Growing up in Northeast Ohio, Olive Garden was my idea of a "fancy" restaurant. There were jugs of wine overhead, they gave you a salad with your meal, and hello — free, unlimited breadsticks. As an adult, I find I am just as enamored with the salad and breadsticks as I was as a kid, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't take my picky eating daughter there just because they have food she'll eat. The famous chain has made that easier than ever right now by offering a coupon for $1 kids' meals at Olive Garden when you sign up for text alerts.
How the coupon works is that for every adult entree (up to two) that you purchase, you are eligible to purchase one kids' meal for $1. It is good for dine-in only, and expires on Feb. 8, so get on it while it's still available. There are Olive Gardens all over the country, so a location near you shouldn't be hard to find. Personally, I suggest getting whatever is on their "specials" menu because it's usually fresh and almost guaranteed to make you open a button or two on your trousers. Don't forget to save room for dessert.
People rag on chain restaurants all the time, and to be honest, I've often been one of them. But there's something about Olive Garden, (lovingly nicknamed "The OG" by my husband) that makes me feel nostalgic for road trips and post-dance dates. If your boyfriend or girlfriend knew what was up, they took you to the OG. If not, you ended up at that other place where all the food is dipped in whiskey sauce and it's so loud you can't flirt properly.
Also, Olive Garden has a kid menu that kids actually like. Sure, the usual suspects are present, but they also have garlicky marinara and huge meatballs, which may be the only way I can get vegetables into my daughter all week. And whatever the salad dressing is made of, it makes my son eat raw lettuce without telling me that I'm trying to kill him by even asking that he try it. He hasn't yet learned the wonder that is asking for extra dressing to use as breadstick dip, but I believe that day will come.
They even have gluten-free options for kids with allergies. That in itself is a reason to go for many families.
One of my first dates with my husband was during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival in my hometown of Canton, Ohio. He flew to me from New York City, but we had limited time and every single restaurant was packed to the rafters with football fans. Except Olive Garden. Not because it's usually slow, but because they didn't have televisions broadcasting the game. We slid into a booth and shared a few pasta dishes. I remember making fun of my then-boyfriend for his love of blackened chicken alfredo. Little did I know it wasn't just a love — it was an all-consuming passion for the dish. He would order it everywhere if he could, but he loves it at the OG — perhaps from a hint of sentimentality.
For me, taking my kids to get the $1 kids' meal at Olive Garden is just extending the tradition of our family, in a very cheesy, and for today at least, inexpensive way. Who knows, maybe one day they'll take their kids to the OG and tell them all about how their grandparents fell in love. Or maybe they'll just go and eat breadsticks.