When you slide into a Cheesecake Factory booth, you’re greeted with two of the most premiere wonders of the modern world. First, the brown bread, warm and sweet and distinct to the Factory. And then, almost simultaneously, the Cheesecake Factory waiter passes you the menu.
In all honesty, the spiral-bound, booklike menu could more accurately be described as a manual. Divvied up by section, from appetizers to cheesecake to the ever-endearing "Skinnylicious" list, it is perhaps one of the most informative and vast pieces of reading material that can be found in today’s restaurant market. Any successful venture to The Cheesecake Factory includes at least a solid fifteen minutes of silence, spent studying and analyzing the meal options. Even then, after truly considering the novel before you, the only real way to ensure you’re not missing out is to become a regular at the Factory, sampling different meal combos every time and memorizing the menu like it’s mandatory school reading and there’s a quiz later
But you likely don’t want to bring that level of dedication to dinner. And you don’t need to! We’re here to save you from the awkward fate of an overly long silence as you attempt to narrow down options. As Cheesecake Factory fanatics who have already committed the enormous menu to memory, we’ve ranked the most popular Cheesecake Factory menu items from worst to best. Read on to shave down your study time next time you slide into a booth.
18. Low-Licious Cheesecake
Okay, we get the draw here. Your entire family opts to go to The Cheesecake Factory, and while you’re feeling the vibe (that interior!) and definitely craving a slice of their namesake dish by the time dinner ends, you’re off sugar at the moment. Or maybe you’re gluten-free. Or maybe you’re just trying to make healthier decisions in general. We respect it. And The Cheesecake Factory has a whole menu for people like you, so you can enjoy oversized apps and carefully crafted mains with the best of ’em. It’s called the "Skinnylicious Menu," and we’ve definitely flipped straight to its dedicated page more than once. The servings are still incredibly large, so why not cut back where you can?
The Skinnylicious menu is not bereft of options. In fact, its section alone is still larger than entire menus at other restaurants. From small plates to cocktails, The Cheesecake Factory swears that every offering of the Skinnylicious variety is under 590 calories. It is their "collection of fresh and delicious menu options with lower calories and signature rich taste," as they put it.
While that may be true for many parts of the menu, we cannot in good faith recommend the Low-Licious Cheesecake. For a dish that derives most of its worth from densely-packed calories and sugar, the low-cal, no sugar added alternative was never going to cut it. Its flavor is a sad echo of what might have been. This one definitely does not take the cake.
17. Shepherd’s Pie
Here’s the thing about Shepherd’s Pie at The Cheesecake Factory. Is it classic? Yes. Does it have the potential to be better at The Cheesecake Factory than it might be home-cooked, or even better than it is at other comfort food restaruants? Also yes. It is The Cheesecake Factory, after all — they have mastered most menu items. But at the end of the day, this dish is still just plain old shepherd’s pie. And, ultimately, that places it pretty low in the ranking.
The ground beef attempts to be the star of this dish, but it is definitely upstaged by the mashed potato and parmesan cheese crust. You read that right: mashed potatoes and parmesan cheese, melted and crisped together into one incredible crust. It’s hard to beat that level of carb and cheese fusion. The background ensemble here consists of carrots, peas, zucchini, and onions, all mixed alongside the beef and covered in a thick mushroom gravy. Taken as a whole, this dish is dynamic and hearty. But then you realize that it’s still plain old shepherd’s pie.
The Cheesecake Factory clearly doesn’t need to limit the number of dishes they have on the menu; it’s already massively oversized, so why bother cutting back? But if they ever did need to downsize a bit, we’d recommend starting with their comfort food options. Don’t get us wrong, the Shepherd’s Pie and its calorie-laden companions are tasty, but The Cheesecake Factory has better things to order.
16. Crusted Chicken Romano
It is difficult to look at this one without feeling hungry. True to form, The Cheesecake Factory serves up one of the most gigantic slabs of chicken breast we’ve ever seen and coats it in a romano-parmesan cheese crust. We only wonder if The Cheesecake Factory will ever stop coming up with ways to incorporate cheese into literally every one of their offerings.
We hope not. Their well-known and much-loved Crusted Chicken Romano doubles down on parmesan, actually baking it onto the chicken and topping the mound of spaghetti with a generous portion of the same. The Cheesecake Factory is somewhat vague in their description of that noodle mound, listing it as "pasta in a light tomato sauce." Somehow, we don’t believe that anything about this dish — or, honestly, The Cheesecake Factory in general — is light.
This dish gets a few points for innovation, sure. The chicken crust alone is something new and interesting, not to mention tasty. But, when placed in the arena against the rest of The Cheesecake Factory’s most popular options. the Crusted Chicken Romano simply doesn’t stack up. At its base, it is a fairly standard dish that doesn’t go to any great lengths. You’ll leave full, of course, but other than that, the Crusted Chicken Romano doesn’t feel like anything to write home about.
15. Celebration Cheesecake
The Cheesecake Factory is a prime spot for any celebration. Its massive menu appeases classic large-group concerns. "Will everyone find something they like here?" is a question that can be answered simply and assuredly with an affirmative "yes." It’s a tall order, but if you’re headed to The Cheesecake Factory for any celebration (a birthday especially) restrain yourself just enough through apps and mains to save room for this adorable cheesecake.
The Celebration Cheesecake is exactly as festive as it sounds, combining layers of vanilla cake, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla mousse with cream cheese frosting and, of course, cheesecake. The whole shebang is made complete with rainbow sprinkles (yes, both in and on the cake) and a hearty dollop of whipped cream on the side. Personally, we live for the slightly crunchy texture, here, but it’s undeniable that the real magic of the Celebration Cheesecake just lies in its colorful, childlike appearance.
There is nothing "low-licious" about the Celebration Cheesecake. When you scoop a bite, it’s evident that you’re really indulging. Very sugary, thick, and just large overall, the Celebration Cheesecake is an example of the delicacy at its best — and, at a whopping 1380 calories per serving, its absolute most calorific. Just remember that, depending on your mood and palate, a dessert that combines cheesecake, actual cake, whipped cream, sprinkles, and sugar may be a bit much.
14. Truffle-Honey Chicken
Now, this is chicken from The Cheesecake Factory that is one-hundred percent worth ordering. Forget the utterly average nature of the Crusted Chicken Romano, as the Truffle-Honey Chicken puts a whole new spin on the poultry dish. For many, that brings it from a "maybe we should try" to a must order. It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to this beauty, so let’s start with the obvious draw on this one: the name. Truffle-honey. Can you think of a more mouth-watering combination of words than that?
The "truffle" aspect is what elevates this dish. At its base, it is essentially just fried chicken served over mashed potatoes and asparagus. There’s nothing too inventive or groundbreaking about that. But bake some truffle seasoning into the chicken, and suddenly it tastes more like a delicacy than bar food.
Then The Cheesecake Factory takes it one step further by drizzling honey evenly across the chicken’s breading, which takes its flavor from interesting and salty to downright dynamic. Every bite delivers on this bad boy, packing both sweet and salty tones. Is it for you? Maybe. Not everyone really enjoys the taste of truffle, so if you’re not a fan of its funky flavor, you may want to pass this up. Plus, one other reason it doesn’t rank higher on our list of favorites is the fact that all the love that goes into the chicken does not extend to the sides, which are jarringly plain in comparison.
13. 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake
Here we have a second instance of The Cheesecake Factory amping up what could be a more typical offering by including one magic word: truffle.
Yes, in this case, it does take on an entirely different meaning — it is dessert, after all, and not fried chicken dinner. But seeing that word can improve the first impression of many dishes, from chicken to cheesecake. And, just as the Truffle-Honey Chicken may live up to the hype of its name for some, when it comes to the Anniversary Cheesecake, the first impression isn’t misleading. That ever-important keyword, "truffle" — here, referencing a fudgy chocolate dessert truffle, rather than the funky fungus — is evident in every bite. In fact, the 30th Anniversary Cheesecake may be the only appropriate dessert pairing for the Truffle-Honey Chicken. Although, where the Truffle-Honey Chicken is all-American and delicious yet simple, this 30th Anniversary Cheesecake is straight-up elegant.
This dessert needed to be fancy from its conception: it was crafted to commemorate none other than Cheesecake Factory’s very own 30th Anniversary in 2002. As any 30-year-old will tell you, three decades is a time to celebrate with decadence, and this cheesecake absolutely does the trick. Pairing layers of The Cheesecake Factory’s Original Cheesecake between thick slabs of fudge cake and chocolate truffle cream, the Anniversary Cheesecake is any chocolate fanatic’s dream. The truffle cream is without a doubt the standout factor. For best results, eat the crunchy, chocolate candy-coated siding first.
12. Factory Burrito Grande
There is no "go home" option, when it comes to The Cheesecake Factory. They only go big. This is especially true when it comes to their menu, obviously, but is also evident in their dishes. The standard portion size at The Cheesecake Factory ranges from large to extra-large — one thing any diner can be sure of is that you will not go home hungry (really, no one leaves The Cheesecake Factory anything short of stuffed). So when you take a restaurant that already leans large, and then see that they felt the need to specify the hefty size of this dish in its name, you know you’re in for a gut-busting meal.
And the Factory Burrito Grande is truly enormous. The Cheesecake Factory describes it as "a monster burrito" filled with all of the burrito essentials (chicken, cheese, rice, onions, peppers, and cilantro). It comes with a side of guacamole that is anything but skimpy, sour cream, salsa, and black beans. But who has time for sides when you’ve got an XXL Tex-Mex creation staring you down as the main? Not us.
The Cheesecake Factory’s Burrito Grande is a prime example of what it takes to do Tex Mex right, at least when it comes to ingredients, taste, and appearance. Yet, as much as you may like the flavor of the Burrito Grande, the portions may be too large even at the notoriously calorie-happy Cheesecake Factory. If you order it, be sure to be extra hungry.
11. Fried Macaroni and Cheese
Look, we know that The Cheesecake Factory didn’t invent fried mac and cheese balls. But, as far as we’re concerned, they made the concept mainstream in an entirely different way. We’ve never seen a restaurant that serves fresh-caught salmon and filet mignon also dabble in such borderline street food.
But, while it’s true that this might be a dish that’s hard to mess up, The Cheesecake Factory still gets props for their unique and thoughtful execution. Not everyone who makes mac and cheese balls does so in such an elevated way. Rolled in marinara and topped with freshly shredded cheese, they sit atop a red sauce pool with elegance. They’re presented in such a way that makes it feel only natural that they’d be plated beside a gleaming filet. If you haven’t tried indulging in mac and cheese balls whilst being otherwise fancy, you need to. But these guys work just as well for a casual meal, too. Talk about versatility.
It would be hard for the fried mac and cheese to be anything but incredible for most diners. The ingredients alone are the epitome of great-tasting comfort food: pasta, cheese, fried breading, marinara sauce, and more cheese. Any cheese and carb combo is good with us, and throw in red sauce? We’re done. Then again, if you’re really anxious about calories or want to stay out of a carbohydrate-induced nap afterward, you may need to pass up this ultra-rich menu item.
10. Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake
This legendary slice has everything we love about The Cheesecake Factory’s 30th Anniversary Cheesecake with a peanut butter twist. Almost any dessert with a peanut butter take on things is objectively better than it was before. The same is most assuredly true in this case, at least as long as you really love sugar.
The Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake has cheesecake, of course. That’s the foundational ingredient across all of their slices, and The Cheesecake Factory does it well overall. In addition to the cheesecake, though, this slice has the same chocolate fudge cake layers that the Anniversary Cheesecake executes so perfectly. The difference here is that instead of truffle cream between layers, we’ve got caramel. And instead of keeping the original cheesecake parts plain, for this dessert, The Cheesecake Factory blends in bits of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Coated with the same singular siding as the Anniversary Cheesecake, the Reese’s Cheesecake is made complete by a dollop of creamy frosting and the drizzles of chocolate and caramel on its top layer.
Now, this cheesecake may not win over everyone at your table. Some may protest that it’s overly sweet, especially for a cheesecake that, in its pared-down traditional form, comes with a distinct tang. However, those with a sweet tooth may well believe that Reese’s and The Cheesecake Factory are a match made in high-calorie heaven.
9. Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Is anyone not making a spicy chicken sandwich these days? This offering, which shares a name with the McDonald’s rendition of the same sandwich, is indisputably trendy in today’s fast food renaissance. Unsurprisingly, The Cheesecake Factory version may well outdo one of its many competitors, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Popeyes, and any other place that can churn out a chicken sandwich in less than five minutes. In some ways, those rivals are at an automatic disadvantage when stacked against The Cheesecake Factory’s more carefully crafted offering.
The meal is served on a sesame seed brioche bun, and diners are given the choice between coating their chicken sandwich in spicy buffalo sauce or chipotle mayo — leave it to The Cheesecake Factory to give as many options as possible at every turn. Beyond that choice, though, the sandwich is fairly consistent and typical. It’s topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, which is all good if not entirely surprising. Ulitmately, the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich does everything that its fast food competition is doing, but with fresher ingredients. Then again, it is also typically more expensive and requires a sit-down restaurant experience, perhaps going against the whole ethos of the truly fast food spicy chicken sandwich wars currently raging these days.
8. Crispy Brussels Sprouts
You can hardly call these a vegetable, but just look at the Brussels Sprouts and wonder: does it really matter? These well-cooked Brussels sprouts aren’t the sad, steamed version you may have been subjected to in your youth. Instead, they’re a near-epic starter, side, or shared plate at The Cheesecake Factory. For some, it may be surprising to learn that the sprouts don’t make it onto the restaurant’s low-calorie Skinnylicious menu, which is indicative of a couple of things. First, these babies are probably more suited to be a french fry replacement than a salad replacement. Second of all, there are enough non-sprout ingredients here to make the vegetable dish taste almost nothing like its original flavor.
The Cheesecake Factory describes these as roasted, but they are coated in enough oil that they could easily pass as fried. We’re not complaining, as the intensely salty flavor, made even more savory by the bits of bacon tossed in, is powerfully pronounced. That’s especially so when it’s contrasted with the "Vermont Maple Butter Glaze" that The Cheesecake Factory finishes these off with. They’re intensely tasty and a great reclamation of the Brussels sprouts reputation — just don’t be fooled into thinking they’re health food.
7. Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp
There are a few ways to approach the massive manual menu that The Cheesecake Factory presents diners with. Our personal favorite route is to lean into the sheer number of options and skip main courses altogether, opting instead for a wider array of appetizers and maybe even a couple of slices of cheesecake to tie the experience up with a nice culinary bow at the end. That being said, we respect The Cheesecake Factory’s dedication to main dishes. They craft each one with what seems like intense care and obvious attention to the theme.
For example, consider this Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp. Not only is the seasoning balanced and authentic-tasting, but The Cheesecake Factory pairs it with sides that are unconventional when compared to the rest of their dishes. Yet, those same sides are pretty well suited to this spread. If you decide to go the main course route at The Cheesecake Factory, power to you (and your ability to choose just one thing). This option, which plates sautéed shrimp cooked in a "very spicy" Jamaican black pepper sauce with rice, black beans, plantains, and marinated pineapple, should be a strong contender as you narrow things down. Plus, given that it’s not quite as carb-heavy as other dinner options here, it may be all the more appealing.
6. Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake
Simplicity is key when it comes to one of The Cheesecake Factory’s most popular cheesecakes. The Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake, which is just The Cheesecake Factory’s original cheesecake flavor topped with — yes, you guessed it — fresh strawberries has held onto the top spot for over 35 years, according to The Cheesecake Factory itself. It could be the creaminess and tang of the actual cheesecake itself that cinches the lead, or perhaps it’s the graham cracker crust that does it. It could be the fresh strawberries, though that’s a term we admittedly want to use loosely, after seeing the promotional image with glazed strawberries. However, we think the real kicker here is the absence of a sour cream topping.
The Cheesecake Factory’s Original Cheesecake is topped with a thin layer of sour cream instead of strawberries. We get that cheesecake isn’t made to be as sweet as, say, regular cake, but coating a slice in sour cream seems like it would stop quite a few people from ever sampling it in the first place. So, if you’re looking to experience the traditional Cheesecake Factory magic without subjecting yourself to sour cream, the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake is your best bet.
5. Almond-Crusted Salmon Salad
The actual magic of The Cheesecake Factory, we’d argue, is neither in their namesake cheesecake or the size of their famous menu. It’s in what that menu allows within its rather large framework. For example, at The Cheesecake Factory, you can seamlessly transition from Fried Mac and Cheese to this kale and salmon-based salad to a dense slice for dessert, all without thinking twice. There is variety like none other in that humungous menu booklet, and we’re here for all of the most unconventional pairings.
This main, which is undeniably healthy but still doesn’t quite make it onto that Skinnylicious menu, pairs well with anything. The slab of salmon is unsurprisingly large, pan-seared, and topped with a flavorful almond crust. The salad that sits just beneath the salmon is a well-dressed combination of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, avocado, tomato, quinoa, radishes, and cranberries. Each bite tastes fresh and healthy — perhaps a bit of a relief, given some of the other menu items — and the portion is still just daunting enough to ensure that you leave pretty full.
4. Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip
Bringing up the fourth place on our definitive ranking of The Cheesecake Factory’s best of the best is the Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip. We may get flack about this gem not ranking higher, honestly, as it is an absolute fan favorite on nearly all fronts. The dip, which is predominantly just gooey, savory cheese warmed up to the perfect scooping texture, also brings together crab and artichoke bits under a charred bread crumb topping. Served with beautifully toasted and buttered bread, this appetizer always goes away quickly. We can’t be the only ones who are so eager to dig in that we risk burning our tongue rather than waiting for it to cool to an edible temperature. You think we’d learn our lesson, but when this icon hits the table, all bets are off.
The reason the Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip doesn’t pull a higher rank comes down to the seafood. For many eaters, it turns out that crab can be pretty divisive. Especially for a dish that’s made to be shared, we would have loved to see The Cheesecake Factory go the more traditional spinach and artichoke dip route, instead of branching out and incorporating shellfish that could alienate some diners in your group.
3. Avocado Eggrolls
One look at these innovative beauties and we were sold. Taste aside, this appetizer spread is gorgeously fresh and visually appealing, with contrasting green, white, and red ingredients. Plus, it all makes space for the most delicious aspect of this appetizer: the fried egg roll shell.
Honestly, one order is never enough of this Cheesecake Factory original, which comes with six rolls and a tamarind-cashew dipping sauce. Each bite is a fantastic combo of avocado, sun-dried tomato, and red onion, seasoned with cilantro and wrapped in crispy fried goodness. Unlike other fried apps (looking at you, mac and cheese balls), The Cheesecake Factory’s avocado egg rolls are delicious without being overly filling, enabling you to tackle the rest of the menu relatively unhindered. The portion size here is … dare we say it’s normal? These are a truly delicious and non-overwhelming option, especially if you’re splitting it with a larger group. That said, nothing but respect for those who order this six-pack and take it on solo.
2. Hot Spinach and Cheese Dip
This absolute wonder of an appetizer is everything we love about the Warm Crab and Artichoke Dip, minus the crab. It’s therefore a far less divisive but equally as cheesy option. Really, the only issue with The Cheesecake Factory’s Hot Spinach and Cheese Dip is in its name. This dip does not just consist of spinach and cheese, as its moniker would lead you to believe. It is also laden with garlic, shallots, and artichoke hearts.
So, although The Cheesecake Factory decided against naming the dip the more recognizable "Spinach and Artichoke Dip," that is one hundred percent what this delicacy is. Before we discovered the truth (read, the artichoke) about this dip, we were much less inclined to order it. Hot spinach and cheese? Sounds less than enticing. We might humbly submit "Garlic Spinach and Artichoke Dip" as a new and more accurate name for this all-time favorite appetizer. Not that The Cheesecake Factory needs to find new ways to push the Hot Spinach and Cheese Dip. It is a Factory essential that is just as famous as their titular cheesecake offerings.
1. Thai Lettuce Wraps
When writing about the Thai Lettuce Wraps, we are faced with the same question we have when eating them: Where do we begin? Should we start by gushing about the just-sweet-enough satay chicken strips, or skip straight to the grilled avocado? Do we direct our attention to the peanut sauce, the sweet red chili alternative, or circle back to that incredible tamarind-cashew creation?
The best part of this appetizer, which also could make for a semi-light main course option, is the build-it-yourself aspect. The buttery oversized lettuce leaves serve as a healthy wrap, designed to be stuffed with carrots, bean sprouts, coconut curry noodles, avocado, and chicken. You control the ratio of each ingredient and, perhaps most importantly, you control the combination of sauces you use to finish the whole experience off.
The Cheesecake Factory is wonderfully oversized and calorie-laden in all aspects, so we appreciate the option of a more nutrient-forward starter that is still just as delicious as the rest of the menu. This iconic appetizer is uniquely Cheesecake Factory, and so light that there’s no reason not to try it right alongside the heap of other appetizers that you and your group will likely want to order.