Cheesecake Factory has 3,120 calorie dish

The Center for Science in the Public Interest's annual list of "food porn"--items that have more calories in them than one might expect--identifies Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta as a particularly bad offender.

"It's like eating three orders of Olive Garden's Lasagna Classico plus an order of tiramisu for dinner," CSPI said. Some in the food and beverage industries have dubbed the Washington-based group the "food police". More than one-third of Americans are obese.

One of my first memorable experiences in the U.S. was visiting a Cheesecake Factory, ordering a salad, and receiving 8lb of shredded lettuce suspended in a curiously solid hillock of oil and ranch dressing.

Cheesecake Factory pasta on annual list of caloric "food porn" [Reuters]


  1. This is clearly a misnomer. While porn can certainly lead to a satisfactory, erm, outcome, nothing good can possibly result in eating this dish.

    1. We almost always get a doggie bag in which to take home the excess food.  The dog at home never gets to eat what’s in the doggie bag (the cholesterol will kill him).  One would think that would be enough incentive not to go to restaurants that serve portions so large and fat-laden, we can’t share the doggie bag contents with the dog. 

        1. We’ve had schnauzers in the past, and now a little male schnoodle.  Of the terrier class, this breed tends to accumulate cholesterol; they have to be on a constant low-fat, high-fiber diet.  Vets allow for schnauzers normally having a higher cholesterol count than most other dogs.  There is not medication for their condition, unlike humans.  So, no linguine for Scooter.

          One of the signs a dog may have a problem with excess cholesterol is the formation of fatty tumors, usually on the chest or in the armpits.

  2. Can they freeze dry this dish?  I could see it being great for camping or the military or even in disaster areas.  One of these meals in a bag in the morning could cover your calorie needs for an entire day and then some.  The Cheesecake Factory could even market it as the “Survival Pasta Supreme.”

        1. “calorie” isn’t a dirty word in parts of the world.”

          It would be if globalism gave them Cheesecake Factories.

    1. I could see it being great for camping or the military or even in disaster areas.

      Or as mass for a jump point.

    2. The reference intake for a male soldier doing moderate activity is 3250 calories per day, so this is almost perfect.

  3. As someone who’s conscious about calories when eating out, it’s absolutely frightening when you go online and look up their nutritional info. While traditional fast food joints have lots of calories, fat and salt — go look up places like California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory or Rubio’s (I’m a west coaster so those names may be meaningless to some). While the ingredients are hopefully a bit better quality-wise, they have just as much, if not more, calories/salt/fat than you’d get at Taco Bell, McD, etc.

    I also wish restaurants would offer smaller portions at smaller prices… the portions are just insane at most of these sit down joints.

    1. I don’t like eating at chain restaurants, but when I do, I go for Uno’s pizzeria – precisely because they have an entire sub-menu of small-plates, near the front of the menu. It’s that $6 small meal I have always wanted to be able to order at a restaurant like this, though they’re marketed as though one should buy more than one, you don’t have to. 

    2. What also gets me is realizing that the chicken or fish sandwich at some fast food place has more calories than the burgers.  I used to get the creamy tomato soup at Panera Bread until I found out that it was like eating a cheeseburger.

      1. In general, “creamy” anything is going to be chock full of calories.  Cream is an extremely calorie dense food.

        Also, those chicken sandwiches are much much better for you if you skip the mayo.  Some people may think fish sandwiches without tartar sauce are a waste of time, but I think they’re pretty tasty still.  In fact at McDonalds I think the best thing they offer is the fish sandwich, but only if you have them fry it fresh and skip the tartar sauce.

    3. In addition to wishing they’d offer smaller portions at smaller prices I also wish they’d be more willing to disclose their nutritional information–particularly the calories, fat, and salt. Not too long ago the local government where I live asked that all restaurants with more than a certain number of locations (basically all chains) post that information on their menus.

      From the howls of outrage you’d think they were being asked to give out the secret sauce recipe.

      1. Here in the US, it’s a law chains with over 20 outlets (according to what I could find) have to make it available. Mind you, not as readily available as I’d like — sometimes you need to ask for a nutrition sheet, or dig it up from their website, but they have to give you access.

        They rarely go out of their way to display the info though, probably because they know most people will go ‘wtf?’ when they see it :)

        1. I’m in the US–Tennessee, specifically. I know we can get the information, if we ask for or dig for it, but the local legislation would have made it more easily available. I notice that some chains–Panera, for instance–have calorie information for some items listed right on the menus. Other places are less willing to publicize even that bit of information.

        2. True. 20 locations. This is rumored to be the reason why Hillstone/Houston’s uses multiple names even though their restaurants’ menus are almost identical

      2. Around here a lot of restaurants have picked up on the “right sized” menu options, which are basically just reduced size portions of their regular items.  I’m pretty happy with them because it means I don’t have to deal with a doggy bag every time I go out. 

      3. “smaller portions at smaller prices”

        Yes, though you may be disappointed. Food preparation, labor costs, and real state costs scale sublinearly with portion size, you may not save as much as you’d expect.

    4. Rubio’s, we discovered them on our last CA visit. I dread looking at the caloric content. For restaurants that over-serve like this we do portion splitting between 2 adults and 3 kids, often 2-3 adult meals will feed everyone.

      1. I like that Rubio’s post their calories right up on the menu wall. Their food is decent for a fast food type place, but it’s interesting to see what you think might be the healthier choice isn’t. The steak tacos have less calories/fat than the chicken, the employee told me it was b/c the steak is just grilled and chopped, the chicken is served in marinade/sauce that bumps the calories past the steak.

        This is exactly why I think making this info available is important, sometimes the better choices go against intuition.

        1. Thanks, I’ll definitely look at the calories next time. It would also be nice to have a full nutritional info, some calories are better than others.

    5. They mandated it here in NY that calories are shown with items at all chain restaurants

      Cheesecake Factory put in some “diet” options to try to minimize the shock of seeing the calorie counts. I ordered their “diet Jambalaya” last time I was there. The picture showed a nice portion of rice with it. What I ordered came with a tiny portion of rice and hardly any jambalaya. It was enough for me, just barely, but put some perspective on their other offerings.

    6. Solution: Don’t go to shitty chain restaurants that have the same menu in most every country, let alone state.

  4. Rob, they served you EIGHT POUNDS of lettuce?  Eight pounds of shredded lettuce would take up a volume of approximately a beach ball.  I do find Cheesecake Factory absurd and wonderful, but I do find it hard to believe they’d serve 8 pounds of lettuce.  Ounces?

    On another note, I do really enjoy their Thai lettuce wraps.

    1. This was probably hyperbole, but I know from having made the mistake of ordering a salad from them that it doesn’t seem too far from the truth. Our largest dinner plates at home are a couple of inches smaller in diameter than the bowl that barely contained my salad. And, as Rob noted, there was not one square millimeter without dressing.

      The only time we ever visit these places now is to pick up a dessert straight from the “to go” counter and cut the servings in half.

      1. Americans seem to think that if they don’t get a massive heap of food they aren’t getting their money’s worth, even if the price is reduced.  I was watching Anthony Bourdain interview a restauranteur in Milwaukee who was trying to create reasonably sized gourmet dishes and people were upset that he wasn’t providing piles of food.

        1. I watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and this is pretty much the running theme. RiDICulous portions, and incredibly cheap. I’m Canuckian, and it’s not like we don’t eat a lot, but holy christ on a crutch…

    1. All the best meals come from places named “Factory”.  Nothing like feeling like you are on the end of an assembly line.

    2. I’ve spent a lot of time near Caltech in Pasadena, so I’m familiar with the area – many places referenced in The Big Bang Theory actually exist in Pasadena and throughout LA!

  5. The CSPI is rightly called “the food police,” because the real police, when you are contemplating a particular course of action that they believe may be unwise, simply give you information about the consequences of that action, and then allow you to make your own decision.

  6. You went to the Cheesecake Factory… and ordered a salad? And then were surprised with whatever nasty concoction you were presented with?

    That’s a little like going to the Tofu Palace and ordering a steak.

    1. See, this is an attitude I don’t understand. You go to a restaurant. There is an item on the menu and you order it. Is it unfair to expect that said item, which I insist, is part of the restaurant menu, meets a minimun standard of quality?

      I don’t understand those who claim “ah, but you ordered a steak at a pasta place! it’s your fault!”. No, if the restaurant offers something, while it might not be as good as the dish in a specialty place, they have an obligation to provide food that, at least, is not inedible. Otherwise, they should remove the item altogether.

      1.  The Cheesecake Factory’s “signature dish” is massive amounts of calories on a plate. I’d argue that nothing there is of a higher quality than “8 pounds” of lettuce slathered in ranch dressing.

      2. Garçon! My slab of lettuce slathered in dressing is not at the level of quality for which the Cheesecake Factory is known! I demand to speak to the chef!

      3. It doesn’t work like that.  I used to have a friend who was the Big Man.  He always ordered the most expensive thing on the menu because he was the Big Man.  We’d go to a noodle place where the most expensive meal was $10.  But the Big Man would order the Surf n’ Turf for $30 because the Big Man always gets the best.

        What he never figured out is that the single big ticket item exists solely to make everything else look cheap.  The noodles were handmade.  His dinner came from a three year old box of Army surplus Surf n’ Turf wedged into the back of the freezer.  It exists to warn off sensible people and soak the suckers.  He always paid the bill for everybody.  It’s an ecosystem.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t really get that either.  To me “food porn” is when people go absolutely nuts fawning over exotic ingredients and dishes.

      There are several warning signs that you’re entering food porn territory.  The instant someone pulls out the creme fraiche or the balsamic vinaigrette you know you’re in danger of hearing about how fulfilling or uplifting or life affirming some food is. 

      1.  I associate the term with handsomely-printed coffee-table-ready cookbooks, and thought that usage was pretty standard.

        Of course, I’m also not down with the Obesity Epidemic/Fat People Zombie Apocalypse hysteria, so what do I know?

        1. Modernist Cuisine. 2438 pages, 42lb, ~$450 at Amazon.

          Or there’s the home edition, 456 pages, 10.3lb, ~$100.

    2. I tried to find a picture of a cucumber or a carrot fucking an onion ring, but the best that I could do was a lady with three zucchini in her nether orifice.  Apparently, true food-on-food porn doesn’t exist.

  7. If you are going to Cheesecake Factory, I assume you are going to order an appetizer (“Factory Appetizer Favorites” yields 3220 for “2-4”; so that’s good for 1,610), you’ll want a salad, of course (the “Chopped Salad” is good for 520), a couple of beers (300) and the Peanut-Butter Fudge Cheesecake (1,330) and a Caramel Mochiatta (390) for desert.  And with this thing for the main dish at 3,120 and we’ve got a nice 7,270 calorie treat.  

    I hope they put bread on the table.  I’m hungry.

    1. Maybe they are pushing the boundaries of human evolution? what if this is part of a cunning plan to have us develop boa constrictor digestive systems? a meal like the one you listed could easily have someone of my size go for 4 days without having to replenish.

    2. Hmm. If I went to California Pizza Kitchen, I would get a half Caesar salad (277) and split it with my dining companion. And order perhaps a Chicken Chipotle pizza (1198), eat two slices and make two more meals out of it. And maybe a Sam Adams (145). 683 calories for the meal. And I wouldn’t feel ill.

  8. Did anyone notice at the end of the article the stock prices of the companies mentioned?  Cheesecake Factory’s was up.  

  9. When they first opened a location in Austin I wondered why they were building a factory in a swanky part of town. The waiters there pride themselves on being able to remember every order at a table without writing them down. We have a young lady in our Toastmasters after meeting social group who always orders individual servings of stuff from the side-dishes part of the menu. Smart move.

    1. I hate when servers don’t write down the orders, because in my experience they have about a 50/50 shot at getting everything right.

    2. “The waiters there pride themselves on being able to remember every order at a table without writing them down”

      I don’t think that’s as impressive as they think it is.

  10. My wife and I eat at Cheesecake Factory occasionally. We ALWAYS split an entree, skip the appetizer and dessert (this usually ends up being enough food for both of us plus some left over).

    A couple months ago we ordered a pasta dish and, after finishing our meal, my wife was shocked when she entered it in to her calorie counting app to discover that even a 1/2 portion of our meal made up 90% of her daily calorie intake.

    I’m always a little shocked when I see someone order (and eat) an entire “serving” from Cheesecake Factory.

  11. Personal choice, peeps.  I’m not a Cheesecake Factory fan either, so I don’t eat there.  No big.  I’m not forced to eat 3,000 calories in a sitting, but I don’t really want it legislated or a finger shook at me by some group if I choose to.  Same as I don’t see the reason for a hassle if I choose to watch Big Bang Theory streaming at my convenience vs. at 8:30 on a Thursday night or whatever.

    1. Alarmism about the things Big Government is just about to force on us is always fun.  So far they’ve required restaurants to release nutrition information and…  uh… well despite the best efforts of Senate democrats, the shaking finger is in your imagination.  But I’m hoping they find a way to install one in every restaurant.

      1. Nah, it’s not about Big Government at all.  That’s not my point.  My point is if I as a consumer, choose to consume that much, so be it.  I’m not doing any harm.  And any suggestion, really, REALLY people, that we’re being somehow duped into eating that huge a portion of calories?  We’re being intellectually dishonest with ourselves if we believe that.

        I’m on board with listing calories.  It’s law here in CA for sure.  But I knew when I was being a glutton before, too.

    2. True, no one is forcing us to eat this much. But without clear, easily accessible nutrition information it’s fair to say that they are tricking us into eating extremely unhealthy food. It’s not bullying, it’s con artistry.

    3. I’m not forced to eat 3,000 calories in a sitting, but I don’t really want it legislated or a finger shook at me by some group if I choose to.

      I’m sure that would be a fascinating comment if anyone here were advocating that.

  12. One of my rules is to never eat at places with the following words or phrases in the name: factory, corral, the great ‘American/YourStateName/City/etc’ ‘pizza/pasta/food/etc’ company, bucket, and pit

    Also, you should worry much more about the macronutrients in your food than the calorie count. 

    1. When a single menu item (one that’s intended for one person, and part of a customer experience that includes lots of encouragement to eat even more) includes more than 3,000 calories, I don’t need another reason to stay away.

    2.  Sometimes places like that can surprise you. Golden Corral (which, while not meeting your name criteria, certainly fits into that category) has a really good salad bar.

  13. I’m curious to know how big this thing is.  I make alfredo sauce at home from time to time and it’s nothing but straight heavy cream and parmesan cheese (and some spices).  I know it’s not good for me, but it’s damn tasty, just like anything high in fat/sugar.

    I’d much rather eat less than eat a shitty low sugar, low fat diet.

    1. And yet, for being nothing but heavy cream and cheese, still manages to be less fucking terrible for you than any of these “casual dining” restaurants.

  14. I don’t eat out much, and a while back I got the several course special at a diner on the way back from about a 20 mile hike, so I was pretty hungry.  I kind of felt obstinately and inexplicably determined to eat the whole thing, and I didn’t quite manage to finish, bu I ate so much that I had to pull over about ten minutes later and puke it all up.  I’m a pretty big guy, and I’m active, and I was under the impression that I eat a lot until I had this encounter with real American portions.

    1.  Sometimes I eat an American amount at the local Asian buffet, and then I get this feeling like, “All right, I’m done. I am done with food. I don’t even have to think about food until most of the way through tomorrow.”

    2. Yeah, going on a mountain hike is pretty much the only time I find myself at one of these places. Famished to the point of hallucination is a very good time for Outback Steakhouse.

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