As a child of the 90s, The Olive Garden was the pinnacle of fine dining destinations. If you grew up in Columbus like me, you might remember when the now closed location opened on State Route 161 a.k.a. "Restaurant Row". For me and my family, birthdays and special occasions were celebrated there, as it was one of our favorites.
We haven’t eaten there in years, but my wife received a generous gift card from a client. Given this is a nationwide chain, The Olive Garden isn’t the typical institution highlighted on CBUS Dads, but really the location isn’t what makes this story significant.
We planned to use the gift card on this free Friday night. My wife was hung up at a separate client appointment, so me and my three little ones went to the Polaris location separately to meet her afterward. Upon arrival, we were given a 25-minute wait, so with the draw of conference tournament college basketball on the TV, we saddled up at the nearby bar to kill some time. I did my best to enforce proper restaurant etiquette with my kids, as a few fellow bar patrons enjoyed their pasta dishes.
Eventually the bartender greeted us, and I gave the green light for the kids to order a drink: two Shirley Temples and a chocolate milk. He hooked them up too: maraschino cherries, extra chocolate syrup, BIG cups.
Our table was ready shortly after, and when I went to settle the bill with the bartender, he told me it was on the house. I tried to insist, knowing that while not as involved as your typical cocktail, there is still substantial effort to concoct the kids’ beverages of choice.
I explained how nice of a gesture this was to my kids, as they couldn’t understand why we didn’t have to pay. Later on in our visit, I handed my son a $20 bill to take back up to the bartender. Certainly the $20 didn’t make or break his night, but on our way out, the bartender told my son he was a gentleman. As a former server myself, I want my kids to know how important it is to show appreciation for those in service roles.
And if you’re wondering: the salad and breadsticks still held up and were as delicious as I remember. The kids especially loved the chocolate mints as the capstone to the meal.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.