The Olive Garden. Yes, the Olive Garden. Look, we were staying near
the Westfield Mall in Vancouver, WA, and all of our dining choices were
chain restaurants. Frankly, neither Red Lobster, Chevy’s or Azteca
sounded like a more appealing choice. Plus I hadn’t been to the Olive
Garden in almost a decade. And you know what? It wasn’t too bad.
Generic, uninspired? Sure. But the grub was tasty enough, even good,
and the prices reasonable as well. Would I go back? Well, let’s just
say that I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it.
The Olive Garden at the Westfield Mall looks from the outside as an
Olive Garden and from the inside as a mall restaurant. The textured
walls and Italianish decorations did not stand up against the flat roof
of our small dining room, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Service was swift
and attentive, though the waitress seemed somewhat taken aback when I
pronounced the food merely “fine”. Really, given my low expectations
that was a compliment.
The menu, as you can imagine, emphasizes pastas with a few heavier
entrees added for good measure. There are plenty of fried appetizers,
but Mike and I had had a late lunch and weren’t /that/ hungry. Plus
entrees come with your choice of soup (several choices here) or salad,
and neither of these are skimpy.
I had the spaghetti with meatballs and the salad ($14)
and Mike had the tilapia and the chili soup ($16.50. The meals came accompanied
by their greatly advertised bread sticks, which were warm but still kind
of tough and otherwise unremarkable. The salad was large enough for two
or more, but also nothing to write home about. I personally found the
dressing too acidic, but Mike liked it. There was plenty of crispy,
white lettuce, a few onion and tomato slices and an amazing number of
Mike found his chili soup watery. He was somewhat surprised it had
pasta in it (hello?! It’s the Olive Garden!) and not much meat. Maybe
try one of the other choices.
My spaghetti with meatballs, on the other hand, was surprisingly good.
OK, the spaghetti was spaghetti, and the “meat” sauce had a generic
sweet flavor to it, but the meatballs were very nice. They tasted
pretty much like you imagine a meatball would taste; nothing gourmet,
nothing revelatory, but exactly what I was looking for that night. If
you are looking for classic meatballs, you could definitely do worse.
Mike thought his tilapia was “fine”, though I remember he liking the
sauce. The portion wasn’t too big so he ate some of my meatballs (the
chutzpah!), which he also liked.
We were too full for dessert so we skipped it. Maybe next time, but
they are about $7 which I find a bit steep for dessert.
And that was it, a pleasant meal that exceeded our very low expectations.
The Olive Garden
8101 NE Parkway Dr.
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