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A while ago, a friend and I went to lunch at Friday’s. I had nothing but good things to say about the good food, the service was great and I was in brilliant company.  However, when Josh and I went for an early dinner, I wasn’t impressed. 

I’m not one to be mean in a review of a restaurant, but I’ll be brutally honest with you, I now remember why Josh and I don’t frequent TGIF for lunch or dinner.

Maybe I’m put off by seeing an old classmate who now works there, who knows? But the service wasn’t really that great. It started when Josh and I walked in and saw the former classmate. Once we had been seated, She was gossiping about us to another hostess, rather blatantly. After being seated Josh mentioned the service was “Restaurant Stakeout” worthy. We must have waited all of seven to ten minutes before our waitress came over the first time. Might I mention, there was really nobody in the restaurant yet. It was pre-dinner rush hours. Even after we were greeted by our server, Josh and I looked around. There were other hostesses and servers standing around, completely ignoring guests (the few of us as it were).

I have so many comments to make about the food, but I’ll start by saying that we went out, not only because we were hungry, but I was looking for a recipe muse. Yes, I have a bunch of recipes to try as it is, and a recipe floating around in my head that had been inspired from dinner the other night, however, it never hurts to have more inspiration than you know what to do with. Regardless,  Josh and I each did the combo thing. His being order a full meal for 12.99, I going with the 16.99 option myself. I ordered the green bean fries as an appetizer, sizzling chicken and shrimp for the entrée and Oreo madness for dessert. Josh ordered the fried mozzarella, pulled pork sandwich (he could have gotten it with better service from Nat Hayden’s, honestly) and the vanilla bean cheesecake for dessert.

Appetizers:

A pile of green bean fries, not shown: the cucumber-wasabi ranch dip

Crunchy green bean fries breaded and fried to a golden brown. Our cool and creamy Cucumber-Wasabi Ranch dip adds just a touch of spicy.

For the life of us, Josh and I couldn’t tell what the sauce was. I’d not even read the menu description for the fries because I’d had them once before and knew that they were good from experience. For having not looked at the menu, I wasn’t far off when I tried to figure out what was in the sauce. I thought it might have been ranch, but not by itself. Josh suggested pickles, and he wasn’t far off either as pickles are derived from cucumbers.

The fries themselves were delicious as advertised. Green beans breaded and fried with hints of green poking through. Each bite, a combination of textures and flavours danced along my taste-buds. They weren’t dry at all, on the contrary, they were juicy and retained green bean flavour with each bite.

Fried mozzarella with marinara sauce

Crispy and golden on the outside, hot and gooey inside. Enough said. Served with marinara sauce.

I love fried mozzarella, I always have and always will. It’s one of those delightfully, bad yet delicious foods that’s a go to staple when dining out or having a party (yet I cannot make them myself for the life of me). I can say three things about Josh’s appetizer:

  1. It was definitely made with real mozzarella cheese. I bit into it and went to pull away and the cheese, had I stretched it carefully, could have gone from both ends of the table.
  2. The presentation was nice. They could have done without the garnish, but Josh argued that it was necessary for such a simple layout. It “added colour”.
  3. They put sugar in their marinara sauce. If you have to put sugar in your sauces, you’re doing it wrong. I mean, you can have marinara sauce without the sugar. I get that restaurants will put sugar in their foods to make them more crave-worthy to customers, but it’s still unnecessary.

We didn’t have to wait too long after finishing the appetizers for dinner to come.

Sizzling Chicken & Shrimp w/ Mashed potatoes

Sautéed garlic-marinated chicken breast and delicious shrimp tossed in a Bruschetta marinara. Served with onions, peppers and creamy mashed potatoes on a sizzling platter of melted Mexican and American cheeses.

I enjoy chicken as much as the next person, maybe a bit more because I’m a foodie and aspiring chef, however, I can find a few things wrong with this plate.

The presentation was… quaint. Gooey cheese with onions and peppers (both red and green bell peppers) lined the plate, adorned with two neat chicken breasts off to the left, “Bruschetta” tossed shrimp to the right and two uniform scoops of potatoes took centre stage in the back of the plate.

My first bite was of Sticky, melt-y cheese and vegetables. The vegetables had been sautéed before having been added to the cheese. Once the cheese cooled down, I found it quite amusing to poke my fork underneath it and try to stretch it out. Unfortunately, it was greasy and had no real flavour unless combined with bites of vegetables and chicken or shrimp.

I could tell that the chicken had been sautéed in a crowded pan. Either the pan was too small or the chicken was being mass prepared for other dishes because it had “steamed”. Steaming, for those of you who do not know, occurs when you crowd the pan (causing the temperature to lower and increasing the cooking time) while pan searing or sautéing something and it affects the taste and texture of the food.

“Bruschetta tossed shrimp” is a joke, really. While it’s undeniable that the shrimp had a tangy, mouth-watering taste, you can’t call the tomato mix they “tossed” with it “Bruschetta”. If anything, it was just fine chopped tomatoes tossed with olive oil and the shrimp before being added to the plate. On top of that, there were hardly any as it were. Another thing I didn’t like was that the shrimp still had its tail and while Josh showed me a little something about eating shrimp still with the tail on, it would have been better had the prep chef done two seconds extra work to pluck the shrimp from inside of it.

Finally, the potatoes. In my opinion, it interrupts the flow of the dish completely. I don’t know who thought it was wise to take a comfort food staple and add it to such bold, tangy flavours. In comparison, they were bland. There was also no need for the scallions, why are they there? If you’re going to serve some sort of potatoes with this meal, I’d have suggested (and am now) to the person thinking up the menu that you put roasted potatoes in place of mashed potatoes. It flows that much better, in my opinion. For me, mashed potatoes belong with home style (read: breaded, baked) chicken served with gravy, not sautéed chicken.

Jack Daniel's Pulled Pork sandwich and fries

Slow-cooked pork tossed with our signature BBQ sauce, basted with our smoky-sweet Jack Daniel’s® sauce, topped with pickles and crispy Cajun-spiced fried onion strings on a toasted bun

While I did not have an opportunity to try the sandwich itself, Josh said it was satisfactory enough to satiate his craving for pulled pork until we could return to Nat Hayden’s. He would have liked if the bun had been toasted more, but he did not wish to complain about it. I did  try one of the fries and found it to be crunchy and salty. If I hadn’t been on a salt craving kick, it would have been too much, but because I was craving it, the fry did hit the spot.

Once we’d finished eating and sat chatting for a little, our waitress came back over and reconfirmed our desserts before rushing off to get them and the bill.

Oreo Madness, not shown: the strawberry

Cookies-and-cream ice cream sandwiched between rich layers of Oreo® cookie crust with caramel and fudge.

If I can give Friday’s any thumbs up, it’s about their dessert. They really know how to make it look nice. Swirls of chocolate and caramel leading decadently from one end of the plate to the other, both ends capped either with a large, ripe strawberry or with the Oreo ice cream sandwich. Not only does it look delicious, but it tastes delicious as well.

Vanilla bean cheesecake with Josh's seal of approval

A delicious cheesecake made with real vanilla beans, layered with white chocolate mousse and baked in a vanilla graham cracker crust. Topped with white chocolate shavings and served with a fresh strawberry.

I won’t eat cheesecake. The texture just rubs me the wrong way. My friend swears it’s because I think of cheesecake as cake and it’s more of a pie (which he may be right about), but the fact remains, I still won’t eat it, even if it does look as delicious as in the picture above.

All in all, do I have anything more to say? Not really, no. We ate at Friday’s, the service wasn’t great. The food was a B at best. Will we go back? Probably not, but not for the reasons I mentioned above. There are so many other restaurants for Josh and I to eat at. I can’t continue to blog about chain restaurants, or eat at restaurants I’ve already eaten at. Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say, and I’m rather fond of trying new things.

Author’s Note: Each quote is taken directly from the Friday’s menu and I do not own their words.

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