Cheddar's seems too good to be true

Cheddar's has been in the Augusta area for a couple of years now, but even if you haven't eaten there yet, you've probably heard these two things about it: The prices are low, and there's plenty of food. I drive by Cheddar's almost every day, and judging by how packed the parking lot usually is, the secret's out.

 

Cheddar's on Walton Way Extension is a casual café, but the atmosphere is not completely informal. You walk in to see refined exposed stonework and an elegantly designed, massive skylight as the focal point of the dining area. Light brick, light wood tones and tropical-style fans make the space seem airy and comfortable. The servers wear white button-down shirts, black pants and ties, adding a touch of formality.

On a recent trip while making these observations, I found it hard to believe that I'd be leaving there having bought an entree and dessert for a little more than $10. I still can't believe it.

I like Cheddar's because of the value and the variety. There is so much to choose from on the menu that you don't have to be in the mood for a specific type of cuisine before you go; you have American, Italian, Asian and Mexican options. There are a lot of comfort food classics, including Homemade Chicken Pot Pie and Broccoli Cheese Casserole, mixed in with more inventive items such as the trademarked Baked Spasagna.

In the times that I've gone for lunch, I've tried the Baked Spasagna -- spaghetti served like a lasagna topped with sauce -- the Double Decker Club Sandwich, the grilled salmon and the broccoli casserole, among other items. These are all delicious choices that come in generous portions.

But most recently, I ordered the first thing I ever tried at Cheddar's, the buffalo chicken wrapper. This wrap contains fried chicken tenders tossed in spicy buffalo sauce, cheddar cheese, cole slaw and pickles. When my meal came out, the chicken was still warm, directly from the fryer into my wrap. It was nestled in with the creamy and crunchy cole slaw and the sweet and tart pickles. Ranch dressing helped cool down the temperature and the buffalo heat level.

Not only do I like the combinations of flavors and textures in this wrap, it makes me absolutely giddy to see this baby come out in four pieces. Wraps at most restaurants are cut in half, so you only have two pieces to nosh on; this one has twice as many segments that you need both hands for. That's two meals worth of food, given you can chow down on even half of what's on this plate.

I did all right for myself, though I couldn't quite finish two pieces. After all, I had to save room for what was to come.

Aside from aforementioned reasons to give Cheddar's a whirl, here is one more: Legendary Monster Cookie.

Paint this picture in your mind: A humongous chocolate chip cookie baked to order, with slowly melting vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, chopped peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top. Are you drooling yet? I am.

It's gooey, warm and chocolatey and cold, drippy and crunchy all at the same time. It's chocolate chip heaven in a skillet. This dessert is so rich and decadent, you might find yourself going to great lengths to justify the indulgence. My rationalization was that I was celebrating my dad's upcoming birthday, except that I didn't go to Cheddar's with my dad. In fact, he was out of the country. Hey, love and dessert can mess with your mind.

It all seems too good to be true, but I've seen it with my own eyes. How does Cheddar's offer such a variety at more-than-reasonable prices, when that kind of value doesn't seem to be around much anymore? The food looks good and it tastes delicious, but at these prices, can it really be food? I must admit that there's always a hint of suspicion when I leave, but then the sound of change jangling in my pocket drowns out any doubts.

Order up

WHERE: Cheddar's, 3609 Walton Way Ext.

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays

EXTRA HELPING: (706) 738-7831; www.cheddars.com

 

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