Cheddar's Sides Ranked Worst To Best

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen prides itself on being a chain restaurant that — apparently — cooks everything from scratch to present guests with a menu of entrees and drinks that look and taste homemade. I'll be real and say the "scratch kitchen" tagline worked to lure me in, as I have passed this place many times in my small Wisconsin town but never given it much attention until now.

My experience sampling side dishes here was an intriguing one, and I'm eager to share the details of how each one fared. Though I found many of the side dish choices interesting, some were definitely head and shoulders above the rest in terms of taste, texture, and overall presentation. In this article, I'll give my opinion on which side dishes are worth your time and which you might want to skip the next time you find yourself dining at Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen. So get settled and ready to dig in — we've got a lot to discuss!

15. Sweet Baby Carrots

Just by the looks of these sweet baby carrots, I knew something was off. You see, I'm a big carrot fan and love eating them both raw and cooked. That's why the fact that these carrots looked like they had been soaked in a brown substance tipped me to the fact that something was off — and indeed, it was.

Upon the first bite, I was immediately thrown off by the taste. These carrots were way too sweet. Given their brown hue, I decided to do a little research, assuming it was an overabundance of brown sugar and butter that made them taste this way. The restaurant's website offers no description of what is used — but let me tell you, the description of "sweet" baby carrots is no joke. I also wasn't impressed by the mushy texture. I would have preferred the carrots retained a bit of firmness to give them more of a pleasant bite. Overall, despite being an avid carrot lover, this was my least favorite side.

14. Buttered Off-the-Cob Corn

Corn is yet another veggie I adore, and once again, I felt like it wasn't pulled off well at Cheddar's. It wasn't that this corn was bad per se — it just wasn't anything to write home about. Despite being labeled as "buttered off-the-cob corn," it tasted the same as what you'd expect from a can of corn. And yes, while all corn kernels are technically off-the-cob, the title of the side dish seemed to suggest that it was freshly shaved. What I got instead was a bowl of canned veggies that I could have easily made at home — and for much cheaper.

I'd also like to note that the amount of butter melted over the corn must have been extreme because, in addition to being bland, it was overly greasy. As a suggestion to the restaurant, it might be worth backing off the butter and adding more interesting components; a little diced red and green pepper and onion might help to brighten things up a bit. Sorry, Cheddar's, but this corn just isn't it.

13. Seasoned Rice

This seasoned rice dish came out looking rather bland, so I'll admit, I had already made up my mind on this one. Typically, well-seasoned rice will have a colorful hue to it, whether a slight tinge of brown or a heavy yellow shade, but in this case, the rice was barely beige without any visible flecks of seasoning whatsoever. It made me wonder if it contained any other ingredients at all — but upon the first bite, I was a little surprised.

Initially, I was shocked that there actually was flavor, but that surprise quickly dissipated and turned into boredom as I realized that though present, it didn't pack the punch I wanted it to. This could make a decent foundation for a salmon fillet or a flavorful chicken entree, but beyond that, I wouldn't recommend this rice side dish for your Cheddar's entree if you're looking to add a burst of flavor.

12. Cheese and Bacon Mashed Potatoes

I was looking forward to these loaded mashed potatoes. After all, cheese and bacon over creamy spuds is hard to get wrong, right? Well, in this case, the combination just doesn't work out. Oddly, despite all the melty goodness of cheddar and chopped bacon, this side dish seemed virtually tasteless from the very first bite.

I had to sit for a while and think about why this could be. My theory is that since the mashed potato base is already bland (more details on this later), cheese and bacon don't do much to uplift it. On top of this, the cheese and bacon on their own don't seem flavorful either. The cheese tastes like a very mild cheddar — there's nothing noticeable or particularly sharp to make it tasty — and the bacon doesn't have any interesting flavors that would make it stand out. Much to my surprise, I was very disappointed by this dish.

11. Idaho Mashed Potatoes

You may be wondering how plain mashed potatoes ended up ranking higher than the cheese and bacon variety. The answer is simple — the gravy makes all the difference. I first sampled the mashed potatoes plain, and trust me, this would have been ranked at the bottom of the barrel had it not been for the gravy. Though thick and chunky with potato skins and all, the potatoes had zero taste, almost as if they were composed mainly of water and a few splashes of milk.

Thankfully, the waitress asked if I wanted gravy, and I opted to sample both the brown and white varieties offered on the side. The white gravy was decent and very peppery, which definitely helped the potatoes out flavor-wise. My favorite, though, was the brown gravy. It had the perfect balance of umami taste without overpowering the potatoes, giving it a comforting vibe I'd be happy to sample again and again. 

Having said that, I have to be honest and clarify that though the brown gravy was indeed tasty, it had the flavor of canned rather than fresh gravy. I know Cheddar's refers to itself as a scratch kitchen, but some items, like the brown gravy, don't quite give off home-cooked vibes to me. 

10. Cheese and Bacon French Fries

My 4-year-old daughter and I immediately dove into the cheesy fries as soon as they were served. And though my expectations were high, I was let down by the lack of flavor. Like with the loaded mashed potatoes, the cheese and bacon layering the fries come off as overwhelmingly bland. I didn't taste the zing and zip of sharp cheddar nor did I get the smokiness of a well-smoked bacon. Instead, there was a greasy mild cheddar and salty bacon crumbles, which did nothing for my palate. On top of this, the fries weren't well-seasoned, and the cheese made the fries go limp, causing the side dish to fail from start to finish.

Disappointed in the turnout, I asked the waitress if she minded bringing me a side of ranch to see if that helped. And let me tell y'all, the ranch at Cheddar's is amazing. When dipped in ranch, the cheese and bacon fries suddenly taste incredible. The flavorful nature of the ranch worked to add just the right creamy nuance to the fries which made them so much more enjoyable. Still, considering that ranch doesn't normally come with the fries and that the fries need ranch sauce to taste good, the cheesy fries here simply aren't as good as those I've sampled elsewhere.

9. Southern Green Beans

I wasn't looking forward to these green beans because, to be honest, up until now I hadn't sampled any side dish that I was particularly blown away by. And while the name of this dish alone should have been enough to get me amped up — I love Southern-style green beans — I felt gassed from the series of disappointing sides I had tasted.

As I haphazardly brought the green beans to my mouth and lazily chomped away, I suddenly realized I actually enjoyed the flavor. What initially looked like plain old green beans turned out to be a well-seasoned Southern dish that tasted like Southern green beans. Needless to say, I was impressed — that is, until I noticed the aftertaste.

That's right. The most unappetizing part of these potentially delicious green beans doesn't show up until the end, and unfortunately, continues to linger in your mouth. So, what exactly am I talking about here? Sugar, that's what. Despite the promising initial taste, I had a horrible time getting past the sugary residue. I was so put off by the sweetness that I only ate three bites before deciding I had enough. Sigh.

8. Fresh Steamed Broccoli

It's hard to get excited about broccoli — at least it is for me anyway. Despite this, I know that some places do broccoli very well, adding just the right seasonings to make it taste delicious and comforting, much better than anything you'd sample at home.

When served the broccoli, I immediately noticed the white chunky flecks over each floret, which I knew could be none other than yummy garlic, a promising addition. The garlic, along with whatever else is used to season the broccoli, was quite tasty, but I still had a few criticisms. Though the broccoli coated in garlic was delightful, the seasoning wasn't evenly distributed. Some of the pieces had little to no seasoning at all, while others were drenched in it. This made the side dish harder to enjoy. I would have appreciated the entire dish tasting equally well seasoned.

In addition to the taste discrepancy, I had an issue with the texture of this cruciferous veggie. I felt that the broccoli was overcooked and had an unpleasant mouthfeel. Biting into each floret was an odd experience as the external portion was somewhat firm, but the insides were complete and utter mush. All in all, the broccoli was meh — not horrible, but it could use improvement.

7. House Salad

If you know one thing about me, you know that I'm a sucker for a good house salad. Yes, I'm one of those weirdos who looks forward to chomping on a bowl of lettuce every time I dine out. To be honest, I had big expectations given the appearance of the salad; everything, from the heartiness of the portion to the neat presentation of this side dish made me salivate. To make things even better, Cheddar's offers French dressing, which wasn't listed as an option on the website, so I giddily requested a side of it and happily poured it over my bowl of leaves.

Upon tasting the salad, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't fantastic either. Honestly, this was one of the better sides I sampled at Cheddar's but something about it was slightly off. Looking back, I think it was the consistency of the cheese (the strands seemed a little too thick for a light salad), the croutons were meh, and the French dressing was subpar. I do think that had I chosen the delicious ranch dressing I mentioned earlier, this salad would have been delectable and then some. Even so, although this salad wasn't as good as others I've tried, it was still one of the better side dishes I tasted at Cheddar's.

6. Caesar Salad

Like the house salad, the Caesar salad was beautifully presented. Despite being a salad connoisseur, I tend to only stick with what I know, and that's not Caesar salad. I didn't grow up eating the tangy salad, so I tend not to get too giddy about it no matter which restaurant I visit.

Nevertheless, once my salad was presented, I grabbed my fork and knife, gave it a mix (which was really me looking for where the heck the dressing was), and had a taste. The dressing that was hidden underneath the salad was perfectly portioned and offered just the right amount of creaminess and flavor without being too much. The croutons were still drab, but the thick shavings of parmesan made it much better. I had more bites of this than I thought I would and found it to be much tastier than the house salad. Who knew?

5. French Fries

I'm a big-time fry advocate, and while these made it high on the list of side dishes from Cheddar's, I'll warn you now that I wasn't totally enamored. Having said that, if there's one quality I appreciate in a good fry, it's the perfect texture. Everyone will have different parameters for what "perfect" means in the world of french fries, but for me, it's a medium-cut fry with a crispy exterior and a light and fluffy interior. Cheddar's got it right on these, and I ate most of them solely based on this factor.

Even so, what was excellent in terms of texture wasn't so great in terms of taste. Like most dishes I tasted at Cheddar's, it isn't that the fries were bad — they just weren't amazing. There seemed to be a lack of seasoning, and no, I'm not talking about some over-the-top spice combination that one might liken to a Rally's fry. I quite like plain salted fries, and these could use a bit more salt. Still, I liked the fries much better plain than I did with cheese and bacon, as they weren't as soggy. Plus, you could easily taste the potatoes without needing to be bothered with the lackluster cheese and bacon melted over each sliced spud.

4. Loaded Baked Potato With Bacon

If you find it odd that the loaded baked potato with bacon was pushed higher on the list than the other loaded options from Cheddar's, trust me when I say that I am equally shocked. The thick cheese shreds I sampled on the house salad were flecked all over my baked potato along with butter, bacon crumbles, and a heaping dose of sour cream. Unimpressed by the previous loaded options, I went in with low expectations. Surprisingly, I found the flavors worked together really well this time — and I think I know why.

When it comes to thick shreds of cheese and salty bacon, the combo may not work well when melted over bland-tasting mashed potatoes or fries. However, when left unmelted and enveloped in sour cream and butter on the blank canvas of a warm baked potato, it does really well. As I continued to work my way through the potato, I found it in need of salt and pepper, but that was an easy fix. I didn't find the baked potato itself to be dry and overcooked like at some restaurants, and overall, I found this side dish enjoyable. To my surprise, the loaded baked potato earned itself a place among the top five at Cheddar's.

3. Coleslaw

Coleslaw has been, still is, and will always be my jam. Despite my husband's utter distaste for it, I'll gladly eat it by the bowlful any chance I get. But it has to be good. Thankfully, the coleslaw served at Cheddar's is a head above the rest — and for that, I am truly grateful.

So, what makes this coleslaw so great? One of the features I loved before it even hit my mouth was its texture. Though I can rock with shredded cabbage in slaw, I prefer the cabbage diced in chunks. To me, the texture is better and allows me to savor the creaminess of the dressing more readily. The other factor that won me over was the sweetness of the dressing. It isn't super creamy but instead is light and milky with just the right amount of sweetness that makes it delicious. Unlike many of the sides at Cheddar's, this is one dish I truly enjoyed.

2. Broccoli Cheese Casserole

The broccoli cheese casserole was delicious, especially as it was served fresh and piping hot to the table. The crunchy topping was just the right touch to the already flavorful broccoli, cheddar, and rice base. It tasted a lot like a homemade cheesy casserole, which is reassuring considering the restaurant's claim to serve made-from-scratch foods.  

With that, I do want to note that the cheese used in this dish is indeed some kind of liquid product, and I won't pretend to know what sort. I don't eat liquid cheese myself, but there isn't so much of it that the result is unappetizing. Just know that if you're ordering this yummy side dish with the expectation that it will be stuffed full of stretchy melted cheese, you may walk away disappointed. Still, factoring in the casserole's overall taste and texture alone, I think this side dish deserves its props. 

1. Red Beans and Rice

I definitely didn't see this coming. I had not originally ordered this side dish as it was indicated as being unavailable on the app, so I assumed the restaurant was out of it. The waitress, however, was kind enough to inform me the red beans and rice were available and happily ordered it for me to ensure I could taste every side dish.

Boy, am I glad she made it happen. This side dish was incredible. Though it's unassuming at first glance, the flavor is just perfect — it wasn't too heavy, and it wasn't too light either. The spices worked perfectly to give a slightly Southern vibe without punching you in the face with too much complexity. To add to this, the little bits of what I presume to be smoked sausage were outstanding. I kept trying to sneak tiny bites of the meat in each spoonful and made extra sure to take home the leftovers to munch on throughout the day. All in all, though a humble dish, I'm ranking this savory grab as the number one side dish on Cheddar's menu.