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Mar 10, 2009 02:52 PM

Are you a Cheesecake Factory lover?

The latest and newest location is in downtown Walnut Creek at Plaza Escuela on 1181 Locust Street (and Olympic Blvd), former site of Andronico's . The restaurant opened in mid-February.

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    1. I don't have anything against Cheesecake Factory and it's nice to see that hole in downtown Walnut Creek filled, but damn, I wish that nice Andronico's was still there instead.

      1. I think it's probably a good addition to Walnut Creek since the pickings are so slim there. But generally in the Bay Area I think we have so many better restaurants that it's not advisable nor necessary to go to a Cheesecake Factory much like there are so many superior choices to PF Chang's and Olive Garden.

        29 Replies
        1. re: Wendy_san

          I think there's probably more in Walnut Creek than that. I admit when I'm there for lunch I end up at Pyramid Ale House more often than I should -- the food's not amazing, but I like the beer and they have free wifi -- but it looks like there are several other choices downtown I'm shamefully ignoring. Besides the Walnut Creek Yacht Club, which I already know I'm shamefully ignoring.

          (I'll confess one thing I do like about the Cheesecake Factory, though: during happy hour, they have a great bar menu.)

          1. re: Chipotle

            I feel like the choices in WC are few and far between. The better places are extremely expensive/overpriced (Prima, Yacht Club, Va da Vi) and I feel I'd rather go somewhere else to pay those kinds of prices (SF, wine country, etc.). Otherwise, in my opinion, mediocre abounds (Bing Crosby, Willie McCovey, Ruth Chris, Maria Maria) and don't get me started about the Japanese food offerings there. :-)

            1. re: Wendy_san

              I agree with you on the slim pickin's in WC for good food that is not overpriced. I don't mind paying more (after all you're in privileged territory. ha!) but at least give me good food. That being said, I do have a few to recommend that fall in the category of more than decent chow at reasonable prices. They are:

              Babalou's Mediterranean - 1645 Bonanza Street - casual place with excellent food. Falafel, lamb or chicken kebabs/shawerma, keftas, hummus, sandwiches/wraps/platters, salads, etc.

              Saroor Indian Cuisine - 2580 North Main Street - generally I do not like buffets but they have a lunch buffet for $8.99 and it is very good.

              Kabob House - 1250G East Newell Avenue - v. good Persian food

              Oishi Sushi & Grill - 1542 Newell Avenue - fresh quality Japanese food and good selection. Try this one and tell me what you think.

              Morucci's Deli - 1218 Boulevard Way - excellent gourmet sandwiches & salads

              1. re: ricebowl

                Cool. There are never many Walnut Creek report. Ihave Babalou's on my to-try list from your other post. I seem to be in a Persian thing lately, will have to check out Kabob House too.

                Have you ever had the fava bean salad (fool).

                Babalou's Mediterranean
                1645 Bonanza St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                Kabob House
                1250 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                Saroor Indian Cuisine
                2580 N Main St, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

                Oishi Sushi & Grill
                1542 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                Morucci's Si Mangia Bene
                1218 Boulevard Way, Walnut Creek, CA 94595

                1. re: rworange

                  If you have Persian fever, then do try Kabob House. The place is a small, sit down restaurant, tablecloth dining but the prices are reasonable. You can tell the food is prepared from scratch and with TLC. I had the lamb shank plate for $11 (lunch) which included fresh lavash bread, saland, saffron basmati rice with a mixture of fava beans & dill. It was excellent. Staff is also attentive & friendly and will tell you more about the food if asked.

                  Babalou's, as I mentioned in my other posting, is more of a casual, quick eat place. While the atmosphere is fun and fast, the food is still excellent in taste & preparation.

                  1. re: ricebowl

                    I was just looking at other online reviews of Morucci's. Seems interesting. Don't know why I didn't know about it when working in the area since it seems to have been there a while. Any recommendations? The 6 1/2 seems to be popular ... prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, secret pesto sauce and oil & vinegar on ciabatta

                    The pastrami gets a lot of thumbs up, but somone said they use Boars Head cold cuts. Is that the pastrami they use?

                    As far as Chinese, have you tried Lily's House in Lafayette? There are a number of reports, including a chowdown, attached to the Place record

                    1. re: rworange

                      I order from Morucci's regularly for my office's lunch meetings. They are the best deal in town and out. Very generous size sandwiches and quality of ingredients is top notch from the bread to the pesto. 6 1/2 is one of my faves. The pastrami is okay, not great like NY pastrami. You can't go wrong with any of their gourmet sandwiches. Also they do excellent salads; various pasta salads, broccoli salad, and their house salad is mixed greens with cranberries, walnuts, celery, feta, cherry tomatoes and apples in a vinagrette dressing. They also do hot entrees for catering including lasagna, ravioli and fettucini (red & white sauce) and great garlic bread. Speaking of which, for garlic lovers, Morucci's is heavy on garlic in a good way. There are a few tables to sit and dine but it's mostly a take out place. This place is far better than Genova Deli by a long shot.

                2. re: ricebowl

                  I went to Oishi a couple of times a long time ago and find it the lesser of the evil in WC. :-) And I believe I have tried every Japanese place in town (and some in Danville, PH, etc.). That being said, it is true that I am very picky about Japanese food and not your typical consumer. As for Chinese, I used to like Zheng Long, but I think it has closed(?). Went to Dragon 2000 once, but wasn't impressed though I know it gets good notices. Tin's Tea House is probably the most authentic. Went recently to China Village for lunch (Ygnacio Valley Rd) and thought it not bad. Uncle Yu's (Lafayette) is solid California-Chinese. Yan's (also Lafayette) is only so-so.

                  1. re: Wendy_san

                    Have you tried Sichuan Fortune House at 41 Woodsworth Lane in Pleasant Hill? I haven't yet but from the read on the menu, the place sounds authentic and the reviews say it serves very good Sichuan (Szechuan) food.

                    What are your recommendations for good Japanese food in the Bay Area?

                    1. re: ricebowl

                      No, I have not tried Sichuan Fortune House. Thanks for the heads up. As far as Japanese food in the Bay Area I like Kaygetsu in Menlo Park, Rokko in Sunnyvale, Kappo in Mountain View, and Yoko's and Yuzu in San Mateo to name some of the top of my head...

                      1. re: Wendy_san

                        Have you tried Kirala in Berkeley?

                    2. re: Wendy_san

                      When I was last at Dragon 2000, the waiter explained that the menu printed in English is designed to compete with PF Chang's to attract the non-Chinese patrons. The menu that's printed in Chinese is quite authentic and well-prepared for the dishes I was able to sample. And, he also explained that some of the popular items from the Chinese menu were once translated into English, but non-Chinese customers didn't like them and kept sending them back, so now they're "secret". Maybe this has changed, since it has been some years since I was there, but from the descriptions of WC's dining scene, I don't know why it would.

                      Dragon 2000
                      1651 Botelho Dr Ste 120, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                    3. re: ricebowl

                      I was going to say the same. There actually isn't an Olive Garden in Walnut Creek, as surprising as it may be. The closest is in Antioch.

                      My favorites in WC right now is Kabob House, which is reasonably priced and has great food. I'm also a fan of Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill, and Korea House (lunch specials) in Concord.

                      1. re: alag

                        What dishes have you had and do you recommend from Sichuan Fortune House? How are their noodle soups?

                        I've read a lot of mixed reviews on Tin's Teahouse in WC. I've only eaten at the one in Oakland Chinatown and that one is good. The same goes for Le Cheval (Vietnamese) in WC. It's overpriced simply because it's in the land of the high and mighty and food is not as good as I remember compared to the one in Oakland on Clay St. And R&J Noodle Place in Walnut Creek for Vietnamese food is a joke, lacking authenticity and portion size. If you're not hungry, go to R& J or eat at R&J and finish with a burger for George's next door.

                3. re: Wendy_san

                  my ranking:

                  pf chang
                  cheesecake factory
                  olive garden


                  my real problem with CF was the 1.5 hour wait between walk-in and food. 45 minutes for seating, 45 minutes to order and get food. This was in Palo Alto, for goodness sake. I kept looking at all the people and trying to figure out why they were there.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Yes, somehow various branches of CF have cultivated some kind of exclusivity, many with long waits just to get a table, with people piling outside the door. I'll be taking my mom to a movie down the street from the WC branch later today and will check it out. She may even want to go to lunch there --yikes! :-)

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      The are there because people like chains and in that category cheesecake factory is ... for want of better words ... one of the better choices. Like you said, it is better than Olive Garden.

                      I'm sure Cheesecake Factory will be wildly popular in Walnut Creek. It is the suburbs in every sense of the word. Mom and Dad have spent the week commuting to and from their job. You sit in the traffic a few hours a day and you want what is safe, familiar and confortable. You don't want to take a chance with that interesting new restaurant because you don't want to take a chance with your dollars and time and dealing with whiney kids who may not want to eat something they are not familiar with. You don't even know what the better choices might be because you are not reading restaurant reviews because you don't have time. This is a step up from the frozen entrees, boxed meals and Hamburger Helper that you buy at Safeway. And my goodness that Cheescake Factory cheesecake ... all those flavors ... is so much better than frozen Sara Lee and the stuff in Safeway's bakery. And ...

                      ... don't get me started. I worked almost a year in Walnut Creek ... I'm a city girl.

                      Hmmm ... I was just thinking about this ... why isn't there food radio? Maybe it could suck some of those people stuck for hours commuting into trying something new.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Spot-on analysis. This is exactly why these types of chains are so successful. And good idea about the radio!

                        1. re: rworange

                          Narsai David on KCBS comes on for a few minutes each day. There use to be the food review guy on KGO on the weekends a long time ago. I think internet reviews killed the KGO thing.

                          re: CCF...the only time I ever tried to go was went it first opened in Macy's SF (not my choice). They said 1.5-2 hour wait....didn't wait.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            I was a fan of Narsai's show when it was a half hour (maybe hour) in the late 90's. To prove I was a fan, I can say that how to de-gas beans was the most-asked question.

                            I know there are a few shows here and there and some podcasts but it would be nice if there were a radio equivalent of the food network. I don't subscribe to cable because I'm too cheap, so I'm not sure if paid radio has anything like that.

                            My free tv equivalent of the food network is the Saturday PBS food shows.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Gene Burns is still broadcasting as of 3/7/09.

                              1. re: wolfe

                                My bad...I guess I'm just not listening to KGO on Sats...or haven't for a long time.

                                How is his show now? I remember him to be likeable and liking food but a lot was a call in show, no?

                            2. re: rworange

                              The cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory is in fact, delivered frozen. Employees are required to refer to it as "deeply chilled" rather than frozen. My wife worked there for several years.

                              What I noticed at the time was that all of the food was consistently good but none of it was great.

                              1. re: rworange

                                And there is food radio. The Restaurant Guys are out of Jersey but the show is excellent.


                                1. re: rworange

                                  In other words, suburban family life often kills chowhounding. Sad, but true. I agree that it would be nice if radio and/or Web 2.0 could help lessen the impact.

                                  People in newly expanding suburban areas have actually demanded that Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang's come to town (Rancho Cucamonga, CA is one example).

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Agreed! I like Cheesecake Factory - not enough to wait in long lines for their food, but like others mentioned, they have a large menu with lots of solid choices. I wouldn't go out of my way, but if someone suggested it I would not be disappointed. It has the chain stigma to it, but I would venture to guess that if some of their dishes were served in a mom-and-pop restaurant, people would be raving how good it is as opposed to calling it blah chain food. While I haven't had anything that just blows me away, I've never had a bad meal there either. It's safe, consistent, and moderately priced.

                                    1. re: alina555

                                      >>> While I haven't had anything that just blows me away, I've never had a bad meal there either. It's safe, consistent, and moderately priced.

                                      And there you go. That explains its popularity.

                                      I know the economy is tight. I know even before that so many people are on limited budgets. So fear drives people to Cheesecake Factory.

                                      People are so afraid they are going to get a bad meal and waste a few bucks that they are willing to settle for average and reliable.

                                      People are reluctant to take a chance and perhaps be blown away.

                                      And yet, I don't understand that with a site like Chowhound, there is the opportunity to ask about the dishes that might blow people away and yet people settle for Cheesecake Factory.

                                      Reading the wonderful reports here encourages me to step in that unknown place. And for all the times I did that, over about three or four years, I remember only two really bad meals. At worst I have had an average meal like at any chain.

                                      And the little guys quietly close up. Lola's, Gira Polli's (Walnut Creek and SF), Maritime East, El Rey Pakal, Bong Su, Tofu Yu, Petite Patiserrie, Kabul City and the others on this list of 246 (as of this posts) restaurants marked as closed.

                                      No, not all of them were great. Some closed for reasons other than financial. However there are a lot of good restaurants in there that didn't have the hype machine to spread the word about how great they were.

                                      People line up for PF Changs while Lily's in Lafayette often sits empty.

                                      And while good places close, safe places like Cheesecake Factory thrive and open more and more restuarnts.

                                      And the smart small businesses ... emulate the chains. Many ethnic places keep the people pleasers on the menu. The safe. The Chinese have their secret menus. The Indians have the dishes like chicken ticki masala, Thai restaurants the stoplight curries (red, yellow, green) ... Maya for all its faults didn't serve chips when it first opened because what kind of Mexican restaurant doesn't have chips ... um, those in Mexico ... and so it goes.

                                      And somehow I think we all lose. There's no danger. But there's no adventure either.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        I would like to make another plug for my restaurant roulette concept. Make a list (yelp is very comprehensive, more so than Yahoo Local or Google Local) of all restaurants you've never visited in a radius - 1 mile, 2 miles - and occasionally let yourself be fully at the whim of a random choice - no vetos.

                                        Without restaurant roulette, I never would would have visited Cheesecake factory, and be able to comment. We all have our biases.

                                        As far as the rest of it, my theory is some people are neophiles, some aren't (better said: a spectrum). I don't begrudge people their nature.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          Like "Deer Hunter"? Sorry that's not a bad idea. I haven't been to most of the big chains. Nothing against them. If there was a reason to go, I go. If you know how to order and ask a few questions, you should be able to get a decent meal.

                              2. It's all about choices as others have said. I first encountered a Cheesecake Factory during a few days in Kansas City for a family wedding about six years ago. Several of us would be walking around the Country Club Plaza district (a fairly high-end shopping area) looking for a place to eat. It turned out that the Cheesecake Factory was perfect for that purpose. A huge and varied menu so everyone could find something they liked, and tasty food at reasonable prices. That said, I've never eaten at the one in Marin County since it opened a few years ago.

                                1. There are probably worse places to eat, but why waste appetite, time, and money on a soulless chain when there are real restaurants nearby?

                                  Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli
                                  1105 S California Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                                  Chopin Cafe
                                  1574 Palos Verdes Mall, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

                                  Artisan Wine Lounge & Cafe
                                  1633 Bonanza St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                                  Huynh Vietnamese Cuisine
                                  1512 Locust St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                                  Sargam Indian Cuisine
                                  140 N Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596