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I have never eaten at _______ and I never will!

Olive Garden.

I live in a place with many, many authentic Italian restaurants run by small families. I can't imagine why I would ever need to go to Olive Garden. The commercials have no appeal for me at all.

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  1. Ya, I never say never. When your transmission fails in a small town on a Sunday.... when your connecting plane doesn't show... when a snowstorm descends as you're leaving the South Rim of the Grand Canyon... when you arrive later than you thought and everything tasty is already closed... BTDT all of these. :)

    1. I would never say never. I like a lot of different foods. And yes, I eat at Olive Garden occasionally.

      1. Never say never here too.
        Olive Garden does soup and salad with bread sticks. How bad could that be?

        17 Replies
        1. re: monavano

          Been there, done that when on the road for business in smallish towns. You can do a lot worse. Unfortunately, I have. Not every independently owned local restaurant is a gem. For those of us of a certain age, we remember the old ads for the Holiday Inn chain with the tag line of "no surprises." Olive Garden may be the culinary equivalent -- not going to wow you but it's tolerable.

          1. re: masha

            Yup, ate at a local Mexican place recently and it was awful- like I hope I don't get food poisoning awful.
            I'll take a known quantity with standards any day.

          2. re: monavano

            I ate at Olive Garden a few times in the late 1980s-90s but I haven't been back since 1995 or so.

            Ive never eaten at Chick-Fil-A

            1. re: Kelli2006

              I wish we have more CFA's around. Love the chx sandwich.

              1. re: monavano

                and their sauce! plus, great peach shake in summer -- and hot waffle fries.

              2. re: Kelli2006

                Chick-Fil-A by a mile. It's hard to give them money when they have loudly and publicly fought for me not to have basic human rights.

                1. re: TimTamGirl

                  "Basic Human Rights"?
                  I'm familiar with their anti-gay marriage stance, but is there more than that? (Not saying I agree with it, just curious, that seems like a civil right rather than human)

                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    The line between civil rights and human rights gets blurry when it comes to marriage, not because of marriage itself but because of the rights and permissions that go along with it - for example, health (spousal insurance benefits; next-of-kin rights when it comes to making health decisions or even just being able to see your spouse in hospital - the time it takes to prove health care proxy status to an unwilling staffer can be the difference between seeing your loved one alive and not); parenting (having access and decision-making rights to a child you didn't physically produce); and financial and property rights (inheritance, access to financial benefits, etc.). I would say that these are pretty fundamental human rights. YMMV.

                    1. re: TimTamGirl

                      Yeah I hear ya, I just didn't know if there was something I had missed. I'm not sure I would use the term "human rights" but I can see and respect why you did.

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        I was thinking that too jrvediv. My friend John will only eat at chik fil a if I am paying. It doesn't happen often but damn their slaw is good. Givemecrumbs he he. At least that thread didn't get locked. Oh wait.

              3. re: monavano

                I rather like the soup and salad meal. The salads are always fresh and the sausage and potato soup is tasty. I've never understood the anti-chain vehemence I encounter here. Is it a destination? Nah, but it's a decent meal and I'm not above it.

                1. re: monavano

                  "soup and salad with bread sticks. How bad could that be?"

                  Been there. Done that. Even tried them a second time thinking the first time was a fluke.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        I went there with my Italian aunt with the Italian accent and the waitress in this fake italian restaurant did't understand when she pronounced fettucine correctly. And it was awful. Everything was. First and last time.

                        1. re: wincountrygirl

                          did she pronounce it as giada does? LOL.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Ha! Spagheetti will never not be an eye roller. What's funny is when she sometimes forgets to lay on the silly accent and pronounces the words normally.

                  1. Olive Garden and Red Lobster. The commercials are UNappealing. Living on the East coast, there are many better options for seafood, and the same goes for Italian food as well.

                    Personally I avoid chain restos of all kinds, other than Capital Grille.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I ate at Red Lobster once. Never again. And I can easily say never. I will never eat Olive Garden even if stranded. I would rather eat candy from a vending machine.

                      1. re: Jpan99

                        So I have a question for you. What will you do if the candy machine says "out of order" and the guy at the front desk won't give in to your demands for the next day crummy bagels? Then there is an Olive Garden next door with snow falling - the "open" light is on and the cozy lights look inviting. Servers are there. Are you going to starve yourself out of principle for the night or what?

                        1. re: miss_belle

                          Honestly, I would never be in the scenario you are describing. I don't get stranded in some remote place where there is absolutely no food to eat except an Olive Garden restaurant. I don't think such a place exists. Have you ever seen an OG next to nothing else? I guess if we are in this fantasy world then maybe I'm being chased by flesh eating zombies and I'm hiding in the OG hoping they won't want to go in there either.

                          1. re: Jpan99

                            Since you mentioned a candy machine and nothing else I took it to mean there nothing else available. You Should have mentioned this to the concierge service and 24 hour room service at your hotel.

                            1. re: Jpan99

                              How silly. Never say never. ever.
                              trust me, Olive Garden is 100 times better than a vending machine.

                              1. re: genoO

                                beg to disagree if the vending machine carries any one of my "cheap thrill" chocolate bars.

                              2. re: Jpan99

                                really? have you travelled much in the U.S.? such places do exist, and if you're staying at a hotel without room service- this could very well be your situation.

                              3. re: miss_belle

                                Not to mention that the OG has a liquor license!

                          2. I used to shamelessly crave that hot mashed xxx-berry thing they called a crostata, and the salad was endlessly decent, but everything I ever had in between was either gluey or tough or both.

                            1. Smoothie King. I hate health food. ;)

                              1 Reply
                              1. To fill in the blank: Hooters. Have never been a fan of 'chicken wing'-type places. They are prone to using artificial breast meat, or so I've been told. But also, something about the food mixed with short shorts turns my stomach. But to each their own!

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: AniseSpice

                                  Artificial breast meat in a wing? How does that work?

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    I think they were talking about the waitresses, not the wings.

                                    1. re: SteveRB

                                      That occurred to me before I clicked "post" but I thought only I would have stopped to that level :) glad we are all on the same page.

                                  2. re: AniseSpice

                                    I would never go to Hooters of my own violation - but I was dragged there by relatives (actually, they said 'you like wings, right? (of course we do) and lo and behold when we got there the 'wing place' was Hooters. Ugh... The wings are just wings, bone and all, but I couldn't wait to get out of there.

                                    Been to the Golden Corral once (dragged there by a church group who said it was 'cheap and good and everyone could find something to eat') - it was abysmal. I'd rather starve than go back... Never ever been to Olive Garden, Applebees or Red Lobster and I don't see myself ever going unless it's with a similar 'sorry, you can go eat or stay home alone' group.

                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                      "I would never go to Hooters of my own violation...."

                                      What would Dr. Freud say, I wonder....?

                                    2. re: AniseSpice

                                      Hooters actually has some very good wings. I have seen a birthday party of 3 generations go to a Hooters for the food. The woman did not mind and had a great time.
                                      The hooters are usually overrated. And short shorts are seen daily at the mall, no big deal.
                                      Insecure women don't like going, funny thing is that grandma doesn't seem to mind. Hmmm.

                                      1. re: genoO

                                        Right. Women who don't like to stare at tits all through dinner are insecure. Gotcha.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            Obviously you have never been there. They wear T shirts, you can't and don't see tits. Geeze, to judge something you have never encountered is not Chow worthy. Really good wings and a family establishment.
                                            may be a place that serves buffalo wings might work, I hear the servers are as big as buffalos.

                                            1. re: genoO

                                              I have seen the Hooters girls. I know what they wear.

                                              It's not my cuppa.

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                I haven't been in a Hooters in 20+ years, but I do think they have toned it down a bit trying to draw in a larger audience.

                                                Call me old fashion, but if I'm going to objectify a woman I'll just go to a strip club. Not use the ruse of "good wings" as an excuse.

                                          2. re: genoO

                                            Short shorts can be seen in the mall? I never thought of it before, but maybe that's why I don't like the food at malls. :)

                                          3. re: AniseSpice

                                            Bobcat Goldthwait on NPR's "Wait Wait" answering a question about Hooters:

                                            " Like the whole idea of Hooters is like, it's just - I'm a mono-tasker. I mean I certainly like women and I liked fried food but not at the same time.....Yeah. It's like, look, I'm 50. The food is going to win every time now."

                                            1. Can't say never, because there are work situations where I have no choice.

                                              I let my group pick the spot for BD lunches, and if they want Olive Garden, Black Angus or some other place I wouldn't normally go to, it's just one meal.

                                              1. In a normal situation - I have all sorts of answers for this - but when traveling....stuff happens.

                                                I would love to be able to say that when traveling overseas, I would never eat at an American fast food chain. But after enduring a dreadful case of food poisoning, there really was no more reassuring sight than a McDonald's.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                  Amen to that! A filet o' fish sandwich saved me from starving once!

                                                  1. re: BubblyOne

                                                    I had a friend have this moment in Egypt and her savior was KFC, but in a bizarre way I now associate a completely plain McDonald's hamburger (and Gatorade) with a feeling of recovery and renewed health.

                                                  2. re: cresyd

                                                    Also, it was the case ten years ago when I last had them, that in France at least, the McNuggets texturally resembled and tasted like actual bites of chicken. So not fair.

                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                      Us too! It was in Bolivia. They had clean bathrooms and a ball pit for the kids to play in while the hubs and I took turns running to those bathrooms. And the kids (who hadn't eaten the same thing that made us sick at a little local restaurant) were very happy to have a meal there.

                                                      1. re: AmyH

                                                        Yeah, ironically I later found excellent places in Belgrade for a lovely and mild chicken soup - but I arrived after having caught a nightmare stomach bug in Sarajevo, and worse bus ride. And at that time, nothing was more comforting than those golden arches and a plain hamburger.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          I found great comfort in using the standard American air blower hand dryer at that MacDonalds. It's funny what makes us feel just a little bit better when we're that sick.

                                                          1. re: AmyH

                                                            For my friend in the KFC in Egypt, it was the fact that they had a no smoking sign. I don't remember if the place actually was non-smoking, but just the fact that it was there perked her up.

                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                              It's the little things that make you feel a little less far from home...

                                                            2. re: AmyH

                                                              I can't tell you how many times, while far away from home, that gigantic golden-arched sign has stood for "Miracle" in my mind when I needed to find a decent restroom in a hurry. Rescued me in Spain not too long ago!

                                                      2. P.F. Chang's or Panda Express. I prefer real Chinese food.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                          The food they serve is as "real" Chinese as any Chinese-American restaurant -- maybe more so.

                                                          If you mean authentic regional Chinese food, that's very different than Chinese-American.

                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                            I don't go to the typical run of the mill Chinese American joints, either. Most of the Chinese places I go are the kinds of places where you order in Chinese to get stuff that may or may not be on the menu. The names of most of the Chinese places I avoid would be meaningless to you because, other than PFC's and Panda Express, they're all local mom-and-pop places that are patronized mostly by gweilo who are eating chow fan at dinner and are excited to be able to take home a pair of souvenir chopsticks.

                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                              "gweilo" - literally, "foreign devil". Had not heard that term before. Always love to learn new words!

                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                Believe me, I would like to go to those kind of places as well.

                                                                Unfortunately, I don't speak Chinese and have had uniformly bad experiences unless I'm with someone who is Chinese.

                                                                1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                  Here's a tip that may work in some places. Go in toward the end of their lunch rush. Look at what the staff is eating for lunch - in a lot of small restaurants, the staff take over a table in the dining room for their own meal. Tell your server you want what they're having. Be polite but insist on at least a taste. When/if they serve it to you, go nuts about how much you love it. Ask them what it's called and if it's on the regular menu. The next time you go there, order the same thing. They'll remember you and be more likely to think you'll appreciate the real deal after your last visit. Once you've established your bona fides, you can branch out and ask them for the stuff on the Chinese-only handwritten specials on the wall.

                                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                                    i wonder if chinese restaurants are the only places one needs to establish bona fides? LOL.

                                                                    like tsa's "trusted traveler" program, you are pre-cleared as a "trusted eater"?

                                                                2. re: ricepad

                                                                  Gweilo...one of my grandmother's favorite words!

                                                            2. I did that once in Florida in a place with no other options. It was awful.

                                                                1. Red Lobster, Taco Bell, Panda Express, Chipotle, White Castle, Joe's Crab Shack (although I kinda want to try this one, but the reviews just scare me!), Hooters

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                    No White Castle? I love White Castle!!!! The original slider.

                                                                    1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                      Nah, don't do Joe's Crab Shack. I am normally not that picky about chain restaurant meals, but Joe's is a waste of time and money.

                                                                    2. Cracker Barrel. One night we pulled into Williamsburg late and our motel was smack dab between Hooters and Cracker Barrel. Worse and worse. We picked Hooters and actually enjoyed the fried pickles.

                                                                      1. I never say never because like mentioned, sometimes you find yourself with very little options or at the whim of someone else's desires. I know whenever SO's dad comes to town (Denver metro), the only place he wants to eat is Olive Garden. They live in a small town in Wyoming, so Olive Garden is a big treat for them. It's not my favorite but it's not the worst thing ever either. And, it's about seeing and visiting with them, not the food.

                                                                        1. I could / would never write any place off without at least trying it once. Change this topic to "I've eaten at _________ and will NEVER return" and I can give you a list a mile long.

                                                                          I'll even thank Chow for pointing me towards many small hole in the wall type places I would have NEVER tried on my own. After reading or hearing enough about them I've tried several and am very happy I did.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                            Famous Dave's and Lone Star would be my two in the never to return category!

                                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                                              Those are two of many.

                                                                              A much shorter thread might be "I really like <fill in chain> and I look forward to returning"

                                                                              1. re: Clams047

                                                                                Am I really wrong for saying McDonald's here? Not sure I am looking forward to returning, but it certainly has that nostalgia value!

                                                                                Cold Stone Creamery - a definite (although some will certainly disagree)

                                                                                Crumbs - if they pull out of bankruptcy, I'm there!

                                                                                TGIF - That nostalgia thing again!

                                                                            2. I would never say "never". If you've never eaten somewhere, you have no way to know its quality. Refusing to even try it is ridiculously picky... and there's very few things I hate more than picky eaters.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                Wow. You think not wanting to eat at "one" specific restaurant constitutes a picky eater? You must hate a LOT of people.

                                                                              2. -Chick fil A
                                                                                -Long John Silver's

                                                                                ...just went to Chipotle for the first time, a couple weeks ago, and I was not impressed!

                                                                                1. Yet another vote for "never say never".

                                                                                  I have begged for change in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen late at night. I ~needed~ those fries and some ice cream.

                                                                                  I am not proud of that.

                                                                                  Endurance racing can do strange things to a stomach...

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                    On the never say never vain - during the blackout caused by hurricane Sandy I would have eaten anywhere with lights.

                                                                                  2. Cap'n Blowchunks Deep Discount Seafood Warehouse Outlet.
                                                                                    Never been, never will.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                        I'd go there just to say I'd been! In fact, I'd probably buy the t-shirt and hat, too!

                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                          Sorry, but Cap'n Blowchunks is straight out of my imagination. But feel free to design the t-shirt and hat. (And sickness bag so you can "blow chunks" as well.)

                                                                                      2. One more vote for never-say-never. There are work lunches, dinners with family who choose the place, and travel. Sure there are some people who, after being stuck in an airport for seven hours, would make do a granola bar or bag of pretzels, but I'm going to pack in fried cheese and beer from any place selling it. Plus you never know - you may just find a new guilty pleasure. Do I like OG? Nope, but if my great-aunt wants to treat because she knows I like pasta, then I'm gonna choke it down with a smile.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                            " if my great-aunt wants to treat because she knows I like pasta, then I'm gonna choke it down with a smile."

                                                                                            Sometimes eating isn't really about the food.

                                                                                          2. Have never eaten at McDonald's, even before I became a vegetarian. Am now 65 years old and consider it a point of pride.

                                                                                            1. Why would anyone feel the need to go to Olive Garden, even when they live in a place with many authentic Italian restaurants run by small families (or maybe even run by large families)? Most people I've met like Olive Garden for the bottomless salad bowl and endless supply of breadsticks, or because they want to try some feature they've seen on a commercial. I've only been 2 times over the last 25 years (once when The Olive Garden first arrived in Canada, and once in Sonoma County, of all places) but restaurant food can get a lot worse than Olive Garden.

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: prima

                                                                                                I live in a large city (guess which one!) with a ton of family-owned Italian restaurants. I've had horrible food, crappy service, and shocking prices at several of those 'authentic' places that I had to wait in a line of tourists to get into. Authentic is by no means a guarantee of quality.

                                                                                                That said, I'm also baffled by Olive Garden. It's mediocre, but it's also surprisingly expensive for being a chain. I've had some lousy experiences there and some just-okay ones, but given the choice, there's such better options, even for chain Italian food, that Olive Garden is a weird outlier.

                                                                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                  Philly? San Francisco? Beijing?

                                                                                                  I give up....

                                                                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                    i live in boston proper (within practically walking distance of one). my 5 y/o son loves the OG (as he calls it). I go there more frequently than i care to admit. and if i stick to the soup and salad it is cheaper than panera (i know, i know -- he also loves the mac and cheese there). i have no excuses. i could refuse to take him to these places. t's in a strip mall with a target and an old navy, home depot etc... in my defense we've never been to the applebee's (which he calls the apple store).

                                                                                                    he does enjoy more chowish fare and never orders off the childrens menu when we eat out. he kills it at a japanese restaurant, too. do i need to turn in my chow card? in his lunch today is homemade soup with pasta and beans and homemade applesauce. i feel like i need to justify my existence now. i

                                                                                                    *hangs head in shame*

                                                                                                    1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                      See, that's a 100% perfect reason to go to OG. The soup and salad are both very decent and kids love the place. As you say, it's cheaper than Panera if you order that way.

                                                                                                      The people I don't understand are those who want to have a "special family meal" and choose OG, or people who tell all their friends that they chose OG for their birthday and they should all come for a big fancy meal. Their full pasta meals are more expensive and lower quality than their competition -- both chains and mom and pops, a lot of the time. And the service, especially for big groups, can be just horrendous.

                                                                                                2. I don't eat at places that advertise on tv. Unless we are talking about a hunger emergency. Then my expectations are lowered, except for the discomfort I know will be coming later.