2801 Elliott Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
The number of good restaurants owned by good people making good food is overwhelming in this city... so much so that there is hardly any excuse for intentionally paying to eat something mediocre. With that said, there is one highly mediocre, national chain restaurant that will always hold a piece of my heart, and still manages to tempt me to it maybe once every year or two: The Old Spaghetti Factory.
After a recent day of skiing, a ravenous hunger spurred thoughts of the Old Spaghetti Factory on the drive home, and the wispy little dreams that were around exit 50 had grown into intense and concrete needs by time we crossed the I-90 bridge. Parking is often tricky at the Old Spaghetti Factory, as there are not quite enough spots in the lots to accommodate the loyal mangeurs but street parking reasonably easy to find. Stuffed the skis in the cab of the truck and stretched our tired legs on a walk to the gigantic brick fortress that is the Old Spaghetti Factory.
As it has been for as long as I can remember it, the restaurant was really busy. The large front lobby, ringed with antique looking arm chairs and love seats, looked like a scene from an old and deserted mansion, save for the hoards of noisy kids and chubby middled adults and others (such as those wearing ski underwear) who really didn't seem to be giving the olden days their proper respect. No matter... the hostess was friendly and handed us a little piece of technology that would vibrate and flash when our table was ready. We slumped down into red velvet chairs and watched as a steady stream of other waiting patrons stepped onto the lobby scale and obtained their entertaining and ephemeral pre-dinner weights.
For the amount of people waiting, the wait itself seemed rather short. We soon found ourselves sitting at a glossy wooden table looking menus. The reason, I know, that I hold a tenderness for the Old Spaghetti Factory is that for relatively cheap (under $10), they provide you a many course meal. There is something so lavish and resplendent about a many course meal, even if it is coming from a self-proclaimed factory.
I ordered the spaghetti with marinara, my dining partner ordered fettuccine Alfredo. In an un-necessary but indulgent move, we splurged on a large order of broccoli, steamed lightly and seasoned not just with olive oil, but with browned butter and mizithra cheese too. It came as an appetizer before the real production of the meal began. It was tasty, and a surprisingly large portion that was perhaps intended for a larger family than two.
The real part of the meal begins with a choice of milk, iced tea, or water. Then comes a salad... a joyous little iceburg salad with shredded carrots and their most delicious creamy pesto house dressing that hasn't changed in taste or texture for as long as I can remember.
Next comes the really dangerous part of the meal... the private loaf of warm, fresh baked sourdough bread served up on a thick wooden cutting board with a bowl of soft whipped garlic butter. Even with our broccoli pre-appetizer, and salad appetizer, and knowledge of a main course coming, it was really hard to resist ripping into that loaf... thin chewy crust, gluten-y sour insides, and devouring the bowl of butter.
This is the time in the meal where you start thinking that perhaps they ought to just wrap up your spaghetti to go and call it a night while you can still walk yourself back to the car.
There isn't anything especially remarkable about the pasta, but it comes in a big pile and tastes good enough. By this time in the meal, any notions of eating healthy are gone and the carb gluttony is in full effect. We mixed our dishes together into an orgy of delicious creamy pink sauce on the two shapes of pasta. In retrospect, I wonder if the Alfredo sauce was completely vegetarian, or whether it had chicken stock or bacon fat in it somewhere.
After eating to the point of near burst, we got a box to wrap up the leftovers, and a choice of spumoni or vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. We both chose spumoni, and it arrived in classy silver petaled cups. The ice cream portion seemed much larger than I remembered it though... I was actually surprised (a surprise both good and bad) at the heft of the large densely packed scoop.
With iced tea and salad and our own loaf of bread and big plates of pasta and obese balls of spumoni and tax and tip and a mounded plate of tri fat seasoned broccoli, we still left the restaurant for under $30.
Skipped the scale on the way out, waddled back to the car cursing myself for pushing beyond the point of dining pleasure and into the realm of unbridled gluttony. Needless to say, it is easy for a vegetarian to eat here. In fact, the old spaghetti factory could be the love den for the unfortunate new vegetarian eating style that relys too heavily on pasta and bread.
To anybody who wonders how a vegetarian could become fat, look no further.