Restaurant review: Olive Garden Times Square


Generally speaking, no one heads to Times Square for gourmet quality dining, however given that it is one of the biggest draw cards of New York, it is teeming with dining options. From the ubiquitous street vendors offering everything from hot dogs and warm nuts, to kebabs and gyros, Times Square is also home to some massive restaurants catering to the hoards of tourists the call in at all hours of the day. Here is our review of a recent visit to Olive Garden Times Square.

One such restaurant is Olive Garden, located within the same building as the Renaissance New York hotel at the northern end of Times Square, just behind the steps of Father Duffy Square and the TKTS booth. On a recent trip to New York my Qantas flight from Los Angeles was delayed and I found myself getting into New York later than usual, as is a bit of a ritual for me, my first stop after checking to my hotel was to head to Times Square. As I was quite hungry I decided that I should, for the first time, try out Olive Garden, as I though there is no way it could be as bad as some of the things that I had heard.

After making my way through Times Square I managed to find the somewhat hard to find entrance to Olive Garden located next to the Subway station entrance.

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As I entered I asked, what I assumed to be the host, for a table for 1, at which point she just pointed up a long escalator, not actually uttering a word to me – guess my expectations we already too high!

Apparently not the restaurant host

After I made my way up the escalator I proceeded to another desk and waited for about 5 minutes as there seemed to be no host whatsoever. After someone finally arrived she indicated to a colleague to take me to table 305 she just stood there, and obviously didn’t want to actually do anything. Between the time I walked in to the lobby on street level and by the time I was actually seated I was asked on 4 separate occasions how many people would be dining, each time they seemingly sounded disappointed when I pointed out it would just be me. Smaller tip I guess.

Shortly after I was seated, while reading through the extensive menu, a table of 4 young women sitting across from me were complaining that they had not received a menu (even though they had literally just say down), and it gave me an insight into the types of customers that Olive Garden Times Square must usually get, high expectations of service akin to a premium restaurant, while not understanding that restaurants such as these in Times Square (big, brash, and pushing for high turnover) are really in the service game, but the table turnover game.

One of the main dining areas of Olive Garden Times Square

My order was taken within about 15 minutes of sitting down. For dinner I had decided against an appetiser and just ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara (without the Shrimp). While I ordered my meal I was also offered a wine to taste, with the hope that I would buy a bottle, which I politely declined.

While I was waiting for my main meal, a huge salad (big enough for two adults) and a massive basked of bread was delivered to the table, which is a common thing in large scale American restaurants. The salad was surprisingly fresh (particularly considering it was now after 9:30pm and the bread was warm and seemingly straight out of the oven. Both were tasty, however the salad was drenched in dressing which in turned made it very soggy. The problem with such massive side plates was that I found myself almost full by the time my main meal came.

So this is the starter for 1 – eek.

While I I placed my order for my main meal I also ordered a soft drink, which was delivered within about 6  minutes of ordering my meal.

I had to wait about 20 minutes from when I ordered my main meal to the time it was delivered, which meant I was eating around 10pm, which wasn’t too bad considering I was still on Los Angeles time which was only 7pm.

The waiter assigned to my table was very pleasant without being overbearing, and continually checked to see if there was anything else I needed, without being a nuisance. As my main meal was delivered I asked for the bill to speed up the process as I wanted to make a beeline for the exit as soon as I had finished my meal.

The main meal

My expectations were not high, and they were pretty much matched. The pasta itself was tasteless, there was no mushrooms or bacon, as I would have expected a carbonara sauce to include, and they kitchen had obviously decided that they needed to up the protein of the meal as I had reduced the Shrimp, they placed extra chicken which seemed to take over the meal. All aspects of the meal were cooked through but it lacked any real taste.

Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara – guess they ran out of shrimp!

Essentially I was delivered a chicken pasta, which as I knew from my bachelor days, is pretty hard to get wrong, as mentioned I wasn’t expecting anything special, and that is exactly what I got.

Overall Observations of Olive Garden Times Square

As mentioned earlier, this is a big restaurant with a lot of turnover, the service overall was pretty poor, with the exception of my server, who did an average job. That being said, dining at somewhere like Olive Garden Times Square, or other big restaurants around Times Square is perfect for time poor tourists, who basically want a substantial meal (that isn’t made on a street cart) before heading off to the next museum, attraction or show.

The restaurant is perfect for families or people on a budget, who just need a hearty meal to keep them going. The ambiance is something akin to eating at a Sizzler back in its heyday in Australia – without the cheese bread!

Jase is the founder and editor of His passion for New York runs deep, after purchasing a New York travel guide while in high school, it's been a love affair ever since. Having visited over 20 times for work and pleasure he decided to start to help other Aussie's who are planning their own New York adventure to ensure they get the most out of their trip to the greatest city in the world.


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