New York City is home to tens of thousands of restaurants serving every possible cuisine, from cultishly adored street carts to Michelin-starred fine-dining institutions where checks regularly soar into four figures — so why does everyone want to go to the Cheesecake Factory?
The suburban shopping mall fixture known for its massive menu and equally massive portions opened its first New York City location last week at a shopping mall in Queens, and dozens of people waited in line for their chance to be the first ones in the door. The chain, which has more than 200 locations, doesn’t take reservations, and diners are reportedly waiting as long as three hours for a table.
So why are people in one of the world’s top dining cities so psyched for the arrival of a suburban chain? Surely it’s more than just basking in the 8,000 square-foot dining room surrounded by those faux-Tuscan pillars. Here’s why NYC is seemingly obsessed with its newly arrived Cheesecake Factory:
The gigantic menu: Cheesecake Factory’s menu is so huge it’s spiral-bound. Kale salad? Fried mac and cheese? Spicy ahi tuna rolls? Miso salmon? Steak diane? Margherita pizza? Fish tacos? A dozen different burgers? Check, check, aaaand check. While it’s enough to give indecisive diners a migraine, it also makes the chain a reliable choice for families and big groups.
The food is actually pretty good: Unlike Times Square tourist traps like Applebee’s and Olive Garden, basically all 200-plus menu items at Cheesecake are made fresh (exception: the cheesecakes and cakes are shipped in from an off-site bakery). As NY Post critic Steve Cuozzo writes, “Many dishes are not only ‘better than they need to be,’ they’re just plain good.”
The value factor: While many chains raise their prices when they open in New York City to combat the crazy-high rent and other costs, Cheesecake Factory’s menu prices are the same there as they are everywhere else. The chain is also famous for its monstrous portions — think chicken madeira that’s big enough to feed two people and fill a takeout box for $16.95, or an absurdly huge platter of nachos for six bucks.
The obscene desserts: Few can resist the allure of three dozen different types of cheesecake that arrive to the table crowned with towers of whipped cream or gobs of flamed-to-order marshmallow — even if the menu plainly displays the fact that some of them have more than 1,500 calories. (Remember, this is the same city that went utterly apeshit for those absurd Black Tap milkshakes.)
Everyone wants what they can’t have: AKA “if you build it, they will come.” NYC may have restaurants serving every global cuisine imaginable, but until last week the only Cheesecake Factory in the area was located way out on Long Island. Many New York transplants also undoubtedly have fond memories of the Cheesecake Factory in their hometowns, and the nostalgia factor is likely playing a part.
Celebrities inexplicably love it: We’re not saying people are flocking to the Cheesecake Factory just because Drake filmed a music video there, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. A number of Kardashians have also been snapped at the Calabasas, California location too — which makes sense considering matriarch Kris Jenner featured it in a terrible music video she made in the 80s.