heaven has a graham cracker crust
Cassandra Landry | 5.19.15 | Issue #17
Yeeeeeah, so The Cheesecake Factory is amazing.
This is something I’ve probably always known in my heart of hearts, but it takes an evening in the chain’s San Francisco kitchen in the clouds to know for sure.
This particular monolith, adored by tourists and local industry folk alike, is on the eighth floor of the flagship Macy’s, so a certain degree of grandeur awaits when you step off of the elevator. On the way up, people are tittering with excitement in no fewer than three different languages, and when the doors slide open, we all stumble out like small-town girls who've just landed in Vegas for the first time ever, mouths agape at all the gold and red. The host stand is a sweeping marble hotel concierge check-in counter, flanked by windows taking in sparkly nighttime views of Union Square. There are people eating on the patio, and even though their hair is being held straight up by the wind, they are laughing like people in stock photos.
Our server is very kind and never stops moving, even when he gamely answers our amateur queries about how many cheesecakes they get delivered every day (a lot) or how long it takes people to read the menus and decide what they want (a long time). It feels like that pulled-taffy moment before the Millennium Falcon pops into lightspeed.
We order something called Buffalo Blasts—the only thing we can find that’s trademarked, thus, a must-have—mini corn-dogs, and a kale salad because we are dignified ladies. My blended bellini tastes like the best peach in the world and very healthy which must be why I drink it so quickly. It’s a smoothie in a very sensual, curvy glass! It’s also pretty, and tall, which requires me to drink from the straw while holding it somewhere in the vicinity of my lap. I don’t mind, because it is very, very good. The Buffalo Blasts, which turn out to be a sort of cheesy-chicken mash wrapped in spicy wonton wrappers and fried, don't come with ranch, and when we request some, it arrives in a little silver gravy boat that makes me think you could probably ask for just about anything and they would bring it. This fills me with an inexplicable joy. When it's time for cheesecake, we ask our kind server an existential question he probably hears all day every day: do we go classic? Or crazy? Original cheesecake? Or Snickers-chocolate-lava-toffee-Oreo-explosion? He tells us to give in to the crazy, because it is a Tuesday night and we are alive! (Live out loud, Karen! as I once heard a girl tell her friend in passing.) Maybe he didn't say that last part in words, but his eyes definitely did. We go with the Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake, which yes is the full name. We eat one-third of it, and promptly black out at the table. It's amazing.
On the way out, we stop at the bathrooms, which are right next to the kitchen. Servers come flying out of those doors once every three seconds, sometimes less, and scream CORNER like someone might yell GRENADE in another much more serious type of situation. It’s usually because they are carrying a sheet tray of fajitas or approximately nine plastic steins of water and four martinis or have just cleared a six-top of their entrees (solo!) and if someone even sneezes in their direction, that ship’s going under.
Descending back down to Earth from graham cracker-crusted Heaven itself, there's a moment when we don't feel the elevator moving and a sleepy panic ripples through our sugar-laden veins. We've packed five more humans on this thing than the recommended limit, and now we're stuck in this elevator and we're all going to die, but hey what a great way to go...until my brilliant dining companion points up at a row of photos above the doors. Chicken wings are illuminated, and then shrimp, then steak! It must mean something! There's a soft ding, and the doors slide open. We're all grinning and phew-ing like some hero pilot just pulled off a rough landing, and everyone waiting to pile into the chariot to the 8th floor must think that we have just had the best meal of our lives, clinking glasses and laughing with all our teeth showing. They all look at each other like, Let's live out LOUD, Karen!