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Eatbeat: All that's missing is more olives

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There are not enough olives in the salad, and there is too much literature on the menu. Other than that, the Olive Garden to me is a pleasant place for lunch or dinner.

I have been there periodically since the Olive Garden came to Grand Forks in 2012. Usually, I am there for lunch. Occasionally for dinner.

Recently I was pleased to meet up with friends who won bids at benefit events for a meal with me at the Olive Garden.

It seems amazing how many people still remember the national attention after that first review went viral in the spring of 2012.

It was no big deal, though, to third grader Cindy Eliason (CE), and her mother, Jessica Haugen (JH). Or to Herald editor Kirsten Stromsodt (KS). They were on the Eatbeat with me recently for lunch at the Olive Garden.

As often is the case, the parking lot was fairly full long before noon. And when we gathered, it was no wonder CE was hungry. She had been playing basketball. And for dessert, she was more than delighted with Black Tie Mousse Cake. It combines dark chocolate with custard. It's more than most people can handle, but the Olive Garden makes it easy to take "too much" home.

Our seating was beyond the fireplace, and the Olive Garden was humming with lunch orders. My choice that day was the never ending soup and salad. But as I eyed the shrimp scampi, I decided I would try that next time around.

On the first visit, I found the salad — as always—good and plentiful. However, there were only two black olives to be found. When I asked for more, our server brought more out.

Then as I watched JH and KS enjoying their orders of shrimp scampi, I made a mental note. Next time, try this dish of shrimp, asparagus, tomatoes and angel hair pasta ($16.49).

With the note in hand, I went back to the Olive Garden to have lunch with Nancy Molstad (NM) a week or so later. On that day, I enjoyed an order of shrimp scampi — and took almost half of it home. The servings are generous at this restaurant.

NM was the successful bidder at a ShakesBEER event at Half Brothers Brewery earlier. We noticed that many customers arrive before noon. And we agreed the Olive Garden is a comfortable gathering place with an alert welcoming staff. It is one of the largest restaurants in greater Grand Forks, with seating for 200.

We considered the service is top rate. Waiters wear black shirts and black pants. Women, mercifully, have their long hair pulled back.

Children are entertained by the Ziosks on the table. They can delve in with questions. They learn things such as cows can sleep standing up.

The Ziosks also are a convenient way to handle credit card payments. The machines are great for the restaurant and its promotions. It may take some customers a while to catch on.

Olive Garden

3160 32nd Avenue S.

Telephone: (701) 746-2038

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 p.m. closing Friday, Saturday

Manager: Mark Ulrich

Kitchen manager: Ryder Wurzbacher

Specialty: Chicken Alfredo

Seating: 200

Average tab: $12 to $15

Report card: One of largest city restaurants with seating for 200. Well organized. High marks for service.

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