As I was leaving the Cheesecake Factory tonight, carrying my leftovers, I was faced with reality. The reality that I didn’t have a 45 minute commute home! Haha!
That’s right my friends, as we first reported at the start of the year, The Cheesecake Factory finally came to Valencia. It wasn’t a hoax, it wasn’t a rumor, it wasn’t all a dream. The fact is, they are busy training in preparation for their Election Day grand opening. They open to the public on November 8.
People often make the assumption that I get invited to all sorts of food events and grand openings because I’ve been writing about food in SCV for over ten years, but that isn’t the case at all. In fact, the only reason I got to attend the “practice session” tonight was because one of the managers extended an invitation to the staff at Placerita Junior High School and my best friend happens to work there. I thought that was a really kind and thoughtful gesture, and it was nice to see so many local educators having a completely comped night on the town (on a school night even).
Today was their first practice run with “customers” after pretty intense training. In talking to one of the hosts while waiting for our table, she explained to me that training had been an amazing experience. She said it was almost like a Cheesecake Summer Camp with team building and encouragement. She has worked at other restaurants, but said the experience thus far training at this location was unlike any she had been through before. Maybe she is on to something. Everyone seemed really happy to be working there. No one seemed overwhelmed or rushed or annoyed, and after our waitress took our orders, her trainer was there to give her positive feedback. The host I spoke with said that the trainers really built up everyone’s confidence and she really saw herself moving up in the company.
We showed up a little early tonight and saw as parties were led in through the doors as groups. At one point people assumed we were lining up for a job fair. Once inside, we ended up having to wait a while longer to be seated, but we were given pagers and tickets for free drinks at the bar. At this point it didn’t even feel like a training day at all. Every single time I’ve been to any Cheesecake Factory (and I’ve been to a lot) I’ve had to wait. I can only imagine the wait times for this new location in Valencia, but that’s why they give you pagers.
I’m calling it right now. There will be long wait times. It is what it is. Go next door to the Shelter of Hope and pet some puppies while you wait…or go to the Pottery Barn, their holiday collection this year is stunning. Or just go browse the Cheesecake maybe.
The full menu is a small book full of options that span a wide variety of cuisines (one of the biggest criticisms they face is how there are too many options). And while I tend to always order a different entree (after all it is just a gateway to dessert), there have been a few constants in my life: strawberry lemonade (sugar on the brim but they only refill with regular lemonade for some reason), the honey wheat brown bread (why do I love this bread so much) and the fresh banana cream cheesecake (sometimes I’ll get the carrot).
As far as chains go, The Cheesecake Factory is really consistent in terms of esthetic, service, food, and cheesecake. Growing up in Southern California, I would go there for special occasions or for dessert after a night out with friends. And no matter the location, the food always tastes the same (even at the Grand Lux Cafe). The portions are huge, possibly meant for sharing, but it is rare to leave without leftovers. It seemed like tonight every single table (including us) had bags of leftovers.
Tonight we were given limited choices spread between two different menus. It seemed like some tables got more meat centric dishes while we landed the pasta/chicken menu, and others had the burger/taco menu. It was meant to help the kitchen really prepare for the rush once the restaurant opens to the public. We got to choose an appetizer (nachos) and as my entree I tried the white chicken chili, really unsure of what to expect and honestly I ordered it in a panic because I couldn’t decide, but I guess it is good to trust your instinct because it was actually really good. Very hearty, like comfort food, and maybe it will become my new go-to entree, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered the same entree twice. My best friend ordered the breaded chicken which we both thought was really good too.
I can’t offer much feedback on what to order as an entree because in all my years going, the entree has always just been a means to an end. And the end is cheesecake of course. Tonight, opting for something different, we ordered the Oreo Dream Extreme, described as Oreo cookies bake with layers of fudge cake and Oreo cookie mousse topped with a milk chocolate icing. This was RICH. So rich. But so luscious…actually eating leftovers as I type this.
I know that some people have really been looking forward to the Cheesecake Factory coming to town, and there are others that don’t understand the appeal. There are people that have never been to the Cheesecake Factory (most notably my own significant other who grew up in Central California). And then there are the haters. The ones that don’t want another chain in town, the ones that say it isn’t good and vow never to go eat there. To them I say, thank you. Stay away. The lines will be long enough as it is. Personally, I appreciate The Cheesecake Factory for what it is (a chain with huge portions and cheesecake for dessert) and I think having one in town is pretty cool, mainly because I never thought it would happen and I certainly never advocated for one like Todd, Larry and Scott did. I could have just as easily done without one in town, but as I said earlier, not having to commute is really convenient when I get the Cheesecake craving or I need to pick one up for dessert. I’m still waiting on a dim sum place though, real talk. If anything, maybe the wait times at your favorite restaurants will decrease now.
Wherever you stand on the issue, there is no denying that The Cheesecake Factory opening up in Valencia (Santa Clarita) is a big deal. It means a sort of legitimacy, like look at us! Awesometown is worthy! And while I don’t mean to take away from the mom and pop shops, who will always have my support, there is a time and place for The Cheesecake Factory.
And in Valencia, the time is now.
The Cheesecake Factory is located at the Westfield Valencia mall, across from Pottery Barn.