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How to Eat at Olive Garden

This summer, the very first Olive Garden will open in the city of Chicago. Here’s how sophisticated urban diners should plan a trip to the newest restaurant in town.

Olive Garden waiter Alex Bergantino serves patrons at the Downers Grove location.   Photo: Chuck Berman / Chicago Tribune

Chicago is getting its very first Olive Garden this summer. Amazing as it is that the city didn’t have infinite breadsticks before now, the first familiar grape-purple sign will soon shine over the parking lot next to a Kmart at 3535 West Addison Street.

It’s possible that some of the more sophisticated city diners may be new to the Tuscan-inspired restaurant chain. Although it has been serving up saucy, carb-packed lunch and dinner fare to suburban mall shoppers for over a decade, urban eaters may have never gone the distance to any of the 10 Chicagoland locations.

For the uninitiated, here’s a brief list of some tried and true pointers to make the most of the Olive Garden experience: 

Go hungry.

Whatever you do, don’t ingest anything before stepping foot in an Olive Garden. A bottomless salad bowl and baskets of buttery breadsticks are replenished until you forcefully say “sir, no more.” Given that Men’s Health named the appetizers as the #1 worst free restaurant food in America, you may want to speak up sooner rather than later. The main dishes are not exactly skimpy either.

Go for a deal.

No need to save up much for a big date at the OG. Lunch starts at $6.95 and dinner is two for $25.

Go to…be healthy?

The Olive Garden is trying its best to fit into today’s modern, health-obsessed culture. There’s an advertising and menu revamp, with some lighter fare under 575 calories. Vegetarians can even find suitable entrees: Linguine alla marinara, capellini pomodoro, and ravioli di portobello are a few options.

Go with caution.

Side effects from unlimited zuppe/insalate/breadsticks consumption possibly included drowsiness, dramatic mid-section expansion, and inability to move or think clearly. And that’s all before tackling your entrée.


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