...and an evening saved by The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, really.
I was invited to attend Steak and Martini Night at Daily Grill (mainly a California chain with a few other locations across the country) and not one to pass up free steak and martinis, I accepted, figuring it'd probably be like other PR-organized food blogger gatherings that I've attended. Although I always feel a bit uneasy accepting these invitations to be wined and dined, knowing that they expect us all to go home and blog nice things about them, I do enjoy the opportunity to try out new foods and restaurants at no cost. Then, I do sometimes write about the events, but only if they were particularly good or bad. (Although I think I never got around to writing about an event I attended at Fleming's a year or so ago, which was absolutely spectacular. It's a pretty large chain, but the Boston location is a locally owned franchise. I'd definitely recommend trying a steak there if you're in the neighborhood.) Anyway, back to Daily Grill...
I'd never been there before, and since I usually prefer smaller local restaurants to national chains, I'd never really thought to go. Due to the seemingly poor planning of this event, I don't really feel like I can give a fair evaluation of the food - all I had was a small slice of steak (I wasn't even told what cut it was) with some steak sauce. The sauce was pretty good - kind of a sweeter, milder A1. I also had some sort of girly martini, which was a glass of pink grapefruity deliciousness.
But there were way too many guests for the space. The martinis and steak were served buffet-style, and there were not nearly enough tables for even half of the attendees. It's hard to eat steak and drink a martini while standing up. My guest and I (almost literally) battled a not-so-friendly couple for a table and ended up with a pretty bad feeling about the whole evening.
We left fairly soon after arriving and decided to get some actual dinner. Many not-so-exciting ideas later, we finally settled on The Cheesecake Factory right next door. Despite my small bias against big chains, it actually ended up being a really enjoyable meal, starting with great bread and really friendly service. A pomegranate mojito quickly improved my mood. I got potstickers and edamame, which were both satisfying, and Joel got a shrimp gumbo. Bonus points for Cheesecake Factory for the gumbo - they actually listened when Joel requested it to be extra spicy. We've been putting ghost chili sea salt on everything in preparation for the next Hell Night at East Coast Grill, so it didn't measure up to that, but for a chain serving the typical American taste buds, not bad at all.
Sadly, we did not have room for cheesecake.