Cheesecake Factory: too much of a good thing?

I have chosen to review a somewhat exotic destination in this blog. Cheesecake Factory is not a restaurant native to the UK. It was born in sunny Beverly Hills, CA by David Michael Overton in 1978.

I was lucky enough to sample their cuisine on holiday in Dubai, the city where everything is in excess. Cheesecake Factory fit right into this culture. After a day of wandering a mammoth mall, (Dubai Mall is around the size of around 50 football fields so you can imagine the appetites we built were no joke) we decided that a big meal was in order. What I was not informed of was that I was not in for a big meal. I was in for a feast fit for a giant.

Cheesecake Factory incorporates the American culture of extreme friendliness to a tee, even though this particular restaurant was not in the USA. I believe that this commendable. The inviting service began as soon as we entered, with a jovial waiter at the ready to welcome us and find us a table. It must take a stringent hiring process to on board staff able to maintain such an inviting persona for a full shift in a busy restaurant, so this is a point to the US chain, as well as the individual, lovely staff in my book.

Quality service extended throughout the order process. We were immediately seated in a plushy booth and assured that our every need would be attended to without delay. Sure enough, I did not find myself waiting for service for more than five minutes at any moment throughout the meal. I cannot speak for every location of Cheesecake Factory – perhaps this particular franchise, being in such a highly visited destination, was a cut above – but I was truly impressed by the staff and feel that this should be recognised.

Since we were eager to eat after our busy day, we immediately began perusing the menu. What. A. Menu. It was about as thick as a Christmas edition of the TV Guide, and in my hunger it truly felt like Christmas to behold it. The options felt endless, and since it was my first time, I struggled for a good fifteen minutes to choose. My decision was guided by a goal I had set prior to witnessing the menu: I was determined to leave Cheesecake Factory having sampled its cheesecake. After all, what kind of a sham review would this be had I not? So, using the logical side of my brain and having spotted the brick-like slabs of cake awaiting me in the display fridges on the way in, I decided to start light. Or so I thought.

We opted to share a starter, feeling that a small plate of nachos would be a good start. For my main, I picked a deliciously excessive-sounding burrito named Burrito Grande. As though called by telepathy, our dedicated waiter appeared at our booth as soon as we were ready, electronic notepad in hand. We placed our orders, and prepared to wait. This was a pointless effort, as no sooner had we placed them, a basket of bread was bestowed upon us. This was the pre-starter starter, apparently. Any human who was been offered starter bread knows that it is irresistible, so of course we dug in. This was a mistake.

Soon after came our starter. If I were to paint a picture, you might mistake it for a huge cheesy mountain rather than a plate of nachos. There was at least two large bags piled onto the plate, burying lashings of chili, jalapeños and topped with an unholy amount of cheese. It was a beautiful thing, really. Again, we began the challenge happily and managed a good 3/4 of the dish, probably sending our recommended daily intake of everything through the roof.

Once our demolished starter was whisked away, we had a mere five minute breather until our mains. This was the point where I realised I was in way over my head. I consider myself able to handle an unnecessary amount of food in one go, but this was insanity. My burrito was quite literally, without exaggeration, the length and thickness of a Swiss roll. With a generous side of rice and chili. For no reason whatsoever. It smelled absolutely delicious, but I was too intimidated to appreciate this fully. With a lot less haste than I had taken to tackling starters 1 and 2, I picked up my cutlery and…well, I tried. I think I managed a quarter of the meal before being forced by my stomach to admit defeat. It was a shame, it really was delicious, but there was no way to make a dent.

I took some time after I ‘finished’ to gather my bearings. I was beyond stuffed, but I had a mission which I had not lost sight of. And so, to my own internal disgust, I turned and was greeted by a teleporting waiter and ordered a cheesecake. Saying the words made my stomach protest viciously, but I persevered and went for a red velvet number. It did not disappoint; the hunk of cake was around fifteen centimetres tall and long, and almost ten centimetres wide. As soon as it arrived, I requested a take away bag: I was done. I ate some of the cake for lunch the next day (breakfast was unnecessary) and it was excellent.

Now, the food itself certainly took the spotlight during my Cheesecake Factory experience, but there are other factors I must cover. First, pricing. The bill was probably one of the lowest dining bill I received during my week abroad. For such unbelievable portions, the value is a little ridiculous – if I had taken away my mutant burrito too, I would have got three meals out of the whole thing.

In terms of overall experience, Cheesecake Factory has something for everyone. It is primarily a family destination, but my particular branch was designed well enough that this was a non-issue, with larger family booths being located away from smaller booths for smaller groups. If you do not need to test your waistband, there are some smaller dishes available, and the cocktails, smoothies and milkshakes on offer look amazing if that’s your scene. Like many chain restaurants they offer a ‘Skinnylicious’ menu, but I stand by what I said when discussing Frankie and Benny’s version of this – don’t kid yourself.

Overall, I give Cheesecake Factory a solid 9/10. It caters to all kinds of demographics with an exceptionally friendly manner. However, I sincerely hope that they do not expand to the UK, as I fear my waistline would expand right along with it.


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