By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 02, 2006 at 5:23 AM

It's 10 degrees below zero on a late Saturday afternoon -- no longer lunchtime and definitely not the dinner hour -- but the Cheesecake Factory, 2350 N. Mayfair Rd., is packed.

Groups of martini-drinking women clearly on "girls' afternoons out" are belly-up to the bar, couples snack on plates of appetizers before or after a movie and families scarf down big platters of food like it's the Last Supper. It's nice to know that our group -- which includes two very messy, very short diners -- will go more or less unnoticed and that, for once, we won't be too loud.

For some, however, the noise level could be a problem. It's really intense. The Factory's high ceilings and tiled floors make the acoustics even bouncier, and at times it's hard to hear across the booth. However, our waitress heard us say that we were on our way to the "Curious George" movie with only have 45 minutes to dine, and brought drinks to our table within a couple of minutes, and our meals faster than you can say "the man with the big yellow hat."

The menu is one of those encyclopedias of food options, featuring entrees from Shepherd's Pie to Hungarian goulash to the all-American burger.

My dinner date went with Oscar's Barbeque Chicken Sandwich ($9.95), an interesting stack of a charbroiled, barbequed chicken, slices of melted cheese, red onion, mayo and onion rings on a sourdough bun. Although the bun was a bit too hard, the rest of the experience was quite satisfying, despite his initial skepticism about onion rings on a sandwich. He also mentioned the tangy BBQ sauce was delicious and not too sweet.

My grilled eggplant sandwich ($8.95) was excellent. The Japanese eggplant pieces were perfectly grilled, not too chewy or limp or greasy. It also had red pepper, onion pieces, melted mozzarella and garlic aioli on it, for a fantastic combo of flavors. The sandwich was pretty messy, and a lot of the ingredients fell onto my plate, but it was just as good eaten with a fork as a cheesy eggplant side dish.

Both sandwiches were huge and came with a ridiculous amount of fries. Even our sodas, served in glasses that would put a beer stein to shame, were refilled before we could even make a single bottom-of-the-glass slurpy sound.

Although there isn't a kids' menu, many of the appetizers work as meals. We considered fried mac 'n cheese bites, but went with a plate of "sliders" ($6.95) instead. The bite-sized charbroiled cheeseburgers on cute little buns were pretty good; nothing to write home about, but good enough for fussy kids to nibble.

Overall, the food is good. The portions are ridiculously large -- we would split one entree next time -- and the recipes are very rich. We prefer lighter food in general, but had a good time pigging out, even though we felt uncomfortably stuffed for the rest of the evening.

Although vowing to save room for popcorn and soda, we ordered a slice of Godiva chocolate cheesecake to share. Let's face it, a review of gourmet chocolate cheesecake really isn't necessary. Let's just sat that there's a reason why this place is called "The Cheesecake Factory;" and after one bite, we weren't questioning the legitimateness of their name choice.

For hours and more information, call (414) 257-2300.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.