The Cheesecake Factory, Union Square, San Francisco

Lisa, Morgan, Kat, Steve and Rhonda at The Cheescake Factory

My kids had been to the Cheesecake Factory when they visited the US in April and as it was Miss 13’s birthday, and we were in San Francisco, she asked if we could go here for dinner. What an experience! The restaurant is on the top floor of the Macy’s building, and it is decorated in very ornate style – almost Renaissance in its colours and painting. The tables are either booths, or in our case, a half-circle booth around a table, with little mirrors all around at head height. The serving staff were excellent – very prompt and personable, and even knew about cross-contamination of foods. They even had Bards Gluten-Free beer – which turned out to be a pleasant brew – on their menu as a standard item.

The menu looked amazing – eighteen pages of possible food options. This is the menu that said on page one, in small print, to consult with your waiter if you had any food allergies. And this is where it all went drastically downhill. I duly consulted with my waiter, who told me that the only things they could guarantee were completely gluten-free were the salads. Eighteen pages of menu items, and the only things available for the gluten-intolerant were salads. I checked the salads and there were about 5 that I could eat (that didn’t include wheat in some way). A couple more could be modified. So possibly seven or eight dishes in EIGHTEEN PAGES of items. And absolutely NO labelling to indicate whether a dish was, or could be, gluten-free. Now people, I appreciate that the USA is a place where you can sue, and maybe that means that you had better not put gluten-free on your menus in case someone has a bad reaction to it, but really!!! How is a person to cope, short of having to spend half an hour sending the waiter to and from the kitchen?

As it happens, the waiter couldn’t tell me whether the BBQ sauce on the salmon was gluten-free, although he did tell me the onion rings were battered and touched the salmon. He recommended that I go with the grilled salmon for safety. That was good information. I decided to chance it anyway, and had the salmon on a corn and zucchini salad with mashed potatoes. My husband benefited from the onion rings.

On the plus side, the food was very fresh and plentiful, and it was a good meal. On the downside, my salad and mashed potatoes were extremely peppery. I didn’t risk any of the cheesecakes – partly the lack of labelling, partly the high whole egg content. I did have a little taste of the husband’s (Key Lime) and daughter’s (Macadamia and white chocolate) though and they were sublime.

So all in all, the dining experience wasn’t outstanding, but at least the waiters were concerned and informed. I didn’t even wince too much at the 18% tip which was automatically added to our bill.

San Francisco rising from the fog and the side of our cruising boat

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9 thoughts on “The Cheesecake Factory, Union Square, San Francisco

  1. Haven’t been to a CF in a few years since my last visit to the US, but when we were in Palm Springs last time the CF there were brilliant for GF. The server we had knew all about it and recommended quite a few dishs, and ended up doing us some marinated chicken tenderloins with rice which was ace. Also was able to have the Godiva Chocolate Cheescake as it was flourless. We asked if they use flour in the pan to avoid sticking and she checked and turned out it was spray but she even got a fresh cheesecake out so to avoid any contamination. Loved it!

    • Great that you had such a wonderful experience Andy – sounds like the server was really informed and helpful! The menu was outstanding and the restaurant itself was awesome for all but me 😦 Very little flexibility offered. Thanks so much for the comment – please come back again! I’ve found Pittsburgh to be far more GF friendly!

      • No probs, also try PF Changs while your there. Have a dedicated gluten free menu and the servers are always fully up on all different intolerance’s. Hands down our favorite place to in stateside. Mmmmmm….

  2. They are a big chain restaurant all over the US, but the nearest to San Fran looks to be across the Oakland bridge in Emeryville.
    When we were in San Fran my wife had only just been diagnosed a Cealiac so we were still finding out what to eat, but we did manage to eat the Hard Rock Fishermans Wharf. There burgers and fries are GF, just ask for no bun or onion rings and its fine.
    Also not been but heard Pica Pica at 401 Valencia Street is totally GF, and Amicis on Lombard Street do GF Pizza.

  3. This post is typical of what I was told in many restaurants in the US. “We’re not allowed to server you anything except salad with no dressing” Not acceptable to be treated like that.

    • And yet service in the US is supposed to be so great! Went to a pizza place tonight and after discussing the fact that I couldn’t eat anything with wheat, and ordering a plain dinner salad, the (admittedly very young) waitress asked if I’d like croutons with it!!! I had to laugh and then pointedly ask her what the croutons were made of…

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