CHILLICOTHE, OH—Absolutely everything—everything—on the Cedar Tree Family Restaurant menu is so tempting that diners are going to be hard-pressed to stay on their diets, customers reported Monday.
"Oh, this is pure agony," said Lynette Macagnone, 43, a mortgage loan officer at Foremost Savings and a self-described weight watcher. "I just can't decide!"
No one in the 80-seat establishment seemed surprised by Macagnone's indecision after seeing the red-vinyl-jacketed menu's four columns of mouth-watering items like chicken marsala, fisherman's platter, turkey and bacon clubs, baked meatloaf, and 100 percent grade-A beef burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, all served with a choice of soup or salad, as well as fries or baked potato.
Although the Cedar Tree diners knew they should be good, their original plans to stick to salad and soup flew out the window when they saw the menu's many offerings, from potato-skin appetizers to ribeye steak.
Dental technician Beth Arneson, 28, said she wished she hadn't turned to the back of the menu and read that Cedar Tree serves—get ready for this—an all-day breakfast.
"'Belgian waffle with fresh strawberries!'" Arneson read aloud to companion Keith Zuehlke. "'Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce and Texas toast!' 'Chocolate-chip pancakes!' 'Huevos rancheros!' I'm afraid to look at this menu anymore—I'm going to gain five pounds just reading it!"
When Zuehlke read the description of the pigs-in-blanket as "link sausage cuddled in buttermilk pancakes, whipped butter, and syrup," Arneson let out a mock shriek.
"With the fried chicken 'tenderized overnight in buttermilk and rolled in specially prepared seasoned breadcrumbs,' it's amazing that [bus boy Mike Hatch doesn't] seem to have put on an extra ounce anywhere," observed local piano and voice teacher Richard Quincy, dining with his elderly mother.
"I'm not allowed to speak to customers," Hatch said to Quincy.
In addition to serving up such unexpected, tantalizing dishes as teriyaki chicken and shrimp stir-fry, the Cedar Tree also offers daily specials. Yes, specials.
"Smothered chicken, spinach quiche with French onion soup, baked pork chops with mashed potatoes, and our weekly $9.99 prime-rib special, which comes with a trip to the salad bar," waiter Sergio Arias said.
Macagnone had so much trouble deciding what to order that she sent Arias away twice.
"Even the salads are sinful," Macagnone told Arias. "Can I get a bread-bowl salad with half a bread bowl and no cheese and no ham chunks? I'm afraid if I order the whole thing, I won't be able to stop."
"No," Arias replied.
To further complicate attempts at calorie control, Cedar Tree just had to have the best dessert menu this side of the Perkins on Frontage Road. Even though the majority of diners felt too full already, dessert-menu items like the caramel cheesecake, the carrot cake, and the sizzling apple pie à la mode had them wondering if they could squeeze in just a teeny bit more.
"If I get the salad with the pork chops and eat half the mashed potatoes with no butter, I'll feel a little less guilty," Macagnone said. "And I can remove the bacon from the club and request no dressing. Plus, I'm having Diet Sprite."
"Just pick something. It's all good," Arias said.
"But you've made it so hard!" Macagnone said, adopting a mock pout.
Paying her check at the register, Arneson asked Cedar Tree manager Spyros Andropoulos how he sleeps at night knowing he's made countless people pounds heavier, if a lot happier.
"I sleep at night," Andropoulos said. "If customers afraid they get fat, they don't have to eat here. Please, I must work."
Perhaps due to its hard-working staff, the Cedar Tree remains a popular choice for no-fuss family celebrations and after-work get-togethers. It's also popular with patrons of the nearby go-kart track.
"I know, I know, I should really eat at home, especially since I just bought groceries," Macagnone said. "But it's on the way home, and I like to treat myself once in a while."
"Oh," she added, lowering her voice to a whisper. "But if you go, avoid the pork chops. Mine were a little dry."