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A rave for the ... Cheesecake Factory [moved from Boston]

OK, OK, at the risk of losing all Chowhound credibility ... Mr. Swank and I had a very nice experience at the Burlington Mall Cheesecake Factory the other evening.

We arrived at 5:30 and were told that it would be a half-hour simply to get a buzzer! Then, once we got a buzzer, it was another 45 minutes. The place was jam-packed. This didn't bode well, or so we thought. But everything changed once we sat down.

Our waitress provided the kids in our party with free snacks, as they were so patient to wait. Service was really friendly. I ordered a very nice margarita; Mr. Swank had a beer. We split an order of "dynamite shrimp"--essentially fried shrimp in spicy aioli. It was very good -- batter wasn't too thick nor greasy.

I had stuffed chicken tortillas on sweet corncakes; Mr. Swank had chicken and biscuits. Yes, the portions were mammoth. Yes, I probably ingested 4000 calories in one sitting. However, the food was satisfying and the service was just so cheery. Every single staff member who walked past smiled at us. Other patrons seemed jovial. Everyone was having a good time.

Would I seek out the Cheesecake Factory for another dining experience soon? No. But if you're in the area and don't want to go to Chili's, Border Cafe, or any of the other chains in Burlington, give this place a shot. At the very least, the staff is exceedingly nice. You just might have a good time!

*hangs head in hound shame; eats leftovers*

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  1. Lol, file this one under a guilty pleasure!

    Mine is Popeye's Chicken.......I always feel shame after I eat it!

    3 Replies
    1. re: devilham

      The difference is that Popeye's is pretty darn delicious.

      1. re: C. Hamster

        Yes it it.


        J Lackey
        J Lester
        J Beckett

    2. I've never eaten in a Cheesecake Factory, so forgive my ignorance, but why were you willing to wait so long if you didn't expect to get a good meal? Or was your party too large to be accommodated elsewhere without reservations? Was that the reason for the long wait or is it really that popular?

      We have one at the Natick Mall and the parking lot is always crowded, but because there are other restaurants and shops (American Girl) there, I can never tell if the cars are all for the CF or for something else. My kids have eaten at one with my parents in Seattle and they keep asking to try the one near us, but I am really skeptical.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Isolda

        I've never eaten there either and don't necessarily have a problem with it but I too wondered about the ridiculous wait time. Is Swank saying there's really NOWHERE else in Burlington that can accommodate them without waiting 30 min just to be told another waiting time? That's nuts. What about Paparazzi? Or Lester's BBQ? Not Your Average Joe's would serve the same purpose as C. Factory with less than 75 min to wait.

        1. re: total13

          If this was on busy night, I can see waiting that amount of time if you are already at the mall - even for the CF. My three year old wanted to go to the playspace at the mall on Saturday - at 5pm it was a mob scene with cars lined up half way around the mall just waiting to get out of the mall lot - probably would have taken a half hour in itself to leave -just to find 45 min. (or more) wait times elsewhere. We wanted to eat at Legal and was quoted an hour and 15 minutes wait time at 6pm. We ended up eating at Uno's after a 20 min. wait. I wasn't happy with it, but when you have youngsters who need to eat and get to bed, Chowhounding isn't a priority. Glad the OP was able to set aside her bias and made the best of it.

          1. re: LStaff

            Oh, I can totally relate to the non-chow priority! Last week, I found myself with about 20 minutes to get some lunch (at 2 p.m.) before the next thing, so my son and I pulled into a Burger King drive-thru. It was as dreadful as I remember, but at the moment, it was perfect. And my son thought I was an excellent mother, if only for that brief lunch.

      2. Chirpy service would not make me feel better about the kind of food served at The CF, nor the revolting portion sizes. No better than any other national chain outlet, except maybe the waits are inexplicably longer. There are far better options in Greater Burlington that aren't chains, though I know that's the dominant idiom around there. Fooey and fie on The Cheesecake Factory.


        1. Sorry, but I think it's near the bottom of the barrel ....

          I'd go to Border Cafe a million times instead

          5 Replies
          1. re: C. Hamster

            L'Andana and Summer Winter are both very nice and in Burlington, but neither are very fit for kids. H-Mart has tasty stalls, but a cafeteria-like atmosphere. Border Cafe is fine, if you crave half-microwaved, porous cheese served by college kids. I'm drawing blanks on other Burlington establishments, besides Chili's.

            86 Cambridge Street, Burlington, MA 01803

            3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

            1. re: Swankalicious

              New Jang Su Korean BBQ is on Cambridge Street or 3A or whatever it is called. Kids I've taken there have liked it.

              Just a thought.

              1. re: three of us

                Ditto New Jang Su, very good table-grilled kalbi

                1. re: three of us

                  Oh wow, that place is still there? We ate there about 10 years ago and it was delicious. Now that we're moving to Lexington, it won't be such a hike anymore so I'll have to give it another try.

                2. re: Swankalicious

                  Flatbread Company counts as a chain, but a delicious one.

              2. Somehow I am reminded of the classic old joke that is retold at the beginning of the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall:

                "Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

                1. I see no shame at going to Cheesecake Factory and certainly don't see the place as "bottom of the barrel", that's a little ridiculous. I've had some really tasty food in mammoth portions there, and their menu is so massive that it's easy to please anyone in your group, no matter how picky. Also, well, cheesecake.

                  The big problem is that it's hard to escape the feeling of being a Big Fat American when visiting there. You stand in a cattle line to get a buzzer, then finally get a buzzer and wait in a corral area (or outside in a mall), and when buzzed, get to stand in another line to be seated. I once went there with family, and waited a total of 2 1/2 hrs to be seated. It was grueling.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    Hear hear. I second the above. The "cure" I use for the gigantic proportions at CF is to order an appetizer as a meal. My fave is sweet corn tamale cakes. They are tasty and not huge as a meal and if they were served somewhere else, I'd eat them there as well. They're not chow-ish, but not everything we eat has to be, does it?

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      I've been ok eating there and enjoyed some of their dishes as well. Just be aware that a big reason food tastes good there is a lot of high calorie stuff (cheese, oil, butter, etc.), but most dining out is that way... I came back from an eating trip in New Orleans and my blood pressure spiked and is still high days later :-P

                      For the portions, I've always found it a good deal because I consider the entrees to be an entree plus leftover for later on in the week (same w/ Giacomo's usually). I usually don't finish everything they put on the plate. Ditto w/ the cheesecake or choco mountain cake or carrot cake...don't eat all of it at once.

                      It's a good spot for meeting up because some friends are pretty fussy about what they won't eat...some can't eat soy, some won't be adventurous, some have kids that need kiddie meals (aka burgers only because their kids aren't adventurous), etc.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        With a wait that long, I might be tempted to drink too much wine from the bar (I assume they have a bar?) and then I'd be buzzed in more ways than one.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          Reading about waiting 2.5 hours to eat at Cheesecake Factory makes me so glad to live in a place with so many non-chain options. Geez, in 2.5 hours you could drive to any place in an 45-minute radius, eat, and drive back. I've never eaten at Cheesecake Factory, but I've perused the menu outside one and it didn't strike me as cheap, either.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I felt the same way, believe me. It's one of those aggravating buzzer-in-hand situations where CF said "OK, take this buzzer, wait nearby, it'll be 30 mins or so." Half an hour later, they said "Another half hour, tops." By that point we'd waited an hour and a half, so when they said "another 20 mins!" we just shrugged. Then it became an endurance test: "We've already wasted two hours, why would we leave and go somewhere else?"

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              Yeah, I can see how that would happen.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I would not drive 1.5 hours just to spend an hour at any restaurant. I like to relax and enjoy the meal and the company. I really like cheesecake factory.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                You have to remember that most Cheesecake Factorys are located at malls or outlets. So the wait isn't taking place in a restaurant vestibule or sitting out on a sidewalk. Depending on the range of the buzzer the customer can roam around and shop while waiting. With a 2.5 hour wait a diner could potential get a buzzer, run their errands/shop, and return in time to have dinner. If you have never eaten at a Cheesecake Factory how can you criticize the OP's decision to eat at one?

                                1. re: viperlush

                                  True indeed. The CF that had me wait 2.5 hrs is at Easton Towne Center in Columbus, next door to (at that time) a Virgin Megastore and Barnes & Noble. The irritation of waiting that long for a table was dimmed by being able to wander around and shop.

                                  1. re: viperlush

                                    Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing the decision to eat at Cheesecake Factory, I'm saying that I personally would never wait the kind of waits people describe to do almost anything, and especially not to eat mass-produced food. If I could walk in and sit down, and I was with a group of people who wanted to eat there, I'd eat there. I'd probably even enjoy it for what it was.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I completely understand not wanting to wait that long for a meal -- I certainly don't like the idea either, which is why I never go to Cheesecake Factory. On several occasions at different CF's, I've been with friends who've wanted to go, but the wait (no matter when we try) is inevitably insane.

                                      That said, I wouldn't call CF's food "mass-produced" any more than I'd call the food at any restaurant "mass-produced". It's a chain, but are their cooks doing less work than those at any extremely popular restaurant?

                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    I went to the Cheesecake Factory for the very first time a month or so ago for lunch in Palo Alto on a day when the air conditioning was very welcome. Cold air, a cold drink, and no wait. The crab cakes were ordinary, but not huge, at least. The bank/bordello architecture is bizarre and totally out of place. It's right on University Avenue, but might as well be in mall. You're right, of course, no reason to go to a chain around here -- unless it's 95 degrees out, and probably not even then!

                                  3. re: Boston_Otter

                                    Completely agree about the big fat american feeling when going there. And the one by us is always on an hour+ wait when we have tried to go. The 1 time we did get in, nobody would wait on us and we were in a hurry as little RNR was just an infant at the time. We had foods picked out and ready to order and menus down but after 20 minutes of waiting, finally left. We've never been able to get back in because of the long waits.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      All i can say is WOW!! A 21/2 hour wait to eat at CF!!!!

                                    2. Thanks for the review, Mrs. Swank.

                                      I made a solemn vow to never eat at a "factory." But all those people can't be all wrong.
                                      Is there a better place to get chicken and biscuits in Burlington? I had awesome fried chicken at Highland Kitchen (their Monday night special), but that's the problem - it's a tiny place in Somerville.

                                      1. another hand up for CF. Their chicken and biscuits is really good and enough for 2, and their spaghetti with meat sauce also good, as are the chicken samosas. We get lunch from drug reps from there about once a month and I will say that CF food is a gazillion times better than the catered muck we get from corporate catering companies which always send chicken and rice which nobody likes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: smartie

                                          i haven't been in a long time but i used to sometimes get their bistro shrimp pasta (lunch portion). I usually felt slightly ill afterwards from all the cream and panfried battered shrimp but at least while i was eating it, i was enjoying it. Their beef ribs were another item that tasted pretty good while eating but usually would hit me afterwards.

                                        2. I like cheesecake factory for several reasons ~~ the large and varied menu has many options for a large group of people; we have vegetarians, low carbers, diabetics, nut and shellfish allergies, small children, etc. in our family group.

                                          Most of the folks I know crave cheesecake, and an event such as a birthday gives them an excuse. I really like that they offer a bowl of strawberries for those of us who shun baked desserts and pastries and YES even cheesecake.

                                          I really enjoy some of their items: Chopped Salad, Fish Tacos, Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, several of their salads (Cashew Chicken, Carlton (hold the feta), Club House Salad, Chinese Chicken, and their Cobb Salad. I also like their chicken salad sandwich ~~ but what I have been ordering lately is the Thai Lettuce Wrap appetizer (enough for a meal) I really really like that.

                                          1. I shunned CF long ago..gave them 3 chances and thought to myself "why do I keep beating myself with a stick?" It got so bad I had to call their legal department...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: trvlcrzy

                                              Why did you have to call CF's legal department?

                                            2. I don't think anyone expects deliciousness out of the Cheesecake Factory. I think it works because of the "experience". That is to say, the restaurant looks like no other, so it feels special. The staff is professional and sugary sweet. The menu makes one feel like life is full of options. Kids are well served by the establishment. As other posters mentioned, CFs are almost always situation right in the middle of mall or outdoor shopping areas, so they seem like the appropriate cap to a day of shopping/hanging out. The food is definitely serviceable and all of the fat/salt spurs one to continue eating. All in all, a very satisfying experience, though not necessarily in terms of a gourmet meal.

                                              1. I met a friend at a CF last week, her choice because she has food issues and could find several safe choices on their huge menu. I wasn't expecting a lot, but was really pleased with our meal and the service. She ordered some sort of summer roll and was very pleased with it, I got the shrimp "skinnylicious" tacos which were just right for the light dinner I wanted, and very tasty to boot. Our waiter was very nice, and our bill was $35 with tip. It won't ever be my first choice, but I'd meet her there again. :)