Olive Garden #2 in SJ Poll

Did you notice the Statesmanjournal.com "best of" poll has Olive Garden #2 for Best Italian Restaurant? I've been somewhat obsessed with voting on this poll and have noticed the OG holding strong in that category. I know it's a busy restaurant along Lancaster but it's still surprising that people consider it to be one of the best. Do you think it's one of the best? Why did you vote for it or why didn't you?

If you haven't voted in the poll yet, remember to vote today and tomorrow. The way they have it set up you can vote once a day.


Anonymous said...

Though I'm not a fan of chain restaurants in general, this is one that when we can afford to go out we do go to. We like it there because it is relatively inexpensive, food quality is consistent, it tastes great and it is much more kid friendly than any of the other Italian places we have been to in this area (this is hugely important to us and it seems that many restaurants are not kid friendly at all). Unfotunately, we did not have a good experience at WNC (rude staff and although I LOVE garlic and eat a lot of it all the time there were so much garlic in my dish that I couldn't finish it) and am not sure we will ever try it again.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

That makes me sad.

G*J said...

It's just OK for me ... I HATE the location. Lancaster is the DMZ of Salem. And the Traffic, not worth the journey for chain-style "Italian"

Anonymous said...

This epitomizes everything that is wrong with Salem.

Anonymous said...

Having worked at Olive Garden in 3 different states I can tell you that there is nothing italian about it. Everything comes in premade bags.. Thats why its consistant, good- but absolutely nothing special. Trust me, there aren't any Italian chefs in that kitchen. Yeah, I like thier salad, but most people dont think iceberg lettuce makes a yummy salad. I like the white trash aspect of it all, but my husband wont eat there- Overcrowded, and not worth it.. Plus Lancaster sucks just driving there, and the parking??? forget it.
I feel like the SJ poll is totally stacked, I mean look at Willamette Valley Grill wining a ton of categories? I have not heard from ANYONE anything positive about this restaurant (food or service) and it looks like they are having all the Red Lion employees vote for them on every computer in the house. Its too bad Salem cant figure out who the real restaurants are with original food.

KandN said...

I can still remember when I was told that Spirit Mountain and Woodburn's Outlet were the two top Oregon tourist destinations.
A feeling of sadness and disbelief came over me.

riggity said...

Oh man. Absolutely sad. I just went and voted (for Da Vinci's) just so I could try to do my part to kick that out of the #2 spot.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, DaVinci's is definitely the best local Italian restaurant, and I suppose I'd rate Caruso's #2 (most of the time).

I also have been playing the S-J voting game and voting daily although admittedly it rankles.

One of the problems that surfaces in rankings like these (and has been mentioned frequently in eatsalem reader comments) is the economic factor where, much as they'd like to do so---many couples/families simply do not have the money to eat at the higher end places. As one other reader indicated, s/he did not want to vote for a place with which she was not personally familiar.

Regrettably, that leaves the less expensive, "familiar" and/or chain places getting zillions of votes whereas the "better" eateries do not boast the volume or pressure that places like Olive Garden, Applebee's command.

It is indeed a sad commentary when the "Best of Salem" translates into the most affordable.

To make myself feel better, I will share my "best overall" votes with you all; I'm sure I've left out lots of favorites and am excluding lots of ethnic places, but here you go:
1. J. James
2. Morton's Bistro
3. Old Europe Inn
4. DaVinci's
5. La Capitale Brasserie
TOP TIER OTHER Parts of the Valley (outside Portland):
1. Sybaris (Albany)
2. Le Bistro (Corvallis)
3. Painted Lady (Newberg)
4. Tina's (Dundee)
5. Cuvee (Carlton)
6. Red Hills Provincial (Dundee)
1. Amadeus
2. Caruso's
3. Buena Vista House (Independence)
4. J. Bella's (Independence)
5. Lakeview (at Creekside)
6. Novak's (Albany)
7. Bentley's

Plan to visit & expect to be good:
1. Word of Mouth
2. Ragin' River
3. L'Attitude Point One (Dallas)
4. Oregon Garden Resort (new Jeff Nizlek venue)
5. Vitality at Wellspring (Woodburn)

Here are my favorite ethnic places although I suspect there would be a huge difference of opinion, but as we say locally "Salem vie" :-)
1. Chinese: Tong King
2. Vietnamese: Kim Huong
3. Japanese: Momiji & Fuji Ricetime
4. Mexican: La Margarita & La Hacienda Real
5. Thai: Lanxang Lao Thai

Over and out---(actually to go out to dinner...)

Anonymous said...

I know that we can't expect Salem to have the level of restaurant options that a big city like Portland can offer, but after living here for ten years now I'm still amazed at what little there is in Salem, especially for a state capital. I should have gotten the clue when I read Lonely Planet's comments on Salem, which were few; following the maxim of not saying anything unless you can say something nice, they settled on "It's a good place to raise a family."

The biggest problem with the restaurant poll is that too many people use the "kid-friendly" filter in evaluating a restaurant, and that is why a low-quality pseudo-Italian corporate franchise like Olive Garden rises to the top of the list. I would like to see a specific category for "best kid-friendly restaurant" and a huge asterisk by the other "best" categories specifically requesting that people not use "kid-friendly" as a criterion.

I won't hold my breath, though; the first time my husband and I read the annual poll results that showed category after category going to chain restaurants, we knew that we were on our own.

Lisa Anne said...

I definitely don't believe its lack of good restaurants in Salem keeping the chains in the top choices for the average diner. I wonder if its lack of information. Until I found this blog, I had no idea about most of the good local restaurants in town other than a few like Sassy Onion and Amadeus. Now I know about all the cool places like Big Foot, WOM, Venti's, MNC, Wild Pear, Grand Vines, La Capitale, Marco Polo and I could go on and on. Salem has a great growing night life (if night is 5pm to 10pm) if only everyone knew about it.

We do need a good lower priced Italian place in town. Christo's is the only one I know of and I've never tried anything but the pizza. I guess WMC is sorta Italian, but I think of it as new american/pasta in general. I've never been a fan of the Spaghetti Warehouse, but I know they have their fans. I think an East Coast style cheap Italian place would be awesome! Get some meatball sandwiches, pasta plates for $4.99, garlic bread, fried mushrooms and calimari, fresh creamy pesto salads and we will have a new fave for Italian over The OG, which IMO is way too salty.

Lisa Anne said...

oops, didn't mean that all the places I mentioned were dinner joints..some are lunch only I think...but cool none the less!

mama2dylan said...

I agree Salem needs an East Coast style Italian restaurant. If I had the backing I'd open one in a heartbeat. I am Italian and from a small predominately Italian town on the East Coast. Where I grew up families had pasta every Sunday- period and usually Wednesday too. I KNOW authentic Italian food.

I too did not enjoy my experience at Willamette Noodle Company. I also love garlic and eat a lot of it but also found so much garlic in my dish that it overpowered it. When we visited the server greeted us and brought water. A few minutes later she brought 2 more waters forgetting that she already brought us water. “Rob’s famous cheesy garlic bread” was OK, very garlicky tho. If it came with a side of marinara sauce for dipping it would be better, also if it was crispy. The Caesar salad dressing was bland and the romaine was not the nice green leafy kind I’d like to have seen. The croutons were very hard. And in contrast the salad is crammed into a tiny soup like bowl whereas the entrĂ©e swims in a giant black bowl. W also ordered a side of meatballs which never did arrive at our table. When we finished the server placed the check on our table without a word. This is the time when I would expect the server to say would you like anything else (dessert perhaps) or thank you, you can pay me when you are ready. I haven't been back since.

I don't care for Olive Garden either, IMO it's not "Italian" by my standards, not to mention each time I drive by there they have a line outside of people waiting to be seated. I’ve dinned at a few Italian Restaurants out of town. I found a few wanna bees and was disappointed each time. Can anyone recommend a good authentic Italian restaurant in the metro area?

Dude said...

Olive Garden does not rate that high in my book. They were much better years ago, but have since reduced the amount of food you get and increased the prices.

The food is good, but is not a good value. One used to be offered more salad and bread sticks, but now you have to practically beg.

I much prefer either of the two Willamette Noodle Company restaurants. Their food is superior and the prices are reasonable. Plus you are supporting the "local" economy rather than a large company.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think Olive Garden can be characterized as particulary cheap any more. I was dragged there recently for a family get together and most of the entrees were $13-17. I can think of
many places in the valley where I can spend $13-$17 dollars and get an amazing meal with fresh ingredients- why would you possibly prefer a prepackaged pasts dinner and a 40 minute wait?

bob said...

Olive Garden is the Best Italian restaurant in Salem

The McRib is the best BBQ to be found in the whole state of OREGON.

God bless Salem

Jessi Lixx said...

Dear Jesus,

I beg you to help and look over the good people of Salem and help them recognize that there are other options rather than The Olive Garden, Taco Bell and Subway! They do not need to suffer any longer!!
I'm praying for you...

Miss Lixx

KandN said...

Do people watch the chain restaurant commercials and come away believing that they're not just going to get food, but an entire feel good experience?
I just don't get it.
What I come away with is 24 hours of thirst (and regret) due to the amount of salt used.