I have been suffering from “When You’re Here You’re Family” commercials for the better part of 20 years now. I had literally never been to an Olive Garden in my life! I think my parent’s always thought it was too expensive as a kid and then in highschool all these d-bags took dates there and by the time I got to college it was already a freaking joke, so somehow I never actually made a trip to this famous chain. Well, Leslie and I decided it was time to take a visit. (Leslie had been to Olive Garden a few times, the most memorable time was when her high-school boyfriend surprised her with 11 roses at one in Longview, TX.) LOL
Olive Garden looks great from the outside. It is made of stone, has what appears to be romantic low-lighting on the inside, and usually a lot of chubby happy people leaving with large Olive Garden doggy bags. The weird thing was when we walked in there was carpet. Instantly this place that I always thought would be stone floors or at least Italian tile looked like a Luby’s. I also noticed it was very bright, like kid’s restaurant bright. We were seated at our table which was oak in color and the weird big square oak chairs were on brass casters…LUBY’s!!! Our waiter gave us menu’s and the menu had a wine list, but not like any I have ever seen. This wine list was art directed exactly like the margarita list at On the Border or a Beer list at T.G.I. Friday’s.
It was like if Jerry Bruckheimer was an artist who designed chain menus…really not fitting for a wine list. I also noticed the insane amount of cheese each waiter was offering their seated guests. You know when you are in a nice restaurant and they come by with a little dish of fresh parmigan? Well at Olive Garden they have a plate with this white plastic kitchen shredder that looks like your mom would use on a Saturday afternoon BBQ salad. Once again, not very classy for a place that sells $15-$20 entrees. Leslie and I ordered Cokes because that’s what you do in chains, mainly for the unlimited FREE refills and our waiter brought us a basket of bread to munch on while we waited. The bread was great, kind of had the Pillsbury in a can taste which I am a big fan of but the funny part was the basket. Again, we are in a place that I wouldn’t consider cheap. They push wine, entrees are $15 and it isn’t fast food, so why was the bread basket a plastic bowl with a weave pressed into it? You can’t afford wicker? This is where Olive Garden drew the line on spending?!! Weird.
Leslie ordered Fettucini Alfredo which in my opinion is kind of hard to screw up since it is all cheese…I honestly can’t remember what I got besides a $15 entree of regret. Our waiter was perfectly nice, actually he was a Massachusetts transplant who was less than happy to be working at OG and ready to go back to his home. All in all, I’m not mad that I went to Olive Garden but I wish I would have taken a chance on a local…any local. Because when the food is bad at a chain you blame yourself, but when the food is bad at a local you at least get to leave feeling like you contributed to someone’s dream.