You Don’t Always Get a Side of Good Service With Your Fettucini – Olive Garden

Note:  Susan’s daughters are guest reviewers on this post.  Hannah is 10 and Hope is 8.

Susan says…

Much to Daniel’s dismay, I not only patronize chain restaurants, I actually LIKE some of them.  (And now I am writing another review of a chain.  He might have a coronary.)  One of my favorite chain joints is the Olive Garden.   I don’t place it on the same plane as south hills market & café, Blossom Deli or Sitar of India, but it has its place in my culinary life and I am not ashamed to admit I like it every now and then.

I just plain think it tastes good.  I realize a chef isn’t making the sauces, dressings and desserts under the same roof as my table – but if it tastes yummy, sometimes I don’t really care that a lot of the food was made elsewhere and shipped to this location. 

That’s the beauty of a chain, right?  Consistency.  I can go to an Olive Garden in Arkansas and get the same delicious garlic chicken with broccoli that I enjoy in Barboursville, WV, right?  One of my other favorite chains, The Cheesecake Factory, was the best meal Ron & I had on a recent trip to Orlando, Florida.  Not every city has an awesome restaurant review blog like Fork You to help diners decide where to eat.  We were so downhearted about the poor food with the large price tags we were relieved to see a “familiar face” where we knew what to expect.

Even though the food usually tastes the same in all the locations, the service is another animal.  The little girls and I went to the Barboursville Olive Garden on Columbus Day to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America by partaking of some Italian cuisine.  

We arrived at 1:40 in the afternoon, fully expecting that the odd time of day would afford us an immediate seat.  Wrong-o.   We were told our wait would be about 15-20 minutes.  30 minutes later, and after another party lapped us, I inquired, worried our doohickey wasn’t working properly or they forgot about us.  No one admitted anything, but we were told our table was next. 

Finally, a seat.  Then we proceeded to wait for another 5 minutes for someone to acknowledge us and take our drink orders.  We were all irritated by this point, but I had a gift card from Ron, who was relieved that I was using it without him, so it was a freebie for me.  We were going to persevere.

When our server discovered us, we went ahead and placed our orders.  I didn’t see my favorite on the menu so I had selected another dish reluctantly but mentioned to him that I was sorry not to see the Garlic-Herb Chicken con Broccoli on the menu anymore.  He said he was pretty sure they had it and would try to hook me up – wonderful! 

One bright spot and we were back to seemingly endless waiting for our big bowl of endless salad.  Another server dropped one off at our table and showered it with freshly grated parmesan cheese but there was still a problem: no salad bowls or even bread plates.  We sat there long enough, becoming increasingly aggravated that the other servers’ tables around us had all been served salad and bread (with the appropriate plates, I might add) even though they were all seated AFTER us, that we just dug into the serving bowl.  Hannah was doing a great job keeping tabs on the activity and reporting it to me since I had my back to the action.  Eventually he did bring salad bowls and we went back to acting like proper ladies.

Garlic-Herb Chicken con Broccoli

At 3:00 we received our meals.  Indeed I had a plate of garlic chicken and broccoli right in front of me.  It has been months, nearly a year, since I have tasted this dish and it was just as I remembered.  The orrechiette pasta, the creamy garlicky white sauce, the grilled chicken and the crisp-tender broccoli.  This dish is still on the menu – the DINNER menu only.  That’s why I didn’t see it.  The dinner portion comes in a big bowl with a hearty portion of broccoli and two small chicken breast halves for $12.50.  The endless salad and breadsticks are complimentary with your entrée.

I felt like a pig that had been fattened up for the Thanksgiving slaughter by the time Hannah and I polished off two bowls of salad and I ate all but some of the pasta from my bowl.  But I had promised the girlies a tiramisu…with three forks.

Tiramisu is my favorite dessert.  Meaning “pull me up” in Italian, it sure does brighten my day!  I tried three different tiramisu recipes before I realized the one on the ladyfinger package yielded a result closest to the Olive Garden version, which I LOVE.  Sure, it’s frozen and shipped to the restaurant but whoever is making it wherever they do…I could eat it until it’s coming out my ears.  This one is priced at $5.25.

It was a BIG mistake to talk the girls into trying tiramisu.  Hannah already knew she liked it, being a little more adventurous than Hope, but Hope walked through the doors today thinking tiramisu was gross and I should have let her go on believing that – because I had to fork-wrestle her for the last bite.  She was a maniac!  She actually asked for another piece. 

Our server, friendly as he was, was painfully slow.  We felt like we had spent all day at the Olive Garden.  The food was wonderful, but evaluating the total experience, I have to rate them down to THREE FORKS.  I can never get a table at Southridge and now Barboursville’s service has left a bad aftertaste.  Whatever will I do the next time I get a craving for garlic chicken with broccoli???  Google for a copycat recipe, maybe!

Hannah says…

I was happy when Mom suggested we go to the Olive Garden.   Hope says she hates that place but I love it.

 I didn’t like waiting a long time to get our table because I was so hungry.  When we finally got our seats we had to wait forever for our server to finally come.  Then after he gave us our menus he just like, disappeared. 

The waiter that was waiting the other tables was a lot faster than our dude.  I asked Mom if we could switch waiters but we didn’t do it.

When our waiter came back we already had our salad because the other waiter delivered it to us.  The salad was awesome.  The croutons are really good and the dressing had a lot of different flavors in it. 

kid's pasta

The breadsticks were also very good.  I ordered a kid’s pasta with butter and parmesan cheese for $4.25.  It came with a drink, too – so I got Diet Coke.  My pasta was really good.  It wasn’t undercooked or over.  They put just the right amount of butter and cheese.  I like that they put the cheese on at the table because if they don’t, it sort of soaks in and I can’t really taste it.

Then we got tiramisu for dessert.  He brought us three forks and thankfully I was the first to get a bite.  Hope and Mom only got about a fourth each because they were too slow.  (imagine Hannah’s evil giggle)

Even though the food was really good, we still had to wait a very long time to get the bill, not that I was paying for it.  And when he brought the bill, finally, he also brought chocolate/mints.  It makes your breath smell better because you eat so much garlic there.

I did not like to wait for the food and the table but the food was very good and I think that I will rate it FOUR FORKS.


Hope says…

Olive Garden had a very long wait.  I was starving when we got there and I was hoping we would get our food quickly.   But it is always crowded so I had a bad feeling.

I ordered buttery pasta, the kid’s portion.  It tasted fine.  I asked two times for parmesan cheese.  It faded quickly. 

The breadsticks were very, very garlicky.  I ate one and a half. 

I had a very big portion but I still got tiramisu.  I had never tried it, but I liked it.  Me and mom fought about the last bite.  The tiramisu was chocolate-y, it had little mini cakes in the bottom, it had kinda cocoa mix on top of it.  I was glad mom asked me to try it.  I was just going to try to eat the cocoa powder – it looked good.  I ate the whole thing instead of just the cocoa powder.

the tiramisu plate after the fork-fight

It did take a long time to get the bill.  I was waiting to go to the bathroom for a long time.

I give them FOUR FORKS.

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

10 responses to “You Don’t Always Get a Side of Good Service With Your Fettucini – Olive Garden

  1. Follow-up:

    I did google for a copycat recipe of garlic chicken with broccoli and made it at home. It was pretty darned close. The sauce was excellent!

    Email me at the blog if you’d like the recipe.

  2. demosthenes.or.locke

    I’m not a big fan of Olive Garden but I do wish Charleston had a Cheesecake Factory. Another chain I wish we had is Five Guys.

  3. There is a Five Guys at Pullman Square if you ever get that direction.

    And there is one near our hotel in Mystic – but I make it a rule not to eat anywhere on vacation where we could eat at home. Since I live in Teays Valley, Pullman Square isn’t that far for me.

    I’d like your recommendation on what to try at Five Guys.

  4. Susan, I have that same rule. I usually try to eat at non-chain restaurants, unless it’s a chain we don’t have here, like Cheesecake Factory.

  5. I have never, repeat never had a meal at Olive Garden that was worth the wait. I can have bagged salad and frozen bread sticks without the poor service at home.

    They have found a business recipe that works, but I am not buying anymore. How many tasteless salads can one eat?

  6. I agree Dan, I’ve never had anything worth the wait at Olive Garden.

    (much less I’ve never had any pasta dish worth waiting for in the sense that pasta dishes are ususally over priced)

    OG in my honest opinion is just a glorified Fazolie’s. Although I love the Zuppa Tuscana soup. Especially during lunch when it’s all you can eat.

    I’ll vote for Cheesecake Factory, but once they hire the local employee’s and their hilljack attitudes of the “customer is never right”, and “if they only had waitress/serve once”….. well I’m sure that will ruin all my past great experiences at the Cheescake Factory.

    Susan forgets to mention that she may not eat what she can get at home. But she will try to eat every so called “authentic Mexican” place with the lunch special #2,, or some Chinese Buffet, or you name some other so called ethnic cuisine.

    Really here in CT, the Mexican population is pretty thin. I have yet to see an Asian person that was not staying at my hotel.

  7. Yes, but I bet you are over run by Canadians, ‘ey?

  8. I’ll admit it, I am having a major chimichanga craving. I will have to hit all my favorite places (including China Buffet, Cozumel and Graziano’s). I am about to turn into a fish with all the seafood I have been eating in New England.

    I don’t understand AT ALL what Ron is trying to say in his comment, but it is probably a slam on me.

    Now that I can make the garlic sauce at home, maybe I won’t have to wait on bad service either!

  9. Uuuugh. Olive Garden is overwhelmingly mediocre. . . at best.
    Eat at a chain while out-of-town? Never. I always travel with lots of printouts from food blogs,, Holy Eats, local directories, etc.

  10. The cheeseburger at Five Guys = Best Burger of all time. I’ve only been to Delaware locations. I would never step foot in Huntington, WV.

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