Cheddar’s chain is still cooking from scratch
When national restaurant chains open their first Utah location, there’s usually a big rush to try it. And that’s what happened when Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen opened in Riverdale last July.
“I discovered that the Utah community is excited whenever a new food place comes about, and we had a chance to dive into that,” said Tim Evans, service manager for the Riverdale Cheddar’s. “It was busy from the first jump. It was many people’s first time trying Cheddar’s, so delivering that experience has been quite satisfying for us.”
Although it’s new to Utah, the chain was founded in 1979 in Irving, Texas, and now boasts 181 locations. Back when founders Aubrey Good and Doug Rogers were seeking a name for their fledgling restaurant, the name “Cheddar’s” was proposed by a fifth grade class.
Until 2015, it was known as Cheddar’s Casual Café. Then, the name was changed to Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen to showcase its tradition of cooking and baking its menu items in-house.
According to the company website, “A scratch kitchen should take the time to make each dish instead of defrosting it. At Cheddar’s, we use quality ingredients and take the time to prepare them in our kitchens each day.”
Cheddar’s is known for hearty meals such as chicken pot pie, hand-breaded fried chicken tenders and barbecue ribs that are smoked in-house.
“We are a scratch-made restaurant, and we offer great food at great prices with a great atmosphere,” Evans said. “We say, ‘You get a lot for not a lot.’ ”
The chain is part of the Darnden family of restaurants that includes Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, among others.
Once dinner or lunch guests are seated, they’re greeted with the signature honey-butter croissants, crispy and flaky, with a sweet, buttery glaze. “The first round is on us,” Evans said. After that, you can order more for 99 cents each.
Chicken pot pie — with its creamy sauce, chicken, veggies and flaky crust — is one of the most popular items.
“It’s nice, filling comfort food,” Evans said. “It’s one of our most popular items.”
Another signature dish is the Monte Cristo sandwich. Layers of turkey, ham and two cheeses are battered and deep-fried, dusted with powdered sugar and served with raspberry preserves for dipping.
How does the Cheddar’s’ Monte Cristo compare with the iconic Disneyland version? “I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I stand by our Monte Cristo — it’s one of our most popular dishes here and people keep requesting it,” Evans said.
Slow-smoked barbecue ribs are another favorite, and they are often ordered as a combo platter of a half-rack of ribs and chicken tenders, with a choice of two sides.
The broccoli casserole is one of the most-ordered sides — tender-crisp broccoli florets and rice, smothered in creamy cheese sauce.
The chicken tender platter — five hand-battered chicken tenders — is called the No. 8 Special for Cheddar’s partnership with NASCAR driver Kyle Busch.
A hidden gem on the menu is New Orleans pasta — penne pasta, chicken, grilled shrimp, sausage, bell pepper and onion, laced with a Cajun-spiced Alfredo sauce. “All those flavors are like home for me,” said Evans, who grew up in Houston. “For those who haven’t had the chance to visit New Orleans, this is like going there without traveling.”
Evans has been with Cheddar’s since 2012, starting out as a server and working his way into management in the Houston area.
“One thing I love about Cheddar’s are the opportunities for growth,” Evans said. “I always wanted to grow and travel, and I saw they had an opening in Utah. And here I am.”
Over the years, he’s explored the menu pretty thoroughly.
“My favorites change from time to time, but right now, it’s our chicken tenders platter, tossed in our honey hot sauce. I enjoy spicy food, and this is a great combination of spicy and sweet, paired with the chicken.”
Hot honey seems to be having a trendy moment in today’s culinary scene, especially with fried chicken. But at Cheddar’s, many guests also ask to have their chicken tenders tossed in buffalo sauce.
Evans said starting out as a server has helped him in his current position.
“I always asked myself, ‘How would I like my management to be?'” he said. “Now when I lead my team, I’ve been in their shoes, so I can relate.”
For guests coming into the restaurant, he added, “The ultimate goal is to satisfy their hunger. That’s an art to deliver it right.”
IF YOU GO
Location: 4171 Riverdale Road
Contact: 385-405-7470 or Cheddars.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Prices: Most entrees $12-$20