It all started with dinner in Rhode Island. We had gotten into Providence much earlier than anticipated, and instead of waiting 45 minutes for the beginning of the pasta dinner (presumably overpriced for the generic cafeteria-style fare they’d be serving), my mom and I decided to venture out on our own to a restaurant. Since I rarely eat carb-heavy foods except for right before a marathon, I didn’t want anything unknown; I wanted something from one of my favorite chain restaurants, like Macaroni Grill, Red Lobster, or Olive Garden.
We decided to play it by ear. Our hotel was about 25 miles away from the expo/race start, so we figured we’d scope out stuff on the way, or if we didn’t find anything, we’d figure it out once we got there and then head out again. It started getting dark as we were driving, following Google Maps directions to 4 Universal Blvd in Coventry, RI. However, less than 5 miles from our destination, we were suddenly lost. Shippeetown Road? There was no Shippeetown Road, and no one at the gas stations had even heard of it. I tried calling the Marriott for the direct number to the hotel, hoping we could get a front desk clerk to give us directions, but when I called, it rang and rang with no answer. Service? Nah. Finally, a gas station attendant offered us directions to Coventry, at least, and said we could ask again once there.
We found ourselves in a very residential area that didn’t seem like anything where you’d put a hotel. I tried Marriott again, this time calling their gold concierge and trying to sound a little more demanding. It worked! The woman offered to call the hotel herself and then transfer me over when I got someone. The fron desk clerk who answered, Kate, was quick to figure out where we were and offer directions, but we managed to screw those up too, ending on a dead end road in a rundown residential neighborhood. What the heck? Finally, we learned to turn at the first major four-way intersection instead of the first traffic light, and we found our way to the hotel.
Now for food. I did some more Google Mapping and discovered a Red Lobster was supposed to be near the Olive Garden we had seen while driving around lost, which thrilled me. Cheddar bay biscuits as my carb-loading? I am so in. The odd thing was, I didn’t remember seeing a sign for Red Lobster on the plaza, but I figured we could use Olive Garden as a backup. Sure enough, there was no Red Lobster to be found (clearly an outdated listing – after all this, you can bet I’m going back to Mapquest instead of Google Maps). No matter – we headed for Olive Garden, where we were told it would be a 60 minute wait, even though it was just two of us.
Not wanting to wait that long, we started going up and down the main road. It seemed like chain restaurant central – surely we could find someplace? Carrabas (not my favorite, but it’d do) also had an hour wait, as did Chili’s (again, Mexican not great, but I was hungry). Finally, we headed for Ruby Tuesday’s. Neither my mom nor I had ever been before, but they assured us they had several pasta dishes, so I figured it would be fine.
After sitting down and perusing the menu, I discovered all the pasta dishes had cream sauce. I’m much more relaxed about my pre-marathon diet these days (even the cheesy pizza in Maine didn’t faze me), but I thought a fatty, heavy, rich cream sauce was probably not the best choice. Still, they had an unlimited salad bar, so I planned to fill up on that and order the pasta with just a bit of sauce. The waitress took our orders, and invited us to go enjoy the salad bar whenever we’d like. We’d like!
We promptly headed over to the salad bar, only to discover another Ruby Tuesday’s employee blocking us and pulling plates out of customers’ hands. They had just found someone eating directly off the salad bar, sticking their fingers in everything, so they had to shut down and restock. The verdict? We could still have salad… in 30 minutes once they got the bar restocked.
Apologizing, we left (luckily our orders hadn’t been put into the system yet). I wasn’t going to settle for pasta with cream sauce when they didn’t even have a salad bar. Instead, we figured we’d try Panera. It may not be sit-down service, but I used to work there in high school and I miss their food (we don’t have it in New York City). I wasn’t keen on having a cold sandwich and salad for dinner, but I thought if I got one of their hot paninis and soup, I’d be okay.
We walked into Panera and took our time looking over the menu. A lot has changed in the last 6 years since I’ve worked there! Despite all the new additions, I finally decided on an old favorite: Frontega chicken panini and French onion soup. As my mom pondered her order, I got more and more psyched about mine, until I had finally convinced myself that I was happy we ended up at Panera instead of one of the other restaurants. Happy, until I told the cashier my order, and was told, “sorry, we’re out of all paninis.” My jaw dropped and my eyes welled up. How unlucky could we get? My old Panera used to run out of paninis on occasion, but only maybe once every two months or so. They were out?! We hustled out of there, with me near tears, where I complained about how it is impossible to get food in Rhode Island. Seriously, what the heck!
We decided to head back to Olive Garden and brave the wait. It seemed like waiting was really our only option, and if I was going to wait, I wanted it to be for something good. Arriving at Olive Garden, they told us the wait was now 90 minutes… unbelievable. However, I spotted an empty barstool at the counter, and asked if we could just sit and order food at the bar? The answer: “sure, no problem.” Why didn’t they offer that the first time?! We snagged the one chair, and a few minutes later, another opened up, and we were happily sitting and ordering. No worries – it was only three hours after we had originally wanted to eat!
What a night. I sincerely hope this is not a precursor to a miserable race tomorrow. Perhaps it will be like the old showbusiness saying, “bad dress rehearsal, great opening night?”