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What to Get at the Macaroni Grill?

hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:38 PM

I'm going to a dinner gathering (about 30-40 people) this week. The dinner is at the Macaroni Grill. I'm not a big fan of chains, so I don't know much about this place. Do they have any decent entrees that I can get there? I'm up for anything but shellfish. Thanks!

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  1. ciaobella RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:41 PM

    not very exciting, but I order the chicken, brocolli and spaghetti entree of the kids menu; perfect portions and yummy!

    1. c
      cackalackie RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:41 PM

      There's one thing that I always get there, although it's been ages - and it might not appeal to you.

      It's an orzo salad that is chock full of fresh spinach, pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and grilled chicken (and it's thin strips of grilled-tasting chicken, rather than those big chunks you often get in a salad). It's tossed in some sort of vinaigrette. It's light and salad-y yet quite filling/satisfying.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cackalackie
        chowser RE: cackalackie Dec 19, 2006 10:17 PM

        I like that salad, too.

      2. h
        Heatherb RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:45 PM

        You're pretty safe at the Macaroni Grill. It is more than a couple notches above Olive Garden. Everything I've ever had there has been pretty decent. It is definitely one of the better chains. Go with what looks tasty to you, and you'll probably be fine. For myself, I tend to avoid the "heavier" cheesy and creamy sauces when I go to those kinds of places, just because they tend to overdo it.

        1. l
          LenaNE RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:50 PM

          Macaroni Grill is one of the better mid price chains..the olive oil/Rosemary bread that they they start you off with is very good....the salads are good and full of veggies/chicken/whatever you order...The pastas are well cooked and seasoned...it will not be the best meal of your life but you should be satisfied and will not go home hungry or broke

          1. h
            HillJ RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 08:52 PM

            My son loves Mac Grill. Last time he went with friends he enjoyed the tenderloin with smashed potatoes. He also said the specials tend to be good.

            1. c
              calabasas_trafalgar RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 10:59 PM

              I would look for any excuse not to go. Two steps down from Olive Garden in my estimation.

              1 Reply
              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar
                p
                PDXpat RE: calabasas_trafalgar Dec 19, 2006 11:27 PM

                Agreed. The only thing I look for there is the exit. Olive Garden is better, in my experience, and cheaper.

              2. f
                floyd RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 11:08 PM

                Macaroni Grill is not bad... Olive Garden, now that IS bad!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: floyd
                  monkeyrotica RE: floyd Dec 20, 2006 12:13 PM

                  Well that's like saying bone cancer isn't bad compared to lymphatic cancer. They're both nasty.

                  I recall having a macaroni in white sauce at Macaroni Grill. I figured they wouldn't mess up something that's in their name. Big mistake. It was like they served me salt with some noodles in it. Really, it tasted like a briny milkshake.

                2. a
                  Aloo0628 RE: hiddenboston Dec 19, 2006 11:17 PM

                  if they still have it, get the hunk of chocolate cake for dessert. it's rich and dark and delicious (as far as chain baked desserts go) and they use mayo to make it and i loved it.

                  i was always a fan of carmela's chicken rigatoni (involves a marsala cream sauce), and the pasta milano was pretty good. i love cream sauces. :-D

                  1. f
                    fara RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 04:57 AM

                    just don't order anything "grilled." has that fake grilled taste.

                    for some reason, we always go there when i visit my (italian) family in florida. they love to order small and complain afterwards. ok. but i remember the simple pastas being fine. the bread is good and oo is good for this kind of place. usually i hate it, but like the fact that i'm out with my grandparents. they order salads and calamari. it's like, why go there in the first place? i guess just to be with the people you're out with. i'm sure we will go there over the holidays this year too.

                    (as far as we know there are no real restaurants, only chains in that area).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fara
                      t
                      tom porc RE: fara Dec 20, 2006 07:51 AM

                      I order anything with asiago sauce. Last time I went with the Sugo Bianco. However, they change their menus frequently possibly seasonally so you have to be flexible.
                      Also enjoy the tiramisu.

                    2. spyturtle008 RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 12:19 PM

                      My in-laws love this place, and it is a step above most of the other chains they adore (although they revised their menu and opened a whole mess of new locations ca. 2 years or so ago, and things have gone downhill noticeably). I used to order a half order of the bibb lettuce / blue cheese salad (which occasionally came drowning in the balsamic dressing, so ask for it on the side!) and a mushroom calzone appetizer, but I don't think that appetizer is available anymore. (Nor is the panna cotta dessert, which was actually pretty awesome, r.i.p.) They have a make-your-own pasta that is fairly safe if you stick with the more basic / fresh ingredients.

                      1. sheilal RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 01:34 PM

                        Order the penne rustica (shrimp, chicken, proscuitto, parm cheese) or the pasta milano (sundried tomatos, m'rooms, roasted garlic cream sauce). The scaloppine is very good as well. The pizzas are so-so and the tiramisu is completely lackluster. Try the the dessert ravioli. It's yum!

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: sheilal
                          Covert Ops RE: sheilal Dec 20, 2006 04:14 PM

                          I second the penne rustica. Very creamy and filling though.

                          Do they still have singing servers? When I was in college in music school all my friends in the opera program worked there. I never saw it when I ate there but I've been told a tenor carrying a tray of water will break out in the occasional "O Solo Mio."

                          1. re: Covert Ops
                            Das Ubergeek RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 04:20 PM

                            They don't seem to... I was one of them, many years ago. :-P

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                              Covert Ops RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 20, 2006 04:57 PM

                              This was only about 5-6 years ago. Then again, it was in Miami, which has a large vocal program, and the MG was in an area where lots of students live.

                              1. re: Covert Ops
                                a
                                Aloo0628 RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 06:48 PM

                                I used to be a singing hostess for them back in high school. I believe they ran into copyright issues and had to stop the singing staff. Sad, too...it was such a nice touch :-)

                                Penne rustica is good, but has shrimp in it...does that go against your no shellfish rule, hiddenboston?

                                1. re: Aloo0628
                                  hiddenboston RE: Aloo0628 Dec 20, 2006 06:53 PM

                                  Sadly, it does (unless my S.O. is dining with me, in which case I can put all the shrimp on her plate).

                                  1. re: Aloo0628
                                    Covert Ops RE: Aloo0628 Dec 20, 2006 07:46 PM

                                    Copyright issues? Because other restaurants have trademarked singing servers? I know it can't be the music, because most opera is public domain. . .

                                    And sorry, I had forgotten there was shrimp in penne rustica. (It's been several years.) Let's pretend I made that rec for anyone else curious about food at MG. ;-)

                                    1. re: Covert Ops
                                      Katie Nell RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 09:10 PM

                                      I always liked the penne rustica and there was some kind of bowtie pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes and chicken that I liked too.

                                      1. re: Covert Ops
                                        a
                                        Aloo0628 RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 09:10 PM

                                        you'd be surprised what is and isn't actually in the public domain...

                                        for instance, 'o sole mio,' which is one of the pieces that was performed most often there, is now copyrighted and is protected til the year 2042: http://www.answers.com/topic/o-sole-m...

                                        "happy birthday" is also copyrighted, which is why nowadays restaurants have their own weird cheesy song instead of singing the original version we know so well.

                                        also, just fyi, in case you're interested...copyrights and tms are completely different, and the terms are not interchangeable. "singing servers" cannot be cr-ed or tm-ed, but MIGHT potentially be patentable as part of a business model. but that would probably be difficult to do. i know you were just joking, but i thought you might want to know :-)

                                        1. re: Aloo0628
                                          Covert Ops RE: Aloo0628 Dec 20, 2006 09:24 PM

                                          That's interesting, I didn't know that about "O Sole Mio," but the reasoning behind it makes sense. It wouldn't have been a problem for my friends who worked there, though, because they had a depth of opera repertoire that I'm sure would have sufficed. So substitute "Largo al factotum" instead. :-P (Moot point, though, if no one sings there at all anymore. I think I'll ask on the Florida board.)

                                        2. re: Covert Ops
                                          Das Ubergeek RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 10:12 PM

                                          Speaking as an ex-singing food dude, I can tell you that we rarely, if ever, got requests for opera.

                                          There's a reason I can't listen to Les Mis anymore. "On My Own" -- which is DEFINITELY copyrighted -- makes me want to kill myself.

                                      2. re: Covert Ops
                                        p
                                        PDXpat RE: Covert Ops Dec 20, 2006 08:53 PM

                                        for some people, 5-6 *is* "many years ago". Sigh.

                                        1. re: PDXpat
                                          Das Ubergeek RE: PDXpat Dec 20, 2006 10:12 PM

                                          In my case, we're talking about longer ago than that, but yes, sigh.

                                      3. re: Das Ubergeek
                                        Glencora RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 20, 2006 10:23 PM

                                        You're 30. It couldn't have been that long ago.

                                        1. re: Glencora
                                          Das Ubergeek RE: Glencora Dec 29, 2006 03:22 AM

                                          A decade ago, then, Grandsire. :-P

                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                          m
                                          mellyn66 RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 21, 2006 07:03 PM

                                          They sang to my son "Happy Birthday" in Italian back in August. So, yes, they still sing there.

                                    2. hiddenboston RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 01:45 PM

                                      We did have our dinner there last night, with about 25 of us total. The wild mushroom ravioli was outstanding; the calamari was just ok; the Caesar salad was decent enough, and the chicken cannelloni was very good.

                                      All in all, a good experience there, although it won't make me forget about any of the great Italian restaurants in East Boston and the North End...

                                      Thanks to everyone for all the info!

                                      1. k
                                        Kam7185 RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 02:34 PM

                                        At chains you are hesistant about, go basic. I was there over the weekend- road trip not much else. I had just a special order of grilled shrimp, with nothing else. Good, better than most chains! I also reccommend the rosemary bread, order a side of Marsala sauce for dipping instead of the oil! It is divine!

                                        1. lollya RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 02:34 PM

                                          Nothing!

                                          1. Das Ubergeek RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 03:49 PM

                                            To the people who wrote with useful suggestions, thank you -- we go to MG once in a while from work for lunch because one of the bosses loves it.

                                            To the people who wrote "nothing" or "a cab to a better place", why did you bother replying? For that matter, why are you reading the Chains board?

                                            My own MG experience (I used to be a singing busboy when I was a younger man) is that it's reasonably OK, but generally saltier than it ought to be... thus, stay away from things that would be salty to start with.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                              k
                                              KOK RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 20, 2006 03:59 PM

                                              Great post Ubergeek! It's obvious the original poster IS going so there's no point in the naysayers posting, or as you said, even reading the Chains board.

                                              I love the bread they give you almost immediatly, and the basic pastas in simple sauces are good too. Plus, being a child at heart, I like the crayons on the table to draw on the paper covering.

                                              Thanks,

                                              Kevin

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                hiddenboston RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 20, 2006 04:07 PM

                                                Yeah, you hit the nail on the head as far as things being salty there. I love salt, so I was pretty happy, but the chicken cannelloni was extremely salty, even for me.

                                                Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions. Now it's on to another Christmas party... :-)

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                  a
                                                  Aloo0628 RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 20, 2006 06:50 PM

                                                  Took the words out of my mouth, Ubergeek! This entire forum is supposed to be for fun and happy pursuits of chow...why all the negativity, folks?

                                                  Ooo, and good call with the crayons, KOK!

                                                2. r
                                                  ricepad RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 06:54 PM

                                                  I've been to three different Macaroni Grills and the experiences were so spotty and different that I can't really draw any conclusions. At the one in my hometown, the food was bland and flavorless on more than one occasion, as if the cook knew how the dishes were supposed to look, but not how they were supposed to taste. OTOH, I would go back to the one in Fresno if I had to...it was at least as good as Olive Garden (I know...faint praise!).

                                                  With these experiences under my belt, if I had no choice but to eat at one, I agree with the 'go basic' recommendations. If your order of generic pasta is good, you're golden...and if it's bad, well, at least you didn't spend a lot of money on it.

                                                  FWIW, the variation in quality I've experienced at MG is greater than any other chain I've patronized.

                                                  1. rosielucchesini RE: hiddenboston Dec 20, 2006 06:55 PM

                                                    If you have to go, get the orzo salad. That, and the rosemary focaccia, is the best thing they've got going.

                                                    1. Anonimo RE: hiddenboston Dec 21, 2006 12:26 AM

                                                      We ate a number of times at the Little Rock MG. We loved the grilled pork chop and the salmon in lemon butter sauce. I seldom order pasta out.
                                                      What I don't like about the MG is the barn like interior and the whole noisy, pep squad mood.

                                                      By the way, I prefer MG many times over OG.

                                                      1. LaLa RE: hiddenboston Dec 21, 2006 06:56 PM

                                                        The Tuscan steak is pretty good.A lot of people seem to like the shrimp portofino.

                                                        1. a
                                                          anthonyG RE: hiddenboston Dec 24, 2006 07:47 PM

                                                          The bread and a salad (no chicken!) .... That's all i have found there that I have liked. Everything else taste just too institutional.

                                                          I know they have their "chefs" there cooking the food out in the open, but i can only imagine that they have other "chefs" in the back opening the frozen meals and putting them in a microwave first....

                                                          The crayons are fun.....

                                                          1. LaLa RE: hiddenboston Dec 26, 2006 07:25 PM

                                                            Always make sure they put your dressing on the side or it is too much!

                                                            http://www.shoplateda.com

                                                            1. k
                                                              kobetobiko RE: hiddenboston Dec 29, 2006 03:31 AM

                                                              I don't frequent Macaroni Grill that much as it is not in my neigborhood, but as I recalled my last visit, the muchroom ravioli was the best dish (an appetizer) of our dinner (also recommended by hiddenboston above).

                                                              I had fish but it was overcooked and very tough. It could be just that dish or that particular MG but in general I found pasta there to be the safer bet. I will steer away from fish or beef which tend to be overdone.

                                                              1. j
                                                                jdub1371 RE: hiddenboston Dec 31, 2006 04:41 AM

                                                                We were passing through Bakersfield, CA this past week and stopped for dinner at the Macaroni Grill. Caesar salad and foccacia were good, as was the veal parm I ordered. The side of spagettini was a bit overcooked and needed a little help from salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil from the bottle on the table, but overall a pretty good meal. My mate really enjoyed his salmon.

                                                                1. b
                                                                  BigboyDan RE: hiddenboston Dec 31, 2006 05:56 AM

                                                                  "What to Get at the Macaroni Grill?"

                                                                  Is this a trick question? It's kiddie food.

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