Tasty Tuesday–Macaroni Grill

I have a new favorite restaurant.

This past weekend, we decided to go out for dinner (something we rarely do) to celebrate Valentine’s Day/tax refund time. Our family’s favorite restaurant is Red Robin, but I wasn’t really in the mood for burgers, so Ryan told me to pick a place. I thought it would be fun to go somewhere we’ve never been before, and after deciding I wanted pasta, I picked Macaroni Grill.

As soon as we walked in, I knew I was going to love it. It smelled wonderful–garlic and steak and olive oil, and all things Italian. And the decor was beautiful–cool lights, lots of wood and stone, and an open kitchen. And actual tablecloths on the tables, and cloth napkins to boot!

We got there at just the right time–just before five. We didn’t have to wait for a table, but there was a line forming shortly after we were seated, and the pace didn’t slow down the whole time we were there (almost two hours!).

The children surprised us by being very adventurous in their choices–Turkey and Bunny both ordered something they’ve never gotten in a restaurant before, and while Moose and Ladybug ordered a favorite–mac ‘n’ cheese–it certainly didn’t look like any mac ‘n’ cheese they’ve ever had before. They all loved their meals, though, and decided they’d very much like to go back someday. The one thing they didn’t care for was the peasant bread that was brought out when we arrived. Turkey liked the inside, but didn’t like the crust, Bunny tried dipping it in olive oil (I’ve never been to a restaurant where they did that, either, and it was so cool!), and was turned off, and while Moose and Ladybug tried to like it, I think it was just too fancy for them.

I got the Pasta Milano, and it was amazing. Lots of garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and chicken served with farfalle pasta. Yum! Ryan’s dinner was equally delicious (Pasta Rustico)–no one was disappointed with what they ordered. And the tiramisu for dessert–heavenly! (The children had no complaints about their gelato with strawberries, either!)

Here are my favorite things about Macaroni Grill:

  • Reservations–I didn’t know any chain restaurant still honored reservations. We didn’t make one, but we heard them being taken over the phone. This is good information to tuck away for future reference.
  • Fresh ground pepper–One of my fondest memories of childhood (and a marker for what made a restaurant “nice”) was my parents getting fresh ground black pepper on their salads when we went to a fancy restaurant. I haven’t been to too many restaurants that still do that, though–maybe I’m just eating at the wrong places!
  • Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese–This was a real treat for me. I’m not sure I’ve *ever* been to a restaurant where I’ve seen that done, tableside. It made my dinner so much more delicious!
  • Desserts–The dessert menu was fairly extensive, the prices weren’t too bad, and the dessert I had was wonderful. I’d like to go back sometime just to try the Lemon Passion Cake!
  • Italian soda–I’d forgotten what a treat this drink is. I had the mango flavor–fun and fizzy and delicious! And how many places can you go and order that?
  • Ambiance–I loved the way the restaurant looked, the lights everywhere, the nice tables, the Italian music. It just had such a nice atmosphere!
  • Leisurely meal–I don’t know if this was intentional, or if it was just because they were busy. We didn’t see our server a whole lot, and there was some waiting in between courses. Where this would normally annoy me in a restaurant, I instead found myself enjoying the pace. We spent almost two hours in the restaurant, which is unheard of for us, but I never felt as though we had been forgotten. And for some reason, the children never got restless (OK, a little when they were waiting for dessert, but that’s understandable!). It was just pleasant, and such a change from the normal feeling of being rushed through a meal so the table could be cleared and more people seated.

It was such a nice night out–I’m glad we went. Everyone is hoping to go back sometime, but it will definitely be a once-in-a-very-long-while treat. We splurged a bit tonight, but I think in the future we could probably get out of there spending about $50-55 before tip–still, that’s more than we would normally spend on the rare occasion we all go out. But, for the quality of meal we had, and the nice evening we enjoyed as a family, I think it would be worth the expense once or twice a year!

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