It's one of the few certainties in the local news business. When we ask what's missing from the Chattahoochee Valley, at least one person will say The Cheesecake Factory.
In fact, if only one person acknowledges that request, we've likely found the exception rather than the rule. In many discussions, the desire is expressed multiple times. References to the restaurant on the Ledger-Enquirer's Facebook page seem constant enough to make me wonder: What's up with the local Cheesecake Factory obsession?
Today is a great opportunity to ponder the question, since it's apparently National Cheesecake Day. Visit The Cheesecake Factory today and you can get any slice of cheesecake for half price. Oh wait, we don't have one in Columbus. As if you needed another reminder.
But seriously, I'm intent on getting to the root of a widespread local interest in the restaurant. Why are some people in the Chattahoochee Valley so obsessed with this place? Here are a few guesses.
It's similar to Cheddar's. I often describe The Cheesecake Factory as a more expensive version of Cheddar's, the casual restaurant that attracts significant crowds. Go ahead and criticize chain restaurants -- it's still hard to ignore the crowds Cheddar's draws on Friday and Saturday nights. Its menu spans everything from chicken to Spasagna.
The Cheesecake Factory boasts a similar atmosphere and diverse menu with offerings that include pizzas, omelettes, steaks and more. Both restaurants have big portions, too.
The name speaks volumes. Call me cynical, but I'd guess some local Cheesecake Factory advocates haven't dined at the restaurant. It's easy to blindly jump on board with a suggestion that includes "cheesecake" in its title. After all, the dish is often listed as one of the top desserts in America.
We want what we can't have. Columbus has secured many sought-after chain restaurants. Five Guys became a local reality and apparently Chipotle is on the horizon. But to many people, The Cheesecake Factory remains an impossible dream. Here's an excerpt from a comment someone wrote on the Ledger-Enquirer's website in 2011: "I'll fly to the moon without benefit of a spacecraft before Columbus sees a Cheesecake Factory." Its seemingly unreachable nature might make the restaurant more appealing.
Finally, it's good. I love locally owned restaurants, though I often stop at The Cheesecake Factory when traveling. The food is tasty, the menu pleases almost everyone and cheesecake is involved. What's not to like?
Then again, maybe the local fanaticism surrounding the restaurant is inexplicable. Maybe I should ponder more complex questions on National Cheesecake Day -- like whether the popular dessert is a cake or a pie.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.