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Olive Garden

November 21, 2011

  • 6700 S. Westnedge Avenue
  • Portage, MI 49002
  • (269) 327-5001
  • Website
  • Menu

A couple months ago, someone asked me why I’ve never done a review at Olive Garden.  The answer was simple.  I’ve never eaten at Olive Garden.  Ever.

When it came time to get a reward from my credit card, I started looking over the different options and noticed a gift card for Darden Restaurants.  I clicked on the link and got a $50 card shipped to me.

J and I had some errands to run on Saturday morning and we got done right around 11:00.  We needed to make a run to Babies ‘R Us, so I immediately thought that we could take advantage of a free lunch.

The Olive Garden’s Kalamazoo area location is on South Westnedge in Portage in front of the Crossroads Mall.  The restaurant opens at 11:00 and by 11:30, the place was packed.  It’s always amazed me how much people really love the place.  Until Texas Roadhouse moved in, The Olive Garden was always the big date night place back where I grew up.  For the longest time, it was my mom’s favorite restaurant, yet I had always found a way of avoiding being sucked in to the hype. 

While the parking lot was packed, I was a little surprised to find out just how big the building was.  There are two main dining rooms that are separated by a long hallway that also has a bar and a little bistro setting.  We were taken to the back dining room by the hostess and seated at a table in the middle of the space.

I kind of got a weird vibe from the atmosphere and it was mostly because of the choice of furniture.  The chairs were on wheels and they were square.  I hope this doesn’t sound insensitive or just wrong, but I really felt like I was in a retirement facility instead of an Italian restaurant.

The waitress came over with a bottle of wine and tried to talk us in to ordering a glass, but I don’t really drink wine and J’s pregnant so we passed.  I went with a Coke and she ordered an iced tea.

Since we had $50 to spend, we considered an appetizer, but decided against it and figured we’d just get two meals out of the card instead.

I was really leaning towards the Chicken Parmigiana, but then, I noticed a dish called Lasagna Rollata Al Forno.  I do love lasagna so the dish really called my name.  The lasagna rolls are stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, asiago, Parmesan, and Romano cheese.  It’s then topped with mozzarella cheese and seasoned bread crumbs and baked in a five cheese marinara.  The pasta had a nice crunchy top to it and the lasagna filling was creamy and delicious.  I would have preferred a meat sauce instead of the cheese marinara, but it was still delicious with some small chunks of fresh veggies.

J also went with a cheese heavy pasta.  She chose the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno.  It’s a pretty simple pasta dish in the five cheese marinara and baked with an Italian cheese blend on top.  She decided to attack the dish as two meals.  She would half for lunch and take the rest home for dinner.   This was actually a meal that she did eat the leftovers so it must have been pretty tasty.

In addition to our meals, we started with a salad that was brought out in a community bowl.  It was a pretty simple salad with greens, croutons, tomatoes, red onions, and Parmesan cheese.  The salad was dressed with a light Italian vinaigrette.   We each took half and were offered more, but that one bowl was enough.

We were also brought a basket of bread sticks.  This was the part of the meal I was kind of disappointed with.  Whenever anyone talks to me about Olive Garden, it’s always about the “Unlimted Soup, Salad, and Bread Sticks” with the bread sticks getting all the attention.  When I go to an Italian restaurant, I really like bread with olive oil and cheese.  That wasn’t an option.  You can buy marinara, but there’s no option for Olive Oil.  The bread sticks were alright, but tasted more like something you would get at a pizza joint than an Italian restaurant.  They were good, but it wasn’t really my thing.  I’d prefer some nice crusty bread.

Our bill was right around $30.  As with most Italian restaurants, we had plenty of food for that price.  I left very stuffed and really wasn’t in the mood to run the errands we still needed to run.

My first trip to Olive Garden wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  The pasta was actually pretty good, but I wasn’t wild about the accompaniments to the meal which is odd because that’s what usually gets people in the door.  I’d go back…and I will because I still have $20 to spend there, but I can honestly say it’s not my first choice for Italian.  The chairs really did a number to my impression of the place and I’d rather have bread than bread sticks.  I have nothing but good things to say about the pasta though….

Lasagna Rollata Al Forno

Five Cheese Ziti al Forno

Garden Salad

Unlimited Bread Sticks

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

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