Life

We Tried A Whole Ton Of Dishes From The Cheesecake Factory — Here’s What To Order And What To Skip

Before last weekend, I knew exactly three things about The Cheesecake Factory:

  1. The place has a gargantuan menu, so large that calling it a book is putting it lightly. Seriously, if you’ve ever read through this 20+ page novella, you should feel proud of the accomplishment (even though that’s a seriously odd flex).
  2. As far as mainstream national restaurant chains go, this one has pretty delicious food and it’s also decidedly not inexpensive.
  3. Whoever designed the interior and exterior of this restaurant was on acid because it’s insane. Or as game developer Max Krieger pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread, it’s a “world of aesthetic chaos that feels like a mix between a Fry’s Electronics, an overgrown Panera and a laser tag arena.” Which has got to be the most spot-on description of The Cheesecake Factory vibe ever. For all time.

I was comfortable in my limited knowledge, blissfully ignorant — then everything changed. I was assigned to hit up “The Factory” and try 25 different dishes, eating everything from spring rolls to pastas to actual cheesecakes. Apps, mains, sides, desserts — I was going to do it all in one wild, food coma-inducing sitting. For a food writer, this was like getting tapped to summit Everest. Except that my mountain would be one of carbs and sugar.

I had trained for this and now opportunity had collided with preparation. I was ready.

25 dishes in one sitting certainly sounds like a lot, but let me reiterate to you just how massive this menu truly is. There are over 250 permanent items served at the Cheesecake Factory, each one of them scratch-made (shout-out to kitchen staff). In order to get a nice variety and represent a mix of classics and cult favorites, I chose 25 items with help from other Uproxx staffers and The Cheesecake Factory team. There’s a certain cloak and dagger aspect among the latter group when it comes to identifying bestsellers, but they did steer me back on track in a few places.

You’ll see that I separated everything I tasted into five categories (which are also ordered, based on my preference) defined by whether or not you should prioritize ordering these dishes. Hopefully, this will help the next time you find yourself at The Cheesecake Factory, frantically skimming through the menu and trying to settle on something before stuffing yourself full of bread (which I also ranked). I also listed the calories, which feels a little dickish of me. Feel free to ignore calorie counts in the “great” and “must try” sections. You don’t go to this temple to gluttony to be healthy!

Must-Skip

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1340

Ranked lowest on our list is the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes, a combination of sweet masa cakes topped with Sour Cream, Salsa, Avocado, and what the Factory calls “Salsa Verde,” which I’m going to get into in a bit because that deserves its own paragraph. It’s not that the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes are bad, they taste pretty good actually, with giant corn kernels embedded in sweet corn cakes, and the presentation is *chef’s kiss* but I don’t really get what the Factory was going for with these. They’re so sweet it’s almost a dessert, but it’s topped with some avocado and tomato, so it’s not a dessert, and also… I couldn’t help but feel like these were missing something.

Meat, they were missing meat. I think that would have tied these together.

Now let’s get into this “salsa.” I don’t know who told Cheesecake Factory that salsa was supposed to be creamy but it’s not. Calling this “salsa” isn’t even an apt description of what it is — it’s thick and much more akin to some sort of gravy and it has absolutely no heat to it. Not even the slightest bit of heat, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up with Mexican food in the home and know how to make my own salsa. This is so devoid of heat you can give it to a baby. In fact, I didn’t know it was salsa until I read the menu in preparation for writing this entry.

The Bottom Line

These look a lot cooler than they actually are. I can’t imagine any solid reason to order these.

Factory Nachos

Dane Rivera

Calories: 2670

Whether or not you like these are contingent on if you have good Mexican food in your area and if your idea of nachos is whatever they serve at the movie theater. Seriously, these are glorified glammed-up movie theater nachos featuring tortilla chips, smothered with cheese, an impossible to share scoop of guacamole, chaotically dispersed red chile sauce, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, green onions, and more salsa. Both the salsa and the red chili sauce are overly sweet, and, like the sweet corn cakes, these nachos are missing meat.

Great nachos don’t need meat. But these nachos don’t have beans either!

No beans, no meat, green onions (why?), no cilantro — I’m sorry but the Factory Nachos don’t do nachos justice. Is this fun to eat while chilling with friends and watching the game? Sure, but you can easily make your own game day nachos with canned beans, a block of Monterey Jack, some fresh peppers, cilantro, and onion, toss that in the oven at 450 for about 10 minutes, and put slices from a ripe avocado right on top. Then you’ll save some money, and calories, which will give you the chance to order something more delicious at the Cheesecake Factory.

The Bottom Line

A gourmet version of movie theater/baseball stadium nachos.

Factory Burrito Grande

Dane Rivera

Calories: 2150

You might be sensing a theme here so I’ll just come out and say it — The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t know how to make Mexican food. For the record, that doesn’t offend me. I don’t, as a Mexican American, have some sort of vendetta against The Cheesecake Factory’s attempts at my cultural cuisine. No this offends me much more as a food writer and a person who loves burritos of all kinds — SF burritos, classic bean and cheese, homemade burritos, breakfast burritos — because, like the nachos, this offering isn’t what it really says it is.

This thing is gargantuan and sits in a mole-based sauce, making it akin to a wet burrito. The burrito is stuffed with chicken, white rice, let me say that again, white rice, onions, peppers, and cilantro (they do have cilantro!) with a side of guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and black beans. Beans, sour cream, and guacamole on the side? Okay, Cheesecake Factory.

If “mole sauce” scares you, know that this is pretty mild as far as mole sauce goes – the flavor isn’t too intense but does give off a mild lingering heat. While I think the construction of this burrito is all off, I will say that the tortilla is amazing with a great gummy texture that soaks up the flavors nicely. But that still doesn’t make it order-worthy.

The Bottom Line

Not what anyone wants from a burrito. This is really a BINO — burrito in name only. Please, I beg of you, if you want a burrito just go to your nearest non-corporate burrito spot and order one there.

Good But Forgettable

Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1110

Kicking off our list of the “Good but Forgettable” dishes is the Pepperoni Flatbread. There isn’t anything wrong with this flatbread pizza, it’s a pretty solid mini pepperoni pizza served on a surprisingly airy dough (it’s not particularly flat), and perfectly crisped pepperoni cups, but it just feels uneventful in comparison to the other dishes I tried. It’s another one of those situations where I gotta ask, “if you want pizza, why are you are the Cheesecake Factory?”

The fact that you’re at a Cheesecake Factory in the first place means that you’re at a mall, which means a Sbarro is just a few steps away. Sbarro doesn’t make the best pizza, but at least it’s a real slice and not on a rectangular crust-less flatbread and will probably cost you a fraction of what this will. Ask for an extra serving of the table bread if you need a carb-loaded snack because this is the most forgettable pizza you’ll ever eat at a restaurant.

The Bottom Line

Why are you ordering pizza at the Cheesecake Factory?

Fettucine Alfredo

Dane Rivera

Calories:: 1450

As far as chain restaurant Fettucine Alfredos goes, Cheesecake Factory has the best. Having said that, this is still just boring old stock fettuccine alfredo. There just isn’t anything to say here. The sauce is thick and creamy, the noodles are cooked al dente, giving this dish a nice bite, but that’s everything worth mentioning. You could spice it up by adding chicken to it, but if the Cheesecake Factory simply added broccoli or mushrooms to this dish, it would instantly level it up.

As it is, it’s good, but you’re never going to remember that time you had fettucine alfredo at the Cheesecake Factory.

The Bottom Line

Great for chain restaurant fettuccine alfredo but that’s not saying much. Still, it is a considerable leap above what Olive Garden offers.

Loaded Baked Potato Tots

Dane Rivera

Calories:1030

I’m not the biggest fan of tater tots. I get that they have a nostalgic allure to them for a lot of people, but it’s gotta be one of my least favorite form factors for potatoes. Cheesecake Factory must feel the same way, because they’ve taken every effort to dress these up, stuffing them with bacon, green onions, and cheese, before breading and oven baking them. This makes each bite an exciting burst of savory flavor that doesn’t even need the sour cream or sriracha mayo dipping sauce that comes served alongside them.

Having said that, the sauce definitely kicks things up to the next level. I’m going to suggest the sriracha mayo over the sour cream, it adds a nice bit of sweet chili heat to these perfectly baked tots.

The Bottom Line

If you have warm nostalgic feelings in your heart for tater tots, these might strike your fancy. If you recognize that the tater tot is the lamest form of fried potatoes, these aren’t going to change your mind.

Good

Almond-Crusted Salmon Salad

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1650

I’m not the biggest fish salad fan, so take this one with a grain of salt — maybe it deserves to be in the “great” category — but for me, this one was… just okay. Featuring a pan-seared almond encrusted salmon atop mixed greens, kale, Brussel sprouts, avocado, tomato, quinoa, cranberries and radishes, tossed in a simple vinaigrette, this salad is incredibly fresh and light. The cranberry raisins add a nice burst of tartness, and the hidden chunks of avocado embedded in the lettuce are always a pleasant surprise. The fish is cooked perfectly, flaking off with the gentlest stab of the fork.

The use of a vinaigrette over a heavier dressing is appreciated — it makes for a harmonious mix of flavors. Definitely worth a try for fish salad fans.

The Bottom Line

Fresh and light, this salad will fill you up without making you feel heavy… if you’re into that sort of thing.

Pasta Da Vinci

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1180

It pains me to see Pasta Da Vinci land in the middle of this list because, until this tasting, this was my go-to Cheesecake Factory order. Turns out I’ve been slumming it. Pasta da Vinci features sautéed chunks of juicy white meat chicken, tossed with mushrooms and onions in a savory and complex Madeira wine sauce served over penne pasta with parmesan cheese. The flavors all work great here, offering a heavy umami-forward pasta that will make your mouth water between bites. The sweetness of the onions provides a nice counterpart to the dish’s deeper savory flavors.

All in all, this is a good pasta dish. But The Factory has better.

The Bottom Line

A delicious umami-forward pasta, but far from The Cheesecake Factory’s best.

Miso Salmon

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1340

I have to hand it to the Cheesecake Factory, the glazed salmon that tops their Miso Salmon dish is probably the best salmon I’ve ever had from a chain restaurant. It’s fresh and perfectly flakey, tearing apart with the slightest touch of a fork, with a crispy crust that adds a nice mouthfeel to each bite. The flavors are focused and direct, but overall I just wanted more out of this dish. The salmon is served atop a bed of white rice that is sitting in a miso sauce with a side of snow peas that really works more as a garnish than as an accompaniment to the dish.

The presentation is beautiful, but I wanted something that paired nicely with the out-of-this-world salmon, and white rice and miso just aren’t doing it for me. It ranks in the “Good” category on the quality of the salmon alone.

The Bottom Line

A delicious glazed salmon dish, I just wish the sides were as inspired as the salmon itself.

Korean Fried Cauliflower

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1150

Fried cauliflower tossed in sauce is the best thing to ever happen to cauliflower. It just works, it doesn’t matter that this is meant to mimic chicken, this is just a fun way to enjoy cauliflower without getting any of that, you know, cauliflower taste. These are essentially just a vehicle for sauce. Don’t get hung up on the name, aside from a sweet and spicy Gochujang-based sauce, and I guess the use of rice flour, these aren’t in any way Korean. Cheesecake Factory, you can’t just open up a bottle of Gochujang and call a dish “Korean,” but — cultural appropriation aside — these are pretty damn good.

The toasted sesame seeds and green onion act as a negligible garnish, as all of the flavor is in the sweet and mildly spicy sauce. That subtle heat is going to make it so that you’re unable to stop eating these things, which is okay. Just tell yourself it’s cauliflower and you won’t have to feel any guilt. Until you realize that somehow an entire order is over 1000 calories. The cauliflower will come with a single lime wedge, definitely squeeze that over the whole dish as that burst of tartness adds a nice dimension to the flavor profile.

The Bottom Line

The only way to eat cauliflower at The Factory.

Chicken Parm Pizza Style

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1940

I have a lot of fun explaining this dish to people. It might be easy to understand in the written word, but when explaining it to people out loud they almost never know what the hell I’m talking about. This dish isn’t a pizza — it’s a giant piece of white meat chicken flattened out into a disk, coated with bread crumbs, slathered with marinara and melted mozzarella, and topped with forgettable chopped angel hair pasta in a barely-there alfredo cream sauce. Cutting off a slice and holding it in your hand will make you feel like it’s pizza, but it’s not. There is no bread in this thing, that’s all meat. How did they make the chicken so wide and round? Who the f*ck knows.

The Chicken Parm Pizza is good, it’s just a really weird way to enjoy chicken parmesan, and the breading isn’t nearly crispy enough. The whole time you’re eating it you’ll be asking yourself: “Would I have just preferred a regular standard chicken parm? Do I really just want breaded fried chicken on top of a regular pizza?” The answer to both questions is “yes.” Order this if you’re curious, but otherwise, there are better things on the menu more worth your time.

The Bottom Line

Again, it’s not pizza… it’s a giant flat piece of chicken breast meat. Stop thinking about the work it took to make it this wide and try to enjoy it.

Oreo Dream Extreme

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1600

Of the four desserts I tried, the Oreo Dream Extreme was my least favorite, so it’s landing in the “Good” category. Sorry, Oreo fans. This thing has actual Oreos baked into Cheesecake Factory’s cheesecake with fudge cake layers, Oreo-based mousse, and milk chocolate icing. Each bite provides a nice balance of sweet cheesecake and rich chocolatey goodness, but it feels… maybe a little too decadent. Cheesecake is already so rich that it’s hard to eat an entire slice and this is probably the richest form of cheesecake ever conceptualized.

Order it if you absolutely love Oreos, but if it sounds crazy to you and like it’ll make your stomach hurt, I’m here to confirm — it is and it will. Of course, I was in the process of eating 25 dishes in one sitting…

The Bottom Line

Great if you love Oreos, but just a little too decadent and extreme to come at the end of a meal.

Great

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1250

We’re now officially in the “Great” category and to usher us into some of Cheesecake Factory’s best dishes, we have the BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad. This one is heavy, featuring wedges of avocado, tomatoes, bits of grilled corn, and savory black beans, served atop romaine lettuce tossed in BBQ ranch dressing, with cucumber adding a refreshing top note to the otherwise heavy flavors, and crispy fried onion rings adding some nice crunch to the whole thing.

Because the dressing is cut between ranch and bbq sauce, it doesn’t feel overly creamy and pairs perfectly with the grilled chicken pieces, with the black beans balancing out any sweetness imparted by the bbq. As everything on this salad is separated, you’re going to want to give it a good toss to mix the flavors around. This is the type of salad you order for the table and share or take home for multiple servings.

The Bottom Line

A delicious hearty salad that’s perfect to share with a full table.

Bacon-Bacon Burger

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1520

Restaurant burgers are almost always good, and Cheesecake Factory’s Bacon-Bacon burger really takes things to the next level. This is one of the best burgers you can grab at a national chain, forget all about Red Robin, Ruby’s, Applebees, TGIF, etc. The bacon on this baby is insane, each strip is thick, crispy, and properly rendered. The fat hasn’t been burnt off, but it’s not in the least bit chewy, providing you a crispy bite full of flavor and smokey savory goodness on top of a thick piece of ground beef (cooked medium) and topped with American and cheddar cheese, giving you the perfect melt with a nutty, complex, mild cheddar flavor.

Pulling all the flavors together is a mayo-based special sauce, but honestly, this burger is so full of juicy flavor that I think you can actually completely ditch the sauce, which can’t be said for most burgers out there.

The Bottom Line

The best bacon burger you’re likely to find at a national restaurant chain.

Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1000

It should surprise nobody that a place called the Cheesecake Factory makes great cheesecake. This is a great slice of cheesecake, topped with fresh strawberries glazed in a sweet syrup that helps to add some brightness and a little bit of tang to this supremely rich dessert. If you’re turned off by the sometimes sour qualities of cheesecake, this has almost none of that. Although this cheesecake is about as basic as you can get, the individual flavors that make this thing up really nail the job they’re tasked with. The simple graham cracker crust adds hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, which give depth and complexity to the rich egg and fresh cheese base.

I almost always prefer fresh unaltered strawberries to the syrup glazed variety, but the sugary syrup really helps to meld the flavors together here, making the strawberries truly feel a part of this cheesecake, instead of merely a topping.

The Bottom Line

A classic and the restaurant’s namesake for a reason. If you love cheesecake, this one is damn good.

Sourdough/Sweet Wheat Loaf

Dane Rivera

Calories: 260/370

Everybody makes a big fuss about Olive Garden breadsticks which, I just don’t understand, because The Cheesecake Factory’s table bread is about 10 times better. Your options here are simple, at your table your server will bring you a mix of sourdough and Sweet oat-encrusted wheat bread, both of which pair amazingly with butter. There isn’t a lot I can really say about bread, but if I had to choose one over the other it’s definitely going to be the wheat. It has a sweet earthy flavor with crusty oats that is legitimately craveable.

The Bottom Line

Yes, indulge yourself and eat that table bread. It’s worth the extra carbs.

Steak Diane

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1150

This is some damn good steak. It’s simple, seasoned with little more than freshly crushed black pepper, a mushroom-based wine sauce, and some sweet onions, but each bite is bursting with flavor. The steak has a nice chew, with a great charred flavor that pairs perfectly with the earthy notes of pepper. The onion and mushroom wine sauce really ensure that each bite is juicy and tender and the whole thing is served alongside creamy and buttery mashed potatoes, which act as a nice palate cleanser that allows you to experience the intensity of that first bite of Steak Diane over and over again.

The Bottom Line

A round of applause for whoever the hell Diane is, this savory steak is a highlight of the menu.

Chicken and Biscuits

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1940

While I don’t think the Cheesecake Factory’s Chicken and Biscuits is a dish you absolutely need to try, it is definitely one of my all-time favorite dishes on the menu. This dish is heavily indulgent, featuring chunks of chicken breast smothered in pan gravy alongside mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and the best part of the entire dish — two perfectly baked biscuits. The gravy ensures that each bite of juicy chicken is savory. The gravy is really delicious, it’s not too heavy and has a runny more sauce-like consistency with a pepper-forward flavor that pairs nicely with the chicken and mashed potatoes, and serves as the perfect dipping sauce for your sweet and buttery biscuits.

I really wish Cheesecake factory offered the biscuits as a table bread, they’re dense without being dry, with a nice buttery and crunchy top. That said, this is the type of dish that’s going to knock you into a food coma, so be aware that this is just as heavy as you imagine it would be.

The Bottom Line

Heavy and comforting, it isn’t exactly the chicken and biscuits of southern cooking, but it’s a delicious chain-based interpretation.

Chicken Madeira

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1180

The Chicken Madeira has a great flavor, but something about it didn’t quite stick out at my tasting. When I started to dive into the leftovers at home, I really started to understand just how great this dish is. The Madeira features juicy bites of chicken breast served alongside asparagus with slivers of mozzarella cheese on top, all smothered in an umami-packed mushroom Madeira sauce and a side of red-skinned mashed potatoes. The best way to enjoy these flavors is to mix them all together and enjoy.

The Bottom Line

This is easily one of the Factories five best chicken dishes.

Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1090

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the culinary wonder that is the chicken sandwich so I was fully ready to hit this with some serious scrutiny. But I’m happy to report that Cheesecake Factory’s fried chicken sandwich is f*cking astounding. You can order this sandwich with either spicy buffalo sauce or chipotle mayo, but honestly, either sauce isn’t going to blow you away as much as the chicken itself. It’s juicy and tender and melts in the mouth as soon as you start to chew it, and the flaky crispy batter provides a great crunch and mouthfeel.

The sandwich sits atop a sesame seed brioche bun and is topped with melted jack cheese. The only thing that could make this sandwich better would be the inclusion of bacon, but this sandwich is so big and hearty that you don’t really need it. You might get some sideways glances for ordering a chicken sandwich at Cheesecake Factory, but the mere sight of this thing will make every person sitting at your table feel like they made a mistake by passing on it.

The Bottom Line

Way better than a chicken sandwich from the Cheesecake Factory should be. If you think the height of chicken sandwiches is Popeyes, prepare to have your mind blown.

Must-Try

Carrot Cake

Dane Rivera

The Cheesecake Factory’s Carrot Cake is so damn good that they should change their name to The Carrot Cake Factory (okay, not my best joke — but also not as hyperbolic as it sounds). This is some high-quality carrot cake, sporting three layers of cake and cream cheese with chunky walnuts and julienned carrots encrusted into the cake, offering a bite that has more texture than cake should, but a flavor that makes it all work.

The cake is moist and way easier to eat than cheesecake since it’s not quite as rich, but you still get that sweetened cream cheese flavor. I like this a lot better than the standard cheesecake, but it still isn’t the best dessert dish I’ve ever had at The Factory, that’s still to come.

The Bottom Line

I promise you, it’s better than the cheesecake.

Fried Macaroni and Cheese

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1310

If it seems like this is waaaaaaaaaay too high to rank mac and cheese, I get you. But Cheesecake Factory’s Fried Macaroni and Cheese takes your standard mac and cheese and levels it up. The best macaroni and cheese has an oven-baked cheesy crust on it, The Factory elevates that idea by coating balls of creamy mac and cheese in crispy bread crumbs, which provides this usually soft and chewy dish with some much-needed crunch. The result is a dish with a satisfying mouthfeel that reveals molten bites of melted cheese and pasta.

The whole thing is served over a creamy marinara sauce, which adds some nice optional brightness to the dish. It’s not needed, but it’s appreciated. Cut into one of these fried cheese balls with your fork, dredge it across the creamy marinara and bite! You’ll quickly find that this is going to be a must-order app every time you visit.

The Bottom Line

The perfect form factor for macaroni and cheese.

Egg Roll Sampler

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1340

I was originally going to break up the Egg Roll Sampler into entries for each individual egg roll, but ordering the dish is such a fun experience that I’m going to go ahead and suggest you get the sampler for the table, instead of just your favorite flavor. The four flavors include Cheesecake Factory’s Avocado, Tex Mex, Cheeseburger, and Chicken Taquito egg rolls, and while there is a definite hierarchy to these they all offer a good flavor paired with a delicious sauce.

I’ll start with what I think is the most forgettable egg roll — the Cheeseburger. It’s what it sounds like, a cheeseburger in the form of an egg roll, with ground beef and cheese inside paired with a thousand island-style dipping sauce. It’s a weird way to eat a cheeseburger, but it’s crazy how well they nailed the flavor notes.

Moving on to what is sure to be my editor’s favorite, the Avocado Egg Roll, which is served with a pesto dipping sauce. The roll has some sun-dried tomatoes which add salty brightness, but this egg roll just strikes me as a little too sweet for my liking. If you live for all things avocado this is an easy pick-up, but for me it was just a little too soft, lacking that egg roll crunch you expect to get.

I know I talked a lot of trash about the Factory’s poor attempts at Mexican food, but both the Chicken Taquito and Tex Mex eggrolls are mind-blowingly delicious. The Chicken Taquito tastes like a crunchy, bite-sized chicken enchilada and is served with a creamy avocado-based sauce. The flavors are intense and each bite is surprisingly juicy. But no eggroll can top the Tex Mex, which features tender pieces of white meat chicken with corn, cilantro, and sundried tomatoes served with the closest thing to actual salsa that Cheesecake Factory serves.

This is easily a must-order. You’re guaranteed to have a better eating experience by starting off your meal with this appetizer.

The Bottom Line

Why choose one of the eggrolls when you can just get them all?

Godiva Chocolate Brownie Sundae

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1760

If you order one dessert at the Cheesecake Factory, it has to be this Godiva Chocolate Brownie Sundae. It may seem weird to go to the Cheesecake Factory and not order you know, cheesecake, or hell even cake, but nothing beats this. Creamy scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream and hot fudge are wedged between two dense and chewy Godiva chocolate brownies, with bites of toasted almonds scattered across the whole thing. I highly suggest shaving off a chunk of the brownie with your spoon, letting it sit in the hot fudge, and then spooning some vanilla and whip cream on top of that for the perfect bite.

It’s moist, decadent, and refreshing in a way that cheesecake just isn’t. It doesn’t have the richness of cheesecake, but it’s way easier to share and frankly, looks more impressive on the plate.

The Bottom Line

Cheesecake Factory’s best dessert, hands down.

Spicy Chicken Chipotle Pasta

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1760

Cheesecake Factory’s food is at its best when its food matches the restaurant’s equally all-over-the-place architecture. The Spicy Chicken Chipotle Pasta, with its mix of chicken, asparagus, bell peppers, peas, garlic, and onions in a spicy Chipotle parmesan cream sauce sounds like some sort of cooking show challenge, but I promise you this dish presents a world of flavors that’ll have you addicted to The Factory. The chicken is glazed in honey, giving it an initial sweet taste that pairs well with the chipotle cream sauce. It’s not quite as spicy as I had hoped, but the refreshing mix of red and yellow bell peppers and the asparagus pairs interestingly with the earthy fried tortilla chips that garnish this dish.

It sounds and looks all over the place, but it delivers visually and on the palate.

The Bottom Line

What sounds like a disaster on the menu translates to a delicious mix of flavors. It’s not spicy, but it’s definitely good.

Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

Dane Rivera

Calories: 1560

The reason we decided to break up this food ranking into categories, rather than numbers, is because it feels a little unfair to rank something like a salmon salad against a brownie chocolate sundae. But if I absolutely had to pick what I think the best tasting dish at the Cheesecake Factory is, it would be an equal toss-up between the Cajun Jambalaya Pasta and the Spicy Chicken Chipotle Pasta.

Both dishes promise spice — the former has the word “spicy” right in the name and this dish is described as being served in a spicy cajun sauce — and while neither delivers on that front, the Jambalaya pasta offers mouthfuls of intense flavor that I highly recommend (even to anti-chain restaurant food snobs).

Tasting this, I got notes of onion, smoked paprika, earthy black pepper, and oregano, and the slightest hint of cayenne pepper, which provided a subtle heat on the palate, but not one strong enough that this is going to turn off people who can’t handle spice, as it’s very easy to eat. Giant chunks of shrimp and chicken breast make this dish extra hearty and the spinach linguine everything sits atop is a nice touch that never feels too heavy. This dish truly delivers a journey of flavors. The shrimp isn’t fishy, offering a clean and remarkably fresh flavor, with bites of fresh tomato that provide juicy bright bursts to offset this plate’s umami bomb qualities.

An absolute winner. You can eat the whole thing on a bed of rice, but I say give the spinach linguine a try — you won’t be disappointed.

The Bottom Line

Cheesecake Factory’s best pasta. Period.

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