Sky High at the Garden

Location: The Olive Garden, 83 City Line Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Cost of the Meal: $38

Hippie Male Waiters named “Sky”: 1

The Olive Garden is one of those love-it or hate-it chains, where the breadsticks are plentiful and the house wine free…sometimes. Luckily, this was one of those occasions. Okay, maybe it was only a sip of gratis libation, but who passes up free liquor (except Cook Chris)? This was my second trip to the place, believe it or not, and while I still prefer Maggiano’s or Bertucci’s as my Italian-chain-restaurant-of-dubious-authenticity, The Garden hasn’t done me wrong yet.

Dining at 5:00 or so on a sunny Saturday, my date and I arrived to a fairly empty house, yet were still seated next to a gigantic family of screaming kids who set off emergency alarms (okay, maybe just one, and it was silent, but still..). Our waiter was a tall, long-haired fellow, named Sky (I had to read his nametag to make sure I’d heard him right), whom I like to imagine had just smoked a bowl of peyote before coming to serve us. He pour our complimentary house wine, a blush, fruity zinfandel, which was pretty good. I guess (It tasted exactly like the last wine I had). Water was not brought out to us automatically, which is a no-no, especially if he wasn’t stoned.

Come time to order, the Lady had the Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto and a peach iced tea, while I ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara and a raspberry lemonade. Our house salad and breadsticks were brought out promptly, though the ‘sticks were a little tough. The Lady barely touched the ‘sticks, though she had raved about them beforehand, so maybe we received a bad batch. The variety (not to mention the fresh olive oil) served at Maggiano’s trumps this, in my mind.  The salad had way too few olives, but otherwise was fresh and tasty.

Our entrees arrived in a fair amount of time for such a sparsely populated place, and were the highlight of the meal. The risotto was more than satisfactory, the creamy parmesan sauce adding flavor to both the prawns and green stalks of veggie. Or so I must assume, since I forgot to get an opinion on the Lady’s meal (I hadn’t brought my camera, so I wasn’t planning on writing up a review. Being the gentleman I am, I should’ve asked what she thought anyway). The shrimp were well prepared and cooked, in both the risotto and my carbonara.

The Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara was a taste sensation, I must admit. Tender shrimp and chicken, noodles that were to the muthaf’in teeth, and a creamy sauce flavored with bacon (which was a surprise to me since I stopped reading the description after I saw the words ‘shrimp’ ‘chicken’ and ‘parmesan’). The chicken was surprisingly juicy and flavorful, and meshed well with the seafood, bacon, and cheese it sat alongside. It was like a party of taste, and everyone was invited, except for me who had to pay a $16 cover charge.

When it’s all said said and done (we skipped dessert), the damage was contained to 38 dollars. A good value for good food and a kind, prompt waiter….who smelled of patchouli.

3.5 out of 5 Shef’s Spatulas

6 Responses to “Sky High at the Garden”

  1. Cook Chris Says:

    I’ve never had a problem with the Olive Garden, despite the grief it gets almost everywhere.

    The food is tasty, and as you said the prices are reasonable. I’ve got to try that carbonara…

  2. chanson Says:

    $16 for pasta with heavy cream and hammered shrimp is way too much.

    any pasta at vetri (which is widely regarded as philly’s best restaurant) only costs $19.

  3. Shef Steve Says:

    I tend to agree. In my opinion, Olive Garden should be 4 dollars less expensive across the board. Then again, I price things based on their value in 1895, so..

    Vetri might be worth checking out. I need fancier clothes though 😉

  4. Kevin Says:

    Good review.

    The City Line Ave. Olive Garden isn’t up there on my short list of Olive Gardens (the only other one I’ve ever been to is the one near Chestnut and Broad Streets). The last time Jen and I went to the City Line location it was…. strange. I had a Yuengling and I remember it being incredibly flat and overpriced. Also, their seats were filthy (make sure you don’t accidentally move the cushions on the booths, you can’t take back what you see there). I didn’t expect much from their food. We had the soup, salad and breadsticks deal. The soup seemed microwaved (some parts SCOLDING HOT some parts ICE COLD) and the breadsticks just seemed like something I can pick up from the freezer section. It was like bread in a rod shape with fake butter. Despite not expecting much, it was moderately enjoyable. We had a gift card, I’m pretty sure that’s why we went and I think that’s what it was enjoyable.

    P.S. Can I get a cool nickname who’s first letter is the first letter of my first name? I suggest: Kitchen Kevin. That severely limits Kelly’s options, though.

  5. Al à la carte Says:

    I’m all about Olive Garden. Though, Steak Gorgonzola is the only thing I ever order. I rarely touch the breadsticks and will scarf some soup but the Gorgonzola is the only thing I care about. Spaghetti Warehouse’s sourdough bread is still my favorite for before meal snacking.

  6. Shef Steve Says:

    @Kulinary Kevin: I’ve been to the Broad and Chestnut location and didn’t like it much. I think it was the combo of it being incredibly dark and the Art Institute kids who loiter outside.
    I’ve heard that a lot of the food the chain uses is nuked from frozen, though I haven’t had cold meat there..yet.

    @Al a la Carte: Steak Gorgonzola sounds amazing, just might have to make a followup visit to the place.

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