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Am I the only one who thinks Cheesecake Factory is overrated?

So I've been going to various Los Angeles-area Cheesecrack Factories since childhood, and honestly, I've never been able to figure out the insane appeal. The pastas I've had are pretty average. Salads can be hit-or-miss. The desserts are great, but really, is there anything more to the CF than the cake? Opinions please.

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  1. Cheesecake Factory is constantly derided on these boards, but I sure don't notice the lines getting any shorter to get in. I like the shepherd's pie, and I appreciate the big portion because it reheats well later and I save room usually so I can share a slice of cheesecake for dessert. A great meal, no. But a decent value, consistent quality, and pleasant service. In my opinion and experience, head and shoulders above the TGIF, Marie Callendar's, CPK, Tony Roma's, or other midpriced competitors, with the exception of Claim Jumper.

    1. Why do you keep going?
      Stop being one of the sheeple.

      I really don't even think the desserts are even 'great' as you claim they are. The cheesecake factories are for tourists and it's a safe option for business lunches or dinners in a casual setting. That being said, I'm a sucker for thier tex-mex egg rolls. Everything else, I find average at best - including their cheesecake.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gordeaux

        Not all the locations draw tourists. I was visiting LA last week with my niece and she had a reunion with a friend from college. He doesn't drink or go to bars, so he suggested dessert and coffee Friday evening after work. He lives in Marina del Rey so we met at the CF there. Mostly locals, from what I could tell. And I will say that the view from the heated patio in the evening was lovely...and my Godiva cheesecake was perfect, exactly what I wanted.

        The closest location to where I live in the Bay Area is in Palo Alto, on a busy street near Stanford University. No tourists there either, mostly locals. The location in SF draws mostly tourists, but consider the location--on top of Macy's and in the middle of Union Square, which is a heavy shopping/theatre district. Lots of hotels nearby.

      2. One thing I think about CF is that they are easy - they have a 15 page menu and everyone can find SOMETHING to eat.

        As for quality - naw. Quantity is large, lots of choices and good locations. That's their secret. And million calorie cheesecake for those who like that kind of stuff.

        2 Replies
        1. re: TwoPointers

          It is what it is....a CHAIN. And it just so happens, while although not appealing, it's not exactly appalling....

          As 2Pointers stated, there is something for everyone. While I agree with the questionable quality of food...it seems as if the majority of the negative critiques come from people with ridiculously high expections.

          We are all aware, the majority of the American public are not Chowhounds. So I I am confused with the energy spent on degrading a chain restaurant geared for the masses???

        2. A moot Question! but it is very popular because it has identified and has served it's target market very well. Walk in and look around, as Chow Hounds you can pick out the target demographic.We deride this concept on this board , but CF thrives because as consumers we have decided that mediocre food and vast portions of it is what we consider to be "A special night out" Sad but never the less very real.

          6 Replies
          1. re: currymouth

            I'm of the opinion that CF constantly gets derided here because WE (fellow CHers) are most decidedly not the target demographic and that many of us simply don't believe a discussion of CF's merits belongs on this forum. It's a decidedly non-CH venue.

            IMO, the popularity of CF is meaningless as far as relevance to a conversation amongst avowed CHs. CF is what it is, and popular as it may be, there's nothing about the food, other than the offensive quantities of such, that makes it worth talking about to someone who's interested in the unique and noteworthy.

            As long as people keep bringing it up on these forums as if it were CH-worthy, it will continue to be derided, much as many other national chains that offer a glut of "safe" and "unoffensive" choices are routinely panned here.

            1. re: Panini Guy

              If you don't want to read about national chains, perhaps avoiding the Chains section of the board would be a good idea?

              I don't think every single person on this board is only "interested in the unique and noteworthy" Sometimes, convenience/making others happy/finding a place to eat with your kid/etc. trumps uniqueness. If going to the Cheesecake Factory fits that bill, as it has for me at times, so be it.

              1. re: shellyesq

                A lot of Republicans support liberal social issues and a lot of Democrats are for fiscal conservativism. They call out others in their party all the time for not being "true to the cause".

                Likewise, there is always going to be a wing of the CH community that detests the idea of CF and like chains and doesn't think it fits with the spirit of the forum. And some are more activist than others.

                Nobody's saying you or anyone else shouldn't go to CF or whom you should vote for. Each person gets to decide those things on their own and make their defenses for their decisions. Such is the beauty of life in the US and on CH.

                1. re: Panini Guy

                  Well said, I have been to these chains simply because I would love to find a gem. A place I would be proud to recommend to let's say some one who visits from overseas.Mind you, I have Yet to find such a place, but man lives in eternal hope.Above all, How would I be so bombastic as to decry an establishment without actually eating there?

                  1. re: Panini Guy

                    I'm no fan of CF but this is the "Chains" board. I agree with your right to be an activist decrying chains, but the powers-that-be set up a separate Chains board for a reason. Wouldn't it be more productive to campaign to get rid of the Chains board to the Chowhound Team, rather than criticize a post about a chain on the board specifically about Chains?

            2. I don't think it is overrated. It's always a great safe choice, and the food, atmosphere, and ambiance is so much better than other chains like Chili's, TGIF, or Bennigen's. I think it's hands down the best restaurant chain out there. I love it. The restaurant is just absolutely SOLID in every aspect. Nothing spectacular, but it's SOLID, and that's why people keep coming back. I never left the restaurant feeling like I spent too much cause I've always had a good time there.

              And to be honest, the whole place seems very American, and I think that's why it's so popular. Everything about it just appeals very much to the American consumer. It's good American food, the portion sizes are large, and the menu is very safe. Straight-foward good comfort food with upscale looks, It's absolutely the perfect place for the typical conservative American who wants to eat out at a nice place with friends. I can't imagine a more perfect resaurant chain. It's a Walmart without the bad image. :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: phan1

                I agree with your comments, too.

                1. I've never been a fan. The only one I've been to that was any good was the one inside Disney Quest at Downtown Disney (Orlando). I actually, have had much better cheesecake, too.

                  The appeal I think is the familiarity, as it is with most chain restaurants.

                  1. I go there for the avacado egg rolls and the thai lettuce wraps, both are excellent. I do enjoy their desserts but they are too darned big. We usually go to share appetizers and have dessert, I feel that they do what they do well.

                    They have hit their target demographic very well, definitely a place for the desperate housewives to gather and drink foo foo martinis.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bakeman

                      "definitely a place for the desperate housewives to gather and drink foo foo martinis."

                      What an offensive comment. (No, I don't take it personally, as I'm not a housewife and don't drink martinis.) And definitely not seen in any of the locations I've been to.

                    2. I always thought you had to be rated in the first place to be ever considered overrated.

                      Bad food, worse service. One of the last places on earth I would go. I would actually probably skip a meal, and go hungry rather than go to CF again in my lifetime.

                      1. Judging by the other posts in this board, obviously not. Simple solution. Stop going.

                        1. I've been once, chosen carefully, HUGE menu, EXPENSIVE, I liked the food, what I thought was totally cheesy and bizarre, ads for other businesses in their menu!

                          1. It's okay I suppose. Not really great but not horrible. Kind of pricey for what you get, but when you are near a mall or something and don't want to eat at Red Robin, Chili's, or one of those type of chains it can be a better option. I will go if someone else insists, sort of a random thing. I don't think to myself wow I'm can't wait to eat there tonight.

                            1. Love the cuban sandwich and peach bellini... for a chain I think it's one of the best. Much better than Chili's, etc.

                              1. Why are people down on the food at Cheesecake factory? Yes, the portions are huge, but that does not automatically mean the food is bad. I've had a lot of good meals there. Are my standards too low? I'm not saying that the food is outstanding, and its a long way from being gourmet, but most of it is tasty and I've never had any food there that I'd classify as being bad. So I just don't get all the negativity directed towards the food there. And I'd have to say that, for a chain - except maybe the chains that attempt to be much more upscale (Houstons, McCormick and Schmidt, etc.) the food is right up there.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: HastaLaPasta

                                  I like quite a few of the appetizers at CF (the fried mac and cheese, crab wontons, corncakes) and find that it is a good place to go with your friends who are not Foodies and everyone can find something to eat.

                                  1. re: SouthernFoodie08

                                    After dozens of meals at various Cheesecake Factory locations in Los Angeles, I applaud this chain for consistently good food and service.

                                2. I've been there twice: OK, nothing special. The location here in San Francisco that I've gone to is on the top floor of a downtown location with a view. I personally believe the lines here are location and not the quality of the food.

                                  1. If you've noticed how many people emphasize "portions" when they review a restaurant, then there's your answer. I've seen it right here on CH many many times. People talk about Portions, Location, Atmosphere, Service.....somewhere further down the list is the actual *quality* of the food.

                                    Here's what I typically hear about a CF experience from coworkers: "oh there was an hour-long wait but they gave us a pager so we were able to do walk around the mall while we waited. Then we got our table and we all got huge drinks that they kept refilling....for free! The menu was huge, and we ate soooooo much. The portions were huge! There was so much food that we didn't have room for dessert....but we got it anyway. I got the peanut butter cheesecake, Rosie got the Oreo Cheesecake, Randy go the Chocolate Cheesecake, and I'm on a diet so I got the sugar free cheesecake (Yes I made that last part up)."

                                    Many people are obsessed with the amount of food they get, as long as it's edible. They also center their lives around Shopping Malls. Put the two together and you've got a winning combination in the USA.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                      A very astute observation. I have only been to CF once, and once was all it took. my question is, does CF have any locations that are not attached to or adjacent to a major shopping mall? Because there is your target market. Next question is what type of mall does CF scout for a potential location? Outlet, discount, premium? Menlo park verses Shorthills?

                                      1. re: currymouth

                                        In the Boston area, they're at mid-to-uppity clientele malls. I think they started out at the Atrium (in high-priced Chestnut Hill area), then they moved on to Cambridgeside Galleria (which used to be crappier than it is now; they're trying to 'upgrade' their image), and then the shops at Prudential Center in Copley Square. And a couple miles to the west at the Natick "Collection" which used to be a 'normal' mall, but they're trying to swank it up a bit by adding Needless Markups and changing the name.

                                        I think malls are a perfect match for Cheesecake Factory, because I loathe both.

                                        1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                          Atlanta has a free-standing CF on Peachtree Street. Orlando has one in a small boutique outdoor shopping center and one in the Mall at Millenia.

                                        2. re: currymouth

                                          Ive been to two:

                                          Palo Alto, CA - freestanding (well, attached on either side by stores) on University Ave, which is a major link to Stanford Univ. Busy with college and local community people.

                                          Marina del Rey, CA - also freestanding, mostly locals.

                                          I don't recall going to any other unit. There's one near my office in San Francisco but I usually don't have the luxury of taking a 2 hour lunch, and there is always a long wait.

                                        3. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                          Yes, at least here in SoCal, the three locations I am aware of are not attached or next to shopping malls.

                                          I agree with your point about people equating large meal = good food. But I think there are some people who have a backlash against that - they think large meal = bad food. Cheesecake Factory does serve large portions. IMHO, the food is neither outstanding nor awful. For the most part its good.

                                        4. sometimes it's precisely what is called for amongst a diverse group of friends, at varying stages of life - culinary elitism, portion bang for buck, fears of haute or ethnic cuisine, etc... sometimes it's the least of evils to satisfy most.

                                          when i'm there, the egg white omelette is good. the chicken madeira over their ridiculous mashed potatoes. the pasta with four cheeses if your arteries are not antithetical. the biscuits. desserts: linda's fabulous fudge cake, oreo cheesecake, vanilla bean cheesecake, boston cream pie cheesecake, white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake, all w/ no whipped cream. oh, and the brown bread.

                                          1. I'll admit, I've only been one time. I went to the one in White Plains, NY on a weekday night. Here is my feeling on it after one time.

                                            AtmosphereAmbience - like sitting in grand central terminal -minus the homeless people.

                                            Service - prompt and professional.

                                            Food
                                            Appetizers:
                                            Hot Spinach and Cheese dip. Good, but not any better than similar jarred dips.
                                            Fried Calamari - definitely store bought frozen calamari.

                                            Entree:
                                            Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna - cooked perfectly but the portion was tiny (6 slices). It was such a small portion that I ended up eating someone's leftovers, and paying for their meal. They had the Fettucini with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a garlic parmesan cream sauce - definitely nothing to write home about. Either the tomatoes were added to late, or they just didn't have enough flavor to make the dish a little more robust. I also tasted someone's farfalle with chicken and roasted garlic. Once again a little bland, especially considering it's a garlic sauce.

                                            For dessert we all shared each others
                                            Original Cheesecake - I am not exaggerating. The worst I've ever tasted.
                                            White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake. Couldn't taste the white chocolate.
                                            Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake - fresh, haha
                                            Someone had the Blackout Cake which I passed on, they seemed to like it.

                                            Overall my opinion is that like any restaurant who has a menu you need a bookmark to read, the food is what you would expect - wonderfully average. What surprised me even more was that it's namesake, the holy cheesecake was some of the worst cheesecake I had ever tasted, and believe me, I've tasted some homecooked ones at parties that were horrendous. I went two years ago, and have not been back. Would I give it a second try? Maybe!

                                            1. The only thing I like from them is their cheesecake. The last time I went there I had a plate of nachos that was soaked in oil and tasted freezer-burned.