Vegging Out – Macaroni Grill

A leftover piece of my Eggplant Parm

One of the hardest things about being a vegetarian, undoubtedly, is eating out. I have never been as aware of how meat filled almost all menus are, until I stopped eating it. Some of the restaurants that we used to visit frequently, including Applebee’s and Friday’s, are now closed to us as they have NO vegetarian options (in our area at least). Even their salads have meat! As a meat eater, I never realized that ‘American’ food is pretty much 100% meat – sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. Luckily, most ethnic foods have interesting vegetarian options to explore.

One of my favorite things to eat has always been Italian food. Since our part of Florida is about 95% chain restaurants, and 3% of the other options close after lunch, most of our dining out is limited to chains, one of those being Macaroni Grill. We had eaten there once previously, several years ago, and we weren’t impressed. I’m pretty sure I got the Chicken Parmigiana (my favorite at the time), and remember thinking that it tasted fake. While searching for someplace to eat last night, we decided to give it another try (and we had a coupon – always a plus!).

When we walked in, it smelled really good (another hard part of being a freshly turned vegetarian – meat on the grill still smells delicious). They seated us, and the kids really liked that they could draw on the table with crayons they provided. We had to sit at a table due to the highchair and their booths being elevated for some strange reason. There was about an inch between me and the person sitting behind me (most of the rest of the restaurant was empty, so this irritated me). We ordered the Crispy Fresh Mozzarella appetizer, which was very good, if a little lacking in the salt department. For an entree, I ordered Eggplant Parmesan (my new favorite) and my husband got the Eggplant Quadratini. It took them a long while, but they finally brought bread to our table. It was pretty good, but had rosemary in it, which I am not very fond of. It wasn’t overpowering, and the texture of the bread was good.

Our dinner came, and I was impressed with how it looked (I keep forgetting to take pictures – I’m working on it!). It had three pieces of fried eggplant with fresh mozzarella on top, and came with capellini pasta (thin spaghetti). The pasta was dressed in marinara sauce, and cold when it got to me (but perfectly cooked), but the eggplant was hot and crispy, if sliced a little thicker than I usually prefer. I needed to add a little salt, but in Florida, I find that most things are generally a little under-salted. My husband really liked his meal and thought that their unique square shaped pasta had a really great texture. I tasted his, and it was too herb-y for me. The kids had spaghetti and meatballs (I let my three year old have meat occasionally if he really wants it, but will steer him further away from it as time goes on. My one year old has had meat about twice in his lifetime.) which they liked.

In all, we had a good vegetarian dining experience at Macaroni Grill. There were several meatless options for us to choose from, which were more entree like (read – not a sandwich or a salad) then a lot of places have to offer. The service wasn’t great, but wasn’t terrible, and the final consensus is that we would go back. If you are looking for a meal that isn’t a piece of lettuce on a plate or some steamed broccoli, Macaroni Grill is a good place to try.