To start, Dave, the mid-Atlantic manager, gave me a tour of the restaurant and kitchen. Along the way, Dave told me about his history with the company - he started when there were just 7 restaurants. He went on to explain how the restaurants are still run like mom and pop shops and founded on fresh ingredients.
We picked up the kids (literally) and were swept through the hustle and bustle of a working kitchen. Have you ever heard that saying "too many cooks in the kitchen"? Try 55 cooks in the kitchen.
Dave took us for a twirl around their prep areas in the back and showed us the super tiny freezer and the amazingly organized refrigerator. I was completely shocked at the size of the freezer for such a large restaurant, but Dave said the only items that are frozen are basically the cheesecakes and shrimp. Everything else is made fresh daily. I had always been under the impression that The Cheesecake Factory served mostly pre-packaged dishes - the word "factory" is a total misnomer.
It goes without saying that our food and service was incredible. Even the "Skinnylicious" plate that we ordered was still super tasty - and less than 590 calories. This may sound strange, but one of the highlights of my night was the uber-clean bathrooms. Maybe I'm weird, but what woman doesn't love a clean bathroom? (esp. public!)
I'll leave you with three things I learned tonight that made me happy:
1. The restaurant will bring about 250 new jobs to the Woodbridge area.
2. Each time a slice of specialty cheesecake is purchased, The Cheesecake Factory makes a donation to Feeding America.
3. Love one of their many sauces? A little-known secret: You can buy a mason jar of any sauce for about $5. Make your Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp at home!
Check out the pics below of our meal and follow The Cheesecake Factory on Facebook and Twitter.
(ps, they will be offering valet parking so that you don't have to deal with the crazy mall parking lots during the holiday season!)
Of course, all opinions are my own.