meal at Boston Market took a moment to dub cornbread the exception, declaring it "the star of the meal." The mini loaves are nowhere near as sugary as some of the other entries on this list, but are just sweet enough to fulfill the cornbread quota.

At the same time, it doesn't quite have the moist factor. Another diner on Yelp described the cornbread as being so dry that it actually sapped the moisture from their mouth, while another compared it to cafeteria food. If you're looking for hearty, indulgent cornbread, you may want to reconsider putting Boston Market at the top of your list.

7. Yardbird

Cornbread slice in skillet
Cornbread slice in skillet - Yardbird Table & Bar / Facebook

Juicy, tender chicken is usually the focus of Yardbird reviews -- and for good reason. This is some of the tastiest meat out there, practically screaming for an equally delicious side to balance out the experience. Hundreds of customers have found the perfect partner in Yardbird's Skillet Cornbread and its unique but irresistible blend of Vermont sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeño, and honey butter.

Reviews spotlighting the cornbread almost always mention the size, before praising the inclusion of jalapeños -- adding a surprisingly subtle spicy edge to cornbread's usual sweetness. As one Yelp reviewer explained, it "does have jalapeño in it but it's not crazy spicy. It's more like a sweet heat as well and it [is] also moist." If you prefer a simpler cornbread, though, this probably isn't the one for you. "There was too much going on in it," another Yelp user said. Despite the size, some Yardbird patrons have also complained that it's too expensive for a dish that's usually priced like a side. Prices may vary from location to location, but opting for the Skillet Cornbread will most likely add a $16 charge to your bill. Yikes.

6. Marie Callender's

Sliced cornbread Marie Callender's
Sliced cornbread Marie Callender's - Marie Callender's Meridian / Instagram

You know a restaurant's cornbread is going to be good when it sells (and people actually buy) the same pre-made mix in grocery stores. Of course, nothing from a box can top the real thing. If you dine in at Marie Callender's -- which currently has restaurants dotted throughout California, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah -- you'll get cornbread baked fresh in-house and served warm on the side of its soups and chili, accompanied by a hefty helping of honey spread.

As you probably guessed from the mention of honey spread, this cornbread leans more toward sweet than savory. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Marie Callender's regulars describe it as "to die for," with others declaring it to be the highlight of their meals -- even when they don't usually like cornbread. It helps that it's the right amount of moistness, and that the portions are beyond generous. One Tripadvisor user estimates each slice to be a whopping three inches tall. Not everyone is impressed by the accompanying butter, with some finding it too oily.

5. Smokey Bones

Cornbread in skillet
Cornbread in skillet - Smokey Bones / Facebook

Like any good barbecue joint, Smokey Bones has a solid cornbread on hand to complement its House Smoked Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, and Hand Pulled Pork. Each order will garner you two pieces of cornbread -- served in a hot cast iron skillet with pecan butter.

To get the cornbread review out of the way: yes, it's good. The Altem Life on YouTube reached their conclusion within seconds of their first bites. "Right away, stinking good," they said, "and I think everybody at this table agrees ... That's some of the best cornbread I've ever had, I think." Reviewers have consistently described it as soft, moist, buttery, and just sweet enough to pair with other dishes on the menu.

But the real crown jewel is the pecan butter, about which many food bloggers and reviewers have waxed poetic over the years. Melted atop your cornbread, it does send your cornbread soaring up the sweetness scale, but in the best possible way. As one Yelp reviewer put it: "It's enough to make even Paula Deen shed a tear." Anyone who prefers a savory bite may want to look elsewhere, but we'd still encourage at least giving Smokey Bones a shot first.

4. Jim 'N Nick's

Cornbread muffins on plate of food
Cornbread muffins on plate of food - Jim 'N Nick's / Facebook

Generations worth of recipes are what make Jim 'N Nicks so tasty. While menus vary slightly at each of the barbecue chain's 47 locations -- all of which currently reside in the South -- the cornbread is a mainstay and has generated some relentlessly positive word-of-mouth recommendations over the years.

Let's get one thing straight: this isn't your standard cornbread. Instead, Jim 'N Nicks serves a side that is more of a cross between cornbread muffins and cheese biscuits. Texture-wise, they feel more like biscuits, while the flavor is all cornbread -- other than the cheese browned on top. This hybrid nature doesn't make them any less delicious. Reviewers have heaped praise upon these warm, moist, sweet treats, which are so good they're repeatedly named as the saving grace for many otherwise disappointing meals or experiences. The only hint of a negative word? The overwhelming temptation to fill up on them before your main meal arrives. "It's like nothing you've ever had before," promised one deeply impressed Yelp user who's experienced this challenge firsthand. "Not even your mama's."

3. The Smoke Shop BBQ

Meat, milkshake, and cornbread
Meat, milkshake, and cornbread - The Smoke Shop BBQ / Instagram

Andy Husbands founded The Smoke Shop BBQ off the back of over two decades of experience in competitive barbecue. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't serve bog-standard food. This is an award-winning, top-tier barbecue -- cooked using authentic Georgia recipes -- that's tasty enough to take home the Best of Boston's Best Barbecue award four times. It may be dramatic to say that this title is all down to the cornbread, but it's definitely award-worthy in its own right.

The dish's most dedicated fans describe the cornbread (which is very confidently named "The Cornbread" on the menu) as being more comparable to a corn cake. That doesn't make it any less viable as a savory side. "The cornbread was moist, sweet, and a perfect accompaniment to the crispy, juicy chicken," raved one customer in a Google review, in which they also dubbed it "the most perfect cornbread [they've] ever tasted."

Negative reviews are extremely hard to come by online, with other diners pointing to the sizable slices, dusting of sea salt, and unique flavor as other points in The Smoke Shop BBQ's favor. Some have described it as having a smoky, almost meaty taste -- which may not be everyone's cup of tea -- while others pin its appeal on the honey butter atop each slice. "I do not know what they put in their cornbread but I don't think I will ever have cornbread anywhere else," confessed one customer on Yelp. "It was magical."

2. Famous Dave's

Cornbread muffins
Cornbread muffins - Famous Dave's / Instagram

With over 700 awards under his belt, Dave Anderson has more than earned his "Famous" moniker. His restaurant of the same name is all about high-quality meats, fresh spices, and other barbecue staples, which obviously means whipping up a competitively delicious cornbread.

The cornbread in question is baked into muffins, which can either be ordered à la carte or are provided as a free side when you order an entrée like the St. Louis-Style Spare Ribs. Thanks to their shape, they're perfect for scooping -- aka making the most of anything extra saucy or juicy -- and have proven popular even with diners who didn't necessarily like every other aspect of their meal. One Tripadvisor user made a point of shouting out the cornbread, even while simultaneously criticizing Famous Dave's brisket for being too tough.

Moist, semi-sweet, and endlessly addictive, this is cornbread the way it's supposed to be. Its biggest fans aren't just casual diners; among its long lists of positive reviews on the likes of Tripadvisor and Yelp, you'll find a handful of customers willing to travel miles to buy up Famous Dave's cornbread in bulk. "This is so good there ought to be a sin tax on it," said one Tripadvisor user who frequently drives 120 miles to her nearest location. "We never leave without a takeout order of a dozen." For those who'd rather not make the drive, Famous Dave's also sells cornbread mix in stores.

1. Cornbread Soul

Slice of cornbread on food
Slice of cornbread on food - Restaurant_magic_foodies / Instagram

Cornbread Soul is true to both parts of its name: it serves stellar cornbread and operates as a true soul food restaurant. First founded in 2012, all of its locations -- which you'll find in New York and New Jersey -- make their cornbread from scratch, and serve it both as a complementary side and an à la carte menu item that you can order in bulk (something plenty of customers do, if the reviews are anything to go by).

For East Coasters wanting a taste of the Deep South, Cornbread Soul is unbeatable. "Hands down the best cornbread I've had in NY," said one Yelp user. While it's already cooked to moist, sweet, golden perfection, customers often recommend adding a dash of honey to take the cornbread to the next level. Even those heralding from the South itself have only good words to say about Cornbread Soul's cornbread, with one patron declaring it a rival to real soul food -- and that's a compliment you don't hear too often. There's only one downside: Cornside Soul is popular. Very popular. Expect long lines, especially on weekends. It's a small price to pay for excellent cornbread, but it's better to be prepared at any rate.


Cornbread sliced
Cornbread sliced - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Finding the best cornbread is no easy feat. To separate the good from the bad and the tasty from the not-so-tasty, we used our own personal experience ordering and eating (read: devouring) cornbread at various chain restaurants as a starting point, before turning to hundreds of customer reviews on the likes of Tripadvisor and Yelp to hear firsthand experiences from restaurants across the country.

We were looking for consistently good reviews at a long list of locations — primarily, for cornbread praised as moist with a crispy, golden-brown exterior, slightly-sweet flavor, and the undeniably addictive quality that permeates all the best soul food. It also helped if cornbread could stand on its own without the addition of butter, which we'd argue is the real proof of cornbread's caliber.

Read the original article on Mashed