If you're a real purist when it comes to dining, there's a good chance that the phrase "chain restaurant" makes you think of one thing: Frozen, microwaved food. It's hardly a secret that often, chain restaurants maintain consistency by shipping meals pre-made and frozen from a distribution center somewhere to each individual location.
If you're a regular at your local Olive Garden, you might be wondering if the (seemingly) fresh house salad is actually made in-house, or if it arrives at the restaurant in some partially or fully pre-made form. But good news, veggie lovers: Olive Garden does indeed make their salads in-house, which the brand confirmed to Daily Meal via email.
The other star appetizer, their famous breadsticks, are baked in-house, but only partially — they initially come from a bakery where they're made but transported fresh (not frozen) to each location, where staff finish them off in the oven for a few minutes before serving. So, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to think that the salads follow a similar process, possibly arriving pre-chopped like the bagged salads you can get at the grocery store. But to its credit, Olive Garden makes the majority of its dishes fresh each day, relying on packaged food and microwaves far less than comparable casual chains like Applebee's.
Salads – And Most Other Dishes – Are Made Fresh
One hint that the salad really is made fresh is that it's customizable. The official website instructs vegan guests to order the salad sans croutons, and with oil and vinegar instead of the standard Italian dressing in order to make it free of animal products. Additionally, the online ordering platform allows you to hold the olives, tomatoes, onions, and/or pepperoncini if you're getting a salad for pick-up. If the ingredients came to the restaurants already mixed together, customizations likely wouldn't be allowed at all.
Additionally, it's a lot harder to fake fresh veggies when serving them raw, as in a salad, rather than cooked. Vegetables, especially lettuce, start oxygenating as soon as they're sliced open and exposed to the air, which causes them to become brownish at the edges and less crisp within minutes. If your salad arrives at your table looking and tasting totally fresh, that's a good sign that it actually is.
The Microwave Isn't Olive Garden's MVP
The only dishes that arrive at the restaurants fully prepared and frozen, then microwaved to order, are the desserts. Everything else on the menu is made in-house, including the soups and sauces, which are prepared fresh each day. Given that most Americans are probably pretty accustomed to eating canned soup and jarred pasta sauces, the franchise could probably get away with cutting some corners and using pre-made, shipped-in items — but they don't, which bodes well for their kitchen practices overall.
In fact, the only dishes Olive Garden uses the microwave for are desserts and dipping sauces. The sauces are made in-house each day but reheated to order when served as dips for your breadsticks.
Olive Garden may be known for offering a not-so-authentic spin on Italian food — you certainly won't find their Amazing Alfredos! anywhere in Tuscany. But as far as casual dining franchises go, Olive Garden actually stands out as a pretty good choice if fresh food is what you seek. If you're craving a crisp, delicious salad, you can be confident that Olive Garden's famous never-ending salad is going to hit the spot — even after the second, third, or even fourth refill.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.