A new Olive Garden has opened on the Las Vegas Strip and it’s glorious.
Detractors enjoy poking fun at this popular restaurant chain, but there’s a reason it’s described as a “popular restaurant chain,” so the haters can suck it.
It’s Vegas, and everything’s cooler in Vegas, including this new Olive Garden.
Olive Garden is located in the Showcase Mall, across from Park MGM.
It’s three floors up, above a Target store, and it’s not easy to find, despite a number of large video screens adorning the outside of the building.
On the night we visited, there was an Olive Garden employee helping people find their way to the restaurant via a special elevator.
Logisitics aside, this new Olive Garden is genuinely impressive. That’s understandable, as it cost $3.75 million to build.
The most impressive part of this 12,500-square-foot restaurant is the fact designers left the back of the aforementioned video screens visible to guests inside.
This creates a colorful, constantly shifting backdrop with a “Bladerunner” feel. The screens aren’t bright to the point of distraction, and add a striking and unique element to the interior design.
Here’s a hastily slapped-together video to give a sense of the eye candy Olive Garden is serving up.
The sexy doesn’t stop there. The entire restaurant is pleasing to the eye, including some cozy booths.
A fun aspect of the Olive Garden’s decor are a number of video screens along the walls, presumably live feeds from Italy.
The feeds don’t appear to be live, but it’s a great nod to Italy, and is an enjoyable diversion for diners.
The restaurant is far more expansive than it looks, with at least three large dining areas. It seats more than 400 people and has two bars, because Las Vegas.
Beyond the winning design of Olive Garden, there’s the value.
We expected inflated prices given the restaurant’s Strip location and venue size, but were pleasantly surprised to find the same low prices for which Olive Garden is known.
You can view the Olive Garden menu on the restaurant’s official Web site, or squint at our photos. Whatever butters your bread.
Those breadsticks, though. Endless breadsticks, salad and soup for $12.49 is easily one of the best deals in Las Vegas, and certainly on The Strip.
We followed up with the iconic Tour of Italy, of course, which they’ll split, if asked.
This combo of chicken parm, lasagna and fettuccine Alfredo is hard to beat at this price and completely satisfying.
Nobody’s claiming this is gourmet-quality food, and yes, there are tons of great, high-end Italian restaurants in Las Vegas, blah, blah, blah.
It’s dinner for two, including two wines and two cocktails, for $69. That’s the price of ice water and a napkin in some Strip restaurants.
Our food was tasty and filling, and the service was top notch at the bar.
Big sections of the menu can be viewed on tabletop screens, including cocktails and desserts. Everything looks more delicious backlit!
The bottom line is our new Olive Garden is a winner, and Vegas likes winners.
If you drive, be forewarned parking is $12 for two hours in the fairly awful Showcase parking structure, and it’s virtually impossible to get to Olive Garden from there. (Guests are forced to walk around an entire block at street level. Oh, well, it helps burn off some of those calories returning to your vehicle.)
Awareness of the Strip Olive Garden hasn’t really kicked in yet, so there’s no waiting.
As mentioned, the restaurant has a visibility problem, and there’s some chatter about an awning out front to help catch the eye of visitors.
There’s a ton of foot traffic on that part of The Strip, and we suspect this will eventually be a go-to for value-seeking tourists.
We love an unpretentious, low-cost dining option on The Strip, and Olive Garden is that.
Yes, Olive Garden gets a good amount of razzing from food snobs, but this chain is laughing all the way to the bank.
Olive Garden has consistently been named the “Best Italian Restaurant” in Las Vegas by readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s not, of course, but that means something. It means what people are supposed to enjoy isn’t always what they actually enjoy, and we probably shouldn’t spend so much time telling people what they should enjoy or where.
Bloggers are exempt from this “not telling people what to enjoy” rule, of course.
Check out more photos of the new Olive Garden on the Las Vegas Strip, and if you’re in the camp that insists upon bashing a place without even trying it, feel free.
More breadsticks for us.