Good Food, All Day at Nutcracker Family Restaurant
By Kelsey Miller
The Nutcracker Family Restaurant. All photos taken by Chris Casella, unless otherwise noted.
The Nutcracker Family Restaurant in Pataskala has been in the business of feeding hungry families and bringing a smile to their customers’ faces for more than 25 years. It’s the kind of place where it only takes one visit to feel like family.
The 1950s-inspired diner serves up delicious home-style cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a nostalgic setting straight from the past — red vinyl booths, glowing neon signs and an old-school jukebox are all part of the charm. And so is the family behind the business, the Butchers, who have been running the show for two generations. Thanks to their vision and dedication, the Nutcracker has evolved from a homegrown candy shop into a destination restaurant drawing visitors from near and far.
On The Menu
Walking through the door, you know immediately that you’ve taken a step back in time. Everywhere you look, 1950s memorabilia lines the walls and ceiling. Red vinyl booths, a black and white checkered floor and stainless steel-covered walls create that quintessential diner vibe. Glowing neon lights remind you to order a Coke and that it’s time to eat, a massive retro jukebox plays oldies hit after hit and towering dessert cases beckon from every corner packed with freshly baked pies and goodies. But more overwhelming than anything you see is the mouth-watering aroma of delicious home cooking that fills the air.
Pick up a menu and the sensory experience continues. Browse an impressive selection of home-cooking from cover to cover. Whether you prefer your breakfast savory or sweet, you’ll find all kinds of options served all day — from pancakes to country fried steak to sizzling skillet breakfasts topped with melty cheese. Be sure to get a grilled cinnamon roll drizzled with warm icing enjoyed with a cup of steaming house-blend coffee.
Lunch options are just as mouthwatering, with customer favorites like the Texas-sized deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwich, a freshly tossed chef salad or a melty grilled cheese paired with a bowl of hearty chili on the side. Order a reuben with corned beef or turkey on grilled rye, or opt for the triple decker club stacked with turkey, ham and bacon along with Swiss and American cheese.
Dinner options are fit for a king-sized appetite. Dig into a meatloaf stack piled high with bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, a hearty and healthy quinoa cauliflower burger or crispy country fried steak smothered with gravy.
It may be easier said than done, but saving room for dessert is essential. Whatever sugary goodness you’re craving, you’ll find it at the Nutcracker. You can keep it classic with a made-to-order creamy milk shake or frosty float, or take it up a notch with a light and airy cream puff topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. But what’s truly a can’t-miss is the pie. House-made and with a cult following all its own, everything from fruit pie to cream pie to award-winning snicker cookie pie is worth stuffing yourself silly for. Better yet, take a slice (or two, or three) to go so you can savor it after hours.
While you’re letting out your belt to digest, it wouldn’t be surprising if your table gets a visit from Steve Jr. or his wife Kim who run the place. “We talk to people from all over and get to know them and their families,” says Steve Jr., “and it becomes almost like an extended family. We have shared both joy and sorrows with these people and would not change that connection for anything.” It’s called a family restaurant for a reason, and you can be sure that you’ll leave feeling like part of it.
A few tips to make the most of your visit? Come hungry (like, really hungry), and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere and browse the sizable menu. Everything will sound good, so be ready to make some tough decisions. And no matter what you decide to order, be sure to start with a frosted glass of old-fashioned draft root beer.
How Sweet It Is
Considering how well the Nutcracker Family Restaurant does dessert, it’s really not surprising that it first opened in 1995 as a candy shop by the name of Nutcracker Sweets — a play on the classic ballet. But it only took a couple of years for the Butcher family to realize bigger dreams and expand into the breakfast, lunch and dinner scene. They moved the business around the corner to the current Broad Street location and haven’t looked back since, although they have expanded the menu to include even more sweets and treats. Everything from hand-dipped ice cream, sundaes, shakes and malts to floats, cream puffs and, of course, candy. But the real star of the show is the house-made, award-winning pie. You’ll find everything from sticky fruit pies to fluffy cream pies to the famous snicker cookie pie and double-decker banana cake, both of which have received accolades for their outstanding flavor and originality.
What’s In A Name
For those who’ve visited the restaurant before, there’s no mystery behind the name. But for people who’ve yet to cross it off their bucket list, one visit to the Nutcracker and you’ll instantly understand. Booth tops, counters and every other seemingly available surface is lined with nutcrackers big and small, garbed in every costume imaginable. Some notable nutcrackers include Uncle Sam, Jack Frost, Brutus Buckeye and Dorothy Gale from Kansas.
Jukebox in Dining Room