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From convenience to reliability to acts of selflessness, everyone has a reason.

Mike Pomranz
July 18, 2017

We all do it: You’re hungry; you’re lazy; you want to know exactly what you’re getting. It’s the recipe for dining at a chain restaurant. Maybe you even secretly love it? We all have a guilty favorite. But dining at “a” chain restaurant is different that dining at “the epitome” of a chain restaurant.  And for many people, the chain restaurants located in Times Square exemplify that idea. You’re in one of the greatest food cities in the world and you decide to eat somewhere you could dine at literally anywhere else in the country and—to top it off—in the middle of New York’s most touristy area? Why?

Yesterday, that exact question came up on the site Reddit. “Redditors who have eaten at the Times Square Olive Garden, why?” the straightforward post asked, fittingly, in the Ask Reddit subreddit. As someone who lived in New York for eight years, I personally never ate there. (I was invited once!) However, my wife and I did dine at the Red Lobster in Times Square – in part because we wanted to see what it was like and in part because we were earnestly craving some Cheddar Bay Biscuits. So I kinda get why people might decide to pay way too much money (the Times Square outlets are typically more expensive than other locations) to dine on food without a proper New York City pedigree.

I had to read through a lot of comments, but eventually someone agreed with my “see what it’s like” logic. “I ate at the TGIF in Times Square at a friend's request,” wrote user cfmat. “His logic applies though - he wanted to see how the experience would be different in a massive city's iconic area. Kind of like going to McDonald's when you go to Asia, or whatever.” Sadly, his expedition yielded the same findings that mine did, “The result? Exactly the same, but busier and more expensive, and more disappointing as it meant we missed eating at some other local place instead.”

Meanwhile, the more common reason was that… they had a reason. One of the top comments said that Olive Garden seemed like a reliable place to find an outlet after Hurricane Sandy. Another pointed out that it’s actually a great location for New Year’s Eve (assuming you get a reservation and are willing to pay the price). And then, a true local with the handle EastSideRoberto really broke it down: “Because the Olive Garden on 21st St. closed.” Sometimes, you just need to go to the Olive Garden that’s closest.

With nearly 12,000 comments, if you have some time to kill and are the kind of person who obsesses over these sorts of things, the thread is fun to dig through on your own. However, if you’re thinking of making fun of the Times Square Olive Garden, there’s one heart-warming response you really need to read…

“Police Officer, former NYPD here,” user macneto wrote, “for weeks after September 11 The Olive Garden was ONLY open to members of the NYPD, FDNY, EMS, Con-Ed and construction crews working at Ground Zero. The full menu was available, for free, no charge. We tried to tip the wait staff, they wouldn't accept it. Honestly it was fucking amazing. You would be working 12, 14, 18 hour shifts and you could go here, eat and relax. Ill never forget the hospitality we received.... If you worked there during that time, and you happen to be reading this, really from the bottom of my heart, Thank You.”

But that’s not only an explanation of why the Times Square Olive Garden is awesome. That’s an answer to why all New Yorkers are awesome.