Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Cheesecake Factory – Tampa, FL

Yesterday I was craving the Thai Lettuce Wraps from The Cheesecake Factory.  Their menu literally has hundreds of options, but I can’t get myself to order anything else. They are so amazing that they’ve ruined all other lettuce wraps for me – I’ve tried making them myself or ordering them at other restaurants and I always end up disappointed.  

So last night after shopping for Halloween costumes (more on that later) we headed over to International Plaza.  Since we both work weekends and tend to eat out on weekdays, I sometimes forget how insanely packed places get on Saturday nights.  The line was completely out the door and hungry people were crowding the entrance anxiously holding buzzers.  Luckily the wait for two was only a half hour, so we put our names on the list and took a lap around the shops at Bay Street to pass some time. 

By the time we sat down I was pretty hungry, so I was happy for the bread basket.  I don’t normally get too excited about free bread, but their whole wheat brown bread with oats is actually worth the calories (their sourdough is nothing special). 

Their drinks are a bit pricey, but I splurged and tried the Pineapple Moscow Mule – Stoli vodka, pineapple, ginger beer, and lime.  It was such a refreshing drink that we bought some pineapple juice and ginger ale to make our own.  We’re enjoying our copycat version now while watching the Steelers game…although Lance has renamed it the “Steel City Mule”. 

I of course knew what I wanted to order, but Lance was between several options.  He ended up with the Cobb Salad. 

My lettuce wraps are classified as an “appetizer”, but they could really be shared between two people as a meal (my mom and I have done just that before).  The wraps are unassembled and very messy to eat, so maybe not a first-date meal.  If you’re concerned about looking like a slob, you can always just chop up the ingredients and eat them as a salad instead.

The Bibb lettuce comes with satay chicken strips, carrots, bean sprouts, and coconut curry noodles. The three sauces are really what give the wraps their flavor – peanut, sweet red chili, and tamarind-cashew.  It tastes best with a combination of all three. 

Lance’s Cobb Salad was nothing memorable – it had a nice amount of avocado, but the rest was a bit underwhelming.  We purposely only finished half our entrees to save room for something sweet.

It’s smart of them to name their restaurant after a dessert – you can’t have dinner without a slice of their cheesecake.  We ordered Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple – not sure who Adam is, but his cake is the best we’ve ever had there!  The cheesecake has swirls of caramel and peanut butter with Butterfingers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.   

It was so decadent that I’m not sure how we finished the whole thing.  Actually the last bite fell off the plate – and after witnessing a server haphazardly wipe down the table next to us, we were hesitant to eat the last anything that touched the tabletop. 

If you have trouble deciding on a cheesecake, the people at ordered all 34 on the menu and ranked them.  The plain low-carb cheesecake sweetened with Splenda and topped with strawberries came in last, but other than that, I’d probably ignore their ratings.  The one we had tonight was somehow ranked 31st and their only reasoning was that it was mostly candy.

We enjoyed our meal – but I think next time we’ll try to eat there on a week night and avoid the crowds.  It's nice that we didn't have to worry about dinner plans for tonight though - plenty of leftovers!

The Cheesecake Factory is located at 2223 N Westshore Blvd B201, Tampa, FL 33607 and is open 11am – 11pm Monday through Thursday, 11am – 12:30am Friday and Saturday, and 10am – 11pm Sunday.   

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