Opening the menu at The Cheesecake Factory is like opening an encyclopedia. Spiral-bound, it's filled with nearly 200 menu items and 50 types of cheesecake. You'd think a restaurant named after the creamy dessert would have more flavors of cheesecake than entrée options.
As you flip through the monstrosity that is a dining menu, you might find yourself torn between a couple...or five...dishes, leaving your head hurting and your stomach growling. I know I have fallen into this conundrum, and often I resort to asking my waiter or waitress what his or her favorite dish is -- and it's always something different.
So to help you narrow down your dining decision before you dig into the sweet treat you really came for -- cheesecake -- we have provided you with ten of the best dishes on The Cheesecake Factory's menu. Hopefully now you won't have to make a game-time decision when the waiter returns to your table.
10. Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls
Begin your meal with something light and fresh. The Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls (available on the SkinnyLicious Menu) feature a variety of raw vegetables (asparagus, carrots, green onion and shiitake mushrooms) with rice noodles, cilantro and small cold shrimp, all wrapped in thin sheets of rice paper. Dip these summer rolls in either the spicy chili sauce to make your taste buds dance, or use the peanut dipping sauce for a milder, but sweet, addition to the crunchy, refreshing summer rolls. Not everything at The Cheesecake Factory has to be heavy.
9. Fresh Basil, Tomato and Cheese Flatbread
The Cheesecake Factory offers three types of flatbreads: sausage and ricotta, roasted pear and blue cheese, and fresh basil, tomato and cheese. While two have daring flavors, stick with the classic. When soft basil leaves cook with thin slices of juicy tomatoes and a combination of three cheeses (mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan), it's perfection. The crust is crispy, the cheese is melted just right and the strong aroma of basil and tomato will alert your stomach that what you're about to eat is going to be amazing. You can order this item on the "SkinnyLicious Menu," for a lighter serving size.
8. Fresh Vegetable Salad
Before The Cheesecake Factory offered its "SkinnyLicious Menu," I ordered this salad when I wanted something lighter than a giant burger or bowl of pasta. This is not a salad with the standard vegetables found on simple house salads or garden salads (carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes). No, it's loaded with chopped asparagus and cucumber, crispy green beans, chunks of tomato, roasted beets, edamame and apple (yes, it is not a vegetable, but it is a refreshing, sweet addition to the salad). All of this sits atop a combination of radicchio and romaine lettuce, then sprinkled with soft white cheddar cheese and tossed in a pomegranate vinaigrette. Everything tastes so fresh and light, and leaves you feeling like you just took a trip to the farmers market and made a salad with everything you bought.
7. Shepherd's Pie
I don't get shepherd's pie that often, but every time I go to The Cheesecake Factory my eye always falls on this comforting Southern dish. A layer of mashed potatoes and a crust of Parmesan cheese sit atop the wonderful goodies that make this dish so scrumptious: carrots, peas, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and of course ground beef, all coated in a savory beef sauce. Forewarning, though: This dish is not the most beautifully presented, especially when you start digging into the potatoes to scoop out the beef and vegetables. But, just because it's not a pretty dish, doesn't mean it doesn't taste good.
6. Petite Filet Mignon
There are multiple steaks to choose from on The Cheesecake Factory's menu, but because you can have only one, we suggest you order the Petite Filet Mignon. It's probably one of the smallest portion sizes of meat on the menu, but each bite is juicy, savory and tender. Exchange the standard French fries for mashed potatoes -- they go better with the onion strings and steak, in my opinion. If you're in a hurry, request that your steak be butterflied; your meal will be out in no time.
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5. Thai Lettuce Wraps
I rarely order appetizers at The Cheesecake Factory before I order my entrée. It's an absurd amount of food. But, the portion sizes of the appetizers are perfect for splitting between two people as a main entree. The Thai Lettuce Wraps come on a platter with all the individual components needed to build your own wraps. Take tender lettuce leaves and fill with a mixture of shredded carrots, bean sprouts and coconut curry noodles, followed by sweet satay chicken strips coated in sesame seeds. Finish each wrap with the savory tamarind-cashew sauce, the classic peanut sauce, or the sweet red chili sauce (it'll make your lips tingle).
4. Stuffed Chicken Tortillas
When you come to The Cheesecake Factory, you know you're going to get a lot of food, so why not go all out and order the Stuffed Chicken Tortillas? These aren't your typical enchiladas. The Cheesecake Factory takes corn tortillas and stuffs them (hence the name) with spicy chicken; the tortillas are then covered in a mixture of melted cheese and tomatillo sauce and seasoned with cilantro and green onions. And if that's not enough, it comes with salsa and sour cream to dip into, as well as sides of grilled corn cakes and black beans.
3. Four Cheese Pasta
One of my friends orders this dish every single time we go to The Cheesecake Factory. She won't even look at the menu because she knows exactly what she wants, the Four Cheese Pasta. It's simple, but that doesn't downgrade the overall taste. You'll definitely be overwhelmed by the amount of pasta (and cheese), but that just means you'll have leftovers for a few days. The penne pasta is covered in a sweet marinara sauce seasoned with basil, and shavings of Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese. The fourth cheese, ricotta, is placed on top of the dish in globs, inviting you to take each bite of pasta with a scoop of it.
2. Chicken and Biscuits
When I was younger, my mom always made chicken pot pies in ramekins topped with a small puff pastry. So, this take on a chicken pot pie hits right at home. The Chicken and Biscuits is almost a deconstructed chicken pot pie where two biscuits are placed on top of sauteed chicken and a peppery white gravy. Next to the chicken and biscuits you will find a mound of mashed potatoes with peas and chopped carrots. Scoop up a piece of the biscuit with some mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies and chicken for the ultimate bite.
1. Louisiana Chicken Pasta
This is definitely not one of the healthiest items on The Cheesecake Factory's menu. But it is most definitely the tastiest. I discovered this dish after one of my friends decided to order it because she loves spicy food. We didn't quite know what to expect, but when her plate arrived, everyone wanted a bite -- one of the perks of large portion sizes. The al dente bow tie pasta is coated in what the menu describes as a "Spicy New Orleans Sauce," which seems to have lots of cayenne powder. The pasta is tossed with the tender cremini mushrooms, diced red bell peppers and onions. But, that's not all. It's topped with crispy chicken breaded in Parmesan cheese. It's a spicy twist on Chicken Parmesan. Rather than a marinara sauce, the pasta and chicken are tossed in a zippy cream sauce. You'll need a lot of water after a few bites. Trust me.
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