Thursday, February 26, 2009
CHEESECAKE FACTORY COMES TO WALNUT CREEK
It's not like there isn't a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in just about every major shopping center...but, a week ago, Walnut Creek got its own Cheesecake Factory, a block from Broadway Plaza and less than a block from the Walnut Creek Downtown Century Cinemas.
I like Cheesecake Factory for is huge menu with something to suit just about everyone. Prices are moderate. The decor is always fabulous. For those who might remember Maxwell's Plum in San Francisco, that's what the decor of most Cheesecake Factories remind me of.
One thing that seems to be universal at all Cheesecake Factories is that they do not take reservations and there is almost always a wait and customers put up with it.
J and I decided that our strategy for last night would be to arrive shortly after 5 p.m., presumably before the dinner rush. As we approached, we saw crowds already gathered outside, each person holding a beeper waiting to be called to a table.
We checked in and were told the wait would be 15 minutes. I wandered toward to dining room and noted that most tables were empty. They were gradually phasing the seating, presumably to not overwhelm the kitchen, especially when they've only been open a week.
We were seated in less than 15 minutes and ordered drinks. Warm bread and butter arrived quickly.
Then we ordered.
It was the California Omelette for J. The Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp for me. J ordered a side dinner salad to start. Our drinks arrived promptly but then we had a wait of at least half an hour before we got our order. Taking a positive approach to what seemed like a very long wait, I noted that it was better to be sitting at our comfortable table with drinks and bread than to be standing with the mobs waiting to be seated.
All our food arrived at the same time...so much for J's salad first.
J's salad was beautiful. His omelette looked rather plain and not that appealing although it was generously filled with Avocado, Sauteed Mushrooms, Green Onion, Tomato, Shallots, Garlic, Sour Cream, and Cheese. He chose sliced tomatoes over potatoes to go with his omelette.
My shrimp dish was accompanied by White Rice, Black Beans, Fried Plantains, and Mango Salsa. A menu option to the Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp was to have Chicken or half and half. While I ordered Shrimp, I got Chicken and Shrimp...my waiter swore that he ordered Shrimp and offered to take the dish back. I kept it, not wanting another long wait for a replacement. It was tasty and spicy. However, my black beans were not warm...do they pre-assemble dishes such as this?
I had hoped to have a piece of Original Cheesecake for dessert but just couldn't handle it. It our waiter's credit, he suggested I take a slice home.
When the check came, J noticed that he was charged $6.95 rather than $3.95 for his salad with a meal, a lower price because you order a main dish. The waiter corrected it, but it brought home, once again, how you have to check your bill in restaurants.
When we left two hours later, the crowds by the door and outside were so great, it was difficult to navigate our way out.
Will I return? Of course...I like Cheesecake Factory and there is still lots that I have not tried on the menu...I was very tempted by the Cuban Sandwich...their salads are always delicious...the pizzas and the hot fudge sundae at the next table looked amazing. There is a special menu of small plates that I plan to explore in the future. It's a fun and lively place. While the food is good, hearty, and fresh, it is not extraordinary, but given the variety and ambiance and price value, I can live with that. However, if the service is not better when I return to this Cheesecake Factory, I will not be as foregiving.
To its credit, the Walnut Creek Cheesecake Factory may be big but it was not noisy...the artistic sound buffers on the ceiling and other elements acoustic design keep the noise to a level where you can easily converse with your dining companions.
There is plenty of free garage and metered street parking near the Cheesecake Factory. There is also paid valet parking in the adjacent garage that has a direct entrance into the restaurant.
And, if you place a to-go order, there is a special parking area in the same garage where you pull in, call them, and they bring your order out to you. How good is that?