It's hard to go wrong with cheesecake. If cheesecake is on the menu, it's almost always worth it to leave a few bites of steak and potato uneaten so you'll have room for a decadent, delicious dessert. Almost always. Cheesecake has like 4,000 years of history behind it, so there's really no excuse. But mistakes do happen with cheesecake. Whether it's laziness or sloppiness or because some restaurants just don't care that much, it is possible to order not-great cheesecake. And because bad cheesecake is an awful shame, we compiled a rundown on when you should order cheesecake and when you should opt to finish your entree instead, because regret is a terrible thing when it's in the form of an extra 950 calories you didn't even enjoy.
We arranged this list — in descending order from bad to awesome — based on what customers have to say about the cheesecake options available at popular chain locations. To decide on where to put what, we relied mostly on reviews and rants (extra points for excess use of exclamation points), a few professional comments, and a dash of personal preference. Serving size, accessibility, and calories fit into the selection a little; a good cheesecake from a small chain or one with an ungenerous portion size, for example, was grounds for demotion.
If cheesecake is 9/10ths of your reason for dining out, then here are the restaurants you should choose or pass up based on the awesomeness -- or not -- of their cheesecake.
Outback Steakhouse New York-Style Cheesecake (Takeout)
First the caveat: Outback Steakhouse does not have bad cheesecake. In fact, most people who order the cheesecake in the restaurant aren't disappointed, including one Instagram user who called the flavor and texture "amazing" and the sauce "not too overpowering." This person also complained that their slice was "a bit big," but that's just dumb. Cheesecake can never be too big. Well, maybe this particular reviewer should have ordered the Outback cheesecake to go because most of the complaints are aimed at what comes in that little Styrofoam container.
Outback's New York-style cheesecake is a classic cheesecake topped with your choice of raspberry or chocolate sauce. It looks lovely in photos, but perhaps the chef stops caring about curb appeal for slices intended for home consumption. One Reddit user posted a photo of Outback's takeout cheesecake next to the in-restaurant version, and it's pretty clear there's a portion problem. The takeout slice is maybe half the size of the dine-in slice, and that's a generous assessment. Another Reddit user posted a photo of a similarly diminutive slice of takeout cheesecake that had no crust.
We're not saying don't get Outback's cheesecake, but if you're ordering to-go, you might want to pick up a whole cheesecake from a grocery store bakery instead. And while you're at it, maybe you should also weigh your 11-ounce takeout sirloin just to be sure the restaurant is not skimping on anything else.
Olive Garden Seasonal Sicilian Cheesecake
Almost nothing you order from a restaurant looks exactly like what you see on the menu. Have you ever gotten a fast food burger that didn't look like someone sat on it? What about all that lovely, perfectly melted cheese and symmetrically dripping ketchup and mustard? Nope, it never looks like that.
Maybe Olive Garden was like, "Our cheesecake can totally look sloppy because fast food burgers also look terrible in person," or maybe it just doesn't think about it at all because it's too busy overcooking noodles and only putting like two olives in the salad. Anyway, the advertised photo of Olive Garden's seasonal Sicilian cheesecake looks fabulous, and who wouldn't want to order that after being disappointed by the salad and everything else they paid way too much money for.
But alas, reviewers complain that the Sicilian cheesecake not only looks bad, but it tastes bad, too. One Yelp reviewer said "they gave us some strawberry gel thing that was barely eatable." A Reddit user posted an image of their similarly strawberry-free cheesecake against the menu photo ... let's just say that in person, the Sicilian cheesecake kind of looks like someone dunked it in a bucket of water before serving it. "It was also frozen," the reviewer complained.
Carl's Jr. Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
To be fair, you can safely lower your expectations for any fast food dessert. It's all pretty meh, and it's even more meh if you order during slower times of day when food may have been sitting out for hours or, in this case, when it's been sitting in the freezer.
Partially frozen cheesecake is okay if you bought it frozen from the grocery store and are only eating it that way because you can't stand waiting for it to thaw. But when you order it from a restaurant, partially frozen is not okay, and completely frozen is just totally unacceptable. A trio of YouTube reviewers said their Carl's Jr. strawberry swirl cheesecake was so frozen they couldn't even get a plastic fork into it. Once they managed a bite, one said it was "good," another said it was "all right," and the third said it was like "cheesecake-flavored ice cream." Those are okay reviews, but okay is not glowing.
If you time it right, Carl's Jr's cheesecake is evidently worth buying so employees will let you use the bathroom, according to one Yelp reviewer who couldn't find a public restroom in Los Angeles. And since it only costs a few bucks and has only 320 calories, it's not as much of a gamble as an Outback or Olive Garden cheesecake, though let's face it, small cheesecake slices are always a disappointment even if they are good for your wallet and your waistline.
Uncle Tetsu's Japanese Cheesecake
Japanese cheesecake is not like American cheesecake, and that may be why Uncle Tetsu — a small chain with locations in California and Texas — has so many poor reviews. In fact, it's not totally fair to rank one against the other. It's kind of like complaining that a veggie burger doesn't taste like a turkey burger. Two different things, people.
Japanese cheesecake is lighter than American-style cheesecake, is often described as jiggly, and tastes a bit eggy, owing to the fact that it's basically a dessert souffle. So having said all of that, most reviewers who complain about Uncle Tetsu's Japanese cheesecakes seem to dislike the style, and it's not always clear whether they understand that what they're eating isn't supposed to be like a New York cheesecake. A Yelp reviewer called Uncle Tetsu's cheesecakes "ok-ish ... but not exceptional." One Tripadvisor reviewer said it was the "worst cheesecake EVER," and another complained that after standing in line for 45 minutes "all I could taste is eggs, no cheesecake flavor, or very faint as almost non existent, it wasn't that sweet."
This is not everyone's opinion, obviously, since Uncle Tetsu is actually quite popular and not everyone has New York-style expectations for Japanese cheesecake. So this particular place in the ranking reflects the disproportionate number of poor reviews and not necessarily the quality of the establishment's Japanese cheesecake. As long as you know what to expect, you aren't likely to be disappointed.
The Capital Grille Cheesecake
The Capital Grille is a medium-ish sized steakhouse chain with around 50 locations throughout the United States. It's been compared to The Cheesecake Factory, though apparently not because of all the different cheesecake options since it appears to have just the one flavor. Called simply The Capital Grille cheesecake," this is a brûlée style dessert served with fresh berries, and it's visually lovely as well as delicious. Instead of a slab of cheesecake, you can expect to be served a cylindrical-shaped piece that's been caramelized on top and served alongside actual fresh berries (take note, Olive Garden) with a little sprig of mint for an extra pop of color.
Most reviewers love The Capital Grille's cheesecake. In fact, we were hard-pressed to find any real complaints beyond the one Yelp reviewer who called it "too sweet but nicely fluffy." Blogger Kiwi the Beauty recommended the cheesecake to her readers: "It's crispy at the top and ... you get this amazing decadent taste of the cheesecake with each bite," she wrote.
The only reservations we have about recommending The Capital Grille cheesecake is that the serving isn't particularly large, though it still clocks in at a whopping 1,060 calories. You might want to go for the classic crème brûlée instead, which is less than half the calories of the brûlée-style cheesecake.
Ruby Tuesday's New York Cheesecake
If you're hoping to get a giant slab of cheesecake, well, you have options. One of them is Ruby Tuesday's New York cheesecake, which ranks well on important qualities like flavor and presentation and also happens to be ginormous. In fact, one Tripadvisor reviewer even said you could feed three people with a single piece of cheesecake. This same reviewer admitted to being underwhelmed by everything else on the menu but then went on to call the cheesecake "AMAZING," yes, in all caps. A food blogger writing in The Guardian also praised Ruby Tuesday's New York cheesecake, calling it "a clear hit ... cool, creamy, and not overly sweet."
Ruby Tuesday's version is a pretty standard cheesecake with a crumb crust and a topping of strawberry sauce, but the difference between it and the fruity cheesecakes it outranks is that it has flavor and beauty, so you won't have to close your eyes while eating it. So if you like a fruity cheesecake and you have someone (or two) to share it with, then Ruby Tuesday's New York cheesecake is a pretty safe bet. Or, you could just eat the whole thing yourself.
LongHorn Steakhouse THE Cheesecake
Like The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse went with simplicity on its dessert menu but made sure to include an article in the name of its own signature cheesecake. LongHorn Steakhouse's THE cheesecake even looks a little bit like The Capital Grille's: It's round instead of wedge-shaped. In all fairness, that probably has something to do with the fact that LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille are owned by the same company ... though this doesn't explain what Olive Garden's problem is, given that it's also owned by the same company.
Even so, LongHorn Steakhouse's THE Cheesecake isn't exactly like the dessert at The Capital Grille. It has a typical graham cracker crust, but it's topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and candied pecans. But like The Capital Grille cheesecake, it also gets rave reviews. In fact, one YouTuber didn't even say anything about it, instead just taking a video and setting it to the tune "So This Is Love." A Yelp reviewer who admitted to being more of a "Texas Roadhouse guy" still called the dessert "a must" and the "best cheesecake I've ever had." People even love THE cheesecake when other menu items fail to impress. A reviewer posting on Restaurant Guru complained that the Parmesan crust on their New York strip was "unbearably salty" but said they were "blown away" by the dessert. "They put these candied pecans on the cheesecake with a caramel drizzle, and boy I was in heaven," they wrote.
Junior's Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake Pie
Junior's is a small chain with a big following; you won't find any locations outside the three-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Not yet, anyway. Junior's isn't just a cheesecake place — it also serves burgers, sandwiches, plus breakfast and dinner entrees — but cheesecake is what it's best known for. And from original to the chocolate mousse to a diabetic friendly one, there are a lot of options. A fan-favorite, though, is definitely the fresh strawberry cheesecake pie.
Okay, so strawberry cheesecake is a bit uninspired — a lot of restaurants do cheesecake with strawberries because customers seem to like fruit topping on a cheesecake (maybe because fruit cancels out the calories?) Junior's strawberry cheesecake is unique, though. It's baked inside of a "sweet pie dough shell," and it's topped not just with strawberries but also with a "signature macaroon crunch" crumble, according to the restaurant.
Everyone seems to love this cheesecake, though to be fair, no one online seems to be complaining about any of Junior's many cheesecake flavors. One Tripadvisor reviewer said "the strawberry pie is to die for!!!!!" (note the five exclamation points). A Yelp reviewer was similarly impressed: "It was phenomenal!!!" (more exclamation points). Other reviewers noted the large slices, so if you come to Junior's for a meal and a piece of cheesecake, maybe pick an entree that's on the lighter side so you have more room for dessert.
The Cheesecake Factory's Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake
The Cheesecake Factory is kind of a controversial place. Some people love it, some hate it, but there's really no way around the fact that in discussions about chain restaurants and cheesecake, this place always rises to the top, even though its namesake desserts are not made fresh at the individual restaurants.
The Cheesecake Factory's menu boasts 30-plus different flavors, so it's actually pretty hard for most people to choose a favorite. Once again, though, the fresh strawberry cheesecake (though fairly basic in appearance) appeals to a large number of diners. In fact, according to Business Insider, it's one of the restaurant chain's top three most popular flavors (along with white chocolate raspberry truffle and Godiva chocolate). Business Insider's reporter tried all three best-selling flavors and chose fresh strawberry as her favorite, even though she admitted to not usually going for the "classic-style desserts." It "had a sweetness that wasn't overpowering," she wrote, "And, the whole strawberries added a refreshing, juicy taste that complemented the entire cheesecake." Thrillist came to a similar conclusion when it ranked every cheesecake variety at The Cheesecake Factory. The fresh strawberry one took the grand prize.
Junior's Devil's Food Cheesecake
There are two very close contenders for the title of best chocolate cheesecake: After much inner debate, Junior's devil's food cheesecake gets the second place position not because it isn't as delicious or well-loved as the winner, but because it's not as accessible. If you don't live on the East Coast of the United States or are not fortunate enough to be able to visit, you won't have much opportunity to experience Junior's most raved-about cheesecake (though you can actually order one online if you have about $80 or so to drop on a whole cheesecake).
You will not find many complaints about Junior's devil's food cheesecake, unless it's to say it's too chocolatey (hey, chocolate cheesecake isn't for everyone). A Tripadvisor reviewer said it was "absolutely yummy," and a Yelp reviewer called it "LEG-END-ARY." On QVC, which ships whole Junior's cheesecakes to people with disposable incomes, reviewers are similarly impressed: "sinnnfully delicious!!" one said, while another called it "beyond goodness ... shared it with friends everyone was licking their plates." Another reviewer called it "Ridiculous !!!" and said, "Holy canoli this is the best cheesecake I have ever tasted... I LITERALLY had to make myself stay away from it because it was so good !!!" Once again, pay close attention to all those exclamation points.
Grand Lux Cafe Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake
Grand Lux Cafe describes itself as an upscale yet casual restaurant with less than a dozen locations, though they're a bit more well-spaced out than Junior's, which is confined to the East Coast. Grand Lux Cafe was created by David Overton, who you may also know as the founder of The Cheesecake Factory, so if it did not have great cheesecake well, that would be embarrassing. Grand Lux has five different cheesecakes including (yes) a fresh strawberry cheesecake, but the one that really seems to wow everyone is the Godiva chocolate. (Small caveat: The Cheesecake Factory has a very similar Godiva chocolate cheesecake, but Grand Lux's is prettier).
Family Review Guide called the Grand Lux Godiva chocolate cheesecake a "must try" with "layers of Flourless Godiva Chocolate Cake, Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake and Chocolate Mousse [that] will make your taste buds celebrate." A reviewer posting on Tripadvisor praised the dessert for its decadence and added, "Who's counting calories?" Other Tripadvisor reviewers were similarly wowed, with one using the word "amazing!" to describe the Grand Lux Godiva chocolate cheesecake experience. If you prefer a chocolate cheesecake, this might be the one, but save room. Nothing gives you that "uh oh, I went too far" feeling in the pit of your stomach like overindulging on chocolate and cheesecake.
The Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake
The Cheesecake Factory's ultimate red velvet cake cheesecake is not the chain's most popular cheesecake, but it is the best one. And because the ultimate red velvet cake cheesecake ticks all the other boxes — rave reviews, generous portions, easy availability, uniquely delicious — it's the clear fan favorite chain restaurant cheesecake in our ranking. First, just look at this thing. It's a work of art. It has gorgeous alternating layers of cheesecake and red velvet cake, but not too much red velvet cake, which should only complement the cheesecake, not overwhelm it.
Second, just listen to people go on about how delicious this red velvet cake cheesecake is. A Chick Advisor reviewer says: "luxurious, decadent, rich, and everything it promises to be. It's mouth watering!" In a review of every cheesecake on The Cheesecake Factory's menu, Business Insider's reviewer put the ultimate red velvet cake cheesecake in third place (behind white chocolate raspberry truffle and lemon raspberry cream) but also said, "This is exactly what a dessert should be — rich and flavorful without being too heavy and decadent." In a Reddit discussion about the best cheesecake (not just chain restaurant cheesecake, but any cheesecake), The Cheesecake Factory's ultimate red velvet cake cheesecake came up three times. And on Ranker's voter-picked list of favorite options from The Cheesecake Factory, this flavor landed in the No. 1 position. It's pretty tough to argue with that kind of praise.
Read the original article on Mashed.