A neon sign at the Nutcracker Family Restaurant in Pataskala reads “Step back to the ’50s.” Today, The Nutcracker is a time machine into the decade to pop a dime in a jukebox or buy a pack of Black Jack gum. Visit for the delicious homemade delicacies but stay for the incomparable experience as you’re transported back to the mid-20th century.
Steve and Nancy Butcher opened their restaurant a quarter of a century ago as a portal for those who’d once lived during the 1950’s, as they once did, attending sock hops and drive-in theaters. First opened in 1995 as Nutcracker Sweets in downtown Pataskala, the store was moved two years after opening to a more visible location on Broad Street. They expanded the menu to include breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the business was adorned with nutcrackers they’d collected.
However, they were shocked to hear, while traveling over the New Year’s holiday, that a fire had gutted the restaurant on Jan. 2, 2005. The only thing that survived intact was a Winnie-the-Pooh nutcracker and a dream to open again.
As the Butchers went on a hunt for 1950’s relics to replace what they’d lost, community members pitched in. They helped with cleaning up, then demolishing, the building and held fundraisers to assist the employees who were out of work. And they gathered nutcrackers.
The restaurant reopened less than a year after the fire, and a fresh set of nutcrackers, along with the smoke-damaged Winnie the Pooh, now line walls and windowsills. As they move forward to celebrate 25 years in business, Steve and Nancy are pleased to be joined by Steve Jr. and his wife Kim to plan the future of the Nutcracker for the next 25 years. Nancy’s contribution is evident from the luscious Snicker Cookie Pie, which took first place in a national contest by General Mills in 2016. Almost all the family members have worked at the restaurant over the years, from Steve Sr. and Nancy’s kids and their spouses to grand-kids and even brothers and sisters. It truly is a family restaurant.
A Place for Everyone
Whether you are a first-timer or frequent patron, both types of customers can find a home here. Those who fondly remember living in the decade will want to reminisce and share stories with their loved ones over a homemade dinner. The Nutcracker also draws in younger crowds eager to take in the ambiance with its curious collection of nutcrackers, as well as its quality diner menu.
Playing in the background at the restaurant is music from the 1950’s. There are two jukeboxes, a working model from the 1950’s that diners can crank up for a dime a song. Bring a quarter to give your children a ride on the antique horse — a perfect photo op. Take another photo beside the side view of a model 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air car that’s affixed to the wall.
Fill up on the flavors from yesteryear at The Nutcracker’s candy counters. Introduce your children to candy you can’t find anywhere else, such as candy buttons, Astro Pops, Wacky Wafers, Valomilk, Black Cow, Razzles and Beemans gum, which dates back to the late 1800s. There are even candy necklaces — a fun souvenir you can wear and eat – and heated cashews, just like the old-fashioned nut shops used to sell.
You’ll find scratch-made items such as bacon-wrapped meatloaf, corned beef hash and hand-breaded and cubed country-fried steak, as well as other comfort classics such as macaroni and cheese, and applesauce made with apples from nearby Lynd Fruit Farm. Breakfast is served all day, and daily dinner specials include all-you-can-eat spaghetti and all-you-can-eat ocean perch on select days.
Sweet treats include freshly baked pies, frosted-mug root beer and hand-dipped ice cream perfect for old-fashioned root beer floats and pie à la mode.
If you are in the mood for homecooked meal away from home or want to pretend that you’re living in the 1950’s for a day, visit The Nutcracker Family Restaurant to satisfy all of your needs.