A Food Snob's Surprising Defense of Olive Garden


olive gardenWhen a restaurant can't even change its bowls you really have to wonder about the clientele. Apparently whenever Olive Garden tries serving its unlimited refills salad on NEW bowls diners revolt. Fans want those translucent, flower-shaped, plastic bowls. "There is a lot of love for that bowl," says Olive Garden exec Dan Kiernan.

Poor Olive Garden, always trying to walk the narrow line between pleasing the picky eaters and appealing to foodies. It's not just the bowls. Customers wouldn't order the gnocchi until the restaurant plunked them into soup and started calling them "traditional Italian dumplings." They've said no to pesto and capers, and even to Gorgonzola ravioli with shrimp. I know an adventurous eater like me should be rolling my eyes at this point -- but actually, I totally get what Olive Garden is trying to do.

STAY IN BUSINESS. Okay, but seriously, Americans are becoming more adventurous eaters, just slowly. Ever. So. Slowly. Restaurants like Olive Garden are trying to keep up with the daring diners -- but they're also trying not to leave Grandma behind. If they just sprinted ahead with the "culinarily forward" we could see a dining chasm as deep as the one that divides us politically.

That's right. Olive Garden is trying to be the Independent Party of the food world. The table that brings (almost) everyone together. They'll get us all to eat Gorgonzola and teach us what gnocchi is eventually. But we're all on this food adventure together, and we're not leaving anyone behind. Put another way, Olive Garden is like the patient parent who pushes their kids just the right amount, but never too much.

You have to give credit to independent, small restaurant owners for really pushing restaurants forward. They are the reason why I have someplace to eat when I visit my family in Salt Lake City. But while I still don't want to eat at Olive Garden, I appreciate how they push small changes on mainstream eaters -- and make us all feel "safe" trying new things.

Are you an adventurous foodie or do you like more familiar food?


Image via marbla123/Flickr



dinner, eating out, restaurants


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hutch... hutchfam2007

I tend to like familiar food and must say, I LOVE olive garden and their never empty plastic flower shaped bowls of the most amazing italian salad ever ;)

Melis... Melissa042807

Olive Garden is Italian food for the lowest common denominator. And I love it. Shamelessly. :-) If I want fancy, I go to a little hole-in-the-wall downtown. If I want a big ol' plate of comfort, I go to Olive Garden. 

Kritika Kritika

"Olive Garden is Italian food for the lowest common denominator. And I love it. Shamelessly. :-) "

Haha I feel the same way!

hutch... hutchfam2007

lmao!! Olive garden is one of the fanciest and expensive restaurants in our area. We live near the 3rd largest city in illinois. gotta love the midwest we are so sheltered...

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I've never eaten at Olive Garden. Just looking at the menu gives me chest pains. If they offered some healthy options they'd get more clientele but when the only thing they have that I'd consider eating is salad without dressing then there's no way I'm setting foot in there.

nonmember avatar HAPPY MOMMY

Am I the only one that thinks Olive Garden is RIDICULOUSLY over priced with TERRIBLE food??!! LOL theres an authentic italian restaurant that me n my hubby go to here in s.fla n their food is AMAZING and waaaaaay cheaper. We go to Olive Garden and for 2 ppl spend about 65 bucks we go to our little spot and its $30 for the both of us with GIANT portions... oh how my mouth is watering just thinkin about it lol

bills... billsfan1104

They have this braised beef that is too die for and also I love their steak gorganzola Alfredo. Yummy. But they are expensive.

clg1213 clg1213

there is real italian...and there is olive garden.  i can enjoy both but they are not the same.

scary... scaryfairy81

@hutchfam-Rockford? lol, I grew up there.

mande... manderspanders

@hutchfam - it's the same here.  It's a real treat to go to Olive Garden, only reserved for special occasions due to the expense and the fact that we have to drive 2 hours one way to get to one. Us Western Kansas rednecks consider it to be "fine dining" LOL.  (Actually, my favorite Italian is Cinzetti's in Overland Park KS).

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