It's tough not to like the Cheesecake Factory. From salads and sandwiches to pastas and stir-fries, the food is consistently good, and the portions are epic. The polished setting and dim lighting can easily suffice for a night out, while the casual attitude and mall location also make this chain a comfortable place to bring kids.
My one gripe has long been the lack of a children's menu. It seemed like such an odd oversight for a restaurant with a menu so expansive it contains pages of advertising. Others must have agreed, because the Cheesecake Factory at Southdale Center in Edina recently introduced a kids' menu. True to its crowd-pleasing reputation, it offers a range of options, like bite-sized burgers, a cheese quesadilla, mini corn dogs, pizza and, for the more health-conscious, grilled chicken with potatoes and a vegetable. Prices range from $3.95 to $6.95 and include a drink — not bad, considering the portions are huge.
The house-made macaroni and cheese was heavy on the cheese and enough to feed both of my kids, ages 5 and 2, and still have some left over. Generally, my kids will eat chicken only in the shape of a McNugget, but they loved the chicken strips here, although the sauces that came with them were a bit fancy for their taste. Our 5-year-old friend declared the french fries the best he had ever tasted.
There was no worry about keeping the kids occupied until the food arrived. As soon as we sat down, the waiter brought each of them a plate with bread and sliced banana.
Children content, I was able to enjoy the surroundings (we sat on the patio because it was such a nice night) and a meal I couldn't get at most of the restaurants my kids favor. I had fresh lemonade and the colossal Santa Fe salad with black beans, corn, avocado, tortilla strips and a tangy dressing.
The boys wanted dessert. Believe it or not, the kids' menu does not feature cheesecake. They split the "mini" hot fudge sundae, a deceiving name
Kids' Cuisine is a one-time take on how restaurants handle kid customers. It's written by a rotation of Pioneer Press staffers with children — the real experts for this column. Allison Kaplan can be reached at 651-228-5116.
Where: Southdale Center, 69th Street and York Avenue, Edina
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $3.95 to $6.95 for kids' meals (including drink)