Quite against my will I ate at a chain restaurant our first full day in Palm Beach County. I had something good picked out, something Thai, but once Ian heard there were two Cheesecake Factories within six or seven miles of us north or south, he determined that was where we'd eat. Cheesecake Factory thrilled me about twenty years ago, but now? I prefer it not. Their menu is too varied to do anything well. Their cheesecake usually disappoints. It attracts a certain crowd. Yet, it is familiar. And I had a decent time eating at its Boston location's bar. But that was only because the bartender was excellent.
Anyway. Cheesecake Factory in West Palm Beach is located at Cityplace, an up-scale shopping and dining monstrosity smack downtown near the city's convention center. Quite lovely if you're upwardly mobile, into spending lots of money on designer products, and don't need any integrity or authenticity of architecture to revel in.
But I digress. Actually, I'm building up to a rather poor experience. Parking is free on Sundays. We found a spot within a block. We were seated quickly outside on a patio adjacent to a large (20+) table of early twenty-somethings. They were loud. Their voices, singing, and obnoxiousness echoed. The service was slow. Our food was cold. Well, the endive salad I ordered, after learning that they were "out of" my first choice Market Salad, was supposed to be cold. So what took so lon to slap those few ingredients together? They were also "out of" diet coke, Ian's drink of preference.
The bread was good. As was the butter. My unsweet iced tea hit the spot.
The view was boring. We watched random luxury vehicles mixed in with some plebeian forms of transport search for close parking. We counted the different cab companies. One bit of excitement was the horse-drawn carriages. Actually, Cityplace is quite lovely. At night it is illuminated by lots of bulbs. And all the facades are shiny and new. And there are enough people not speaking English around you to lend a sense of exoticism or "not in Kansas anymore."
My salad was good, but bitter. Somehow I didn't realized just how bitter the endive would be. I suffered through. Felt as though I had to "take my medicine" in the form of this bitter salad so that I could indulge in the real reason I'd ever come to Cheesecake Factory: For the cheesecake.
Ian's grilled chicken sandwich was okay. It was supposed to be jerked. But tasted Bland to me. His fries were cold. Problems with the kitchen? Or with the service? Actually our waitress was serviceable. And we weren't in a hurry. But I couldn't help but notice that two men seated quite some time after we were had their pasta dishes promptly and had paid and left the joint before our cheesecake arrived. And I noted another unhappy couple; another issus of poor service.
Ian ordered the chocolate peanut butter cookie dough cheesecake. He complained that is was dry. The only peanut butter on it was the swirl of fondant (?) topping its edge. On the other hand, my cheesecake was grand. Very rich though. With a name like chocolate coconut cream one might think that there was lots of chocolate going on.
Thankfully not! The chocolate referred to its crust. The rest was coconut cream cheesecake over a bed of coconut. I'd liken it to a mounds bar. But better. The coconut I scraped off the bottom chocolate crust was gooey and rich; reminded me of the kind of coconut that accompanies German Chocolate Cake. Ian tried mine, and he thought my choice of cheesecake beat his hands down.
I reminded him that I have great taste. I married him, didn't I?
And yet our 2007 Zagat survey listed Cheesecake Factory as the most popular restaurant. It tops the list which includes other chains like Houston's, P.F. Chang's, Morton's, Ruth's Chris, Bonefish Grill, and Melting Pot. I've been to all but the last and prefer not to haunt chains of any kind. How can Palm Countian's prefer Cheesecake Factory when there is a wealth of authentic cuisine to choose from in Florida's largest county? Perhaps abundance makes them immune to good taste and they seek out the plain, the boring, the chain?
Ah well. I've several more days to spend sampling Palm County's restaurants and Cuban is next on our agenda. And something I've "learned" about my dining preferences is that I like an aesthetic view and I require quiet, or a romantic environment. Good food is important too, of course.