That Food Guy
Thursday, September 07, 2017
  Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen - Alcoa, Tennessee

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen

250 Hamilton Crossing Dr, Alcoa, TN 37701
(865) 983-5582
10:30Am – 10:30PM (11:30PM week ends)

 My birthday was coming soon and I was told that I could pick the place for breakfast. I gave it a lot of thought trying to select someplace new perhaps or maybe unique but not one that anyone might object to. I wandered over my mental map of the area, thinking about any recent drives and what I might have seen. Cheddar’s came to mind! After a quick check of their web page I learned they opened late morning for lunch, no breakfast service. I asked our go-for-grub pals if a lunch was okay and I received positive replies. Then lunch, instead of breakfast, it would be.

This would not be my first visit to a Cheddar’s restaurant. In January of 2014 my wife’s dear Aunt Effie and Uncle Gilbert treated us to lunch at their new discovery, Cheddar’s Casual Café in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was a very positive experience and I looked forward to this next encounter. You can see that blog here.

The wife and I arrived a few minutes late. I noticed a change had taken place since  my first Cheddar’s encounter.  Cheddar’s Casual Café was now Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen. When Aubrey Good and Doug Rogers founded Cheddar’s in  Arlington, Texas back in 1979 their stated credo was ”… when a meal is prepared and cooked fresh just for you, it not only tastes better, it makes you feel good.” Perhaps the name change is paying homage to their beginnings. There are a few stores in the Great Plains and some in the Southwest but by far the majority of the 164 Cheddar’s locations are in the Eastern half of the United States. In 2012, Zagat ranked Cheddar's the nation's No.1 full-service restaurant chain as well as Top Overall American Cuisine. Consumer Reports and others have given high ratings and customer satisfaction reports. We were about to see if the reports were true.

Abbie and Mariano, our go-for-grub pals, had secured a spacious booth next to a shaded window. It looked to be a cozy comfortable spot for lunch. The waitress was already there taking beverage orders. I’m sorry I didn’t get here name as I would have liked to thank her by name for her good nature and thoughtful service. She wished me a happy birthday and I then knew I had been setup by the go-for-grub pals.  I just hoped that Cheddar’s didn’t do fool-crazy things designed to embarrass their patrons.

The wife Janis is a light eater and her selection was the CLASSIC LUNCH COMBO ($6.79 Select two of the following: HALF CHEDDAR’S CLUB SANDWICH - HALF MONTE CRISTO - BOWL OF SOUP - HOUSE SALAD - CAESAR SALAD - LOADED BAKED POTATO - BAKED SWEET POTATO) Her particular choices were the half Club Sandwich and the Caesar Salad. The salad was a nice bowl of crisp greens and some croutons, dressing not too heavy, not to light. It was accompanied with a butter glazed croissant. Her preference would have been without the butter but the croissant as well as the salad was very good and fully enjoyed.

Her sandwich arrived a short time later. A diagonally sliced sandwich of two slices of toasted bread well filled with ham, turkey, cheese, bacon and tomato, it was very similar to her order during our first Cheddar’s encounter. The only significant difference was it was cut as a half sandwich instead of the more traditional quarters. As with the salad, it was thoroughly enjoyed.

 Our go-for-grub pals, Abbie and Mariano, opted to share a big platter of HOUSE SMOKED BABY BACK RIBS (Add a House or Caesar salad, $3.29 HALF RACK $10.99 FULL RACK $15.99 Homemade rub, slow smoked in-house, and grilled with a honey BBQ sauce. Served with French fries and coleslaw.) Coleslaw is not their favorite and at their request the server provided a house salad instead. The serving of ribs and French fries was, to say the least, more than ample for two hearty appetites (luckily for Mariano, Abbie is also a light eater). It was a pretty serving thick and clingy barbecue sauce adding a delicious shine to the ribs. The meat was very tender easily separating form the bone. Abbie and Mariano had eagerly anticipated their visit to Cheddar’s for the ribs and I do believe they enjoyed them very much.


I like light meat chicken and love shrimp. The combination dinner plate of chicken tenders and shrimp caught my eye; CHICKEN TENDERS & SHRIMP ($11.19 Served with two sides. Add a House or Caesar salad, $3.29 Grilled or hand-battered fried shrimp with our homemade chicken tenders. See a list of sides at end of blog.) For sides I ordered mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw. For a big appetite the plate piled high with chicken, shrimp, mashed potatoes and coleslaw was a welcome sight. Included were cocktail sauce and honey mustard dipping sauce.

The coleslaw was dressed with a slightly seasoned sauce that added to the flavor but itself did not clamor for attention. Nice crisp cabbage; I would call it a good slaw. The mashed potatoes were of the industrial grade variety but acceptably smooth. The gravy was very tasty and would be most welcome on a chicken fried steak.

There were four, possibly five (sorry, I didn’t count them) large butterflied, battered and deep fried shrimp. The coating was golden brown and slightly crispy and pleasingly not oily. They were large shrimp, the meat was cooked just right and moist and tender. (As an aside: This serving of shrimp in a basket with some French fries would have more than made a beach-front fish shack offering of a shrimp basket.) They were very tasty fried shrimp.

There were four very large “chicken tenders.” I suspect they are more than tenders, more like a chicken breast sliced in two pieces. Breaded and deep fried to a golden brown, well drained and not oily, the meat was tender and very moist; lots of good chicken flavor. I tried a bit of the honey mustard sauce; a nice blend, not to sweet, not to tart but good mustard flavor. I am on again – off again with honey mustard and today wasn’t the day. I tried a bit of cocktail sauce; good but a bit too much tang from the horseradish to go with the mild taste of the chicken. I thought about asking for some plane old ketchup but decided to just eat the tenders down to the finger lickin’ end as they were. They were that good all by themselves. As you can probably guess, I really enjoyed that meal.

In the few years that we have been here, for various reasons two other local restaurants, best described I guess as up-scale beer and burger places with lots of big television screens, had become our fall back places to go. The food was good, they were close; known entities were we felt comfortable. I feel that Cheddar’s will replace the other restaurants as the spur-of-the-moment place to go. It is still quite close to the house, the prices are competitive and the menu offers more of a variety than the others. The interiors are brighter,  more focused on the food and dining and offering a more relaxed and casual (as in casual café perhaps) dining experience. On this visit Cheddar’s has validated the aforementioned awards and positive citations.


Just before we left, the hostess came by the table to offer her birthday congratulations. She brought a small bag with two still hot, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (sort of a mini version of their giant cookie Sundae). I was grateful for the remembrance especially since it was low key, quiet and private.

 FYI: MADE-FROM-SCRATCH SIDES – Substitute any side for a House or Caesar salad for an additional .99  Steamed Fresh Broccoli, Buttered Off-The-Cob Corn, Freshly Made Coleslaw, French Fries, Idaho Mashed Potatoes, Homemade Black Beans, Mac and Cheese, Broccoli Cheese Casserole, Baked Sweet Potato, Loaded Baked Potato, Seasoned Rice, Southern Green Beans.
 Add a side to any order, 2.49  -  Honey Butter Croissants, 3 for 2.99
 The full menu is available online in pdf format.

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