True story: when I was growing up, my parents would let me pick where I wanted to eat every year on my birthday. And every year for many years in a row, I picked Olive Garden.
As a person who consciously avoids chain restaurants these days, I'm a little embarrassed of this. I wish I was the kind of kid who grew up loving sushi or something like that, but instead I really loved lasagna, breadsticks and tons of salad. I decided to go back on a recent Saturday night and see if that lasagna is still worth all the fuss...or if my tastes really had changed that drastically in the past couple decades.
First up, the breadsticks. They were kind of soft, and very buttery, and salty. Really really salty. I could barely finish a second, it was so salty.
Salad. Make that unlimited salad! The salad was actually just about as I remembered, standard iceberg glammed up a bit with banana peppers and nice big olives. Drenched, of course, in vinegary Italian dressing.
And the lasagna. Guess what? It was actually pretty good. Way better than the frozen Stouffer's lasagna my mom still occasionally feeds me. Better even, I would say, than the lasagna at Spaghetti Warehouse. The pasta was properly cooked, the meat sauce wasn't too salty or too sweet, and there was just enough cheese. It was basically tailor-made to satisfy my carb-y comfort food cravings.
While I was kinda bummed I couldn't really find anything to ridicule, I was also secretly relieved to learn I didn't spend my childhood lusting after some awful excuse for a pasta dish.
Also had a bite of this Chicken Parmigiana, and it was pretty good too.
But. Not good enough to counteract the stress of eating at Olive Garden. We made the mistake of thinking the Polaris location wouldn't be too crowded at 4:45 p.m. on a Saturday. We were wrong...there was already an hour wait at that point. We hightailed it to another Olive Garden, where I had to stalk down a parking spot all mall-at-Christmastime style. By the time we were seated, I felt fairly frazzled.
I can honestly say that I don't understand why hordes of people will stand around and wait for hours for the pleasure of eating at a chain restaurant in the suburbs when plenty of tables await at our locally owned independent places. Hey, whatever floats your boat.