Despite originating in Portland, The Old Spaghetti Factory has long since evolved into a Vancouver institution, attracting both tourists and locals looking for a great meal at a ridiculously low price. With branches both in the trendy neighbourhood of Gastown and the snowy slopes of Whistler, this should be #1 destination for Olympic budget chasers and people looking for a great meal for the family.
About the restaurant: The Old Spaghetti Factory cheerfully embraces a sort of kitchy retro charm in recognition of its 39 year history, displaying a large collection of vintage posters, scales, gas pumps, bicycles and other items. The Gastown branch even has an old streetcar trolley set up inside the restaurant; diners can sit inside it and enjoy their meal in an atmospheric relic of Vancouver's past. Mood lighting, stained glass, menus smattered with turn of the century ads and simple checkerboard-cloth covered tables gives it a warm and homey atmosphere, made even more welcoming by the very cheerful staff.
The Old Spaghetti Factory is very popular and as such there's often a bit of a wait to get in. Luckily, there are some comfortable seats for waiting customers, and usually it doesn't take very long. The restaurant can also be a little noisy at times, especially during children's birthday parties.
The food: The Old Spaghetti Factory excels at providing hearty and satisfying meals with a simple and homemade taste. They make their own soups, salad dressings and spaghetti sauces, all of which are fresh, thick and flavorful. I'm a huge fan of their clam sauce as it is so thick and creamy that it echoes a great clam chowder. The pasta is soft and tender as are the meat dishes. Special mention also goes to their bread which is always warm from the oven and served with garlic butter (my favorite!). There's nothing pretentious or overly fancy here, and there doesn't need to be; this is the kind of food that everyone can enjoy, from the eager foodie to the picky eight-year-old.
Not only is the food good but the servings are absolutely fantastic for the amount of money you pay. With an order of spaghetti (which covers a rather large dinner plate), you also receive a sizable pile of salad smothered in fresh dressing and a dish of spumoni ice cream (similar to Neopolitan except with pistachio instead of strawberry), as well as bread and tea or coffee. I am particularly fond of the thousand island salad dressing, and the ice cream is an unusual but incredibly effective mix of sweet and slightly salty tastes, and the perfect finish to a large and satisfying meal.
My favourites: Spaghetti with clam sauce, spumoni ice cream, Cookie Monster smoothie.
Cost: This is where the Old Spaghetti Factory really shines over almost all its contemporaries. In my opinion, you cannot get better value for your money in all of Vancouver. A complete meal including bread, large salad, large plate of spaghetti, ice cream and beverage of choice goes for only $10. If you order some of the fancier pasta, it goes up to a mere $13-14. And again, these are all extremely generous portions, meaning that even those with large appetites will walk away satisfied.
Take-out?: No, although you are welcome to take leftovers away.
Location(s): The Old Spaghetti Factory offers several locations in popular areas, the main ones being in Gastown and Whistler, making this an ideal choice for Olympic visitors. Link to Google Maps for Vancouver and for Whistler.
Website and menu: Here.
Summary: There's a lot of great reasons why the Old Spaghetti Factory has remained a popular Vancouver institution. Great atmosphere, excellent food and absolutely amazing pricing makes this a winner by any restaurant standards. If you like spaghetti, have an appetite, are looking for a great deal or just want a good family restaurant, make the time to try this place.