When they opened a cheesecake factory in Westbury Long Island, my ex Sister In Law always wanted to go there for Sunday Brunch; it was the in-thing for Long Island Jews to do for some reason. I didn't care much about restaurants in those days. and I never went. It was a couple of years before I even knew that you could get food there other than cheesecake and coffee.
As my tastes evolved, the Cheesecake factory was still never on my radar. I live close to this location on Las Olas, but it was probably 3 years before I ever went in. I went in for brunch once before; I sat at the bar and it was a pretty good experience. But the Cheesecake Factory is where people who don't go out to eat much go when they go out to eat. jump-->You have to know that coming in.
I had no intention of going to the Cheesecake Factory for brunch today, but I was out walking the boulevard and stopped by to look at their menu, which they have displayed on the outside wall. I noticed that they have hanger steak and eggs. As I walked east on Las Olas I kept thinking about it, and I decided to stop in on my way back. Since it was a pretty nice morning in May, I opted to eat outside. This location has 2 outdoors options; you can either sit on the sidewalk right on Las Olas, or you can sit on the patio facing Shanahan House. I got a table on the patio.
There was a time when outdoor dining was a pure delight, but in recent times it's become a place where smokers and those who dine with dogs hang out, so it's not nearly as appealing. Luckily there were no smokers near me; they don't even have ashtrays on the tables so they don't encourage it. There were, however, a lot of dogs, and pidgeons scattered about the patio.
Yes, that's a baby carriage. Ok, well they were pretty cute dogs and they were pretty well behaved, so they didn't bother me as much as the birds. I really don't like birds.>
A server whisked by and said she'd be over shortly; sort of a little tease. When she did, I ordered the hanger steak medium rare and 2 over easy, with potatoes and rye toast. No rye, once again. Only white and wheat. A big time bakery like this should have better bread. Of course I got the standard setup, which includes 2 kinds or bread; it's just not the kind of bread that I want with eggs. I asked if they had a brunch deal on mimosas; just a "no" response. Ok, well how much are they and how big is the glass? $7.95. Do they come in a little champagne glass or a big glass? She couldn't (or wouldn't) tell me the size of the glass. Ok, I'm not going to pay $8 for a splash of cheap champagne with OJ, so I ordered coffee. Not exactly the hard sell here.
It took way too long to get the coffee. Again, the dreaded clear mug. What is this, 1995?
While waiting I was treated to a jumble of music that started with Ce Matin La and finished with April in Paris; in between was a bad remake of Lennon's Imagine by Avril Lavigne; why do they remake classic songs? I want to hear Avril Lavigne singing Imagine about as much as I want to hear Yellow Submarine done by Smashmouth. A runner finally dropped off the food.
Cheesecake Factory - Too Raw Hanger Steak and Eggs
Now I like my meat medium rare and leaning rare is OK, but this was what I call hopelessly rare. I couldn't eat this. So I flagged down my server and gave her the bad news. The standard offer here is that they'll either throw it back on the grill or remake the entire dish; since I didn't want cold or reheated eggs, I opted for the full redo. A manager came over and apologized; the whole thing was handled properly. A second try came out in about 10 minutes, interrupting a mellowing rendition of Banana Pancakes
Cheesecake Factory - Hanger Steak and Eggs
They tried to butter me up with some wilted parsley as garnish, but I was having none of it. I think it's fairly obvious from the pictures that they didn't actually give me another piece of meat. This was clearly cooked after it was sliced, and the number of slices, the size of the slices and the sear marks are the same. Throwing it back on the grill would have been fine, but don't pretend that you're making me a new steak when you're not. It was also sliced with the grain, which is wrong; tougher cuts of meat like skirt, flank and hanger should be sliced across the grain to break down the fibers and tenderize the meat. It's about what I expect at the Cheesecake Factory, but just because they don't have master chefs doesn't mean that they can't at least be taught some basic skills.
I sliced the big slices across the grain and it was just fine; the potatoes didn't really do much for me. The salt shakers were completely useless; they were just filled with a big clump of what appeared to be kosher salt (although it could have just been bloated table salt). After several attempts to unclog the shaker, I just dumped some on a plate and salted my food with the chef-pinch technique. Rice in shakers looks bad, but it really does work.
Service outside was clunky. Either my server had too many tables or she was overmatched. Nothing went smoothly; it just didn't seem well organized. Every time she passed by she asked if I needed something, but when I did she was never around.
I'm never quite sure why people love this place so much, unless it's just the big portions. There was a time not so long ago that this was the only brunch on Las Olas other than the Hotel (which is always too packed on weekends), but now with Yolo, Big City Tavern and Foxy Browns serving brunch; there are other, more interesting choices in the area at about the same price point.
UPDATE: I recently tried the Baja Chicken Hash as the Boca Cheesecake Factory. It's a loser. Try something else.