I had hoped that a month after its grand opening would be long enough for the crowds to die down at The Cheesecake Factory. Boy, was I wrong. The Grub Spouse, The Grub Sprout and I showed up on a Wednesday night, naively optimistic about a reasonable wait. We were told 75 to 90 minutes. It wound up being two hours before we were seated.
I can’t fault a restaurant for being popular, and the staff seemed to be turning the tables over pretty quickly, so we patiently bided our time and were glad to get off our feet as we slid into a large, comfy booth and began processing the voluminous menu. There’s more there than I could hope to cover thoroughly in this space, but I will present an overview of the categories and a few representative dishes.
Small plates and snacks range from flatbreads and samosas to crab bites and several varieties of salad. Appetizers are substantial enough for the table to share and include various dips, deep-fried rolls, nachos, crab cakes, wings, etc.
Other categories include pizza, burgers and sandwiches, lunch specials, dinner salads and an entire menu of lower-calorie options. There are four pages alone of specialty entrees, including pasta, fish and seafood, and steak and chop dishes.
Overall, the menu gathers several types of cuisine under its large umbrella, including Tex-Mex, Asian and traditional American fare. Chicken dishes in particular seemed to be well represented through preparation styles like bellagio, di pana, Romano, piccata, teriyaki and Marsala.
The Spouse ordered the fish tacos ($13.95), The Sprout got the macaroni and cheese burger ($11.95), and I got the Louisiana chicken pasta ($16.95). We were given a basket of bread to partially quell the raging hunger we had accrued during the previous two hours.
For the record, the interior looks nothing like The Cheesecake Factory on “The Big Bang Theory,” and the servers don’t dress anything like Penny. The cavernous main dining room looks like art-deco-meets-Vegas somewhere in ancient Egypt. But it was engaging and comfortable enough. The place was packed, but we didn’t feel suffocated.
Overall, it seemed that our fellow patrons received uneventful service, but I was not impressed with our particular server. He was a mumbly low talker, we never got drink refills during the meal, we had to proactively ask for dessert, and he delivered the bill before our cheesecake was even served.
Speaking of which, they serve nearly two-dozen varieties of cheesecake, plus an entire menu of other desserts. There was no cheesecake sharing on this trip. The Spouse got Key lime, I got chocolate mousse, and The Sprout got the Oreo Dream Extreme cheesecake.
I thought the food was pretty decent. The burger was well cooked, and the mac topping was the bomb. The Spouse’s fish tacos benefited from a variety of ingredients, and my parmesan-crusted chicken and pasta were, as advertised, spicy and also very satisfying. The portion was enough to split into three sittings. Fittingly, the cheesecake was the highlight for all of us, full of rich, distinctive flavors and too much to pack away in one meal.
So sure, go give The Cheesecake Factory’s food a taste for yourself, but be prepared for a long wait and a pricey tab. And maybe once all the hubbub dies down, the factory might start running a little more efficiently.
The Cheesecake Factory
Food: 4 stars (out of five)
Address: 201 Morrell Road
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays (brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Full bar service
Bottom Line: At some point, this popular new West Town Mall restaurant will make a nice addition to your list of places to try.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!