AVC: I’m looking at the Cheesecake Factory menu and they have this category, “specialties.” Usually when a restaurant does that, there are four things in there, but on here it’s like 25 items, and it’s all over the place. Bang-bang chicken and shrimp. Indian food. Shepherd’s pie. Fish.
MA: Cheesecake Factory is a microcosm of America. It’s inherently trashy with this sheen that makes it look really classy, or at least that it’s trying to be so. It has no real take on anything. It’s all very basic. I think it’s a microcosm of basically Las Vegas, but also America as a whole.
AVC: I think that Disney comparison was kind of good. Everything in excess and everything looks nice, but behind the scenes, who knows what’s going on? It’s a well-oiled machine.
MA: The kitsch comes from how seriously it takes itself. As someone who’s pretty obsessed with all forms of things that think they’re fancier than they are, I think about this all the time.
AVC: What else thinks it’s fancier than it is?
MA: It’s stuff like Disney. Vegas. You go to Vegas and there’s a lot of like trashy stuff, like topless shows and everything. The parts of Vegas that I like are like the Bellagio, which is a nice hotel and it’s expensive, but also it’s not classy because it’s in Vegas and there’s a casino in it and it’s telling you to go outside and watch a water fountain.
I mean that in a non-snobby way. I really genuinely love all this stuff. It’s a very suburban form of going out on the town.
AVC: It seems like a manufactured kind of classiness. They didn’t earn that classiness.
MA: The Cheesecake Factory is new money.
AVC: Cruise ships are like that, too.
MA: If the Cheesecake Factory did a cruise ship, I would give them all my money.
AVC: They used to have an outlet at Disney World, I think.
MA: I wonder if I’ve been. I went to Disney World when I was a little kid. I don’t know if I went to a Cheesecake Factory there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had.
AVC: The Cheesecake Factory also runs the Grand Lux cafe, which we actually have in Chicago pretty close to the office.
MA: Oh, I’ve been. I went to Vegas last year with my best girlfriend from college. We went to see Celine Dion, which—she’s a huge fan of Celine Dion and was embarrassed to tell anyone that she was going, so now I’m outing her. And we went to see Celine Dion and ate at the Grand Lux Cafe four times in two days.
AVC: Every meal? Lunch and dinner?
MA: I’m a piece of trash.