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Macaroni Grill - What is the appeal????

My family adores this place. I hate it. So, I'm posting here partly to complain, partly in hopes someone can explain the attraction of this chain, and partly in the hope that someone out there knows of some heinous sin the chain has committed that might wean my family off this place. Please tell me they use slave labor....

The food is heavy. Each hapless cut of meat or sludge of overcooked pasta is deluged in thick, turgid, near-tasteless sauce, topped with just a sprinkling of pepper. There is no alternative. The only food on the menu that doesn't look and taste like it's been coated in Vaseline are the salads. For some reason, this appeals to people? I'm not a chain snob, really. I am fine with eating at a chain sometimes, and I realize the food at chains tends to be very heavy and rich. But this food is awful.

Also, if someone knows of any mid-level chain where there's better food, please let me know. Maybe I can get them to switch.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. My MIL lives in Reno where there's a MG. She doesn't like any kind of innovative food and I've wondered about going there. Glad to hear your opinion --- sounds like we'll just keep driving past.

    5 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      It appeals to those who love to think they are being adventurous, hence olive garden and some fancy Italian names that is basically just sauces and poor meat. However it makes the passive non cook or semi cook to really feel good and thinks he or she is eating good. It is marketing, something out, they make it sound fancy and great even though I know how it is cooked.

      But in their defense, it isn't all that bad I don't think so at least. Compared to fresh homemade, yes, it is bad. I have ate there many times with friends and clients cuz they love it. So I just eat and don't complain. And honestly my meal wasn't bad. I have taken some of their recipes and made them my own, a complete overhaul but the basic idea. But is a chain and we have to realize that.

      Overall, I would go if someone asked me. It is heavy and rich, but that is how Italian Chain Restaurants are for the most part. Then tend to cover up the lack of flavor with sauce.

      So if they like it, go eat and just enjoy the night. Friends, family and having a good night is way more important than having a great meal. Just enjoy the time with them.

      Me I wouldn't suggest, just go with it. Next time mention to them you would pick the place and try something you like. It makes them feel good and you get your pick too.

      I can eat anything and am not picky, so I don't mind. If with friends and having fun, that is way more important to me.

      Olive garden to me, love the soup and salad, the rest. There was one dish with pasta and sausage and an alfredo sauce. I can home and remade it, my version. I so much liked it better. Fresh and not drowning in sauce, but overall the same flavor.

      So, each his own and I realize this but it isn't too bad. Whatever you do, just enjoy the evening

      1. re: kchurchill5

        I can't enjoy a place like Olive Garden because I feel I am wasting money, if I'm going to pay somebody to make my food, it better be good.

        1. re: James Cristinian

          You have just discounted 99% of the food businesses available to you. :-)

          1. re: fourunder

            Not all, just the bad ones, and it does happen to be a high percentage. The last chain I ate at was Maggiano's, even with a gift card I felt as though I'd been fleeced. I haven't had fast food in over a year.

          2. re: James Cristinian

            I wouldn't go by myself, but if my friends liked it ... of course I would go with them. I'm enjoying them more than food. Like I said let them choose once and me a second time. Most and the majority don't eat like me and simple chain food is what they like. They are not adventurous and food means nothing to them so to me, the company well is more important than the food.

      2. Haha, I agree with you. I think that the appeal to Macaroni Grill is that it is a really safe place to go if you're not an adventurous eater but want something a step above other chains. They have really basic Italian things on their menu. I do agree that it is heavy, lots of cheese or sauce. Mid-level chains to try might be P.F. Changs, (a fabulous Chinese place), Chipotle, Pei-Wei, (owned by P.F. Changs), California Pizza Kitchen, Cantina Laredo to name a few. I hope this helps!

        8 Replies
        1. re: nyc_girl13

          P. F. Changs is "A fabulous Chinese Place"? nyc girl13, I have an issue with Fabulous, and Chinese when used in concert with P.F.Changs.

          1. re: currymouth

            I couldn't agree more with your not agreeing to PF Changs being called a fabulous Chinese Place, I first went to one in '96 or '97 in Phoenix. It was more of a happy hour place and we stuck around after some drinks to eat, nothing memorable. I have tried a couple of other locations over the years and it has managed to get worse each time. At one point the lettuce wraps were good, but no longer. I find that I can make Chinese (at least Americanized Chinese) better at home.

            1. re: roro1831

              Went to a PF Changs for the first time a month or so ago, as from time to time I would read good things about it. BLEH! Food was really not good at all. I get much better food from any number of delivery places where I am

              1. re: bnemes3343

                I agree Chains have their place in the American Landscape, I love Popeyes, Dennys, and KFC and would not hesitate to stop at a White Castle if there was not a fine CH worthy joint near by. But, I am truly afraid that when this economic melt down is history and all the independent, mom and pop, and love of cooking joints have gone under and only the Conglomerate Restaurants remain, we are left with a generation of kids who consider TGIF, Olive Garden,Bone Fish Grill, Cheese Cake Factory,Olive Garden, P.F.Changs,Macaroni Grill,et al to be " Dining Out ". Unfortunately their parents do. And God help us all.

                1. re: currymouth

                  I'd LOVE if there were a White Castle/Krystal in my area. Sadly, it's either the usual chain burger joints OR gourmet seared ahi tuna sliders on brioche (3 for $15).

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    Where the hell do you live? and can I stay over?

            2. re: currymouth

              Okay, I should not have used "fabulous" for P.F. Chang's, buy compared to other chains it is in my opinion. I probably haven't been there in about 3 years. And I very rarely eat at chains. It's been a very long time since I've had a meal at a chain restaurant. But comparing P.F. Chang's to other chains, I think it's way better. And the quality probably has gone down in the last three years for sure, so I don't know what it's like now.

              1. re: nyc_girl13

                And the quality probably has gone down in the last three years for sure,
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                This is a consistent misconception of chain restaurants in my opinion.....and in this case of PF Chang's. Although I agree with (currymouth) on his opinion with regards to the Chinese reference......it is a very well thought out concept and a very well run chain nationally, as well as, each location specific......so fabulous is arguable.

                For the record, I will not eat in a PFC in my area, but I will when I am traveling if I am not familiar with any local restaurants. However, I do go to a local PFC for drinks at the bar.

            1. Olive Garden is better than RMG. And I hate Olive Garden.

              1. I sort of like their Spaghetti and Meatballs ... it's appealing in a Chef-Boyardee sort of way.

                An alternative chain to try might be Houston's.