March 28, 2012

"Alaska, Meet the Olive Garden"

It finally happened.  The Olive Garden came to Alaska.  Opening day was in January.  The temperature was in the negatives and people were lined up around the restaurant at 10am.  It was on the news for several days.

This article explains the situation.  The readers' comments are particularly enlightening...

Here is a review from right after the brand new OG opened. 

I went during the first week of March.  It was still cold, but our 40 minute wait was indoors, so it was okay.

Before you read my (clearly non-sponsored) review, you must understand this:  Chain restaurants are everywhere in Alaska, but I think some things are just better left in the lower-48.  Chain restaurants in Alaska jack up their prices.  I get it:  Transportation is expensive. But the food never tastes quite as good.  And if you read those comments linked up above ^, you'll see that I'm not making this up just as a way to be pessimistic.  It's the truth and all Alaskans know it. 

There's no such thing as a $5 foot long sub at Subway.  It's $6-$7, depending on where you are.

So.  Back to the Olive Garden (a.k.a. The OG).  I knew it would be expensive.  I knew it probably wouldn't taste quite as good, but it was what it was.... 

First, the waitress brought us water and asked if we'd like a wine sample for sixty cents a piece.  Um.  No.  I don't think so.  (Note:  I found this almost insultingly ridiculous.  Are they charging in the lower 48??)

Next, I ordered the Capellini Pomodoro.  I knew I could make it at home on the cheap.  But it's the healthiest item on the menu, and I was not getting pulled into a 1500 calorie lunch.

It was $12.75 in Anchorage.  In Altoona, Pennsylvania it's $10.50.

I also enjoy the Chicken and Gnocchi Soup.  In Pennsylvania, it's $4.95.  In Anchorage?  $6.50.  No, thanks.  I can make it myself at home.

Bottomless salad and breadsticks?

The waitress only brought us TWO breadsticks.  Was she insane?  Did she not realize that I make it my personal mission to eat at least 5??  And it's still unlimited salad and breadsticks, as far as I can tell...but she started us off with two.  Part of me wanted to keep her busy and eat at least 12, but my stomach would probably disagree with such actions.  They were also pretty chintzy with the salad, but whatever...I don't know if something has changed over the years, but I don't find their salad as impressive as I did when I was 17. 

The food tasted okay, I guess.  All food at Alaska chain restaurants tastes "watered down" to me.  I guess that for $12.75, coming from small-town PA, I just generally expect more for my money. 

After checking on us umpteen times, the waitress brought us our bills, each with an Andes mint and a little business card that said "Have an awesome day! Rachael :)".

Talk about a waste of money, trees, and time!

We left them on the table.
If you're in Alaska, have you tried the new Olive Garden?? What'd you think??  Am I off-base??
If you read the article I linked up above, many people said that there are great local Italian restaurants where we should be giving our business.  I get that point of view.  I really do.  However, it's important to remember that you're not going to get an entree for less than $15 at any of these independent restaurants.  If you add up appetizers+drinks+entrees+dessert for 2??  You're looking at $100 with the tip.  Any visitors to Alaska can testify to this. (And honestly, you're hard-pressed to find dinner for less than $15/person anywhere in Alaska.  It's kinda sad and is the reason I prefer to cook at home.)

Our favorite (and actually kind of reasonably-priced) Italian restaurant is Evangelo's in Wasilla.  I would rather go there than The OG simply because it's closer (less than 5 miles away; The OG is 40 minutes) and I really like their gourmet pizza and calzones. 

If you're not in Alaska, what chain restaurant can you not live without?  (OR think you can't live without...)
My first stop when I go home is always Panera.  As much as I love it, I don't want them to bring it to Alaska.  Too great a chance of them ruining it that way.


  1. It does seem unfair that the prices are jacked up in Alaska, and no, as far as I know, (at least in Altoona), you do not need to pay $0.60 a piece to sample the wine.

  2. How annoying that they jack up the prices. Not fair! I so miss Village Host, the pizza chain where I grew up. I stuff my face whenever we are there!

  3. thank stinks! the best part about olive garden is the unlimited breadsticks and salad!! bummer!!!

  4. First, this made me laugh. It is cra-zy the way chains can capitolize on areas. However, we rarely eat at chains. We used to in DC, then Winston had so many amazing places, we got out of the habit. Now we make a point out of finding local places to go, they are always better!

  5. I'm sad your Olive Garden isn't as amazing as ours in Cali... but this sure made me laugh! I love me some soup, salad and breadsticks. I am easy to please though... I am obsessed with Chipotle haha

  6. This is one thing that drove me crazy when we lived in Alaska...we'd get commercials for things in the lower 48 that they didn't have up there and if by some miracle there actually was said place to eat there, the deals never ever applied. "Exclusions in Alaska and Hawaii"- ahhh, no fair! ;)


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