Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cheddar's Restaurant Review

For Mother’s Day my family took Mom out to a restaurant we’d never been to before, Cheddar’s.  Dad was leery since the name sounded like cheese.  Mom read the menu and it sounded like there would be good food for all of our tastes.  My brother called ahead and found out that they didn’t take reservations, even on holidays. 

So we arrived and were handed a little black disk, with flashing and vibrating potential, and an estimate of 25-30 minutes to seat our seven-person party.  All the indoor and outdoor seating for those waiting for tables was taken on this busy Sunday evening.  Dad and my sister took a walk.  Mom and the rest of us sat down on an out of the way sidewalk to play a word game while we waited. 

At 20 or 25 minutes, we were summoned inside to get our table.  Host and hostesses bustled in and out of the stone-tiled receiving area, consulting schedules and table charts and updating lists.  A woman in black (as all the hostesses wore) layered silverware on top of menus and led us beneath brick archways to our seats in the back corner of the restaurant.  The table was wide and a little high, made of a honey-colored wood and covered in a thick satin-shine finish.  Unadorned by colorful brochures about happy hours or daily specials, there seemed room to be a family.  My brother did discover the black leather-bound book with drinks and desserts, the only menu with pictures. 

Our waitress was a friendly and attentive woman, Casie, with a pink daisy in her hair behind one ear.  She quickly furnished us each with a drink (Coke products, lemonades, ice teas, waters), and was ready to take our orders when she’d handed out the glasses.  Within a few minutes we had received our happily-portioned house side salads (each with a croissant), another order of three honey-butter drizzled croissants, and queso chips and salsa appetizer.  The chips were thick; the salsa had a sweet tinge and the exotic addition of mango chunks. 

While we waited for the entrees – and the wait was considerable, but forgivable with such non-stop demands on the kitchen – a manager approached a table near us.  The diners there reported that they had received their food cold.  Immediately the woman told them that their meal was free, and she would do whatever she could to make it right.  They declined replacement food, but accepted a free order of the croissants.  We saw that family leave a while later with several to-go boxes. 

We spent time admiring the fish tank across the restaurant, the strong older custom look of the d├ęcor, and the fans with interesting blades – particularly the one near the entry whose blades rotated vertically, like a waterwheel, instead of the traditional horizontal strokes.  During this time our waitress replenished drinks and chips and salsa several times. 

Our food finally came, and there was plenty of it.  Hamburgers were a half pound each, and come with all the standard trimmings for only $4.99.  One thing I actually appreciated was that fries don’t come automatically with the burgers; you have to purchase them as a separate “side” for $1.79.  My dad and I both opted to get salads instead, a much healthier alternative.  Two of my sisters ordered chicken tender baskets off the appetizer menu, and those came with a side.  One got hers buffalo style, and reported that the flavor was “better than Wal-Mart,” the brand she usually buys.  Most of the dinner entrees came with a side or two, unlike the burgers.  We came away with two boxes of leftovers: French fries and chicken tenders and half of Mom’s burger.  I ate quite a lot, a croissant and another half in addition to my own order: with the honey-butter they were addicting! 

The menu at Cheddar’s advertised that they cook all their beef medium-well or well-done, which is rather unusual but just the way we like it.  Mom requested that her burger come well-done just to make sure.  When we received our orders, my burger was more done than hers, so we traded.  As I ate, I decided that my burger (which had been Mom’s) was more like medium-cooked, even, than medium-well.  Across the aisle from us we saw another manager approaching a small family in a booth.  The mom complained, almost apologetically, that her steak was not medium-well.  It was pink, and hard to cut.  She declined a replacement, since her toddler-son was already grumpy with the later evening hours approaching.  The manager made things right for her much as the other one had done for the other nearby family. 

Our order came without Mom’s side of fries, but she had gotten a side of corn that my sister didn’t want, so she was content.  We guessed that in taking seven people’s custom orders, the waitress had missed the simple and normal order for fries.  But when we got the bill, the fries were still listed.  The waitress promptly removed it for us. 

Over all I was pleased with our experience.  The prices are very good for a family-friendly sit-down restaurant, to the point that I’m surprised if they’re turning a profit.  Cheddar’s was definitely a popular destination for families on Mother’s Day.  Maybe the value, atmosphere, and excellent wait staff and customer relations will out-compete the other nearby options enough to keep them going.  They are just opening a second location in my state, in Colorado Springs. 

To God be all glory. 

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