Who are they?
At once another American diner and another chain with outlets everywhere, TGI Friday have been a bastion on the high street for decades. These guys loomed large on my list of places "to get round to", but were it not for a birthday meal there recently I might have been able to avoid them - especially as my last experience with one of their burgers when I was fourteen wasn't exactly amazing. Have TGIF improved enough to earn their burger wings?
There's really not much to say about the placement of TGI restaurants, as you can pretty much find one in every town centre these days. A mish mash of Cheers-style New York bar furniture coupled with all things Americana (street signs, photos, American Indian headress, t-bird car fronts etc) means there's plenty to keep you occupied - more's the better as on a Saturday night TGI tend to be heaving with all tables full. To say that service can be slow is a bit of an understatement, though without being too grouchy they do at least try their best at service with a smile.
Burgers thankfully make up a fairly large portion of the fare on offer, with a menu offering all kinds of themed burgers, including extra onion rings, pineapple, Jack Daniels glaze, bacon...if variety is the spice of life then there's plenty to choose from - providing you like beef burgers that is. Those going for a chicken burger might be out of luck as they seem to have either removed it recently, although they did manage to sort out the birthday girl with something suitable - after they realised it was just a normal chicken breast without any JD honey glaze.
Of course, I opted for the Monster 2.0 as it was too much of a challenge to resist: a brioche bun (I would have expected a sesame seed one, good to see them adapting to trends!) houses two 7oz patties with a beer & cheese sauce, bacon, caramelised onions and house mayo and comes complete with a portion of bog-standard fries. As far as fries go, I had very little expectations for anything better than catering grade oven chips; TGI are there to feed people quickly rather than offer gorgeous sides, but there you go.
Not that all this stopped me from enjoying the Monster while it lasted (which was for quite some time) especially with those two pieces of criss-crossed bacon, cooked to a crackly finish. It's nice to see bacon that actually tastes like it has been cooked, plus the house mayo and beer&cheese sauce adds a nice dimension to the flavour of each bite, though it more or less overpowers the taste of the other ingredients in the process. Nevertheless, it's good to see them trying to offer something interesting instead of the same old burger sauce or cheese and it's a welcome diversion from the norm.
In person, it is all the monster that it says it is: a very big burger - check for obviousness. As expected, the Monster's beef patties are served well done regardless of how you order it with the waiter and while they taste suitably like beef, they are not going to win any awards for specific, intense flavour. I also have to add that 14oz of fairly bog-standard catering meat plus all the rest on the plate doesn't exactly sit well after tackling it, making this very much a case of quantity over quality. Perhaps one of the more sensible, one-patty burgers might show TGI in a better light, but I'm not exactly in a rush to do so.
I seem to have been to a glut of American diner places recently and despite the negative press these have, I think TGI Fridays try hard to stay ahead of their competition. After all, they definitely offer a better burger than Hard Rock Cafe and for this alone they are owed a better score than HRC, only the quality of meat let this one down. You can do a lot worse, but you can probably do a lot better too.
Where can I find them?
A million outlets all over the place...google yours.