Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: The Olive Tree Restaurant and Lounge is not to be confused with the Olive Garden.
In fact, about the only thing this Cleveland Street restaurant has in common with the popular chain is they both serve Italian food.
But The Olive Tree, located in the heart of the revitalized downtown district, offers much more than unlimited pasta bowls and doughy breadsticks; the menu consists of a plethora of appetizing dishes covering a broad spectrum of cultures.
Opened a couple of months ago in a former Mexican restaurant, Mike Dimitratos and his father, Mike Sr., completely remodeled the place.
It now resembles a Mediterranean bistro, complete with curved archways, colorful hand-painted wall murals, and one of the largest bars you’ll ever see.
“We serve a lot of Greek and Mediterranean food, but we also have Italian, American … a wide variety of dishes,” Mike Jr. said.
Glance at the extensive Olive Tree menu, and you will see everything from grilled octopus and saganaki (fried Greek cheese) appetizers to Louisiana pasta and chicken parmigiana dinners.
Prices are reasonable as well. Appetizers run in the $5.99 to $8.99 range, and dinners cost from $8.99 to $17.99 for a generous seafood platter.
Burgers, sandwiches, wraps and soups also have a home here, and the dozen daily lunch specials – such as linguine and clam sauce or fried tilapia – with soup or salad for $6.99 can’t be beat.
“We have a great lunch crowd right now, and a good late-night crowd,” Mike Jr. said. “But we’re trying to build up the dinner crowd.”
The bar area is where the lounge part of the name comes into play. There is live music Thursday through Sunday nights, and drink specials include an all-day happy hour and Ladies Night on Wednesdays.
Other themes such as city employee appreciation days on Monday and Tuesday and Nurses Night on Thursday have helped make this a happening place with locals looking for late-night entertainment.
But with a diverse menu, gorgeous décor, inviting bar area and free parking out back, there’s no reason this downtown restaurant shouldn’t be hopping at all hours of the day and night.
528 Cleveland St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily (kitchen closes about 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends)