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TGI Friday's

TGIFIn a word: Friday's, I'm not in love.

The specs: #0658  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at A Hamburger Today, Trip Advisor; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, T.G.I. Friday's on Urbanspoon

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JM ate the chicken fingers with a strawberry lemonade.
John R. ate the pecan crusted chicken salad.
John W. ate the JD flatiron steak with double mashed potatoes.
Mark ate the beef hibachi skewers with a Blue Moon.
Nichole ate the turkey burger with the works.
Rose ate the ribs.
The bill was $90, or $15/person, plus tip.
Mark gave TGI Friday's a B; John R. and John W. gave TGI Friday's a B-; JM, Nichole, and Rose gave TGI Friday's a C+ (see our grading rubric).

If TGI Friday's is to be believed, if you're not glad it's Friday, there is something wrong. There's also kinda something wrong with champagne for one, but it's on the wine list.

Wine listPotato skins

We had to get the loaded potato skins, and you know what, they're not bad. The skins are where the vitamins are, and the bacon, cheese and sour cream are where the flavor is.

John W.'s flatiron steak was cooked to order and came with the advertised Jack Daniels sauce on the side. The cheesy mashed potatoes were decent.

JM's chicken fingers were cute, though not very satisfying to eat. Even the dipping sauce was only so-so. The strawberry lemonade was surprisingly good, made with crushed ice and real strawberry puree, and there were even free refills. Maybe mixing is what the Korbel Brut split is for.

Steak and potatoesChicken fingers

Rose's baby back ribs were good but a little dry. The coleslaw listed too far to the vinegar side and lacked crunch.

The pecan-crusted chicken salad drew John's pecan-loving eye, but he would have preferred baked chicken to fried. That said, the dish was huge and filling, with a good dressing and sweet mandarin oranges.

Mark's hibachi skewers were tender pieces of steak with the proper amount of char. There was a very decent vegetable medley, mostly zucchini.

The turkey burger as assessed with the Accidental Hedonist burger rating guide, with a little stretching for a non-beef patty:

  • Bun: Toasted, unbuttered, with a shiny top.
  • Meat: The turkey was lean but moist with a very bold flavor best compared to a pepper/sage breakfast sausage patty.
  • Bun/Meat Ratio: Good.
  • Cheese: None. Stole some of JM's honey mustard for extra flavor.
  • Misc: The lettuce was nice dark green but the tomato was ick. The fries were cold and like McDonalds'. About a 5/10 overall.

RibsChicken saladMixed grillBurger

We were very impressed with the fast, accurate and unobtrusive service, which got us talking about restaurant service in general. While we rarely see service as good as at this meal, we also rarely have the perception of the kind of poor service that drives people to complain.

A pattern does seem to emerge: the best service we've had tends to be either at linen-tablecloth places or at big chains. A rare off-list breakfast at the IHOP on University, for example, treated us to the best server in recent memory: not only was he fast and accurate, but he honestly steered us away from the more egregious menu items (egg substitute and a new artificially sweetened beverage) towards a surprisingly good meal. The managers at Texas Roadhouse and Rodeside Grill (not a chain, we know) seemed to sincerely care that we had a good time.

We suspect being a regular also nets better service, but we've been irregular for going on seven years now. (Go ahead and think it, but please don't say it - it'll just look silly.)

Where have other eaters noticed great service?

Comments

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The reason why you expect good service at chain places is because of their business model. They price their food cheaply because it's of lower quality and because they can make up the difference on volume. The faster you finish your meal and leave the faster they can seat someone else.

We still find fast, efficient service at Laredo's on S. Whitney Way, even though the owner was not on the premises our last few visits. Also at Bistro 101 in Mt. Horeb. And at home - the wife makes a good effort...

Jeff: Ever worked at a restaurant before? Fast service is not necessarily good service. The entry specifically and thoughtfully pointed out that they've been pleasantly surprised by not only the speed, but the care at these big chains. What's the use in being cynical?

Some places with noticeably great service in my experience include Jolly Bob's, The Old Fashioned, Nostrano and Wah-Kee Noodles.

Sam, I'm just speaking towards TGIF and its ilk. I'm just not surprised to get my food quickly there. I love getting good service at any restaurant I go to.

You ask a very good question regarding service.
Regarding the pattern you have seen I would add two things.
#1. Service at fast food restaurants [McDonald's type] is generally ok to bad [ie order is partly wrong].
#2. Service, especially at small, locally owned places, usually will improve if you become a regular customer.

Family has only been to Texas Roadhouse once [didn't have much for vegetarians], but service was outstanding.

I don't know why, but I have always observed how good / bad servers are as a customer. In general I would say service has IMPROVED noticeable over the last year or two. Now whether that is restaurants putting an increased emphasis on service or whether it is just over experienced people having to become servers due to the economy I don't know.

The other tip I would have for getting great service is if you find a couple servers that give great service, ASK to be seated in their area when you go again, works even at chain restaurants and ensures you continue to get great service.

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