DeRushaEats: At TGI Friday's

I think the last time I ate at TGI Friday’s was eight years ago when I lived in Milwaukee. There’s a Friday’s inside Miller Park, and it was a really cool venue. This past Friday, I made a return visit. And I lived to tell the story.

I’m not sure where you’d rank TGI Friday’s in the world of chain restaurants. Perhaps above Applebee’s but below Houlihans? I’m not sure. But my mother-in-law had a 20% off coupon for dinner, so we took our five and three-year-old and hit the Maple Grove TGIF.

Before I skewer the place, I do salute TGI Fridays, because they employ a lot of local people. There were probably four or five young women at the front hostess stand. Plenty of waiters and waitresses, a couple of bartenders—this place has a lot of staff.

After about a half-hour wait on a Friday night at 5:15 p.m. (every place in Maple Grove has at least a half-hour wait on a Friday night), we sat at a table in the bar. The decor was bright, peppy, and our server was friendly.

I ordered a Blue Moon beer ($3 on special during December); it was happy hour, so my wife got a $4 margarita, and we were off. I’m not a chain restaurant guy, I should say. Typically we bring our family into the city to eat at independent places. So I was shocked at how cheap TGI Friday’s is.

Appetizers were half-priced during happy hour, so we ordered fried mozzarella. Remember Market Day? As a kid my mom used to order frozen fried mozzarella sticks. That’s what this tasted like. This is not a good thing. But it sure made my three-year-old happy.

I ordered a three-course meal for $13. I got to pick an appetizer (fried green beans), a main course (Dragonfire Chicken—per Alexa’s Twitter suggestion) and a dessert (chocolate peanut butter pie).

First of all: The appetizer was a full-sized appetizer. And it was great. The green beans were crunchy, the batter was flavorful, and the cucumber wasabi dip had just a little bit of fire. Delicious.


As for the entree: The best thing I can say about the Dragonfire Chicken is that it was under 500 calories. The chicken didn’t taste much like chicken, and the kung pao sauce mostly tasted like sugar to me. No zip, no zing, just yuck. Sorry, Alexa.

My wife had a Captain Morgan™ Caribbean Conga-Line Chicken Sandwich—which I would have prevented her from ordering had I been paying attention. Conga-Line Chicken? Anyway, it was slathered with Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce, seasoned sour cream and avocado, and it was truly hideous. Too much non-distinguishable goop on that chicken. And sweet potato fries were more seasoning than fry.

So no surprise: The food at TGI Friday’s was pretty bad. Then we got the bill: For all six of us, it cost $82. I had two beers and we had two other alcoholic drinks. $82. Before we applied the 20% coupon. So we took four adults and two kids out for dinner for $60. I have to say, I didn’t feel ripped off. Is that wrong?

Look, I’d much rather spend my money to support an independent restaurant or an independent group of restaurants. I’d rather spend money for quality rather than quantity.

But my kids were happy. My in-laws were happy. Will I go back? I suppose it depends on whether my mother-in-law has a coupon.