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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

The Cheesecake Factory

511 Americana Way, Glendale CA 91210 (map); 818-550-7505; find other locations at thecheesecakefactory.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: One of America's most successful restaurant chains makes a (mostly) successful burger
Want Fries with That? The fries are satisfactory, but considering all the interesting sides they might not be your best bet
Prices: Old Fashioned Burger w/fries, $8.95
Notes: The Glamburgers run the gamut of styles, so if wacky burgers are your thing, you are in the right place

Today is National Cheesecake Day so I thought it appropriate that I take reader John I. up on his recommendation to stop into The Cheesecake Factory to sample a burger. He found himself trying one when his girlfriend dragged him to their local outpost of this rapidly growing upscale chain on a double date.

What could have been little more than an evening of floundering through seas of uncomfortable small talk and mediocre food for John turned into burger revelation after he bit into his "Kobe" beef patty. I'll follow up on John's Kobe, life-preserver burger in a later post, but today I wanted to take on what could be thought of as a double: an old fashioned cheeseburger and a slice of cheese cake.

The Cheesecake Factory is an operation worthy of respect even if you don't love their food. The menu, borne of founder David Overton's world travels, is a cross-section of global food made accessible for the American palate. It was the first restaurant chain to reach a billion dollars in sale with fewer than one hundred restaurants. That's impressive in its own right, but considering the entire menu is made fresh at each restaurant (not just constructed from frozen components) it is a bit of a marvel. Of course, menus that expand to the proportions of The Cheesecake Factory can miss the mark when executing the staples, so it's a nice surprise to find their burgers as solid as they are. I tried mine at the Glendale location.

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The Old Fashioned Burger is a charbroiled patty of about six ounces served on a brioche bun. It comes with the standards: lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo (I added a little American cheese as well). The bun gets the brioche moniker, but is soft and spongy rather than sweet and flaky, and this a very good thing. In fact, the bun rubs up against excellence. There is a heft to it without getting weighed down with breadiness. It holds all of the ingredients in with ease. If anything, there's a bit too much ease; that is to say, the beef-to-bun ratio wasn't my ideal.

While the beef flavor is teased out with a great char, I wanted more of it. The bun and toppings stepped forward as a large part of this burger, which I must admit, is an "old fashioned" construction, but the fresh, well-seasoned beef was tasty enough to deserve more of a starring role. That said, the centerpiece of this burger seemed to be the harmony of the flavors. The char against all of the toppings made for a satisfying, traditional flavor.

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The cheesecake slice I tried is a new one to The Cheesecake Factory which, considering the dozens of varieties, is notable. It's a peanut buttercup spiked chocolate cheesecake that's as rich and debauched as it sounds.

In honor of this National Day of Cheesecake, The Cheesecake Factory is offering a half-price deal on all of its cheesecakes slices. If you're a fan of them on Facebook you can score the slice I had for a buck and a half. Of course, a good deal is no reason to suffer through a bad burger. Thankfully, at The Cheesecake Factory you don't have to.

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