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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sweet and Savory: Fast and Friendly

Lunch date #35, March 22, 2013

Mom suggested getting away from downtown—as we actually had been doing of late. I suggested this place-Mom had been there before, but didn't remember it well. Sweet and Savory Café and Bakery (5685 Gibralter Drive, www.sweetandsavory.com) is a favorite for a quick lunch where they serve the business crowd as well as friends out for a quick bite of lunch together.

Location: 3 points. In the Hacienda Plaza at Stoneridge and Gibralter. Not an exciting location, but plenty of parking.

Ambiance 3 points. "Looks like they're hanging laundry," Mom commented as she entered. They use some painted white banners inside as décor—it is a bit strange, I admit. Otherwise, it has the usual bakery/café style with lots of tables and also outdoor seating. No frills, nothing to really comment about. Mom wasn't impressed, hence the medium range score!

Menu 4 points: Great selection of salads, sandwiches, soup, pizza and bakery items. I ordered the special of the day: crab/artichoke grilled sandwich with side Cesar salad. Mom went with the turkey/avocado and side French fries.

Service 3points: Another order-at-the-counter-and-they-bring-your-food sort of place. No real service. You must get your own utensils, drinks, etc. We elected to give 3 points due to the very speedy delivery of our sandwiches and the friendly demeanor of the counter help.

Food 3.5 points: Mom was happy to have the option of fries, but unfortunately they weren't all that special…."Probably not Idaho!" she concluded.  Her turkey sandwich was piled so high with turkey that she had to take it apart and reassemble it to eat. She was happy to take home ½ of her sandwich and lots of extra turkey, however. My sandwich was OK. Not a lot of flavor. I think I ordered the wrong thing again! I have had other sandwiches and salads at Sweet and Savory that I enjoyed more than that "daily special".

Value 4 points: Comparable or a bit lower prices than other places we have tried. Mom's sandwich at $6.95 was a good deal, but adding $2.25 for the fries made the total of $9.20—very typical for this sort of café. Mine at $8.75 was a good deal. The portions are large and Mom was happy with her to-go box. The quick service in a pleasant atmosphere rounds out a nice lunch experience.

Overall score for Sweet and Savory 3.4 points. Nice place to grab a bite. Always a good crowd, so they must be doing something right!  I always run into friends there—as we did that day!  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Cheesecake Factory: merely satisfactory!

Lunch date #34: March 1, 2013

We needed to do a bit of shopping, so thought trying a spot at the mall would be a good idea. Mom said she couldn't remember eating at the Cheesecake Factory before and while I had eaten there many times, it had been awhile….and of course, we had to give the place our personal scrutiny. I remember when The Cheesecake Factory was a very special place--when you had to wait a few hours to get a table at the location atop Macy's in The City. Now, of course they are everywhere-usually associated with a mall or other major development. A glorified chain restaurant, known for their outlandishly large menu—and of course the cheesecake that I have yet to try!

Location 4 points: The Stoneridge Mall. Not a bad location, but nothing special. Problem for Mom as she had to park fairly far away.

Ambiance 4.5 points: "Now, this is really pretty!" remarked Mom as she viewed the dining room upon entering. Everyone is familiar with the interior décor: beautiful color palate with flowing accents, interesting pendant lighting, tall ceilings, open and airy. Also on the down side, it is very busy—ranging from the style of the décor to the number of people within the building; many servers rushing about, many diners at tables far too close for private conversation….quite a production and rather noisy as well. Perhaps would have been 5 points if a bit more breathing room between the tables.

Menu selection 5 points: Just an insane selection of many different types of dishes: from simple small plates to full on entrees and everything in between. The official company website boasts over 200 different menu items. I think maybe Mom was overwhelmed. "I'll get a burger," she decided. Really! I thought, here we had the biggest menu selection of any place one the planet... But, they do have a very large burger selection—so what can you do! Actually Mom was suggesting that she order burgers everywhere we go and change our project to a burger comparison…hmmm, will have to think about that! Mom chose the "factory burger" with the grilled onions and cheddar cheese. I went with the BBQ ranch chicken salad.
Mom with her burger

Food quality 3 points: Here is where the lunch started to fall apart. Mom specifically asked to have her burger cooked medium-well. When she cut it in half (somewhat of a family tradition), we found the inside to be quite red and under cooked. We promptly sent it back and she watched me pick at my salad while we waited for her burger to get cooked. My salad was only fair: the crunchy thin onion rings on the top were the best part. The BBQ chicken was just OK and the rest of the salad nothing special. I even got a bite of a stray hunk of blue cheese—not part of my order! When Mom's burger was finally returned, she was disappointed to find out it did not have lettuce. The menu very specifically listed the ingredients of this particular burger and did not include lettuce (but she didn't notice that while ordering). I gave her some of the lettuce from my salad to garnish her burger—then she was pretty happy with it! This place is known for the large portions and while Mom did save half of her burger and some fries for another meal. I didn't like my salad enough to either finish it or bother to take it home.
Great onion rings top the BBQ chicken ranch salad

Service 3.5 points: Server was nice and food was brought out pretty quickly. It took a bit to get the burger redone, but she was reasonably apologetic about that, and did refill our drinks. It did take a while to get the "to go" box once we were through eating.

Value 3.5 points: Prices were about $11 per meal, plus drinks, so typical to slightly on the high end of everywhere else we have been trying. Beautiful ambiance but only average food quality.

Overall score for The Cheesecake Factory at the Stoneridege Mall: 3.92 points—Owing to the huge meal selection, this rating could easily change depending on what we chose to order. Perhaps this is the problem—the menu is too huge! Maybe the food quality would improve if they cut down the menu a bit and tried to focus on quality. It seems that every time I go to a Cheesecake Factory, I have this same feeling. I always try something new and have often been disappointed that the result is just so-so. I know some people love it, perhaps they have found a special menu item that works perfectly for them. Another thing: I still have as yet to try the cheesecake! I'm usually too full from the entrée to consider dessert. Maybe next time we will have to go just for the cheesecake!