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Another day, another crowd waiting for a table at The Cheesecake Factory.
The Cheesecake Factory is, after all, America's favorite casual-dining restaurant, according to Nation's Restaurant News.
The chain serves 80 million diners a year in its 160 wildly popular outlets. Dining rooms are stocked with Disney-fied signifiers of 'fancy restaurant' like plush booths, faux columns, vaulted ceilings, and crisply-costumed servers. Everything on the menu is bigger and richer than it needs to be. Tastier too, relying heavily on flavorful crowd-pleasers like butter, cream, cheese, sugar, and salt. Table settings are over-sized, the better to accommodate the gargantuan portions.
No big shocker
This is not health food. It's amped-up comfort food, hearty, soothing, and indulgent. Caveat emptor, right? It's not like it's named The Melba Toast Factory.
Does that mean The Cheesecake Factory gets a free pass?
The Cheesecake Factory has been singled out in new reports from both Men's Health magazine's 'Eat This, Not That!' and the health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest for dishing up the absolute worst food in America.
At 2,530 calories, the French Toast Napoleon is a breakfast bomb of cream-drenched bread, butter, and sugar that contains the calories of three dozen eggs.
Crispy Chicken Costoletta crams 2,610 calories (along with 4½ days' worth of saturated fat) into its 'lightly breaded' cutlets with mashed potatoes and asparagus; the same as an entire 12-piece bucket of fried chicken from KFC.
Bistro Shrimp Pasta tops every other entree option with 3,020 calories of battered and fried shrimp, butter, and cream atop enough noodles for a family of four. Even at the Olive Garden, hardly a dieter's haven itself, you'd have to eat three orders of Lasagna Classico plus a serving of tiramisu to reach the same nutritional profile.
When the Center for Science in the Public Interest gave top 'honors' to The Cheesecake Factory in this year's Xtreme Eating Awards, it noted that "No establishment better represents the confluence of factors that have saddled America with an ever-worsening obesity crisis.' The CSPI identified just eight Cheesecake Factory dishes as 'fit for consumption' from its vast menu of literally hundreds of items.
Let me be very clear: I am no fan of the Nanny State.
The right to choose what we eat is as much a cornerstone of a free and democratic society as free speech and a free press. Ditto for The Cheesecake Factory's right to pile on the salt, fat, and sugar.
But just because they can, it doesn't mean they should.
The Cheesecake Factory crosses the line.
It's not merely catering to a willing public with a taste for fats; it's pushing the boundaries of our taste, and pushing harder than any other restaurant out there. The Cheesecake factory creates permutations of fat and calories that are without precedent, and serves them forth in eye-popping portions.
Where's the social contract?
Is there no sense of social responsibility at The Cheesecake Factory? The low nutritional standards seem to be rivaled by the abysmal ethical standards of its corporate leaders.
You can say that that nobody's twisting my arm to eat there. You can say that it's beyond the scope of corporate responsibility to provide a solution to society's ills. But I still say that it's unconscionable to be an intentional part of the problem.
Shame on you, Cheesecake Factory.
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