Last night my wife and I went to eat at Cheddar’s. With more than 150 locations nationwide it is a far cry from the restaurants I usually dine at and write about in this blog but my wife got home from work after eight last night and wanted to go out for dinner and they were one of the few places that wasn’t closing in the next half hour around us. Sure we could have gone to Corky’s which I would have preferred but we don’t want to be “those people” who walk into a restaurant just before closing and keep the staff working longer than they’d been expecting, so we settled for Cheddar’s. They were building a restaurant in Florida just before we left and were pretty excited to try it but I don’t think it opened in time so our only previous Cheddar’s experience was this location in Memphis, and it wasn’t good. My wife and I were very unimpressed by the food we’d had that first visit, but I do believe in giving second chances in most cases to a restaurant, and last night I’m really glad that I did.
As I looked at the menu, unsure of what to choose from their wide variety of options, the words of my father echoed in my head. “Get the burger. I always get the burger,” these words of wisdom coming to me after having told him of our bad first experience at Cheddar’s. I looked at the burgers but I really wasn’t in the mood for the burgers. I almost got the NEW barbecue chicken plate which I’m sure would have been a mistake, ordering the only barbecue dish on the menu from a non barbecue restaurant. What I really wanted was soup, it felt right, but I wasn’t sure that a four dollar bowl of soup would be enough to satisfy my hunger, so the search continued. “Get the burger. I always get the burger.” Those words once again had me looking over the different choices of hamburger and once again that just didn’t sound that appetizing. I finally decided on the fish tacos and fries, something that my mind instantly told me was a good decision. My wife dutifully following the advice of my father got a burger and fries. As we waited for the food to arrive we watched the Sunday Night Football game on the TV in the corner of the restaurant and to be completely honest, even though it was a pretty bad game, I expected it to be the highlight of the meal, but luckily I was wrong.
The food arrived and my fish tacos looked absolutely delicious. The first bite is always the best and last night’s was one of the best I’d had in a while. Not only was the fish grilled perfectly where it practically melted in my mouth but the coleslaw which had pieces of corn in it tasted really good as well. The chipotle tartar sauce was a perfect compliment to the flavors of the juicy fish. That first bite made me nostalgic for Orange Beach, Alabama, where I’ve had some of the best fish tacos and sandwiches in my life, but here I was hundreds of miles from the ocean getting those same great tastes that I love so much. If these amazing fish tacos weren’t enough to give a great review of Cheddar’s then the fries would have done the trick. It’s so simple to make good french fries, a staple at most American restaurants, but it seems like they’re usually not impressive and sometimes are just downright awful. These fries danced in the balance between being cut too thin or being cut too thick and did so masterfully. They weren’t very crispy which sometimes masks the underwhelming qualities of mediocre fries, but these didn’t need to be. My wife was thoroughly unimpressed with her burger and fries but this is my blog so I’m not going to allow her negativity to seep in and taint this review.
The waiter we had was completely competent and attentive, stopping by the table every so often to make sure all of our needs were cared for. Although good quality of food sometimes gets lost in the big world of franchised restaurants, I was thoroughly impressed and surprised by Cheddar’s. Overall I’m giving them a well deserved 10 out of 10 and a very high recommendation if you want a casual dining experience with good food and good service. I can’t speak for the rest of the menu, but you can’t go wrong with the fish tacos. If my wife were reviewing the restaurant I’m sure it would have a much different score so I suppose perspective is everything. I could have followed my dad’s advice but I decided to go a different direction and ended up having a fantastic meal. If you’ve never been stop denying your tastebuds the happiness they deserve and go to Cheddar’s and if you’ve been but were unimpressed I urge you to go back and give them a second chance. I did and it was a great decision.