Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

They call it "Factory" for a reason

Today we traveled to the exotic land of Nuj Ersy on a quest for portage paraphernalia (Cassie needed a new backpack). Before we could make it back to the Motherland, we found ourselves famished, so we decided to sample the indigenous fare.

Big mistake.

In New York City, we live at the center of the dining universe. On seemingly every other corner, you can eat in an excellent, locally owned and operated restaurant. But Nuj Ersy natives are forced to congregate at large shopping centers bordered by carbon-copy feeding troughs with names like P.F. Chang, Maggiano's and Cheesecake Factory. We zeroed in on the latter, much like a moth that can't help flying into a campfire.

Sure enough, like that moth, we got burned. Joining the thronging Nuj Ersy masses, we found a hostess, who told us the wait would be 15-30 minutes. Almost an hour later, nearly fainting from hunger, we asked about our table. Apparently they'd called our name a long time ago—though I'm not sure how we missed that, since we had a pager and stood at the hostess station for nearly the entire hour.

Upon sitting down, we immediately placed an order for Vietnamese summer spring rolls, which were the highlight of our dining experience. They were light and scrumptious, came with two delicious dipping sauces, and literally arrived only a minute or two after we ordered them (they were served chilled, so clearly were already prepared).

The rest of the meal pretty much went downhill from there. Had we not had that appetizer, they would have had to wheel me out on a stretcher with a feeding tube down my throat. It took what felt like another hour for our dinners to come out. The couple next to us had their plates brought out well before ours, even though they'd been seated after we placed our order. And when my plate came, our server had to explain that my asparagus would be coming out separately.

The quality of the food was mediocre at best. I ordered Hibatchi Steak, and Cassie chose the Chinese Chicken Salad. Mine was adequate, but nothing outstanding; Cassie's bowl of salad could have fed my entire family--but half of it was rice noodles. The bowl was covered with a layer of rice noodles so thick that you could not see a single wisp of green leaf.

All in all, the experience was wholly unsatisfying. The word "Factory" in the name is apt, because we felt like we were on an assembly line from the moment we entered the place. We knew better; we made fun of ourselves for even deciding to try a chain restaurant. But we were starving, so we rolled the dice. Too bad we crapped out.



Blogger The Godfather said...

Disappointing that within three posts you go from being indignant over the NYT article on your beloved hometown to repeating the same mistakes yourself when discussing New Jersey. Unfortunately, my great state will forever be dismissed due to close-mindedness and myopia. NYC is absolutely the best place for food, but NJ has just as many outstanding restaurants. We just spread them out around the whole state. Perhaps next time you can get a hold of some "locals," e.g. bridge-and-tunnelers, who can show you some actual NJ restaurants as opposed to nationwide chains such as The Cheesecake Factory, which first opened in 1978 in (gasp!) California!

Poster's note: BTW, do not let the above comment prevent us from bonding over our beloved Chargers. I just joined the google group...nothing but praise for you on that!

August 11, 2009 at 5:48 AM  
Blogger Michael Strickland said...

Godfather, I hear you about the stereotyping of New Jersey, but after just re-reading what I wrote last year, it seems pretty clear that my complaints are directed solely at Cheesecake Factory for the horrible service, not at New Jersey. We could have been in California, Tennessee or Hawaii for that matter, and my blog posting would have read exactly the same (except for the opening paragraph that explained where we were). Cheesecake Factories are definitely "factories," wherever they're located. I have had similar experiences at their restaurants in San Diego and Las Vegas. I don't know why I keep going back (though, for my complaints, they sent me a $25 gift card, which I have yet to subject myself to using).

August 11, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Michael Strickland said...

p.s. Why suggest getting some dining recommendations from NJ locals, but not posting any in your comment? If you happen to read this, please post some names!

August 11, 2009 at 12:00 PM  

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