When I was a kid I remember visiting Farrell's restaurant near the local shopping mall. It was a great place to have a birthday party or a birthday dinner, "Farrell's is Fabulous Fun" was their catch phrase. The theme of the restaurant was reminiscent of a 1920's/30's era, with the servers wearing the old style Skimmer hats, tie and vest. The Farrell's restaurant that I remember is long since gone and TGI Friday's initially had a similar venue and the staff wore outlandish costumes. Over the years, the uniform has been altered at least a few times and they have steadily been trying to improve the menu.
Depending on how familiar you might be with TGI Friday's you may recall that they have been in Texas for quite some time now. I can't say how long, but it's not really relevant to the review and this isn't actually a history lesson either. However, the important part is that TGI Friday's was initially even more outlandish with the attire and interior of their restaurants; the servers were apparently encouraged to wear all the bling they could muster, and the hats, the crazier the better. Maybe it was in the name of encouraging the guests to want to hang around and see if someone was crazier looking than the last... and while they're at it, to eat and drink of course.
He Said: We occasionally hear through the grapevine that people who enjoy a good burger but are trying to cut down on their intake of beef, feel that turkey is a good substitute - it can be, but it really depends on the quality of both meats being compared. Regardless, a grilled turkey burger can provide a similar visceral experience with appearance and texture but not always the flavor - a bit of a dilemma. So when we find a place that offers a turkey burger, we occasionally sample it - for the sake of research.
The TGI Friday's Turkey Burger (~$9.00) is served up with a choice of mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickles and onion. When it first arrived I thought "Wow, that's just bad... served up dry and not looking all that appetizing." After having opened the 'sandwich' my impression was not improved; but at least the burger wasn't greasy. The turkey patty itself had some interesting looking grill marks on it, hard to say if they are real or not though, having never set foot in the kitchen at Friday's. That said, the meat had an interesting, outdoor grilled flavor which made me a little less concerned about how the burger looked. The fries were below average in "the big three" - appearance, flavor and thoroughly cooked. But the fries were still edible, bringing the entire plate to a level of what you might expect to get from any average burger place and not that of a full-service restaurant.
She Said: What I usually get at a place like Friday's is a burger, or a club sandwich; something I'd like to think very few of the chain's kitchen staff could screw up. But we were on our way to the third preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol, and I didn't want to risk having sandwich stuffings in my teeth the duration of the evening (ladies, you know what I'm talking about, right?). So I opted for something I could knife-and-fork my way though, and incidentally was a little healthier for me anyway - the Dragonfire Chicken (~$9.00).
The Dragonfire Chicken is marketed as a "Fire-grilled chicken breast glazed in a Kung Pao sauce, served over jasmine rice pilaf with pineapple pico de gallo, mandarin oranges and fresh steamed broccoli." I'm not a big broccoli fan, though, on two fronts; A) broccoli is a bring it in cheap (i.e. frozen) and fill up the plate with it vegetable and B) seriously, it's broccoli. To that end, I replaced mine with a fresh side salad.
Between the salad and the chicken, I clearly fared better than he did. I was honestly taken by complete surprise, as the chicken was moist, fork-cut tender, and flavorful. It came out at just the right temperature, too - hot enough it could have been just off the grill. The Kung Pao sauce had a nice flavor to it, not too salty or sweet. I especially liked the pineapple pico de gallo and mandarin oranges on the chicken. The rice was almost too jasmine-y, and I ultimately only ate a couple of bites of it. The salad, as you can see, was nothing terribly special; but it was fresh and crisp and had a good visual appeal. Except for one big chunk of lettuce heart that was buried in the center. Note to salad preparers: if it feels like there's a solid rock in there? It probably shouldn't get served to the customer.
Like I said earlier, we were on a schedule - so we didn't stay for dessert or linger over drinks. But while we were there our server took good care of us, keeping our glasses topped up and delivering our meals, then the check, in good time, as well as having allowed us plenty of time to look over the menu initially. I especially like that even though she gave the obligatory spiels about drinks and dessert, she didn't pressure nor did she act like she was hating every word of it.
The TGI Friday's restaurant concept originally began as the quintessential singles bars; something that was a new and completely original idea in 1965. It wasn't until the early 1970's, and the spread into the suburbs, that the Friday's chain changed its focus to casual dining for families. But as fate would have it, that change was certainly one for the better, resulting in TGI Friday's monumental success (especially when compared to the ill-fated Ferrell's), which at this point includes over 1000 locations world-wide. In 2011, TGI Friday's began adding a selection of Jack Daniel's-infused items to their menu, under the banner of Jack Daniel's Premium Grill, diversifying an already wide assortment of other lunch and dinner items in their most recent menu, and of course, there's always the full bar.
So if you're looking for a place to grab a few drinks with your friends after work on on the weekend, but still want to have some half-way decent food, TGI Friday's on The Woodlands Mall Ring Road could be the place you're looking for.
What do you think? Would you rather have a pretty good meal while you drink and talk with your friends - or a less-than-great meal while surrounded by televisions and potentially ignoring your friends? Let us know in the comment section below.
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