Chip & Steph took their monkeys (Connor, 3, and Chloe, 1) to T.G.I. Friday's and lived to write (good things) about it!
7733 Winchester Road
Flashback: It’s spring 1994, near the end of our college days. Friday’s in Midtown, on Overton Square. I’m with my roommate, with whom I have very recently and secretly developed a bit-more-than-just-roommates relationship. In front of me, I have an order of fried mushrooms, an order of 9-layer dip, and a frou-frou drink which has Malibu rum in it. We know the servers because it’s right down the street from our apartment, and we’re there all the time. We also know that we are only paying half-price for these appetizers because it’s happy hour. We’re broke servers ourselves.
Flash forward to January, 2007. I’m now married to that “roommate,” and we have two kids, Connor, 3, and Chloe, 10 months. My culinary tastes are much more refined. I don’t think we’ve been to Friday’s at all since those days. Steph suggested it because it would be “fun for the kids,” and she has a repressed desire for all things fried. Since the Midtown Friday’s is long gone, we hit the waaaay east location, on Winchester near Hack’s Cross.
We pulled in at about 6:00, and got a table after a 5 minute wait. The kids were both in overdrive, so Steph and I were a bit frazzled. The host thoughtfully seated us with crayons and a kiddy menu to occupy Connor. We sat for a few minutes, waiting for someone to greet us. Our server finally showed, and we dumped the entire order on him. See, parents develop that skill quickly. Who has time to peruse the menu at a leisurely pace when the monkeys are climbing our arms like we are human jungle gyms?
The kids menu offers a choice of pizza, chicken strips, ribs (ribs?), hot dog, spaghetti, burger or mac & cheese, with a choice of a side: fries, carrots and ranch, salad, or mandarin oranges. Connor broke his chicken nugget streak (seriously, 6 or 7 nights a week) and decided he wanted pizza. With fries. And mandarin oranges. Steph and I, true to our ancient history with this corporate dining establishment, ordered 3 appetizers to split. The server, without any prompting, asked if we want Connor’s food out first. I guess he noticed the modern-dance-type convulsions and spasms that Connor was having, along with the wild-eyed looks on me and Steph, and surmised that the boy had low blood sugar. “That’d be GREAT,” we both said in unison.
Steph took Chloe to the W.C. for a diaper change. By the time they returned, the server had been to the table three times, delivering plates, extra napkins, drinks with lids for the kids (re-usable plastic cups, not styrofoam), water for me and Steph (even though we didn’t ask) and the mandarin oranges for Connor. (“Sorry the oranges came out so soon, before everything else.” Me: “What? You rule, man.”)
Next, he dropped off our two gargantuan margaritas, complete with obnoxious orange-and-lime garnishment skewers draped across the top. Mmmm. Margaritas are gooood. Suddenly, the whole mood at the table changed for the better.
Connor’s pizza and fries came in a few minutes, quickly followed by all of our apps: potato skinny dippers, which are these big potato skin/French fry hybrids, for dippping into a queso and chorizo dip; the fried green beans, to be dipped in a cucumber-wasabi ranch dip, and the tostado nachos. Connor devoured his fries (there’s nothing like corporate French fries… the oil is exactly x temperature, cooked for exactly x minutes, dusted with this arcane salt-plus-other-stuff mixture, etc.) and declares the pizza to be pretty good too.
Steph wowed me, as she often does, with her preparedness. She produced a continuous flow of items from her baby bag for Chloe—toys, a jar of baby food, biscuits, cookies, enough to occupy our little Hoover vacuum face. Seriously, she’ll put anything in her mouth these days, including individual strands of hair, bits of mud, cat food, and any crumbs dropped by Connor. Anyway, she didn’t partake in the Friday’s food, but she did enjoy the atmosphere, I think.
Look, I enjoy fine dining as much as the next guy—I just love a grilled Australian rack of lamb with a black currant shiraz beurre rouge and rosemary polenta--- but man, sometimes greasy bar grub just kicks ass. I slobbered over the potato dippers, and Steph kept letting these little giggles slip as she ate the fried green beans. The nachos were very good too, but a tad ordinary compared to the fried goodness of the other two apps.
Lots of kid-friendly touches here—the cool cups, the crayons and special kid menu/placemat things, good, cheap choices for the kids, and the lightning-fast delivery of kid food. I took Connor to the john, where he was thrilled to find a kid-friendly urinal he could use. (Much lower than the normal handicapped-folks urinals, which are still too high for a three-year-old.) The server was remarkably efficient and polite. Connor ended his meal with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, which coated his smiling face.
I will say this—this ain’t light, refreshing, energizing fare. We both felt comatose as we walked out. But it was worth it. Things are quite different for Steph and me 13 years later, but Friday’s still provides interesting configurations of greasy bar food to put smiles on our faces.