How to Recognize a Good Restaurant – Brandon Belt

Salad dressing. That’s how you know you’re in a good restaurant. (Or if it’s TexMex, salsa.)

If you follow me on twitter (@bbelt9), you already know my favorite salad dressing is at Olive Garden with their unlimited salad and bread sticks. You might be surprised to know that not everyone thinks Olive Garden is one of America’s best restaurants. I’ve discovered that people in San Francisco hate chain restaurants with a passion. I come from a small town, and the way we knew we were in a city is if it had an Olive Garden. Then Lufkin got one six or seven years ago. I’ve been ordering the Tour of Italy ever since – lasagna, alfredo and chicken parmesan.

Even on the road, I’m opposed to trying new restaurants. If the food isn’t very good, my whole night is ruined because I could have gone to Olive Garden.

Back to salad dressing.

Lots of restaurants have kind of the same food so a restaurant that has really good salad dressing sets itself apart. So that’s how you know it’s a good place. House of Prime Rib had great salad dressing, so that’s my favorite in San Francisco.

When I tweeted about Olive Garden’s salad dressing, the restaurant sent me a message saying they wanted to send me free salad dressing. I tweeted that this was probably the best day of my life.

Haylee and I had a good time socializing with teammates in Arizona. Nick Noonan and his fiance bought a condo right before we broke camp. They had no furniture but invited people over anyway. It was a BYOC party – Bring Your Own Chair. It’s really nice getting together with guys off the field. I’m happy Nick’s here in San Francisco. He has a great chance of making the roster on Opening Day.

Tune into 95.7 on Monday afternoons. I’ll be talking to Bucher and Townie every week at 4:30. And I’ll be doing interviews with Amy G. on the Comcast website.

Thanks for reading!

Hope to see you at the park. Or at Olive Garden.

-Brandon B.

33 Comments

Chain restaurants are awesome. And I’m from the Bay Area. Ever been to a Rainforest Cafe? LOVE.

Was at Spring Training and saw you go nuts with your offense. Love that you’re in the leaderboards and know you’ll have an awesome regular season. GOLD GLOVE.

Only you could make Olive Garden sound good. They should pay you. :)

I am the same way about the Outback Steakhouse so agree with you. Looking forward to an exciting season. Steal a lot of bases and hit a lot of homeruns. By the way, I saw you steal second in that game against San Deigo on Tuesday and two thirds of the way down to second you are really moving!! Do it again! Go Giants!!

Come on over to Modesto to eat at our Olive Garden right off Hwy. 99. I agree about the salad and dressing. I love that you are from E. Texas. I grew up in Beaumont. We are avid Giants fans & look forward to coming to the park & watching another World Series season. Love all of you Orange Guys!!!

Cindy Pylman

Brandon, you crack me up! You are developing to quite a fine wit as a blogger — please keep entertaining us throughout the season! (and wow! what a great bat!)

When you visit Santa Cruz try the Crepe Place-they’ve got great crepes, great variety and they love you guys! Go Giants!

I get what you mean about a bad meal ruining your whole night — a lot of my friends put down chain restaurants (some are better than others, granted) but I can really see the appeal. You might like Pasta Market for a good local chain; my husband says they have good salad dressing. And you can get the food packaged to go if Haylee doesn’t feel like cooking. :-)

Come to Chico! We have an Olive Garden here, just down the street🍝from my house!

As a Bay Area native and resident of San Francisco itself for 6 years now, I can tell you that not all of us think Olive Garden (or chain restaurants in general) suck. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their food! People are just snobs here.

(I really like IHOP and Applebees, much to my friends’ dismay)

I love the House of Prime Rib too! and I do understand about Olive Garden – they are consistent from location to location so you know what you are getting. The standards are pretty high for restaurants all over the Bay Area so you should give some more of them a try. Have a great season – we will be cheering for you.

You are hilarious! Thanks for keeping us in the salad dressing loop. Can’t wait til opening weekend and seeing you guys get those rings! Take care!
– Christine

Hi Brandon!
I, too, am a BIG fan of Olive Garden and their dressing! My usual is Chicken Alfredo. I must say that when I found out that Walmart sells Olive Garden dressing, I was ECSTATIC! Sooo you know I had to go buy me a bottle. Can’t wait til the season starts! Ill be there next Saturday and many more games after that to cheer the Giants on!

You’re funny. Can’t wait for opening day!

As a native San Franciscan I have to say…they *are* snobs about chains! I’m not. There’s room for all kinds of salad dressing. Stand by yours! Good man.

I’ll be trying out the new Olive Garden in Turlock on Thursday. I’m thinking of trying their Venetian Apricot Chicken, along with lots of those fabulous breadsticks, of course! :) I plan on celebrating a great series win over Dem Bums, with many contributions from Brandon! :)

Brandon! I’m with you on this one! I love Olive Garden! And the unlimited soup and breadstick are great. Generally I’m not too adventurous when it comes to food. It drives my hubbie nuts, but if I don’t like the food then like you my evening is ruined. Free salad dressing = best day of your life. Never mind getting married or winning the WS! LOL! I love a man who loves free food!! Stay you because you are so funny.

I love Olive Garden!!! Thank you again for signing the 2 HR’s I grabbed in McCovey Cove that you hit in 2012. Someday, you might hit a special HR that you want and of course I will return it to you. I only ask that we get together and eat at Olive Garden and celebrate that HR. You have had a great Spring and I am so looking forward to chasing everyone of your Splash Hits this year. McCovey Cove DAVE

You are my favorite Giants player, and Olive Garden is my favorite too! Do you like Russian dressing, pretty damn good. Next time you guys are in Philly, you should go to the Italian Market and try it!

This was amazing-had me laughing hella hard!

Brandon – I know what you mean about familiarity vs “branching out” when trying a new restaurant. I’m originally from San Diego and have been living here in Bay Area since 1996. When you all are in SD for a series, and if you haven’t already been there, try the Brigantine. Not sure where you all stay but there is one located in Point Loma by the airport. Try either the Caesar or Spinach salad(s) – you won’t be disappointed (rest of the menu is awesome too)!
Read yours and Crawford’s blogs during the 2012 season and have been pleasantly surprised at this concept – professional athletes keeping blogs to be read by the public. What a great new twist on staying connected with the fans and the city’s athletes (as I write this I realize this probably isn’t anything ‘new’). I will make a concerted effort to respond during this 2013 season. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas in this context of 21st century communication – your fans and followers really do appreciate these insights.

So are you doomed to be Pence’s BBQ ribs connection. Did you know Artz Rib House closed in Austin, a sad day. Then again, convert Pence to brisket, it travels better anyway.

Brandon – I know what you mean about familiarity vs “branching out”
when trying a new restaurant. I’m originally from San Diego and have
been living here in Bay Area since 1996. When you all are in SD for a
series, and if you haven’t already been there, try the Brigantine. Not
sure where you all stay but there is one located in Point Loma by the
airport. Try either the Caesar or Spinach salad(s) – you won’t be
disappointed (rest of the menu is awesome too)!
Read yours and Crawford’s blogs during the 2012 season and have been
pleasantly surprised at this concept – professional athletes keeping
blogs to be read by the public. What a great new twist on staying
connected with the fans and the city’s athletes (as I write this I
realize this probably isn’t anything ‘new’). I will make a concerted
effort to respond during this 2013 season. Thank you for your thoughts
and ideas in this context of 21st century communication – your fans
and followers really do appreciate these insights.

Gotta try CPK too (california pizza kitchen)….awesome salads. Keep up the smokin’ bat and defense, Brandon! GO GIANTS!!!

Hey Brandon, I hope that the Olive Garden is fixin’ you the right stuff to feel better. So sorry your tummy is unhappy. Thanks for writing here. Really fun to learn more about what makes you and your game so awesome.

Haha. Finally read your blogs again. I couldn’t stop laughing at the part where u said, “If the food isn’t very good, my whole night is ruined because I could have gone to Olive Garden” cause i totally feel you. Im totally the same! #gogiants I hope you get better from the stomach virus! We miss seeing you play!!!

LOL! You are too funny. What a crack up. Yep, we like our independent restaurants here in the Bay Area, but it sounds like I need to revisit Olive Garden. My 18-year-old daughter, who is fiercely independent, loves indy bands and supporting local businesses, LOVES Olive Garden. hahaha! I’ll have to swing by again soon. Thanks for the tip about how to find a good restaurant! Knock ‘em dead on the field and in the box, as usual!! :0)

Our home has never looked happier, it’s Opening Day. We will be at the tomorrow’s game,we have our season tickets waiting for us. It is so exciting, I know we are out to win another World Series but we just enjoy watching the Giants give it your all evey game.
Brandon you have a real ease on 1st base you were made for that base. You make it look effortless. I really appreciate you ability because when I was a little girl I was pick to be on a team because I could really hit the ball but unfortunately. I could never catch the ball I was so afraid if if hitting me.
Iam glad you found a restaurant you love that is really important but can I recommend our little piece of Italy here in Livermore, Terra Mia
You will love it and they have wonderful salads dressing as well
Have the best season ever
Regards,
Sydney Humphrey
Livermore Ca

I went to the Flying Squirrels game in Richmond tonight and they were giving out bobbleheads of Brandon & Brandon! These things are pretty awesome. They aren’t perfect likenesses, but bobbleheads never are. All in all, they’re rad! I was wondering, did they send a few out to you guys in San Fran? I know if someone made a bobblehead of me, I’d want one! Anyway, good luck in 2013 to both of you.

Terrific blog post. As it happens, I normally am a typical “Bay Area anti-chain restaurant snob,” but the one exception to my rule is Olive Garden! They never disappoint.

I have a feeling that you and Brandon C. are going to have a terrific year this year — even better than last year. Go infield! Go Giants!

Too funny! Love Olive Gardens’ salad and breadsticks,but always seem somewhat disappointed in my entrees there. Might have to try your fave and box the leftovers … that’s a buttload of food! :-)

I freakin LOVE Olive Garden! I always get the chicken Alfredo. The one time I didn’t, I was so disappointed and sad. I was laughing hysterically when I saw you love Olive Garden too. I would die if I saw you at Olive Garden haha by the way, I was even more excited when I found out from your tweet or retweet that Olive Garden sells the dressing now haha you know I bought a bottle of my own. Best Walmart purchase ever! :)

Hi Brandon – Your blog made me wonder if you ever heard of Marilyn Hagerty? She is an 85-year-old lady who is a restaurant critic from North Dakota. She gave a very positive review of Olive Garden last year and her review went viral!

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/85-year-old-earnest-review-olive-garden-internet-sensation-article-1.1036629

Brandon, if you like Italian dressing, next time you are in San Diego try the salad at Filippi’s. it is a small family owned chain and the house dressing is fantastic.

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