Monday, March 12, 2012

The Cheesecake Factory - Or Anna M., you don't know what you've started

One of our friends from Montreal, Anna M., loves going to the Cheesecake Factory when she’s in the States. Any time she visits a city with a Cheesecake Factory location, she makes it a point to go. We’d heard of the place, of course, but we had never been. I mean, I’m lactose-intolerant, and until recently, the Engineer thought he didn’t like cheesecake (it turns out he doesn’t like bad cheesecake, but the ones he’s been making himself are fabulous), so a place named after that dessert didn’t appeal to either one of us. But of course, they serve things other than dessert – as a matter of fact, their menu is frighteningly long and varied and even includes a “SkinnyLicious” section for healthier fare. Plus, the characters in one of my favorite shows hang out there all the time. So we decided to check it out last night.

Man oh man! Where to start… First of all, the place was really busy, though it’s big enough that turnover was quick for two people. The décor was trendier than I had expected, and the waitresses weren’t wearing the cheesy (sorry) yellow vest I had seen on the show (though we were in the bar section, not in the family restaurant side). It’s a good thing we’d had a few minutes to look at the menu outside the restaurant, so we had a rough idea of what to order. We started with an appetizer of avocado rolls, which were served with a tamarind-cashew dipping sauce that was absolutely divine. I tried to identify ingredients (chili, cumin, cilantro, honey?), then realized that they actually sell sauces and dressings used in their dishes, so we came home with a jar of it. Unfortunately, it was jarred on the sport by a waiter and so doesn’t have a tag with a list of ingredients – though now that I know it’s called tamarind-cashew, that gives me extra clues. The rolls were fabulous, too. We also got free bread, which was really good, but I kept my intake down to one piece because I knew I still had a main dish to tackle.

The Engineer had the spicy cashew chicken, which was good, but slightly too spicy for my enjoyment – more for him. I took Lactaid and had the Monterey cheeseburger: avocado, melted jack cheese, arugula and red onion, with honey-mustard mayonnaise, on a brioche bun (my favorite); it had me at arugula. It was absolutely delicious, to the point where it’s now giving serious competition to what I had previously considered the best burger in town (at the County Line, though I couldn’t tell you why I never got around to talking about it here). The fries weren’t really that great, but the burger was so fantastic that I don’t care. What really stole the show, though, was the Engineer’s Oreo milkshake. I started with only a sip and was blown away; I had an immediate craving for Oreos, since I couldn’t have the shake (too much lactose). After I had my Lactaid for the burger, though, once I had declared defeat, I wanted one last sip of the shake, which I then couldn’t put down and I drained the whole glass. I’m lucky I have such a generous husband! Our dinners were so good that we really didn’t care that we hadn’t saved room for cheesecake (though they have some amazing varieties, including a red velvet cheesecake that was trying to seduce me from the refrigerated display).

We’ll definitely be going back to the Cheesecake Factory, though ideally, we’ll try to find a time that’s less crowded. I’ll have to conduct further testing before declaring a winner in the burger department, and there’s so much more to explore on the menu!


Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to go, but they don't list allergens anywhere on their website, except for a comment about risk of cross-contamination.
On the other hand, it may be a good thing that I don't go because they have some of the most unhealthy food available in a US restaurant and I would certainly want to try that!

Amélie said...

You're right about the allergens - I'm guessing everything could be cross-contaminated. I would never have guessed there were nuts in the dipping sauce I mention (even when tasting it); I only know because of the name, which I found out after eating it. They have a lot of Asian (-inspired) food and seafood. And gluten and lactose, obviously. Now that you mention it, I didn't see anything in their menu regarding food sensitivities (whereas some other places have menu sections for gluten-free diets, vegans, etc.).

You're also right about the calorie count - I certainly can't be doing this every weekend!