Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cheddar's Casual Cafe - Cypress TX

Since it is close to the house, has had a line out the door since it opened recently, and I was starving, I took a moment to check out the new Cheddar's Casual Cafe in Cypress TX. last night.

As usual I took the crew with me and we covertly set out to try a cross section of dishes and get a true feel for the quality of the food and the service. This actually is the first time I have eaten at this chain.  Cheddar's is billed as "an inviting neighborhood restaurant offering handmade, high quality food at a reasonable price", let's see how they did.

First off I ordered the Famous Chicken Pot Pie which comes with a salad for only $6.99.  An American cooking staple, the pot pie can be spectacular if done right.  Also we grabbed the Dijon Chicken and Mushrooms with 2 sides for $8.99, and a Chicken Fried Steak Dinner also with 2 sides at $7.99.

The decor of Cheddar's was a little confusing.  Kind of an Italian decor actually, with a large fern fan that seemed out of place in the center of the dining area, but overall, nice, clean, and plenty of tables.  On a Friday evening at 6:15pm we went right to our table so the line fad may be wearing off some.  Our waitress was an obvious newbie, or at least I hope she was.  Drink orders went in quickly and then the waiting began.  Our table was next to a small kiosk in the dining area and a group of about 7 employees stood there talking and socializing the entire time which killed the ambiance a bit, but if we weren't in this dining section it wouldn't have been an issue. Luck of the draw I suppose.  We had pushed the waitress to take the food order with the drinks so that was done already. However no one asked what salad dressing I wanted.   After 20 minutes the drinks arrived and she asked if I wanted House or Caesar Salad to which I replied caesar. Next she asked me what dressing I'd like on the caesar salad. I replied the caesar may work best, she agreed and we were hopefully in business.

The salad arrived shortly and was drenched in dressing.  I recommend ordering it on the side as it was a bit too much.  The salad was a mediocre caesar with the lettuce a little wilted.  I was unsure if from age or from the abundance of dressing. The salad was a little warm and contained 3 croutons but plenty of shaved cheese.  For a caesar salad it was a little lacking but edible.  A piece of bread accompanied the salad drenched in honey butter.  This out shined the salad by far and was quickly shared with the table as this chain forgot the chain restaurant rule of providing a bread basket to all guests so they are stuffed by the time the food arrives..  

The food arrived close behind the salad, and now we were making up for the time lost on the drinks. The pot pie comes in a bowl, is a good portion, not overly huge but enough for a dinner.  Caution, the pot pie arrives at near molten temperatures and you need a good 10 minutes of stirring to get it down to edible temps.  The crust on the pot pie was excellent. Crispy and flaky just as it should be.  The filling was more on the canned side and not as spectacular as I'd hoped from the crust. You know the kind  with perfect square chicken pieces and carrots and peas.  Tasty and not bad for the money though. Handmade and Famous..probably not.  Did I eat it all, absolutely but I also love the little frozen ones from the grocery store.

Dijon Mushroom Chicken is on deck!  Two large chicken breasts grilled with Dijon Mustard Sauce.  Chicken was cooked perfectly.  The mini sauteed mushrooms were plentiful and delicious also.  The sauce fits well and this plate proved to be a great value and resulted in a take home box for lunch tomorrow.  The plate comes with two sides and I don't normally put much stock in sides but one here stood out.  The broccoli casserole is delicious.  It does remind me a little bit of a cafeteria staple but I loved it. Also we had the rice which went well with the dish.

Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy.  To a Southern boy like myself this is "Grandma" food.  The steak was hanging off the plate.  The true test of a fried steak is how easily it cuts (or chews for that matter).  The steak cut easily with a basic steak knife.  The breading was crispy and not soggy in the gravy.  It comes with the standard white country gravy, no real way to go wrong there.  The breading proved however to be excessive and overdone with a large part hanging off the steak resulting in an "excess breading pile" being made on the plate.  The overall taste was good.  The steak was tender and I tossed a portion in the to go box with the chicken.

So how did Cheddar's stack up?  Let's look at "Inviting Neighborhood Restaurant" first.  The service was fair, but the waitress was new, so I give a little sympathy here.  The decor was obviously a chain restaurant one however, it was clean and comfortable.  The food came out fairly quickly and the staff was adequate without being overbearing.  It's a chain restaurant but was good as far as those go.  Small neighborhood cafe - no, good place to eat in any town - probably so.

"Handmade - High Quality Food"?  It was good. Not mom's cooking but for a chain it ranks up very well. The food was cooked well, tasty and hot.  Now for the "at a reasonable price" part.  Cheddar's killed it here.  3 meals $36 with drinks and tip for dinner.  That is hard to beat. I will gladly go back to this location since it is right near my home and when traveling would be quick to stop in a Cheddar's any time I am looking for a good meal that doesn't break the bank.  Out of a possibly 10 I put Cheddar's Casual Cafe - Cypress TX. at the upper end of chain restaurants with a 7.  

The Fat Kid Food Critic

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