09 October 2011

Worst dining experience. Ever.

S and I like to go out to eat on a fairly regular basis. It's been a treat in my past and somehow I've made it more commonplace lately. On Friday night we decided the salad and bread sticks of Olive Garden were top of the list of things we'd like to eat so we headed out to the nearest location.

We got there by about 6:45 pm and were told it's about an hour wait for a table for two. And actually, every time I go to Olive Garden there's a wait. I even met a friend for lunch there right when it opened at 11 am and was told it was a 15 minute wait. Really? You can't seat me and take my beverage order in this completely empty restaurant? Anyway, we decided to wait for dinner. I didn't check the clock, but I don't think we ended up waiting the entire hour. We sat in the lobby - which occurs to me should be larger if waiting for a table is a requirement to eating there. I watched people come and go, noting there was a baby in the lounge, one in the lobby, and a family of six across from us. The family of six had two boys about eight and ten years old, one playing on an iPad. The baby in the lounge bothered me. When did it become ok to have minors in the bar area? Yes, it was a baby, but my Ex and I were denied entry to a wine tasting event when T was an infant. No exception was made there (I thought they'd allow it as he was an infant and not likely to consume alcohol, I was wrong, no minors allowed at all) so when did it become acceptable for babies to be in bars?

We were finally seated right next to the kitchen against the wall. I didn't mind too much, I was hungry and it's not like you can actually see into the kitchen. In the middle of the floor was a large table of about ten people. One was a baby in a high chair, one was a little girl about five years old. The baby was reasonably well behaved but the five year old got up from her seat and ran around a lot. At one point she lifted her skirt over her head for reasons only little girls know. She also came over to our table and stared at us for a bit. I began talking to S about how North Americans view pornography as forbidden unlike some other cultures in hopes the girl's parents might call her away from our table. The adults at that table didn't notice, didn't discipline the girl for anything and in fact took no notice of her running around getting in the wait staff's way.

And by the way, when did it become forbidden to tell the parents to keep their children in their seats? It's a danger to the staff with heavy trays to have little ones running around.  I also find it incredibly rude to have a child staring at me, coughing on me, leaning over the seat staring at me, or generally doing anything other than sitting in their seats.

Moving along. The family of six was seated on the other side of the kitchen entry. I could see the ten year old boy whipping his chair around in circles. It had well lubed wheels I suppose. It became a nuisance when the boy started to whip his chair away from the table. The mother did eventually stop him...after a waiter or two almost got smacked by the chair.

Because we were near the kitchen entrance we had a lot of foot traffic by wait staff. At one point a waitress and a cook had a bit of an argument. The cook saying he'd take care of it, loudly, and mouthed 'f*cking bitch' when he turned away. I may be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud but I don't like to see that kind of thing among the staff. Keep it private, please.

All this was happening throughout the evening. The waitress came by for our drink orders and we found we could barely hear her over the noise of the children at the neighboring table and general din of diners. By the time our drinks arrived we knew what we would order. When I asked for my apricot chicken, she asked "soup or salad?" I was a bit confused, the entrees come with salad and bread sticks, why would I want soup or salad with the meal? I told her the side salad was too much food with the entree and salad and bread sticks so skip the side salad. S ordered a skewer dish and mussels to start, also saying skip the side salad.

There began our wait. By this time I was hungry enough to lick the menu and getting irritated enough to want to instruct the little girl to sit the f*ck down. The mussels were brought to the table...no salad and bread sticks. The waitress passed by a minute later and asked if everything was ok. I told her no, I'd like my salad and bread sticks please. "But you said you didn't want them" she replied. Wait. So when she offered soup or salad that meant the free appetizer with entree and not side dish? Yep. Cleared up, salad arrived, bread sticks in the oven. Bread sticks eventually arrived, warm but pale and not golden brown. Then the meal came.

Both entrees looked attractive, my chicken of good proportions but looking a bit dry. Tasted it, yep, dry but not inedible. My broccoli was undercooked for my personal taste and the asparagus a bit overcooked and droopy. But ok compared to S's plate. S had skewers of both steak and chicken with potatoes and veggies. I asked him for a bite of the steak because I couldn't imagine a rosemary sauce on steak. It tasted...meaty. I like steak but I don't like beef as leftovers or too close to the expiration date. It just tastes too gamy for my palate. I didn't want to imagine why this steak was gamy tasting and passed it off as the sauce. Then S pulled his chicken off the skewer and saw it was raw. Not slightly undercooked, actually raw more than half way through. The other chicken bits looked ok from where I was sitting. So how did only one piece get cooked only on one side? Ick. We ate a bit, but not much.

The manager was making rounds asking if people's meals were good and came to our table. He looked down and said he saw the raw chicken and was disgusted by it. He said that was unacceptable and would take care of our meal. He looked at my mostly uneaten food and asked after it. I told him I wasn't really hungry, which was true by then. He asked if I was repulsed by this and indicated the raw chicken. I laughed and said, yeah, kinda. He said he'd take care of my meal as well.

I decided I would doggie bagged my meal mostly to take the remaining two bread sticks that we didn't eat. The waitress came by with the plastic clamshell and scraped my plate into it. I understand there's no real attractive way to doggie bag food but I don't think I liked seeing it happen. It reminded me of scraping food into the garbage. Before she could close it I tucked the bread sticks in. The waitress did not look impressed. From what I know, the restaurant can't re-plate food that's been delivered to a table. So if I don't eat the bread sticks they can't just put them in a new basket and give them to someone else...can they? So there's no harm in bringing them home with my entree...is there? 

When the bill arrived the entrees were credited and I gave the waitress a tip based on the new total, not old. She did not look impressed and stomped off. Now why would I tip her more? No drinks were refilled, the raw chicken sat out in the open as she walked by several times before the manager came by, she didn't check if our food was ok after a few bites, and I could barely hear her say anything at all.

I don't want to eat at Olive Garden any more :(

1 comment:

Chantelle said...

I have a hard time eating out at restaurants frequented by children because the kids drive me crazy. I have no problem telling kids to sit down and leave me alone, either.

After that bad start, to have the food be awful and the waitress to suck and to hear the staff bickering would have made for an even more awful experience. At least your food was comped. Now if only you could wipe the experience from your brain.