The great Cheesecake Factory caper ends with just desserts

We’d both hopped onto the online menu for The Cheesecake Factory, my dear wife Karen and I, preparing for the Saturday night double date with my darling daughter Elisabeth and her kind, smart boyfriend George.

The living room of our happy house in Syracuse, N.Y., resounded with the unmistakeable sound of my stomach growling. Shrimp. Some sort of shrimp, was the way I interpreted the feeling. Karen was even more decisive. Bang-Bang shrimp. Yum.

Then I got a text from Elisabeth, at 3:52 p.m. “Are you at the mall yet? It’s very busy.”

Our meet time was 5:30. We’d make it to Destiny USA, the shopping, dining and entertainment megaplex, in plenty of time, I assured her.

We pulled into the crowded lot a few minutes after 5. Not many spots, indeed. Another text arrived.

“We gave them our name. It’s a three-hour wait. We can go back at 6:30 to get our pager to know when it’s ready.”

Yup. Three-hour-wait kind of crowd at The Cheesecake Factory in Syracuse.

Yup. Three-hour wait kind of crowd at The Cheesecake Factory in Syracuse.

The news got worse on this first Saturday after the popular chain opened its Syracuse restaurant. The crowd outside The Cheesecake Factory was practically impassable. Karen spotted Elisabeth before I did. George spoke first. If we waited, we’d get a table by 8.

Karen declared that we could drive to the Albany restaurant and get served before that.

Everybody agreed. No, we were not waiting. No, we were not driving to Albany. We would pick another of the many Destiny USA restaurants, eat dinner, and return to The Cheesecake Factory to buy four carryout slices.

There was only an hour wait at Cantina Laredo, one of our favorites, the hostess predicted. I accepted the pager and our fate. I turned my tummy-expectation gauge to steak fajitas. The pager lit up after only 45 minutes.

And we had fun, catching up on this winter life in Central New York. George had to be at work at 5:30 a.m. Friday, and he estimated that there was a foot-and-a-half of snow he shoveled out of their driveway first. We told them about Daryl’s new house. Elisabeth said she and George both thought the same thing when they saw my selfie on this blog.

“I look just like you,” my daughter declared. Of course, I said, smiling widely.

We covered Olympic hockey and the curious fact that a U.S. goalie, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, has Syracuse listed as his hometown, a detail we’d never heard previously.

We all appreciated our meals, fajitas for three of us and enchiladas for Karen.

The short walk to The Cheesecake Factory wound through lots of people. The Syracuse-North Carolina State basketball game had just started, and we heard cheering come from the places with flat screens.

And The Cheesecake Factory was still mobbed, outside and in.

Thanks to other helpful customers, we were pointed to the end of the takeout line.

Don't mind me and my iPhone. Enjoy your meal.

Don’t mind me and my iPhone. Enjoy your meal.

As we waited, I stealthily took a photo of entrees just delivered to a table on the other side of the half-wall. Oh, what might have been.

We all gazed at the takeout cake menu placard and the slices in a cooler display, picking our delights.

I had one choice: The low-carb, Splenda-instead-of-sugar cheesecake. I asked if the strawberry option had sugar, and the clerk said yes, they were glazed. Not for me.

Karen went with the pineapple upside down cheesecake. Elisabeth went with a chocolate cheesecake. George picked raspberry lime.

After ordering, we waited amid the masses in the lobby. I overheard the hostess telling newbies that it was a three-hour wait.

My name was called in 10 minutes or so, to pick up our slices. I asked for utensils. We were going to find seats and eat in the mall.

Karen suggested we go up one floor, away from The Cheesecake Factory throng. Indeed, we found a whole open couch, spread out, and took our prized desserts from the to-go bag.

All bagged up, and an L-shaped couch awaits.

All bagged up, and an L-shaped couch awaits.

The clerk had thrown three spoons and two napkins in with the plastic containers.

I ate my slice with my hands, so I got one of the napkins.

Verdict from all four eaters: Delicious.

My Splenda model was creamy, smooth, just sweet enough, with a real-live-cheesecake texture. The crust, on the other hand, was savory. I was hoping for a bit of a graham-cracker taste. Everybody else said their crust was sweet and cake-like. Woe was me. The others were eating, keeping the critic-like sounds to things like, “Ummmmm.”

Elisabeth said that when they first arrived, a hostess told her that the night prior, the first time there was no wait was 11:30 p.m. The restaurant closes at 12:30 a.m.

I suggested that the next time we return for the full-blown meal, we make it a Tuesday night. In June, Karen added.

Would you have arrived at the mall at 5 and waited until 8 to get a table? What’s the longest you’ve waited for a table at a restaurant? What flavor cheesecake would you have ordered? What’s your wildest restaurant tale?

47 thoughts on “The great Cheesecake Factory caper ends with just desserts

  1. Pingback: Awful lived between good bread and great cheesecake | markbialczak

  2. Oh the waits at a restaurant! I don’t tend to wait longer than an hour (unless I’m at the bar, of course) but I love the Cheesecake Factory. I don’t often get cheesecake but I always have one (or three) of their strawberry martinis when I visit!

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  3. Mark … I love your quick thinking and your family’s flexibility. The takeout option was wise. Their food is good. But there are so many restaurant options that a 3-hour wait would not be for me. Like you, I would have picked another time to return.

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  4. I would have been like you, chosen to go to another restaurant. I am glad you found the wait for desserts, later, not too daunting! I like this restaurant, we have one within 25 miles, at a place called, Polaris Mall, also about 40 miles away at Easton Towne Center. I have enjoyed their turtle cheesecake and their malted milk balls one, but they vary their menu, don’t offer as large portions as I feel would be the equivalent at other restaurants… So, my guy and girl friends all choose other places to eat. I think a Tuesday in the summer, may still have a crowd on the patio, at least down in the two places I mentioned. But one hour is not too bad of a wait, in most cases. This was a fun post, Mark! Robin

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    • Thanks, Robin. We want to go back for all the courses, but will choose our day and time carefully. Funny you mention the patio. In our mall, even the restaurant’s patio is inside. Ah, well.

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  5. i was rooting for you guys, and anxiously awaiting your review post. that is awful, you’ll have to wait a big until the frenzy dies down and maybe go for a lunch or early dinner when you have shopping and stuff to keep you occupied while you wait. the desserts sounded wonderful though, and sorry about your crust, i know your low carb pain. at least you got a chance to enjoy dinner together, and catch up on things. nice we have a mutual jimmy howard connection, i hadn’t realized that either. my michiganders won the ice dancing gold, so life is good in michigan sports nirvana. i’ve only been to cheesecake factory once, in chicago, and while it had been open for a long time, it still was an hour wait, but it was worth it. they’ve opened one here, about 25 miles away, but i haven’t braved it yet. now you have something to look forward to in the world of restaurants )

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    • Congratulations on the dancing gold, Beth! Jimmy Howard born in Syracuse … we just never knew, and we follow hockey! Yes, my daughter caught my puck fever, and she met her boyfriend back in college because he was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs hat so she approached him in a a bar. I like that story. And, Cheesecake Factory will happen all the courses through, at off-peak, as you say. You should go to your new local one the same day and we can compare notes …

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      • okay, that sounds like a plan. either second half of march or in june, when school’s out maybe? it would be funny if we could both post our reviews on the same day )

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      • That will be our plan. Same day eat, same day posts. I like it. Yes, when your school is off.

        By the way, you’re still in the lead with ’57 Heavy. Yes, tthere will be a prize. I am giving it a little bit more time. I’m getting Google hits on that post every day.

        Send me your email address to markbialczak@gmail.com so we can correspond off the WordPress grid to coordinate.

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  6. I would wait that long if I had a meal in my purse I could gorge on, but that would defeat the purpose of waiting I guess. Too bad it was a bust. But glad to hear they had a sugar free cheesecake option you were able to enjoy!

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  7. Well, at least you got the cheesecake! At my old job, the CF was about 10 min from it, so people would dash over at lunch. You’d peer out from your cubicle and see them striding down the hall with the swagger that came from carrying that to-go Cheesecake bag, and you just knew their was chocolatey goodness inside. I could eat a slice of Chris’s Outrageous right now: “Layers of Moist Chocolate Cake, Chewy Brownie, Toasted Coconut-Pecan Frosting and Creamy Chocolate Chip Coconut Cheesecake.” I might go into a sugar coma, but mmmm-mmm. BTW, would we wait 3 hrs at any restaurant? As Miss Whitney Houston would say, “He## to the no.”

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  8. Well you know my take on chains and Destiny, but the beauty of the mall like we have in Syracuse is that you can find a few things to do while you wait. Granted, three hours is a tad bit much, but it is impressive for the restaurant.

    I’d give it a week and the fervor should die down. However, you did get your cheesecake and you ate it, too.

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  9. Do they still have the coconut cheesecake with the chocolate graham cracker crust? I love that one, tastes like a Mounds bar.

    The one here has been open for 10 years and there is a wait every single time we go, 30 minutes at least on a good day. I wouldn’t wait past an hour unless I had other things to do in the area and could come back, like go to the movies.

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  10. Those plastic containers appear to hold cheesecake gold. No, I wouldn’t have waited. The worst restaurant tale we had was actually at the Cheesecake Factory. We had put our names in for a large party, given a time it would take to be seated. And waited. And waited. And waited. Long past our given time. We were there to celebrate my daughter’s black belt achievement. We only waited because of the specialness of the day. Then they sat our large party in DIFFERENT sections of the restaurant. Though the wait staff was wonderful, and the food was excellent, I was not happy about the set up. It wasn’t anyone’s ‘fault’. But tHey should have told us we couldn’t or wouldn’t be seated together and given the option to do that or not. They didn’t tell us until they took us to our tables. And split us up.

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