Goodbye, Olive Garden

I came to the conclusion tonight that I have somehow outgrown the Olive Garden, which has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Our experience tonight pushed it over the edge and I told my wife that it will be a long time before I ask to go back to the Olive Garden again.

It all stared innocently enough. I’ve been seeing the commercials for the yearly “Endless Pasta”, one of my favorites. I’ve been wanting to go, but something always got in the way, from my wife claiming that she can do it better and cheaper, to the kids getting way too cranky and us chucking a trip to Olive Garden in favor of Friendly’s. Finally, tonight things lined up and we made a trip to the Olive Garden, into an experience that pretty much killed whatever magic has been bringing me back year after year. I’ve always enjoyed going to Olive Garden for my birthday and other special occasions.

First we showed up and were seated. Looking at the menus, we saw no Endless Pasta. Our waiter confirmed that Endless Pasta ended yesterday. OK, fine, poor timing on our part. Then we find out that we had been given lunch menus. The waiter took them and brought back dinner menus. Since there was no Endless Pasta, we thought about leaving, but elected to stay. Our waiter took a long time to do anything, and while he wasn’t incompetent, he also didn’t seem very experienced. My wife and I were texting each other back and forth, which is a heck of a lot more fun and convenient than complaining out loud.

Like I said, we were given lunch menus when we sat down. The waiter gave us dinner menus. My wife asked, since we originally had lunch menus and Endless Pasta is over, can she just get the lunch soup and salad? Request denied. We ended up with food that was good but not terribly great and a $52 tab for us, her sister, and both boys.

It took the waiter a long time to come back to see if we needed more water. After we finished, it took him a long time to come back to see if we wanted the check. Then my wife asked for a box, which he forgot. I started thinking about some “heuristics” that I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden under for years.

I expect an upscale but not ridiculously expensive service and meal at the Olive Garden. I expect competent and friendly service. What we got tonight we could have experienced at any diner in the local area for less than $40. Over the years, the Olive Garden has gotten rid of just about any menu item that I really liked. Years ago, they had this chicken pesto ravioli that I loved. It was discontinued. Have you ever had one of those meals that you leave feeling really good, like you are on some kind of high? Tonight I left dinner feeling really disillusioned and ripped off. I told my wife I’m going to have to find a new favorite restaurant. I don’t see myself asking to eat at the Olive Garden again.

So goodbye, Olive Garden. Take your overpriced low-class diner (that is diner not dinner) experience with you. I’ll find another place to enjoy eating. I really don’t feel like going back to the Olive Garden again.

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