Of all the major chain restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory might be the hardest to pin to a specific cuisine. After all, its sprawling menu famously includes everything from fish tacos to chicken teriyaki. But thanks to the chain's name, at least everyone knows one of the options for dessert: the titular cheesecake.
The problem: The Cheesecake Factory currently has 34 flavors to choose from. Are they all created equal? To do my part to help you celebrate National Cheesecake Day, I rolled into (and out of) a Los Angeles location of America's favorite chain and ordered up a slice of every single flavor. Here's how they stacked up.
Eat a Giant Polenta Feast On Your Table
34. Low Carb Cheesecake
What it is: Creamy cheesecake with a graham-walnut crust and sweetened with Splenda The verdict: Look, nobody should be surprised here. Carbs taste great and make people happy. Why would you take them out? You already ordered cheesecake, the opportunity for sound nutritional decisions has waved goodbye. This number is flavored with Splenda, which you might know from such hits as “The Awful Diet Cola Aftertaste” or “Goddammit I Bought The Sugar Free Popsicles Again.”
33. Low Carb Cheesecake With Strawberries
What it is: The Low Carb Cheesecake with strawberries and whipped cream, sweetened with Splenda The verdict: Moooooooderately better, but that’s because of the strawberries and a more traditional crust. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same Splenda-y taste as the regular Low Carb Cheesecake. Weird thing about this one: The strawberries are served sliced up in a little cup next to the cheesecake. What’s that about? Portion control? Again, you've already decided to chase the cheesecake dragon. Embrace it.
32. Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake
What it is: Pecan brownie and caramel swirl cheesecake topped with caramel turtle pecans and chocolate The verdict: I am not what you might call “a pecan guy.” I’m more like an “all the other types of nuts are better than pecans” guy. Thus, turtle isn’t really my fave flave. The caramel fudge swirl cheesecake itself isn’t bad, but it’s bogged down by those pesky pecans.
Note to self: “Pesky Pecans” is a great name for a YA detective series about anthropomorphized nuts.
31. Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake
What it is: Banana cream cheesecake topped with Bavarian cream and sliced banana The verdict: Regardless of how you feel about bananas ("Something to chew on" would be my review), banana eaters can generally agree that when they’re extra mushy, it’s unpleasant. That’s what this whole cheesecake is like. Extra mushy. It’s like if somebody made a purée of bananas and baby food and assembled it in cheesecake form. You will like this if you like banana cream pie or if you are an infant with no teeth. I don't, and I'm not. Not anymore, at least.
30. Chris’ Outrageous Cheesecake
What it is: Layers of chocolate cake, chewy brownie, toasted coconut-pecan frosting, and chocolate chip coconut cheesecake The verdict: Chris seems like he lost his damn mind a bit on this one. There’s a whole lot going on -- an outrageous amount, one might say. I’m not on board with cheesecake that also has actual cake in it, because they are opposing flavors and textures. It’s not like ice cream cake where they form a symbiotic relationship... and let’s face it, the ice cream is the best part of ice cream cake anyway. The other problem I had with this one is that of all of those flavors packed in, coconut is by far the strongest. Just, an outrageous amount of coconut. Cool it on the coconut, Chris.
29. Cherry Cheesecake
What it is: The Original Cheesecake topped with cherry preserves The verdict: I’m bummed to rank Cherry Cheesecake this low, as it seems like all the right pieces are there. I love cherry pie, and I really like the Original Cheesecake. So you’d think the Original Cheesecake topped with cherry pie filling would be a hit, right? Wrong. The filling wasn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Swing and a miss.
28. Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake
What it is: Flourless Godiva chocolate cake layered with Godiva chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse The verdict: Couple things working against the GCC here. First, there’s chocolate cake mixed into the cheesecake once again, and it still isn't working. Second, said chocolate cake is flourless. In the words of the illustrious Biz Markie, “Don’t gimme that. Don’t even gimme that.” Flourless cakes are just cakes that forgot something. The other problem here is that it’s just soooooo rich. Maximum decadent. If there was something like a strawberry or raspberry to help cut through that richness, that might help matters. But alas, there isn't.
27. Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Cheesecake
What it is: Hershey’s cheesecake between chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips The verdict: Similar to the Godiva, but slightly less rich. And again with the real cake-cheesecake combo! This is a big fat chocolate punch to the face. If you’re a clinically diagnosed chocoholic or perhaps his excellency Count Chocula, then you’ll definitely be on board. If you’re a regular mortal, you probably won’t be.
26. Celebration Cheesecake
What it is: Vanilla cake layered with cheesecake, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla mousse, and cream cheese frosting The verdict: The beast that is the Celebration Cheesecake is the newest behemoth to come out of the Cheesecake Factory’s kitchen (or factory?). It seems to be their take on a birthday cake, yet it definitely feels like they’re celebrating themselves as a place that doesn’t care at all about what a cheesecake is supposed to be. It’s almost got that Funfetti feel, with all the bright birthday-ish colors. It’s tasty as hell, but the real problem is that you get tricked into thinking you’re about to take a bite of an ice cream cake, but alas, no ice cream. Just a comically tall slice of cheesecake.
25. Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake
What it is: Oreo cookies baked into creamy cheesecake with layers of fudge cake, Oreo cookie mousse, and topped with milk chocolate icing The verdict: “25 for OREO???” you are probably shouting at your computer. Stop shouting, let’s have a calm discussion. I love Oreos. They are the best cookie. Unfortunately the true power of Oreo doesn’t come through here because it’s all about the cookie part. There’s a severe lack of the cream filling so good Weird Al wrote an entire song about it. I can see that the cream cheesecake itself is trying to fill that position, but it just ain’t enough. This is more like a traditional cheesecake with a bit of Oreo cookie crumble in the mix.
24. Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
What it is: Chocolate cheesecake topped with a layer of Belgian chocolate mousse The verdict: This guy right here truly rides the line between extreme chocolate and a richness that isn’t overpowering. It’s silky and smooth and mousse-y and classic. A go-to for anybody who loves chocolate but appreciates moderation, insofar as chocolate mousse cheesecake can be considered an example of moderation.
23. Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake
What it is: Layers of fudge cake, chocolate cheesecake, vanilla mascarpone mousse, and chocolate The verdict: Contrary to my previous statements, the layer of actual cake works a little better in this one. The cake-to-cheesecake ratio is much more under control here. This is a middle of the road decadent dessert for somebody who gets really excited about Black and White cookies.
22. 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake
What it is: Original Cheesecake layered with fudge cake and chocolate truffle cream The verdict: There's not enough cheesecake here to even call this cheesecake, but this somehow counterbalances my whole “too much cake” argument and flips it on its ear. Now it’s almost like the cheesecake is the part that’s been added, and it somehow works better. Also, the truffle cream is glorious.
21. White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake
What it is: White chocolate chunk cheesecake swirled with macadamia nuts and caramel on a blonde brownie crust The verdict: I enjoyed this one quite a bit more than thought I would. The crust is tasty and reminds me of pie, so that’s a bonus. The macadamia nuts and the caramel form a nice counterbalance against the overly strong flavor that white chocolate often brings, forming a sweet-salty-nutty harmony.
20. Craig’s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake
What it is: Carrot cake swirled with cheesecake topped with cream cheese icing and roasted almonds The verdict: I always think that I’ll hate carrot cake (eww vegetables!), and yet I always find it delicious. Craig, you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it just right. I like the autumnal flavors that just make you wanna sit around the Thanksgiving table, tolerating your racist uncle. As tends to be the case with carrot cake, this was so much better than I expected.
19. Coffee and Cream Chocolate Supreme
What it is: Cold-brew coffee cheesecake and chocolate cake, topped with coffee mascarpone mousse The verdict: I’m into coffee flavored things. Coffee ice cream? You bet. Coffee cake? Not necessarily coffee flavored but I'll still eat it. Cup of coffee? Sure. There’s a formidable coffee flavor going on in this cheesecake, but it most definitely works. Well done, lads.
18. Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cheesecake
What it is: Chocolate hazelnut cheesecake topped with hazelnut crunch and Nutella The verdict: If you’re a Nutella fiend, this is for you. The hazelnut flavor is quite strong here, coming from both the Nutella and the cheesecake itself. Also comes with a forklift full of hazelnuts that they drop on top of your head while you eat it. Figuratively speaking.
17. Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
What it is: Vanilla bean cheesecake layered with vanilla mousse and whipped cream The verdict: This was another cheesecake that exceeded my expectations. I’m not really a vanilla person -- I’ll almost always avoid plain vanilla in search of bolder flavors. But this guy is light and airy, and the vanilla beans themselves shine through wonderfully in every bite. Simplicity can be beautiful.
16. Dulce de Leche Caramel Cheesecake
What it is: Caramel cheesecake topped with caramel mousse and almond brickle on a vanilla crust The verdict: Gimme dat almond brickle! The Cheesecake Factory had the courage to not stick a bunch of cake in the middle of this thing and ruin it. I’m a butterscotch man, and this is the closest thing they have to butterscotch. Bonus points for the vanilla crust, too.
15. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake
What it is: Creamy cheesecake loaded with chocolate chip cookie dough and walnuts The verdict: Everybody likes cookie dough, right? Isn’t that a medical fact? I think I read that somewhere. *In a book*. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, this one is delicious because it has chocolate chip cookie dough in the middle of it. Sometimes things aren't that complicated.
What it is: Chunks of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the Original Cheesecake with layers of fudge cake and caramel The verdict: This could have been even higher, but I don't think the extra cake layer was necessary here. But it's damn close to being a powerhouse. And where are the Butterfingers that they used in Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake (see below)? That would have blown both mine and Bart Simpson's minds. There's nothing wrong with inviting some Butterfinger to a Reese's party.
13. Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Galore
What it is: Hershey’s cheesecake topped with chocolate ganache and toasted house-made marshmallow, and Honey Maid graham crackers The verdict: As I mentioned, the Hershey’s cheesecake is far too chocolatey. However, a good way to neutralize all that chocolate is to add a bunch of nostalgia-inducing, chocolate-cutting accoutrements, specifically sticky-toasted marshmallow and graham crackers. This could have gone even higher with the simple addition of a campfire and any of the cast members from Wet Hot American Summer.
12. Key Lime Cheesecake
What it is: Key lime pie in cheesecake form, on a vanilla crumb crust The verdict: Call me Margo Martindale from Season 3 of Dexter, because I LOVE key lime pie. I really do. If you have to alter key lime pie by turning it into cheesecake, this is probably the best way to do it. It maintains all the tartness and acidity of a lime, shining through the creamy cheesecake. It was very hard for me not to eat this entire piece, despite the fact that I was already in the middle of tasting 34 different types of cheesecake.
11. Salted Caramel Cheesecake
What it is: Caramel cheesecake and caramel mousse on a blonde brownie topped with salted caramel The verdict: Look. I’m basic. The salted caramel thing still hasn’t gotten old to for me, no matter how much it’s been overused. It’s simply a rock-solid combo. We’re dealing with that same delicious blonde brownie crust again as well. The finish is nice and salty and really heightens the sweetness of the caramel, which I think is the mark of a successful salted-caramel dessert.
10. Tiramisu Cheesecake
What it is: Layers of tiramisu and cheesecake The verdict: Truly a great idea all the way from the start. Tiramisu is fire. Cheesecake is fire. Pop ‘em together and, yep, Tiramisu Cheesecake is fire.
9. Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake
What it is: Layers of red velvet cake and the Original Cheesecake with cream cheese frosting The verdict: Ya boy is a sucker for red velvet. It eats me alive that I love something this trendy, but red velvet has totally lived up to the hype. This is by far the best example of a regular cake working in tandem with cheesecake. I mean, come on: it’s red velvet we’re talking about.
8. Snickers Bar Chunks and Cheesecake
What it is: Creamy cheesecake topped with Snickers, fudge, and caramel The verdict: You put Snickers on top of a cheesecake, and it’s gonna be good. Nothing to overthink about this one. And if you disagree, you might need to grab a Snickers, because you’re not you when you’re hungry.
7. Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake
What it is: Raspberry vanilla cake, creamy lemon cheesecake, raspberry ladyfingers, and lemon mousse The verdict: I was never going to not like this. I love raspberry. I love lemon. The lighter, more tart cheesecakes really did a number on me. The jam dripping off the top looks awful in pictures but felt just right in my dark, cavernous heart.
6. White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
What it is: Creamy cheesecake swirled with white chocolate and raspberry The verdict: I don’t even like white chocolate, and I am still all about this one. It’s tart and bright from the raspberries but still sweet and decadent from the white chocolate. The perfect amount of each ingredient. Yumtown, USA population: whoever eats this.
5. Lemon Meringue Cheesecake
What it is: Lemon cream cheesecake topped with layers of lemon mousse and meringue The verdict: Do you love lemon bars? Do you love not feeling like you weigh 2 billion pounds after eating dessert? Do you like reading three questions in a row like an infomercial? If so, the Lemon Meringue Cheesecake is for you!
4. Original Cheesecake
What it is: Creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and sour cream topping The verdict: Before I tasted this, I figured I didn’t really care for plain cheesecake. My first bite of the Original changed my mind. I was very into the sour cream topping. It wasn’t too heavy or too rich. I truly have nothing to change. A+ cheesecake.
3. Mango Key Lime Cheesecake
What it is: Key lime cheesecake topped with mango mousse on a vanilla macaroon coconut crust The verdict: Brightness! Tartness! Acidity! All those things I keep talking about! I don’t love coconut, and I don’t even care because this one is so good. The silky smooth filling and the mango mousse yield harmoniously tasty results. That sour finish on your tongue at the end of each bite really makes you come back for more.
2. Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake
What it is: Creamy cheesecake swirled with caramel, peanut butter, Butterfingers, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups The verdict: Adam seems to have done everything right where the other peanut butter cup cheesecake failed. The Butterfinger bits are crucial as hell. The peanut butter ganache on the top is a killer. It’s all cheesecake stuffed with Reese’s Cups, and not an ounce of boring fudge cake anywhere to mess it up. If any of you out there is Adam, please identify yourself. I’d like to give you a hug.
1. Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake
What it is: The Original topped with glazed strawberries (no sour cream topping) The verdict: Folks, it’s a classic. The Original has already mastered that perfect simplicity, and ain’t nobody ever got hurt by adding strawberries. The brightness from those strawbs really packs a special punch. Another thing that skyrocketed this bad boy to the top was that, in the end, a lot of these flavors and styles are very similar. So much heavy chocolate. Lots of silky smooth richness. But this Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake right here stands out among the super-heavy chocolate cheesecakes that the menu is packed with. It’s light, and fluffy, and -- honestly -- just perfect.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Wilder Shaw needed to be airlifted out of The Cheesecake Factory after this and is a ghost now. Track his detox on Twitter and Instagram.