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Cheddar's Opens Restaurant in Knoxville

By John Disque

cheddars

On January 15th Cheddar's welcomed an overflow of guests to their new location at 5615 Clinton Highway. Cheddar's opened its first restaurant in 1979 in Arlington, Texas. Knoxville is its 68th store.

cheddars staff
Cheddar's Managers: From left to right -- Anthony Rushing, Jeff Bennett, Nikki Harrison, Seth Melton, Amanda Mendoza, Jeremy Skaggs

With plenty of well-lit parking and a friendly staff greeting us at the door, Cheddar's welcomed the Knoxville Daily Sun into a beautiful dark-wood, exposed brick and softly lit atmosphere. Elegance without being stuffy was the name of the game.

The immediate vibe is a family-friendly, casual place to relax and enjoy a good meal. The stage is set for the perfect escape. Upon entering you feel like you can breathe and unwind.

The dinner started with drinks, chips, and two different kinds of dips. The cheese dip was incredible and an indication of what was to come for entrees.

We were served by a charming young lady named Ashley who was happy to answer all questions and remained very attentive throughout the evening.

While I ordered the steak and shrimp, Jeaneane ordered Spasagna with both of us giving the food rave reviews. The steak was tender, juicy and cooked exactly how I ordered it. The shrimp was fresh, and the sides were perfectly seasoned. Jeaneane could only describe her Lasagna as "fantastic."

lee greer
Lee Greer, one of the owner
of Cheddar's

heidi hewitt
Heidi Hewitt, Trainer

Before, during, and after the meal we got to meet many people including one of the owners, Lee Greer, who was particularly knowledgable of Cheddar's history, tradition, philosophies and winning combinations. With a smile Lee says, "97% of our ingredients are as fresh as you can possibly get. They come right off the truck and go straight into the kitchen and preparation process. As for the service, we try hard to keep the atmosphere light so people can have a good time and bring their families."

We also spent some time with Heidi Hewitt (server trainer). I was quite impressed with her ability to treat us like family. "While keeping a clean atmosphere and a well trained staff, we treat people the way we want to be treated and we don't take our customers for granted." Heidi added that she expected the new location to be a huge success.

At some time in the evening I decided to walk around, meet more of the staff and stop at the bar. I was immediately struck by the gigantic beautiful fish tank decorating the backdrop of the bar and was met by the same consistently friendly staff. Filled with smiling faces and fast service I was beginning to wonder if everyone knew I was with the media. That thought would prove to be untrue as I continued my journey through Cheddars and noticed that everyone was being treated with the same level of respect.

By the time I made it back to my seat I had met all 6 managers, most of the servers, the bartenders, another one of the owners and everyone else except the cooks. There was a point I was going to slip back into the kitchen and take some pictures but I decided not to push my luck and cooks (they are artists) can be a little funny.


Being Cheddar's was in the process of training while they were launching the new location, there was a non-stop bustle of activity. As the night progressed, they only got more busy as the locals began pouring in to see what all the fuss was about. By the end of the our stay, Cheddar's lobby was wall to wall people waiting to be seated. It wasn't hard to tell that word was getting around town real fast.

cheddars bar

I can't name one thing that I wasn't happy with. We got a great meal at a reasonable price while being treated like a combination of family and royalty. If Cheddar's can maintain this level of service and quality I, too, expect the new location to be a huge success. I hope I'm right. They deserve it and so do the people of North Knoxville.

Published January 17, 2011

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