Thursday, December 20, 2012


The cost of gasoline alone has kept my husband Jack and I from the on-a-whim traveling we've always enjoyed, so like the old 1940s song, we "don't get around much anymore." But when we learned that a Cheddar's restaurant had opened in Boardman, we made it a crusade to get there as soon as we could.

For the record, this location is the third in Ohio (others are in Mansfield and Findlay), and there's another in Erie, Pa., where we're relatively frequent visitors when the weather is nicer.

Cheddar's is located on Southern Park Mall property next to Chili's - very easy to get to unless you try it, as we did, during the Christmas holiday shopping season. Even though it was early in December, the traffic was horrid, and since we were arriving during the lunch hour, we expected a long wait. Fortunately, we lucked out; although plenty of folks were there, we had no trouble being seated immediately.

In fact, the interior is quite large. Right away, we were impressed by the huge paddle "fan" that hangs from the ceiling at the entrance as well as the in-wall aquarium off to the side. Some of the high walls dividing the sections have open portals filled with tub planters of greenery - a bit reminiscent of Olive Garden, perhaps. 

We took some time to check out the menu -- the prices are quite reasonable, by the way -- but we knew we wanted to start with an appetizer (fighting traffic always makes us extra-hungry). The onion rings with homemade ranch and Cajun dipping sauce were tempting ($3.99), as was the Sante Fe spinach dip with sour cream, spices and four cheeses topped with mozzarella ($4.99). In the end, we settled on the chicken tender basket ($5.99), served over fries with dipping sauce.

We were so hungry that salads and soups just wouldn't suffice, although a number of the salads in particular sounded delicious. There's also a great-sounding lunch combo of soup, house or Caesar salad, loaded baked potato and half a double-decker club sandwich; choose any two for $5.99 or three for $6.99. Another day, perhaps!

All the entrees sounded great - we've told our son Scott, who loves fish tacos, that they're on the menu here (white fish, fried or grilled, with roasted corn slaw on two flour tortillas with one side for $6.69). I was quite interested in the grilled salmon ($7.99 for lunch portion and $9.99 for dinner size), which can be ordered grilled, blackened or bourbon glazed with rice and two homemade sides. Still another possibility is the grilled tilapia with mango salsa, also with rice and two sides for $8.99 (have I mentioned that I love seafood)?

The sandwich list, which includes half-pound burgers, we left for another visit as well. That's because we both found what we wanted on the "Favorites" section. For Jack it was the Braised Fall-a-part Beef Roast; my choice was the New Orleans Pasta (both $9.99). Entrees here don't come with a side, but you can add a house or Caesar salad to any meal for $2.29. A honey butter croissant is available on request, but that's mentioned in the very fine print so we totally overlooked that option while we were there (which I suspect happens to other diners as well and I'm not all that happy about).

We were absolutely amazed, though, at how fast our appetizer arrived. Within scant minutes after we'd placed our order, our server returned with a plate of the largest chicken tenders we've ever seen accompanied by a pile of fries. The breading is quite tasty and not overly crunchy, just as we like. The mustard dip was outstanding as well, with just the right amount of zing. Easily, these could make a whole meal - and that said, a platter with two sides is available as a main course for $7.99.

Although we typically manage to satisfy our appetites with the appetizer, this time we didn't get the chance; the entrees arrived before either of us could finish a single tender (of course, we brought the rest home). Both entrees were beautifully presented and were quite substantial.

Jack's beef roast consisted of hormone-free beef from Provimi's Copper Ridge Ranch with roasted carrots, celery, onion and au jus over a pile of mashed potatoes. The flavor is outstanding, and the beef really is tender enough to easily but with a fork. Jack loved the large chunks of onion (as opposed to finely chopped or sliced), but the carrots, not so much. He's not a big carrot fan to begin with, so it didn't matter a whit to him; I love them, but these weren't cooked tender enough to my liking so I passed as well.

Happily, my New Orleans pasta was to die for, consisting of shrimp, chicken, smoked sausage and penne pasta in Cajun Alfredo sauce with garlic bread. The latter was absolutely delicious - lots of butter and garlic flavor just as I love. The pasta was outstanding as well - a large bowl with delicious sauce, several shrimp and even more fairly large smoked sausage slices. The sauce is only a tad spicy, so Jack was able to try it and liked it as well. 

Honestly, I didn't find any chicken in it as the menu said, but I was quite happy with what was in there (and besides, our chicken tenders appetizer had satisfied my appetite for chicken so I didn't miss it at all). Try as I might, I managed to finish less than half of the pasta, so that, too, we carted back home with the leftover tenders.

The only downside here? It was a fairly early lunch for us so I ordered only water with lemon to drink - forgetting I was in Boardman. Sorry, folks, but even a large chunk of lemon can't camouflage the taste of the water here. Yuck!

If you go:

7327 Market St.
Boardman, Ohio 44512
(330) 758-5006

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.