By Tyler Riggs
PARADISE - It's not printed on the menu, but the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Paradise serves up a plateful of smiles with a side order of conversation.
The trading post-turned convenience store-turned eatery provides a popular dining niche on the south end of the valley that is catching on with locals.
Alan Stock, owner of the Cracker Barrel, has worked at the establishment since 1997, but purchased the building outright in 1999.
Stock said he purchased the building as a convenience store with a café, but last year he traded in the aisles of candy and beef jerky for more tables and silverware.
The half of the building that once served as a miniature grocery store was converted to a more formal dining area to compliment the café portion of the building. Stock said individuals can come in and hold banquets or meetings in the new portion of the restaurant.
In its location 15 miles south of Logan, Stock said there is not a lot of passer-by traffic for the restaurant. The restaurant thrives off of word-of-mouth advertising and customers who travel to Paradise specifically for food at the restaurant.
"We get a fair number of Paradise people, but the majority are from Logan, Hyrum, Richmond and Brigham City," Stock said. "We even get some from Ogden."
Along with customers from areas outside of Cache Valley, Stock said some famous people, including some Utah Jazz players who hunt in the area and golfer Jack Nicklaus have passed through the restaurant. Most of the business though comes from "people who like good, out-of-the-way places," Stock said.
"The people that come out here are the ones that want good food, not terribly pretentious, just some place they can relax," he said. "Some place where they don1t have to worry about being dressed up."
Stock said a commentary on the social atmosphere was made two years ago when a French travel magazine was in Paradise, doing an article on every town in the world named "Paradise." Stock said the magazine dubbed the Cracker Barrel the "Second Church of Paradise," based on its friendly, conversational atmosphere.
When customers place their food order, they are able to engage in conversation with some of the restaurant's employees, whichever of the 10 workers are on the clock that day. With the kitchen open aired and just about three foot-long sandwiches away from the tables, the cook is always close by to talk with the customer.
One smiling face that greets customers one or two nights a week is that of waitress Kristine Sinner, a single mom who travels to Paradise from Logan to work a couple of nights a week at the diner.
Sinner, a former Paradise resident, said she likes to keep ties to the community because it is a very accepting and loving place.
Sinner said there are a lot of regular customers who come in to the restaurant, but hesitated to name a favorite.
"There are so many people out here that I enjoy," she said. "Paradise is great."
There is something on weekends that brings in a lot of the people that Sinner said she likes so much. That something is the prime rib that according to the menu is "the best in the valley."
Sinner said the menu is right.
"The prime rib is the most popular item on the menu," Sinner said. "There are people who come out specifically to have prime rib on the weekends."
Aside from serving meals in the restaurant, Stock said the Cracker Barrel has ventured into other areas of food service.
"We do lunches, we've done some weddings, we cater for the local Army Reserve unit," Stock said.
He said he has been thinking about doing some catering at Hardware Ranch in Hyrum and possibly running their café.
While Stock said there are "always expansion plans," the focus for the time being is providing good meals to customers and keeping their return business.
"A lot of people think that 15 miles is a long way to drive, but if you're in Salt Lake you don1t think anything of driving 45 minutes to get somewhere," Stock said. "In Cache Valley, 15 minutes is too far away."