Every few months, Lynda and I get together with some very good friends that I worked with several years ago, to catch up with some pleasant conversation over good food. Coordinating our get-togethers can be a somewhat amusing juggling act, with our varying schedules and commitments, but they always turn out well and in my opinion, well worth the effort. I just always hope the meal is the equal of the camaraderie we share. A month ago, our get-together brought us together at our local Macaroni Grill.
Macaroni Grill is a casual Italian-style restaurant chain that was started by the same people that also run Fuddruckers. Our local franchise is located on Hurstbourne Parkway just north of I-64, a busy thoroughfare with a fairly large number restaurants — some good and some, uh, not so good. You enter between two open cooking areas where your senses are treated to the sights, sounds and SMELLS of the meals being prepared. This is really not much unlike they way Fuddruckers does things with their hanging sides of beef. The dining area beyond is a bit dark, with a moderately claustrophobic groupings of tables, with segregating low walls for booths that subdivide the large room into smaller, supposedly more intimate segments. The end result is a somewhat crowded and noisy environment, that smells good. The tables are covered with white butcher paper, that the server writes his name on in crayon and that the guest will usually decorate with the several crayons that stay on the table — actually a nicer idea than the peg-jump boards at Cracker Barrel when you think about it.
Lynda and I arrived about 25 minutes early to arrange for a table for 8, thinking that they would be busy at 6 PM on Saturday. They were busy, as usual, but they said it was no problem and lead us right back to two tables pushed together and set for 8. We were also informed that they had re-instituted their reservation policy that they had done away with several years earlier. While none of the establishments on Hurstbourne can be considered high dining, it is nice to be able to make reservations again than to have to wait out with the overflow crowd in the sauna of an August Ohio Valley evening. Thankfully, our friends (minus one, who had something come up) didn’t have to endure that when they made their way back to the table a little after six, and we got down to the business at hand, taking and and eating.
As I didn’t know I would doing this blog down the road, I didn’t make note of what they ordered and I am not sure they would appreciate my sharing that with the world, so I will only relate what Lynda and I had that evening. Lynda started off with a Caesar della Casa salad ($1.79) and I had a Garden della Casa (also $1.79). Lynda ordered the Mushroom Ravioli ($11.29) for her entrée, which as the name suggests, is raviolis stuffed with mushrooms and melted cheese and then covered with a Carmela wine cream sauce. Lynda pronounced it excellent. As I am usually on a restricted diet, I chose this meal to have my annual dish of Fettuccine Alfredo ($10.29). I have never tried their Alfredo, and was pleasantly surprised at how very good it was — nearly as good as the Alfredo I order at Georgie’s Beachside Grill in Newport, OR. It is probably a good thing that I only order this once (ok, I had it on the Oregon trip in June too) a year, the rich creaminess of the dish could be habit-forming and do me in.
All-in-all, it was a very pleasant dinner. I just wish the dining room was a little quieter to allow easier conversation, without us having to lean over to talk into one another’s ear to be heard; especially since I am somewhat hard of hearing after working 30-plus years in noisy data centers. We decided to skip their desserts and head up the street and indulge in some decadent ice cream at Graeters.
8 out of 10 stars.401 S. Hurstbourne Parkway