Review: The Cheesecake Factory is the restaurant America wants, deserves

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Man with a wooden leg named Smith. Right in the fucking lede. Dang.

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Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey is a great place to take foreign visitors. I don’t know why they love it so much, other than it’s pretty (at night), and it’s a stereotypical “American” restaurant.

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The Atul Gawande article he linked to is a fascinating look behind the scenes.

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What was the name of his mustache?

and re: this review - just, why? Why does this even exist except for the author to try really hard to be funny and to draw a bad parallel that doesn’t make sense between a shitty chain restaurant and the entire country? Strong dislike.

Or maybe it’s for that one poster here who wanted more reviews of dining options for uncurious geriatrics. I hope that person is happy with this.

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I’m posting this everywhere. HAHA

My Rankings for my Top Five casual chain restaurants in SoCal Area:
#1 - Chili’s
#2 - Islands
#3 - Cheesecake Factory
#4 - Wood Ranch
#5 - BJ’s

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Woodranch is good stuff. #1 for me

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I think he proposed reviewing the place because he likes it. As someone who will probably never go to one (even less likely after reading his review) I found it interesting, like Bourdain going to Sizzler with David Choe.

I think i gained weight just reading that article lol

To our uncivil youngster: No, the Cheesecake Factory is mediocre at best; sort of like Bucca di Beppo. I do think the Times writer was responding to critics of the new Food Section in a tongue in cheek, semi-hostile manner. For that writer and our youngster, may I suggest a few excellent food venues that all ages might find good: Cut, Urasawa, Schezuan Impression, Chengdu Taste, Phillips Barbeque, Petit Trois, AOC, Lure, Pizzeria Mozza, Langer’s Deli and many, many more. And youngster, you may be geriatric one of these days if you are so fortunate.

My parents live off the stuff, and I can understand why…

for me, Woodranch was one of the only places that had steamed rice. I guess they don’t have it anymore.

why? because it CRACKED ME UP!

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Me too.
Everything he does makes me laugh -

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peterson spent three years writing the frugal traveler column for the NYT and followed that up with about 100 video episodes of dining on a dime for eater. he’s also from the midwest. that makes him my kind of ‘hound’. he’s not going to be talking about fine dining, cooking techniques (though i do have that in my background). if anything he deliberately sets the tone of the review by starting off referring to a berenstein bears book as being seminal. he’s not asking people to take him too seriously.

i get the sense that peterson is being pilloried for suggesting a certain set of values for america more than anything else. even if it’s not your america, cheesecake factory nets something like $80 mil a year as a corporation. they’ve clearly identified a target demographic in the US as their niche and they serve that demographic pretty well.
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peterson concedes that his love for cheesecake factory is irrational (but no more so than many of the opinions expressed on FTC if you want to go there). frankly, i respect an opinion more when it’s conceded that it’s not rational vs. someone pathetically trying to rationalize it because of their ego/vanity. you might as well try to rationalize a personal choice of strawberry over chocolate. your mileage is going to vary.

if anything, i see cheesecake factory as being the ultimate PF chang’s of restaurants. they’re non threatening, and the menu is geared towards pleasing relatively provincial palates while allowing them to feel like they’re being adventurous. it’s a place you can suggest for a large gathering because everyone can find something on the menu they won’t hate. the portions are generous enough that many folks make two meals out of their order. it’s basically a chain designed to appeal to middle america. if i had never moved out here, i might love cheesecake factory in much the way i might have loved olive garden or red lobster before i moved out here. or sizzler. i don’t, but i’ve chosen to try and avoid being a snob about it.

bourdain went there because it was part of the experience of many koreans growing up in koreatown. i got it because my family did something similar where it would be a big deal to go out and get a burger at a place called red barn - it was all we could afford at the time. the memories of the food of one’s childhood can be a powerful thing. IIRC david chang loves domino’s pizza not because it’s good, but because it was what he ate while watching football with his brother and the pizza evokes that memory of family. and i get the sense the evolution of his menu reflect a desire for his food to evoke similar memories on the part of person eating it.

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I think Chang still likes Domino’s for its own virtues, not just nostalgia’s sake.

I was tempted to try his favorite, crunchy thin crust with Alfredo sauce, bacon, and onions, but …

Water, cream (cream, milk), Parmesan cheese (part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), Asiago cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), margarine [palm oil, water, salt, contains less than 2% of vegetable mono & diglycerides, whey solids, sodium benzoate (a preservative), natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, beta carotene (color), vitamin A palmitate added], seasoning [maltodextrin, nonfat milk, modified corn starch, salt, enriched bleached wheat flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, xanthan gum, spices, mono and diglycerides, and turmeric], salted butter (pasteurized cream, salt), Parmesan cheese flavor [parmesan cheese (pasteurized milk, cultures, salt, enzymes), water, salt, natural flavors, yeast extract, sodium phosphates, sodium citrate], garlic (garlic, water), modified food starch, vegetarian base (water, salt, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, soy protein concentrate, corn oil, onion powder, autolyzed yeast extract, flavoring, soy protein isolate, sugar, garlic powder, turmeric), spice, salt.

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Well, I relent on that point - to each their own. It came off trying way too hard to me, though I also haven’t enjoyed any of his other things, the beer rankings or french fry rankings or any of those (again, in my personal opinion) painfully bad meme-based videos so maybe he just isn’t for me. And I do think I’m in the minority there; it appears to generate a lot of engagement for the Times’ social channels, so good on him.

I also thought the premise connecting it to America at large felt forced and overwrought and ultimately corny, but again, my opinion.

I did pay a recent visit to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time in a long time, and I thought it was pretty abysmal - much worse than anything described - so that may color my view of the place and the review as well.

Glad some are enjoying though! Happy to see the continued success of the revamped Times section and the ascent of quality food coverage in this city, even if not all of it appeals to me.

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Just read the article. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, either. Here’s an example of the kind of writing that I find hysterical (and that I think the LAT author might have been trying to emulate [warning, off-topic]):

I actually thought the connection to a larger point about America could’ve been made much more strongly, but then the article wouldn’t have been funny anymore… And, to a large extent, the author already made the point in the article itself: “…I can hear my server recommending the Tex-Mex egg rolls to two women on a lunch date: ‘No ma’am,’ he says. ‘There’s no egg in it.’”

I haven’t been to the Cheesecake Factory in over 15 years because I thought the quality of the food was so horrendous. It’s possible that the food has vastly improved in the last 15 years, but I’m skeptical. I see on their website that they offer 250 dishes daily, all “made from scratch” – whatever that means (does steaming frozen vegetables and then dousing them in a sickly sweet sauce constitute “made from scratch?”). However, offering 250 dishes seems a bit alarming as to quality, IMO.

On a related note, yesterday I made the mistake of dining at the West Hollywood branch of The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (BBCM), which I think of as Cheesecake Factory for hipsters. Place was packed with very affluent looking pretty '20 somethings and the food was abysmal. Don’t ask but I made the mistake of ordering this nori roll concoction with rice, seaweed, avocado, salmon and some sauce. It was really, really bad and came with lukewarm sweet potato fries!

Sadly given rent and labor costs, I think of Cheesecake Factory and BBCM as the future of food in America. Never made it to Kass, from which the chef just departed, but I assume he wouldn’t have departed if Kass was doing well, so it seems that unfortunately the key to succeeding in this business climate is offering a mediocre mass market experience.