Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quest for Olive Garden

When you're outnumbered by your children, going out to dinner can be a dicey proposition.  Nevertheless, I decided that I wanted to go out to dinner last Friday night.  As a family.

On nights such as these, we typically head to our trusty standby dining establishment:  Red Robin.  We like to go to Red Robin because (a) it is kid-friendly, (b) the decibel level is high enough that any unappealingly loud behavior our children might engage in will just be absorbed as ambient sound, and (c) it has a fully-stocked bar in case we need to numb our pain.
Sidenote #1:  The first time Scott and I ever went to a Red Robin was waaaaay back in the day before we had kids.  So we got there and I was like "Man, check out that bar!  Isn't this a burger & shake joint for kids?  Why would they have such an elaborate bar?"  Fast-forward to our first trip to Red Robin after having three children:  "Oh.  Now I get it."
But no offense to Red Robin intended, we were getting kind of sick of it.  I know, I know - HOW is it possible to get sick of greasy burgers and bottomless baskets of french fries??  I struggle to understand it myself.  But nevertheless, Scott and I felt like going somewhere new for the night.

So we pondered and discussed and then pondered some more.

And then it hit me like a ray of sunshine beaming over the Tuscan countryside itself - the Olive Garden.  We needed to go to the Olive Garden.  Oh, we hadn't been to Olive Garden in forever!!  Endless salad and breadsticks, pasta dishes galore, and tiramisu for dessert?  What more could we ask for??? 
Sidenote #2:  Scott and I have an abnormal love of chain restaurants.  Yes, we've eaten at many highly recommended and unique restaurants in many different cities - we don't care.  We are Red Lobster people and that's all there is to it.
I did a quick reconnaissance mission and confirmed that the Olive Garden kids' menu did in fact include the twins current food staple of choice (i.e., pasta with butter), and a plan was formed:  I would head home from work early, Scott and the kids would jump into my already warmed-up minivan and we'd head to the garden for some chain italian heaven.

Ooh, was I hungry.

Unfortunately, so was everyone else in the city of Omaha because they all decided to descend on Olive Garden just as we were turning into the parking lot.  Visions of breadsticks started disappearing right before my eyes as I struggled to get the kids out of their carseats while masses of people passed us on their way to the front door.  When we finally got inside and saw the packed house before us, we knew that our efforts were all in vain.  We didn't even wait to hear the hostess speak those words every parent of small children dreads to hear - "It's about a one-hour wait" - before we turned around defeated and headed back to our still-warm minivan.

We drove around aimlessly for awhile.  Ashley proclaimed that she was starving while the twins dejectedly looked out the window.  Scott and I engaged in intense debate as we tossed out and mercilessly shot down each other's substitute restaurant ideas.

We were almost out of hope.

And then...then I saw it.  Like a ray of sunshine beaming over the Tuscan countryside's less-attractive second cousin:  Fazoli's.  Fast food italian at its finest.

Just a short while later we were seated in a booth with a tray of food before us, whereupon Ashley insisted upon sitting on the floor to eat her pizza and the boys began slurping their spaghetti off their plates one strand at a time.

As I dodged the twins' spaghetti hands, I looked at Scott and said "Maybe it was good we didn't get into the Olive Garden."  And as he dug in to his second round of unlimited breadsticks, he agreed.


Sarah said...

As a mom with two newborn twin girls and a toddler boy...well...I figure I won't be enjoying a meal out until the girls are 18...


Anonymous said...

Red Robin is one of the restaurants on our lunch out short list when we run errands on the weekends. Everybody always leaves happy!

Since we are trying to limit our intake of humongous burgers on a regular basis, another one we also like a lot is Cafe Mimi.

The Lane Family said...

This blog was so true, so true. No matter how hard you try to have a quite, nice dinner, there is is always a catch and then you just resign yourself to whatever comes close.

We went to Macaroni Grille and all was well until our smallest, but oldest twin decided to start throwing everything and having a tantrum, needless to say out the door we went and the rest of the meal came with us in boxes. Maybe in another 2 years we will try it again :)

BranderPaul said...

I really and truly think you and I are twins in some far off world.... Olive Garden? Red Lobster?? Fazoli's??? HEAVEN!!!! :) We'll make Olive Garden happen soon.. Brian and his genuine italian make-up refuse to go there, so you and I will have a lunch date :) on a Saturday.. when unlimited breadsticks may also mean unlimited wine..... mmmmm :) See you soon!

Anonymous said...

I love sidenote #1 especially. :-) We love Olive Garden, too, and haven't been there in a while. Glad you enjoyed your Italian dinner!

Helene said...

You know why I love your blog so much? Because it comforts me that someone else in the world lives the same exact life as I do. Every 6 months we attempt to go to a restaurant and it fails every single time. We're do for another attempt in about 3 more months.

We have a Fazoli's here in town...maybe we'll go there and see if we get kicked out of there too.

Kim said...

mmmm...fazoli's....when I can have dairy again we are SO going.

and ditto to Helene's comment. on why i love your blog :)

Gary said...

I like that you embrace chain restaurants. I am leery of people who think chain restaurants are necessarily bad even though the concept is good enough to be consistently successful.

My favorite Italian chain is Macaroni Grill, but I used to wear out the Fazoli's by my house when I was single.

Kari @ p.s. said...

We also tend to eat out at places where the noise inside will drown out the noise coming from our children!