We went to the Macaroni Grill with a friend the other night. It was Saturday, so we got there around 5 to beat the rush.
No need to worry. The rush did not materialize.
Perhaps it was because everyone was either at the Preakness or home watching the Preakness, but by the time we left, the race was long over and the help was still hanging around the starting gate, jockeying for pole position in case any new diners came up on the outside.
She was only a jockey's daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.
Or maybe it was because the service there is not nearly as great as the food, and the management ought to realize that people have a lot of choices when it comes to dining out. You want noodles, there are plenty of noodle houses around. Same with Asian places and beefy places and chicken places and vegetarian places and hi-class places where they serve tiny bits of food on a giant square plate, with dribs and drabs of sauce around it, and one asparagus stalk.
In fact, there is a whole subgroup of restaurants that sell the sizzle more than the steak, by which I mean they sell their atmosphere more than the food. You can easily spot these places; they give them Irish names and make it sound like you'll have the time of your life here at O'Hoolahan's, where you get a three-course meal for $12.99 and have a rollicking good time while doing so!
Anyway, back to my unsolicited review of the Macaroni Grill. We were promptly seated and then allowed to read the menu in peace for quite some time. We could have read most of War and Peace in the time that it took to have our waitperson present herself. First, a man in a red tie, who seemed to be in charge of whatever, came over and asked if anyone had come around to see to us. When we said no, he turned and strolled away, and eventually a young lady named Ashlee came over and promised to "take care of us." No apology for the lengthy delay, by the way. The first step in "taking care of us" was writing her name upside down on the paper that covered the tablecloth that covered the table. I must admit, she did pretty well at this, writing her name upside down while standing at a table. Her name is more legible in that form of penpersonship than mine would be if I were sitting here writing this for you, which is why I am typing.
When we mentioned that our friend shared a first name with her, she acted like it was not the first time she had met someone else with her name. "Huh!" she exclaimed. She chose not to discuss the coincidence any further.
I would have to say that the food was excellent, but the service was perfunctory, verging on desultory. Peggy and I had lasagna, and our friend had fettucine alfredo with chicken, and the salads and the antipasti were all tasty, but, again, delivered with the same zest and exuberance that you experience when the clerk at the motor vehicle administration hands you your new license.
One of the other big noodle chains makes a big deal of saying, "When you're here, you're family," but the more I think of it, the more it seems that the Macaroni Grill people are more like very distant relatives who show up for a wedding and crash at your house and then turn their noses up at the breakfast you offer...in a pleasant way, but not friendly.
So, maybe it's a good idea to go to the MG when you just want to be left alone. They're good at that...