Friday, August 09, 2013

Bowie Restaurant Project: (71) Carrabba's Italian Grill

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Carrabba's Italian Grill, 16431 Governor Bridge Rd.

Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 7/26/2013
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

If I say "upscale Olive Garden," would you consider that a compliment? You probably should. I remarked on how Olive Garden manages to maintain good-but-not-great quality across the chain. I haven't been to other Carrabba's, but my experience here is that the food is better than you'd expect at a chain.

It's been hard to visit Carrabba's, because they are generally not open for lunch on the weekdays (although they are now open for Friday lunch). Our first visit came on a Saturday afternoon when we were trying to take full advantage of our babysitter's time before she had a kid of her own (she went into labor the next morning). Christina and I really enjoyed the decor. The service was friendly and enthusiastic if occasionally shaky. (I like it when wait staff don't ask who ordered what when serving food, but if you do that you need to get it right.)

The bruschetta was excellent, and the salad and bread were also tasty. I had some very good Pasta Carrabba, but the star of the show was the Chicken Bryan that Christina ordered. It was delicious; she said she had no intention of ordering anything else there again.

My return visit was takeout for a Friday lunch. I had a coupon for a free appetizer obtained by filling out a survey on our previous visit. Unfortunately the web site did not believe the restaurant was actually open for lunch, so I had to order by phone. My order was taken quickly and professionally, however. As with Ruby Tuesday, there is an option to have them come out to your car; unlike with Ruby Tuesday, that option actually works at Carrabba's. I am never sure whether or how much to tip on takeout, but since the guy actually brought my food out to the car, I did. This option could be valuable for parents of young children who don't want to unload them to pick up food. On the other hand, as a parent of young children, I am looking to feed them less expensive food that you find at Carrabba's.

The salad and bread were once again very good. The free mozzarella sticks were the least appealing item I had on either visit, and the Chicken Bryan was good, but not the transcendent experience it had been the previous Saturday.

I e-mailed a friend who used to live in Bowie to ask his impressions. He replied, "Much better then Olive Garden.  Back when I lived in Bowie, I frequently ate their on my way home from business trips.  The food was good, predictable, and the service at the bar was efficient.  Easily one of my favorite restaurants in Bowie.  I just wish it wasn't a chain."

I agree. I've had some good Italian food at T.J. Elliott's, and I'm inclined to prefer it as a locally-owned business. But I can't say that I would always choose it over Carrabba's. So 3.5 stars to one of the best chain restaurants in Bowie.

Bowie Restaurant News

When KBQ left Fairwood last fall, their intention to move to DC meant it was no longer what I'd consider "Bowie-area". Now it looks like they're re-opening in Woodmore Towne Centre soon. That only adds a few minutes to the drive from many places in Bowie, so perhaps I'll re-visit it then.

I now have 8 reviews left to complete the Bowie Restaurant Project!

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