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Cheesecake Factory – Restaurant Review

cheesecake factory

I’ve continued to eat at The Cheesecake Factory since I became gluten-free seven  years ago. I have found that if I stick to fairly simple meals (plain salmon, brown rice and steamed veggies), most restaurants can handle it (most.…is the key word). I have never once became sick at the Cheesecake Factory after eating the plain salmon meal. So, I was very intrigued when I saw that they now have an official gluten-free menu. Needless to say, I rushed over. How exciting! It’s a totally independent menu. Nice!

ccfThere were many of their older dishes on this new GF menu which must have been naturally gluten-free to begin with. The new items that jumped out at me were the gluten-free hamburger buns and gluten-free pasta. Of course, I had a bunch of questions to ask. I’ve listed them below with my waiter’s response.

Do you use dedicated oil for the French fries listed on your gluten-free menu? No. I then went on to ask why they would go through the effort of introducing this menu without doing it correctly. Despite my attack on their procedure, he was very nice and was eager to learn and help me.

Do you use dedicated water for your GF pasta? Yes (continue reading for the real deal on this).

What is the flour blend for the pasta? I don’t know but I will bring you the package. It turns out is Heartland brand which is a rice and corn blend.

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Their new GF pasta

What is the brand of your GF hamburger buns? I’m not sure but I’ll check….(later) It’s Udi’s.

Are your salad dressing gluten-free? Most of them (so please ask when ordering).

Do you use GF blue cheese? (The manager came over to answer this one)…Yes.

Do you have GF beer? No, but we do have Angry Orchard Hard Cider (YUM)

angryorchardI notice your Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake is gluten-free. Has it always been gluten-free? No…we were told it was in the past but then we discovered there was gluten (wheat flour) in the crust (SCARY). It has now been revamped to be gluten-free.

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Their statement on the menu about gluten content

I decided to try something new to me so I ordered the pear and candied pecan salad with goat cheese (below). This has been on the original menu for some time.

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Pear and candied pecan salad with goat cheese

The salad was pretty but I did not enjoy the taste. It did, however, not make me sick. I decided to order the pasta to go for Sammy (below).

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Children’s pasta dish with marinara sauce…it was enough for four kids.

Much to my dismay when I got home and served Sammy some pasta, look what I found (see below)…I have to assume this is a wheat flour noodle since they mentioned nothing of a second type of GF pasta. Since they told me they use dedicated GF pasta water, I am assuming this came from a shared colander or they do not indeed use dedicated water…either way, this was a serious mistake. I absolutely would not consider the GF pasta here at The Cheesecake Factory a “celiac friendly” meal or for anyone else eating GF for that matter. It also makes me wonder about their other GF procedures as well.

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Found in Sammy’s GF pasta dish

ccf3Of course, I had to try the GF Godiva chocolate cheesecake for dessert even though it has dairy. I had only a few bites (scrapping away the whipped cream) and it was chocolate heaven…cheesecake is something they do well.

Will I be back? Yes, on occasion I will go back when my older kids want to go. I will order my usual, plain salmon with brown rice and veggies. I will have Sammy order the hamburger since there are probably fewer ways to mess that up. So for me, nothing has changed at The Cheesecake Factory. For Sammy, well, now he gets to have a bun with his hamburger. It’s really not a big thrill for him since he’s been raised since two years old to just eat the meat of the hamburger. I’m sad that yet another major restaurant chain has jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon without doing their research and training both the kitchen and wait staff properly. I’m hoping there will be enough complaints that they will correct this. This restaurant review gets a “thumbs down.”

 thumbs down

Post By Kim Rice (96 Posts)

I am a Wellness Coach and "warrior mom" of three children. I have been following a gluten and dairy-free diet since 2007. I have experienced amazing results losing over 60 pounds and a whole host of health issues along the way. My son on the autism spectrum has been on the diet since 2009 and it has changed the course of his life. He is now considered "recovered." As a Wellness Coach, I am passionate about helping others transition to a gluten and dairy-free lifestyle.

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2 comments

  1. Amber Neeley

    Well, I just got out of the hospital after a severe allergic reaction from a BIG mistake by The Cheesecake Factory. Before I explain the details know that I am doing much better, and I’m safe at home with Tommy by my side.

    So, this is what happened…
    To reward 12 people on my team I promised to buy them lunch and they selected The Cheesecake Factory. After rounding up everyone’s selection I hunted the menu posted on the Cheesecake Factory website and was at a loss in figuring out what was dairy free and gluten free as I am not allowed to have either out of medical need. The menu posted turned out to be a VERY outdated version and they did not have allergen facts posted. After my search only turned up minimal results I called the store and was transferred to the bakery to discuss my options and place my order. The man I spoke to was very nice and frantically tried to help me find a desirable gluten/dairy free option. We spoke for a while, uncovered that the website version of the menu was REALLY outdated (“weight management” selections have been replaced with the “skinnylicious” menu and such), and the young man suggested that I speak to the “manager” because he knows the ingredients better. The “manager” got on the phone and started telling me why I couldn’t have certain things and SUGGESTED the “Tuscan Chicken” after I asked if they still made the”Chicken Medallions”. The manager explained that it was just grilled chicken tomatoes asparagus capers artichoke in a balsamic sauce like the chicken medallions and promised that they were “absolutely 100% dairy and gluten free”. Excited about that option I decided to go with that. One of my employees decided to have whatever I found so that I wouldn’t feel alone while everyone else ordered yummy pasta and burgers. The “manager” put the bakery employee back on the phone to complete my order. Total phone call time aprox 24-25 mins and we ended the call by the bakery employee telling me that the Tuscan chicken plate tickets were flagged with wheat/dairy allergy to eliminate cross contamination and the food should be ready in 20-25 mins. I head over to The Cheesecake Factory and can’t get into the valet/curbside area because it is PACKED so I have to park in the parking structure and walk to the resturant. I end up getting there about 40 mins after I ordered and waited another 10-15mins by the bakery for the “cashier” to return as the man behind then counter said it wasn’t his job to deal with to go orders. The cashier returned we went over the order and he pointed out the “wheat/gluten/dairy” allergy plates and I paid for my food. $175 to go order and I gave the guy a $20 tip. He asked me to go get my car and try to pull around because there was more food then I could carry so I did. The food was brought to my car and I squeezed out of the valet area. I got back to the office and a coworker started helping me distribute the food. Mine looked delicious so I opened it up and took a few bites of the veggies and they were really good. I suddenly noticed a puffy grain on the plate (mostly under the chicken) and I became very concerned. The menu I had didn’t list this dish, but I remembered the name so I googled it. http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/menu/skinnylicious/tuscan_chicken
    Grilled Chicken Breast with Tomatoes, Artichokes, Capers, Fresh Basil and Balsamic Vinaigrette. Served Over Fresh Vegetables and Farro. I didn’t know what Farro was so I googled “is farro gluten free” http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenfreefoodshopping/fl/Is-farro-gluten-free.htm
    Question: Is farro gluten-free?

    Answer: Farro refers to several different types of wheat, including spelt and more ancient forms of the grain such as Einkorn and emmer. As wheat, it contains the gluten protein, which is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye, and is most definitely not gluten-free.

    Imagine my surprise after spending that much time with The Cheesecake Factory staff including the “manager” finding a wheat/gluten and a dairy free option only to end up eating WHEAT! Something that can KILL ME!!!! So I call the restaurant and ask to speak to Mike, the “manager” and I explained the situation. I broke down crying to the guy knowing a just at poison and not knowing if anything will happen. His first words to me in response were “first of all lady I never spoke to you, you talked to two regular employees not the manager, but I”ll remake the this for you if you don’t like it”. I then asked him if he could make an exception and bring it to my work, he laughed and said “We don’t do that but I’ll throw in a slice of cheesecake for you that’s the best I can do”. I asked for my money back back and he repeated his last statement. Offering me dairy??? Do you not understand what is going on here? I’m allergic! I told the guy I wasn’t going to deal with him anymore I was going to take it to corporate. I looked up the corporate info and called them immediately only to get transferred to “guest relations” or some title for customer service and it went directly to a voicemail!!!

    Corporate Office
    The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
    26901 Malibu Hills Rd.
    Calabasas Hills, CA 91301
    Phone: (818) 871-3000
    Fax: (818) 871-3001

    Hysterical I called my boyfriend and explained the situation. He apparently kept calling the corporate office demanding to speak to someone and he ended up telling my story to someone there, Kasey I think and she referred him to Jessica Cook. He had Jessica from the corporate office call me a few mins later. While this was going on my employees took it upon themselves to go to to The Cheesecake Factory to trade in my dish for a new one. When they got there the manager gave them a remade WHEAT FREE dish and offered to send me a slice of cheesecake AGAIN! I guess another employee had to tell him “allergic to dairy, remember!?” so instead he sent a gift card back with my employee. Jessica calls me and as I’m explaining the situation I start violently vomiting, I broke out into a rash, and my face/neck began to swell. A coworker helped me find my EpiPen and tried to get me to take it but I was so scared of the needle that it took me a few swings to actually work up the courage to stab myself with the meds. We rushed to the Kaiser ER and I was seen immediately. They took great care of me pumping me with the needed meds to help with the reaction, monitoring my progress, and I started to feel better. I stayed there for several hours and they released me once the vomiting, rash, and swelling went away. I’m home now, with a major tummy ache, and exhausted.

    I am so shocked that a well known restaurant like this would not have the proper tools to help their restaurants successfully feed people with dietary restriction the food that is safe for them. What would have happened if I ate the entire thing?

    1. Kim Rice

      Hi Amber
      I am so sorry to hear about your experience with the Cheesecake Factory. I too am concerned about their ability to follow simple dietary guidelines such as no wheat, no dairy, etc. My biggest concern with restaurants is their high turnover of staff. Even if they train people to be extremely careful with special dietary restrictions, those trained people are typically gone within a short amount of time. They are also younger people who may or may not understand the importance of getting “it right.” See my post on this subject. http://thrivinggluten-free.com/the-gf-market-the-importance-of-getting-it-right/

      I find that ordering very simple meals like I mentioned in my post about the Cheesecake factory does help somewhat but is certainly not a guarantee that something won’t happen. I always advise my clients who are in an extreme healing phase (trying to heal various health issue related to food sensitivities) or who are otherwise very sensitive (Celiac Disease, IgE allergic or just simply very sensitive) to NOT EAT OUT. It is just too risky.

      I wish you speedy healing and thanks for sharing your story. I will share this with my followers do they too can understand the risks involved in eating out.

      Kim Rice

      P.S. Have you contacted Cheesecake Factory Corporate?

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