Friday, March 28, 2014

Bowie Restaurant Project: (80) Olive Grove

Olive Grove,
6828 Race Track Road
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 3/23/2014
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 4
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My first visit to Olive Grove was with a co-worker for Wednesday lunch. It was a week after their opening, and things just didn't seem quite under control yet. The signs in the parking lot had the wrong address for their web site, and when my colleague asked about the gluten-free options they advertised, the waitress checked and found out that they did not have the gluten-free pasta in stock yet. The breadsticks were not up to par with the Olive Garden's, and the crab cake was disappointing. Just like I expect an "Oh boy, I'm eating sushi" feeling from sushi, I expect excitement from a crab cake. I was unenthusiastic about theirs, though, which is disappointing because it is supposed to be a signature dish. My colleague was not entirely happy with his Eggplant Parmesan.

My second visit was a couple of days later, for takeout on a Friday night. Like Carrabba's, they will deliver your food to your car. They go one better, though, by having you pull along side the restaurant to receive your food rather than wasting valuable parking up front. The food took way longer than estimated, but at least I was in my car. The food from this visit was much better; Christina and I enjoyed our pasta, and the kids meals, while pricey, consisted of some big burgers. The burgers, however, were not cooked through. I'd appreciate it for myself, but that seems like a no-no for the younger set.

Clearly, a tiebreaker visit was needed. After an outing at Allen Pond Park, Christina and I brought the kids there. And...it went well! Our pastas were very good. The kids enjoyed their burgers. The waitress asked whether we wanted them well-done, so good for that. The kids meals included a drink and ice cream, which was not something we enjoyed in the takeout, so it seemed like a better deal. Still on the pricey side compared to, say, Chesapeake Grille, but comparable to other sit-down options like Outback or Carrabba's.

But wait...based on the success of our third visit, Christina made plans for a fourth visit! I had written the above, but put it on hold in case things changed. And they did! Within 8 days, they had completely re-done their menu. They had reduced portion sizes and cut prices. So no more ice cream with the kids' meal (we ordered some a la carte since we had promised it to the kids). I think...that's a good thing. (The less food for less money, not the lack of ice cream.) Olive Grove now has daily lunch specials, and it seems like more of a reasonable choice on a regular basis.

So what happened? I think they got better over the first few months they were open. Certainly the fact that they were really busy around 3 on a Saturday makes that seem likely. But it's also possible that they just don't do crab cakes or eggplant very well. I certainly don't have the dining budget to go back and order things I don't think I'll like, so I'll be sticking with the pasta.

Bowie Restaurant News

Olive Grove is not the only restaurant at Hilltop to offer lower-priced options. I spotted the sign to the left in front of the Irie Cafe. The specials (with $1 sodas) answer one of my concerns about the restaurant, namely the pricey menu (at least if you like chicken). I'll have to give it a try. Also, I saw a sign for a grand opening event on April 5 from noon to 5 (I wasn't aware they weren't already "open".)

The pace of work appears to have picked up on Anthony's Pizza. Every time I go by there, something seems to be going on, and I see the rough outline of a front counter. Hopefully we'll see some sort of announcement for an opening date soon. Here's what their sign is going to look like.

While passing by China Chef recently, I noticed they had a table and a couple of chairs. This put it right on the edge of my definition of what constitutes a restaurant, since in theory you could order food and eat it at that table. Eventually, I decided that you would be annoying the people who wanted to sit there while waiting for their food, which was clearly the purpose of the table. So no China Chef.

That leaves me with four restaurants to go.
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