I have been eating at Macaroni Grill for close to 25 years now. Sadly, it has gone from a pleasant inexpensive restaurant with a charming atmosphere to a mediocre to below average establishment.
When I first started eating at Macaroni Grill the wait staff would serenade you at the table, write their names in crayon on the paper that covered the tablecloth and you could order a bottle of wine and keep count with crayon on the paper table cloth covering. The food was a pretty good value. I think in the dozens of times I have been there I got something other than seafood maybe once or twice. However, I have noticed over the years the quality of their food and service has steadily declined.
Saturday evening, we decided to pop out for a bite to eat. We first visited Bravo's which had about an hour wait. Since I was starving, we decided to call over to Macaroni Grill and go there instead. We called ahead and they put our name on the "list". When we arrived, there was no one in line. This should have been a sign to us since for years this particular Macaroni Grill has been busy every time we've been there on a Saturday. It was pretty early for dinner (around 7 o'clock). The waitress asked my wife and I if we wanted to taste the chianti. She asked each of us and each of us said "yes". Yet, somehow she heard "no". My daughter ordered a soft drink, which the waitress brought without a straw (even though they carry straws in their aprons). Gone were the days when the waitress would write her name upside down on the table (so you could read it as she wrote it). We didn't even get the waitress' name. No matter since it was an experience we'd rather forget anyway.
I ordered the Center-Cut Lamb Spiedini which is described as being grilled on skewers with fresh rosemary. Normally when I've seen a dish described like that it's served with fresh rosemary skewers (which I saw on someone else's table). I got no rosemary skewers. The waitress didn't ask me the temperature I preferred my lamb. So, I caught her before she left the table and informed her I would like it medium rare. One of the reasons I went for the lamb is I am trying to watch my weight and so I steered away from my normal pasta dish (with seafood). However, I wasn't trying that hard to watch my weight. The portion of lamb I got looked like a Weight Watcher's meal. I know a health portion of meat is supposed to be about three ounces (the size of a deck of cards). I didn't have my scale with me. But, this was no more than four ounces of lamb. The roasted vegetables could have been delicious. It was a medley of potatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant. However, they were stone cold. I informed the waitress expecting to be brought a new order. Instead, she took them back and presumably microwaved them. They came back lukewarm. Acceptable.
My wife ordered the Seafood Linguine which is described as "Seared sea scallops, jumbo shrimp and sweet clams sauteed with extra virgin olive oil, oven-roasted tomatoes and fresh arugula". There wasn't a sign of any arugula in it. Had she known that she would not have ordered it. When you order a dish like this you don't expect all of the ingredients to be listed. However, there was a pretty large amount of crushed red pepper in the dish. There should have been some warning on the menu that this dish was fairly spicy. I love spicy food. My wife's stomach can't tolerate it. Normally, when a dish is described as spicy she will either avoid it or ask if it can be made more mild. When I taste her dish that she complains about being "spicy", the vast majority of the time I can barely make out the "bite" in the dish. Not this time. This was a medium on my scale of spicy dishes, way too hot for her tastes.
My daughter ordered the Shrimp Portofino, which I have had many times. It was excellent.
The last few times I've been to Macaroni Grill there has been something or other that's kind of turned me off. While this was the singular worst experience I've had there in all the years I've been going, I think it's going to be my last. There are just too many other places out there to visit. Next time, we'll wait it out at Bravo's.