With a castle-like façade, a phone-book-sized menu, and massive portions, The Cheesecake Factory aptly represents all-American abundance. [Coincidentally, it’s what Mitt Romney ate before the first presidential debate on October 3.]
Beginning with its name, The Cheesecake Factory, this chain restaurant builds not upon a tradition of artisanal craft, but of mass production. The interior continues this theme. A mash-up of ancient Rome, Medieval England, and today’s Las Vegas, the restaurant interior features ridiculously high ceilings and nearly comedic interpretations of Corinthian columns, projecting an exaggerated view of middle class luxury.
The spiral-bound laminated pages of the menu boast more than 200 selections, representing a variety of ethnic traditions from pasta marinara to miso salmon—not to mention chicken teriyaki, di pana, madiera, picatta, and marsala, to name but a few. Half the menu features this multitude of food options, while ever other page features advertisements. With restaurants often located in or near shopping centers and malls, The Cheesecake Factory menu seamlessly links the dining experience to the consumerist activities outside the restaurant.
With heavily weighted cutlery, diners dig into meals served on boat-like plates, complemented by stein-like glasses better suited for mead than iced tea. The abundant choices and portion sizes match the number of calories in each entrée, as a single meal often exceeds an adult’s daily caloric needs. [In 2011, the Center for Science in the Public Interest gave The Cheesecake Factory items two of its eight Xtreme Eating Awards.]
Offering freedom of choice, abundant servings, and menu offerings representative of Americanized “melting-pot” cuisine, The Cheesecake Factory represents America at her best—and her worst.