Our Cheesecake Factory is on Geary, atop the Macy's building. You might never have even noticed it; I hadn't until I saw it behind a rabbi on TV who was lighting a gargantuan menorah in Union Square to counteract the giant Christmas tree. It was almost as if the Cheesecake Factory was sponsoring the event, since its sign seemed to encase his whole head.
I have since gone to the bar there on a few occasions, especially when I want to get away from San Francisco without going very far. Once inside, you will find yourself transported into any cheesecake factory, anywhere. ... It's that magical. For one thing, there is absolutely no one inside who lives in San Francisco, save the staff. It's all tourists. Go ahead, close your eyes and imagine that you are in Boise. Also, the place is exactly the same as the one I have been to in Marin and the one I have been to in Anaheim. The layouts may vary a tiny bit, but in general they all have the same characteristics. Everything is big, bold, vaulted, gilded. The staff wears all white and is encouraged to suggestively sell their way into the largest tab possible.
The bar at this location is inviting, decadent, and opulent, in a, well, cheesecake kind of way. There is a veritable wall of booze, and a surprisingly good selection of beers. Like most chains, they push the RazzleDazzleSnazzle-type drinks, which are generally variations on the mojito, margarita, and martini. "Let's go with this pomegranate thing," says some guy in corporate, and the next thing you know, every Jamie and Jordan from here to Louisville is shaking jiggers of jejune joy for wide-eyed imbibers.
I can't tell you how soothing I find all of this. I realize that it is other people's idea of sheer hell, but for me, I find the generic familiarity of it all to be quite fetching. I can even deal with the crowds at this place because I can usually find some open seat at the bar, and I also love being squished between out-of-towners. One time I found myself listening to a family who was pleasantly shocked that San Francisco had 7-Eleven stores. This last time, I was huddled amid Spaniards and an American couple who were silently staring out at everyone else. Either they had had a long day of flirtatious debate and discussion and were taking a break, or they fucking hated one another.
My bartender was a shining example of the corporate ideal - genuine, precise, just chatty enough to engender a folksy charm. This place is indeed a factory of cheese. I cannot wait to bring my grandchildren here.