We were out in White Rock, at the beach with the dogs and the kids and it was brought up that we should go to dinner. A friend that we were with suggested that we go to East Side Mario's because they had decent food, at decent prices and the atmosphere was suitable for children. There was some humming and hawing but East Side Mario's was eventually confirmed as the dining location for the evening. As always, I was happy to go out to dinner, especially because I had never been there before. So, after a stellar build up, here is my East Side Mario's review. Also note that if you select the "restaurants" category in the drop down to the right you can see all my other restaurant reviews.
I'd like to start by saying that I felt that East Side Mario's was very similar to The Olive Garden. Almost like the two restaurants could be related, but with different fathers or something. The Olive Garden was more sophisticated while East Side Mario's comes off as a spruced up Chucky Cheese or something. Don't get me wrong, I love Chucky Cheese! The first thing your going to notice when you get into East Side Mario's, assuming your at a normal dinner hour, is that you won't be seated right away. There is going to be a bit of a wait, but ours was only 20 minutes or so. It was just long enough to feed a baby or have a smoke break. I will not add or subtract points for this because it sucks that you have to wait, but it's not long enough for me to care.
The restaurant I went to in Langley was setup as one big massive room with all the tables situated around a central bar. The layout was fine, but because of the lack of walls and corners, the sound really carried and it was as if we were at a beer garden or something. You couldn't really tell what any of your neighbors were saying, but only because the sound from everyone else talking was interfering. Overall the atmosphere was exactly what my friend said, perfect for kids because they could laugh, yell or cry and nobody would really notice. We brought our 2 month old baby and she didn't bother anyone (not that she would anyway, shes way to cute for that). I think I'm going to leave points alone here too, kids or not, being loud can't be awarded or dinged.
So we get the menus and browse the food. Hallelujah! They have the Olive Garden special, unlimited bread and soup/salad with the purchase of an entree. You know what I love about unlimited bread sticks and soup/salad? The fact that it's unlimited of course! How could you not want unlimited of either or both of those? Having unlimited of something other than pop awards 1 point for limitless appetizers.
After selecting the above deal, you need to pick an entree. This is where I thought East Side Mario's did a great job. They really do have a great selection of entrees in several different categories. I know when I went to The Olive Garden I felt like I was really pushed into things that I didn't really want because there was a lot of stuff that I wouldn't like, or normally eat. However here I was able to narrow it down to 2-3 selections and then I almost had to struggle to pick which one I wanted. I decided on the Sausage & Pepper Penne which in the long run was a great choice. The sausage was pre-cut into cylindrical chunks (key element with sausage in case you don't know) and it was a little spicy, which is fantastic! They also had pizza and some kind of sandwich that I was very interested in. I award 1 point for having a great selection of common entrees and 1 point for serving up a decent sized entree.
The service was crap. Obviously this is something that can vary from visit to visit so there is no way for me to really complain but for the most part the service was very slow and it felt like we were being ignored. I gave the server a relativity small tip to justify the poor quality of service. The restaurant looked as if it could have been understaffed, but who knows, maybe she was still new. Either way, I've already corrected this with the low tip, theirs no need to tarnish their record even more by subtracting a point.
My review puts East Side Mario's at a whopping 3 points total. That makes them only one point less than The Olive Garden and Anton's. I would say that East Side Mario's is a great alternative to the Olive Garden or a place like Boston Pizza as it offers a wide variety of good sized food choices as well as reasonable prices and a child friendly atmosphe. I liked East Side Mario's and hope to go back again soon.