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Photo by Steve Steward

You know how people make enthusiastic, passionately committed plans to do a particular activity (“We should rent kayaks/go to the State Fair/sneak into this abandoned sawblade factory/haunted insane asylum”) only for them to peter out amid passive-aggressive communication tactics? That’s longhand for pretending not to get a text message until way later, itself code for “I didn’t really want to do that thing anyway, at least not as much as I wanted to sit on the couch at home.” But this weekend, my ol’ pal Chow, Baby and I put aside our mutual proclivities for putting on basketball shorts and getting couchlocked at 8 p.m. and stuck to plans we’d made about a century ago: meeting up at dinnertime to write a pair of columns on the same establishment. CB’s would focus on the food, mine the drink, both presumably stuffed with third helpings of hilarious musings. We wanted to go someplace nice, trendy, hopefully with “craft” or “scratch” in its very name. That’s how we ended up at Cheddar’s Casual Café on Friday night.

Cheddar’s fit the bill because it rebranded itself as a “scratch kitchen” some time ago. Wikipedia seems to point to 2013. I’d been to the one in Bedford once or twice before the update, both times on the way home from DFW flights that landed around chowtime. I’m sure a Mid-Cities resident will have something to say about this, but to an outsider like me, a chain restaurant called Cheddar’s pretty much sounds like the most Bedford thing ever. If you don’t believe me, just say “the Bedford Cheddar’s” out loud. The words go together like mozzarella sticks and marinara, and they even sound like the name of some all-American dynastic family, sired in Arlington and scattered across the country like pieces of diced tomato fallen from a clump of pico de gallo onto a tabletop –– or a dirty floor, because there are something like 10 Cheddar’ses in Florida.

I guess we hoped to experience a Friday night happy hour/dinner rush at some place kitschy, corporate, and hopefully terrible, the kind of place that’s easier to appreciate and/or despise if you’ve worked in casual dining, which we both have. By the time we made it to Cheddar’s, the bar was packed tighter than flatware rolled in a paper napkin. Not that Cheddar’s has paper napkins, though. The restaurant is as craft-y and scratch-y as they come: reclaimed brick, reclaimed wood, reclaimed dignity. I sincerely couldn’t find any part of the décor to make jokes about. And I’ll give the chain this: the Wisconsin Cheese Bites were probably the best variation on fried cheese I’ve ever had.

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As for Cheddar’s’ potent, psychotically hued cocktail selection: As far as I’m concerned, drinks like the Maui Margarita (half strawberry, half mango, with a shot of some kind of cactus juice liqueur) don’t seem to exist outside chain restos. Unless you’re accustomed to drinking in tiki bars, you’ll probably never know what Blue Curaçao is even for. In fact, I’m convinced that that particular liqueur sells only because some test-kitchen mixologist at Bennigan’s was tasked with making something “ocean-y looking.” But whatever. The buzz you get from sucking down a schooner of juice and juice-colored alcohol is kind of stupendous, and I drank two of them.

Besides the aforementioned Maui Margarita, I dived into Cheddar’s’ Painkiller, a tropical-flavored sugary riot of Pusser’s rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, OJ, and toasted coconut shreds around the rim. I’m not sure what adhesive the bartender used, but I wouldn’t have been able to pry those flakes loose with a chisel. Who cares about garnishes, though. By the time I found the bottom of the glass, I was thinking about balmy stuff like surf and sand and tanning oil.

Jokes aside, the drinks are stiff, and now that I think about it, they’re not that unreasonably priced. The most expensive is the Tito’s Texas Tea ($7.50), which, if you were to have made for you out of well drinks at a cocktail lounge, would probably run you $7 anyway.

While there are other bars in Bedford more suited to my drinking tastes (especially Ron’s Corner Tavern), you could do a lot worse than Cheddar’s. In fact, if you’re actively seeking something awful, there’s an On the Border on the other side of Highway 121. –– Steve Steward

Follow Steve at @BryanBurgertime.

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