The Olive Garden

Place: The Olive Garden

Time: 6:00pm, Wednesday Evening, 9-24-08

With: Sabrina

Where: 200 Gorham Road, South Portland, Maine


Ok. If you love the Olive Garden and you eat there once a week and you take your family there when they visit from Vinalhaven then this review is not for you. Move on. Go read or something.


On Wednesday night Sabrina and I were out and about, running errands and just hanging out, having a good time. We were having such a good time that she allowed me to choose the eatery, sans objections. And I chose The Olive Garden.

You see, when I was younger The Olive Garden was a fantastic, genuinely Italian Restaurant, serving piping hot fresh bread sticks and wonderful soups and interesting cheesy concoctions filled with goodness. It was the gathering place of families and friends. It was a teenager’s hot-spot for filling up on cheap but excellent food. I have memories of good times spent there telling stories about “sticks in the eye” or hanging with my Summer Ministries Team or going on a date. But something has changed. And I can’t ignore it for the sake of nostalgia. The Olive Garden? Yeah. It Sucks.

We arrived at 6:00pm, and didn’t have to wait for very long at all, about 15 minutes. Unfortunately the buzzer coaster thingy was slimy, and I was picturing millions of germs all over it, crawling onto my hands and infecting me with syphilis or some such. Oh, and a “little person” sat us. I only note this for informational value as he will again appear later in my story.

We were sat and immediately noticed that the room was uncomfortably hot. Sauna hot. While I was in a shirt and shorts, Sabrina was wearing a (weather appropriate) sweater. Also? It smelled like diapers. And not the clean kind. Ick. Our waitress came over and introduced herself and offered us the house wine – Something not far removed from a box, I’m sure. I ordered a peach raspberry tea and Sabrina had a water. We also complained about the heat and the stench.

Our waitress was a nice enough individual, but she seemed a little… how shall I say… distracted? Disaffected? Distant? Not that I blame her, but she was obviously over her job. She said all the correct words but without a modicum of inflection or caring. So, here’s a tip: If you are in a service industry and you hate your job, do everything you can to find another one. It helps no one to be surly. Your miserableness infects your customers.

We got breadsticks, something that I had previously loved. Now, it is obvious that they are microwaved. They come out raging hot and stale. They try to over-ride the staleness with tons of salt and a smidge of garlic, but it doesn’t work. They are approaching bread-stick status.

We also ordered the house salad, which arrived warm and wilty. Mmm. The lettuce hung off our forks like hot mozzarella cheese. It was smothered in “house dressing”, a vinegary mess.

I asked the waitress which she would order – the Stuffed Chicken Marsala or the Gorgonzola Steak Tips. Per her suggestion I got the steak tips. Woopsie.

While our food was cooking a few interesting things happened:

1. The woman who was sitting behind Sabrina was sitting alone and holding up her cell phone, it looked like to take a picture. Of me. I smiled big and chuckled a little in her direction, trying to forge a tenuous bond about the silliness of life and trying to be generally pleasant. She gave me the stink eye like I was a perv and left soon after.

2. The old woman who was sat at the table behind us loudly commented “My but that is a little tiny man!” to her companion, while the “little person” was standing there handing her a menu. The dead look in his eyes made me realize that he deals with this crap every day. It saddened me.

3. The older couple behind us sent back the wife’s chicken. She asked how long it would take to get a replacement, and the waitress said that it would take a bit, since they had to remake the dish from scratch (lies!). The husband growled “nevermind, she doesn’t need anything else”, and proceeded to finish his meal. His wife went hungry.

4. Two girls from “The Hills” came in. They were young and dressed like Hollywood stars (tight tops, short skirts, FMPs). They had long blond hair and attitudes to match. One of them was wearing leopard print panties, which she showed the world when she sat down. If you were very very quiet you could just hear the 16 year old waiter’s pants “tent” when he went over to them.

The food arrived. My “Steak Tips” turned out to be Swiss steak cut up. You know Swiss Steak? Your mother used to serve it to you with egg noodles and mushroom gravy. Ew. I just threw up a little in my mouth. But yeah – that’s what I got. It was terrible. I had asked for it medium rare, but you just don’t want Swiss Steak medium rare. You want it cooked grey. Also – the food was obviously microwaved.

We waited 35 minutes after we were done eating to pay our bill, a long, long time in a stinky, hot room.

On the whole, it was terrible. We will never ever ever go back. Scratch it off the list, erase it from the blackberry, remove it from your mind. Done.

0 out of 5 stars.

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3 Responses to The Olive Garden

  1. Sadie's Mama says:

    Um. Due to my traumatic 4 day employment at the Concord, NH Olive Garden….my entire family (Right FRED AND ROB?) are on a lifelong boycott of Olive Garden. They are not to eat there…watch the commercials or buy the “Girls of Olive Garden” calendar.

    From my own experience I can point out…that your waitress was probably distracted because she was wondering why she didn’t get a call back from the Rocket Scientist job she interviewed for the week before. Understandable. Next week she interviews for a job as a brain surgeon.

    You had to throw in the Little Person… know how I feel about Little People! Still…I am sticking to my lifelong boycott of all things Olive Garden.


  2. Sadies, Mamas' Big Brother says:

    Standing around Olive Garden for four days pretending to learn what box wine goes with what dish and getting it WRONG could hardly be called employment Sadies’ Ma.
    My wife and I used to fancy OG as well. However in our Bangor Metropolis it soon fell out of fashion with us when we had to wait a minimum of 45 minutes after circling the tiny maze of a parking lot for thirty minutes to locate a parking spot. No matter what time of day we went there it was packed and yet they seemed to think this was fashoinable for this area and not a complete annoyance to those of us that can cook those very basicItalian meals they serve fresh from the freezer.
    However I did always like those meals when you could get in there quickly and enjoy a comfy seat and a beer and some warm breadsticks. When it was new it was so much better but now that these years have worn on, it has become the Mcdonalds-no- Hardees of Italian food.
    God I miss living close enough to Boston to shoot down to the Italian quarter and get some real food. C’est la vie.
    Chris, since Mary first sent me the link for your blog I have found it quite entertaining. Thank you.

  3. Betsy says:

    I loved this post – Dave told me to read it and that it was very funny. It did not disappoint! I love your writing Chris, and I too will boycott Olive Garden. Yeah and what’s with the doused salad?

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