“The Curious Palate” Returns

Yes fellow foodies, I’ve missed you too! As I file this report, it’s “National Cheesecake Day,” an event promoted hereabouts by the merry band of Cheesecake Factory restaurants located in Canoga Park, Thousand Oaks, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena, and beyond. A ton or two of the popular desserts with luscious but hi-caloric toppings are served up daily in cuts priced from $6.50 to $7.95.
Dessert may be the finish but it’s far from the all on the CCF multi-faceted, surprisingly creative Factory kitchens. On a recent visit to the thriving Old Town Factory on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Raymond Ave., the Palate was very impressed by the taste and texture of herb-crusted salmon served ala carte with authentic mashed potatoes and a tasty basket of breads (served by request). A side of fresh asparagus balanced the platter into a commendable meal. My fellow diner enjoyed meaty slow-roasted and glazed BBQ beef ribs with a side of tasty fries and onion strings.
There are varied burgers, paced by the fancied Factory Burger charred with cheddar, tomato and grilled onion, served on a choice of fresh-baked breads with those good fries. Consider sundry sandwiches, as well as memorable Cajun (very spicy) Jambalaya Pasta with sautéed shrimp, chicken, onions, tomato and peppers atop fresh Linguini. The Factory’s justly famed meatloaf with mashed taters and gravy plus grilled onions and veggies is a winning version of a menu favorite. Wood-fired pizzas are par for the course.
Every dish is on the $$ edge of pricey, but the attractive presentation of generous portions served by an eager and swift young serving staff make it worth the difference. It may be chain-link formulated but it works like a charm. There’s much to be said for a winning group plan in the current competitive food-service race. A leader in its special niche, the California-centered Cheesecake Corp. has proven to be virtually recession-proof with steady expansion and solid profits.
Did I mention the well-run full bar and well-chosen wine selection or the distinctive marble-décor and comfy choices of seating? Even more plusses apply, so I’ll resist cranky criticism of the high-decibel noise level. Casual conversation was a challenge but the youthful, clearly carefree crowd was almost gleefully oblivious to the roar.
The CCF experience earned a Palate rating of 2 1/2 stars for food and service and 2 stars for value and ambience. I’d willingly go back for more and I didn’t even order the Factory’s signature specialty. How’s that for “won’t power”?
A REAL “SPECIAL”—For a change, The Palate finds it easy to ignore those endless T.V. chain-gang promotions for “the burger or the pizza of the month,” but I must call attention to the limited-time meal deal at Sizzler. Say what you will about their steak and seafood dishes, the big S puts out an impressive array of fresh veggies, fruits, etc. on its endless salad bar. Pair all that solid nutrition with a flame-cooked half-pounder with all the trimmings, plus a side of crispy fries, all for $9.99 and a true buy… Not only a lot of food but a multitude of choices. Add a couple of bucks for a beverage and a well-earned gratuity and it’s still a bargain.
Alas, not all Sizzlers are equal links in the chain. My destination is the well-maintained and efficiently-staffed showcase location on Los Feliz Blvd., just below San Fernando Rd. opposite the Costco shopping center. There’s adjoining free parking and the place is child-friendly. Just one word of caution — avoid the peculiar tasting chicken noodle soup. Hey, nothing is perfect!

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