Founded in 1978 in Los Angeles by David Overton, whose parents owned a small cheesecake bakery, The Cheesecake Factory is admittedly pretty cheesy; witness the faux Italianate columns decorated with Pharoah faces, the soaring trompe l’oeil ceilings, and the red glass wall sconces the size of toddlers. But it’s much better than a mere last resort if you happen to be snowed in at an office park in Cleveland or someplace similar. The place may have way too many menu items (more than 200, not counting more than 30 types of cheesecake), but a whole lot of it tastes really good.
Don't miss: Nation’s Restaurant News hailed the miso salmon entrée — inspired by Nobu Matsuhisa's famous black cod with miso—as the “Best New Menu Item” of 2002, and believe it or not, it's even tastier than the original. Also, the bartenders make gigantic, perfect, reliably ice-cold martinis.