Did you know July 30th is national cheesecake day in the US? We didn’t, and we certainly didn’t expect an estimated one hour wait for dinner today at our local Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey. Apparently every slice of cheesecake is 1/2 off today for the occasion! Luckily, the hostess clued us in to the adjoining beachfront bistro with the ambiance of private cabanas. We were seated immediately in a lovely corner cabana not 10 feet from the sand. A pleasant surprise and a tremendous improvement over the expected standardized decor. (Fun fact: did you know that every Cheesecake Factory location looks exactly the same decor-wise in order to give travelers a sense of familiarity?)
We decided to go for shared small plates and ordered the fried calamari, crab & artichoke dip, crispy crab bites, and margherita pizzette. The crab dip was our least favorite, as it was too creamy and not artichoke-y enough. It reminded us of a less salty version of the crab dip at Palomino’s in Westwood. The fried calamari was not particularly special, but it wasn’t too greasy and it went well with the garlic aioli (not so much with the cocktail sauce). It could really benefit from a good marinara sauce. The crispy crab bites and the pizzette were tied for our favs. For whatever reason, ever since I was 12 or so I have always remembered that Cheesecake Factory makes some pretty bomb crab cakes. These were mini-cakes that were wonderfully crispy-crunchy on the outside and flaky and flavorful on the inside. The pizzette was a nice little flatbread pizza topped with a bit of marinara sauce, generous helping of mozzarella, and lots of chopped basil. It turned out really well, especially considering they don’t have a woodfired oven.
Of course, we had to save room for dessert. I was very sad to discover that they sold out of the Oreo cheesecake, but the banana creme cheesecake was a delicious substitute. The bavarian banana creme layer was fluffy and light, a great complement to the rich original cheesecake underneath. It was almost too sweet for me, but the slices of fresh banana helped cut the sugary-ness. Martin went the traditional route with the fresh strawberry cheesecake, topped with three beautifully glazed, bright red berries.
We reveled in our luxurious-feeling cabana, engaging in deep conversation over a cappuccino and latte. Instead of traditional heat lamps, a few feet away from our table was an adorable little fire pit. What a fantastic way to spend a warm summer night!
Check out The Cheesecake Factory: http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com
4142 Via Marina
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
See their Yelp reviews here.
The main building looks like any other Cheesecake Factory. Walk downward toward the beach to the separate hostess podium at the bistro side.