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The Cheesecake Factory is one of those restaurants that I just can’t make up my mind about.  There are many things that I love about it and yet there are also so many things that I would change if I had any control over stuff like that.

One of the things that gets under my skin is the menu.  The restaurant is named the CHEESECAKE factory.  But this is not just a cheesecake factory.  It is a large scale major food production factory.  The menu is a book.  It is literally a book.  With spiral binding and everything.  On this menu the diner will find: Chinese, Mexican, American, and Italian food.  And this is without even including the 40 or so varieties of cheesecake that are offered every night.  It takes at least 5 minutes just to LOOK at the whole menu.  And this isn’t including how long it takes to actually decide on what you’re going to have for dinner.  And if you want an appetizer too?  You will be eating a lot of bread just trying to decide on your food.  Also, in order to have that many varieties of cheesecake it has to come in frozen.  Yes, that 9 dollar piece of cheesecake was made in a large factory and then shipped to the store.  The one thing the whole restaurant is known for isn’t even made there.  My vision of the perfect Cheesecake Factory would include a small American or Italian based menu and no more than 10 cheesecake varieties offered at once, all made in house.

Then there’s the problem of garnish.  The Cheesecake Factory sucks at it.  One example of this is the paper napkins used both in the bread basket and on the calamari plate.

Just look at that.  Tacky.  Theres also another major garnish offense on this plate: nonfunctional garnish (NFG).  That parsley sprig is completely useless.  What’s the first thing the diner does?  They pick that off and put it to the side.  Chopped parsley would add the same splash of green color and it would become part of the dish.  The same happens on my entrée for the night (the Chicken Madeira).

This plate doesn’t need any more color.  The sauce is a lovely reddish brown and the asparagus brings on the green.  Why was this parsley sprig put there? For no reason.  That’s why.  And now look at the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken.

This dish is beautiful and it shows that the cooks at the Cheesecake Factory do indeed understand how to chop parsley instead of using a sprig.  So obviously there’s just a misconnect somewhere.

There are, however, good things to be said about the Cheesecake Factory.  For instance, the service is absolutely wonderful.  The Cheesecake Factory is one of those restaurants that only hires extremely experienced waiters (trust me, I’ve applied and been denied just for lack of experience).  Our waitress knew the menu front and back, even down to how the vegetables were prepared; which is a major feat considering how many items she must know.  She was also able to memorize our order, including special instructions, and get it to our table promptly and correctly even with plenty of other customers to attend to.

And then there’s the bread.  It seems like such a little thing, but you can tell a lot about a restaurant by its bread.  The Cheesecake Factory’s bread is simply delicious.  Of the two varieties that you are given, my favorite is their brown bread.  It has a perfect crust with a soft texture and delicious nutty sweetness.  I order a loaf of it to go every time I visit.

The rest of the food is also delicious.  Every dish: whether appetizer, entrée, or dessert; has been wonderful every time that I have visited and at every location.  I don’t understand it, but somehow, even with over 100 menu items, the Cheesecake factory produces wonderful meals.  I would especially recommend the Avocado Eggrolls, the Calamari, and the Chicken Madeira.  Those are so far my favorite dishes that they make.  The calamari comes with this delicious garlic aioli for dipping.  It’s just wonderful.

All in all, the Cheesecake Factory is a restaurant that I will continue to dine at even with my slight frustrations with the little things.