No. 5: 3.3 percent of Conway restaurants reviewed
1105 East Oak Street
He Said: In addition to the fast-food places like McDonald’s, Conway is home to a number of slightly more upscale chains that feature “casual dining.” TGI Fridays bills itself as a chain featuring “traditional American,” so it is on a par with places like Chili’s and Appleby’s. Fridays was founded in New York 51 years ago, and has more than 1,000 restaurants world-wide, which means that like McDonald’s, one of the main things it has going for it is consistency: You do know what you’re going to get when you come to Fridays.
She Said: I’m a Gen-Xer, so I can’t go to a casual American-dining chain like Fridays without visions of Chotchkie’s and Flingers of Office Space fame: Jennifer Aniston and her flair, the memorabilia-filled walls and the corporate-mandated verve of the servers. Even after several years of graduate-school-motivated, late-evening fried food and alcohol sessions at this particular Fridays, Mike Judge’s fake but oh-so-real restaurants come to mind. Judge himself said the places in his movie were based on real restaurants in Irving, Texas, that were adjacent to a large office park and were frequented by the white-collar “inmates” of those businesses.
He Said: All Fridays restaurants look pretty similar. That’s part of their consistency. You know there will be a lot of red and white stripes in there. And you know there will be antiques or memorabilia on the walls. The Fridays in Conway has two seating areas—a bar and a more family-oriented dining room with booths and tables. We sat there.
She Said: Yeah, Ruud, the bar can get loud if there is karaoke, though I’ve dined comfortably in both areas. It’s also worth noting that I feel comfortable coming here alone, and for women, that’s worth something. Many of the booths are pretty private, and all the seating is comfortable. I admit, the memorabilia is interesting to me; I always notice something I hadn’t seen before. This time it was a giant Yoda on the wall.
He Said: Since as well as wanting to be known as a family-style restaurant, Fridays wants to be a “late night” restaurant as well, it has a huge drink menu, which I’ll let my awesome wife Stacey Margaret Jones talk about.
I will say that they have a large selection on nonalcoholic drinks as well (that’s the “family” part coming in). They offer a lot of teas, juices and slushies, as well as the usual suspects in the form of Coke products. I had my usual Root Beer.
She Said: I really like their cocktail menu here, actually. There are lots of yummy-looking variations of standards. I’ve tried various margaritas and mojitos here, and they’re always tasty. This time, I was eyeing the lighter version of the cosmopolitan they offer, only 150 calories!, but went with the regular model in the end. I had a glass of cabernet with my dessert. Both were tasty and not skimpy pours.
He Said: There is a huge variety of items on Fridays menu, from burgers to chicken and pasta to sandwiches to steaks and fish, so it would be difficult to come here and not find something on the menu that appealed to you. Also, Fridays has always tried to cultivate a reputation of being nutrition-aware and offering low-calorie and low-fat options Like many large chains, they offer a nutrition guide on their Website that allows consumers to compare the nutritional content of their standard meals. For me, of course, this means checking the fat content.
In practice, however, these low-fat items are few and far between. Of the myriad appetizers on the menu, finding one with fewer than 30 grams of fat is a chore, and since as I’ve mentioned here before I have to try to keep my daily fat intake down to 50 grams, that’s a lot. I ended up sharing some of my wife’s Crispy Green Bean Fries which were delicious of course, but, as I found later, contain 65 grams of fat. Fortunately, I only ate a few of them. Next time I will probably opt for the Pan-Seared Potstickers, which contain only 17 grams of fat.
There are a few low-fat options in the entrees, but you need to search for them. The Bourbon Barrel Mahi-Mahi has only 14 total grams of fat, as does the Bourbon Barrel Chicken, which I opted for this evening. I could order two sides with the meal, and my rice pilaf and steamed broccoli added 1.5 grams to that—11 of those coming from the rice.
I was particularly disappointed in the broccoli, which can be made tasty without adding tons of butter or cheese. But there was no attempt to spruce it up at all, and it was quite bland. With the chicken, I ran into the opposite problem, for though it probably could have been very tasty—it seemed cooked to perfection—I couldn’t taste anything but pepper, with which it had been doused. Thank goodness for the rice, which helped me tone down the heavily peppered chicken, and add a little flavor to the particularly bland broccoli. At this point I can’t say I’m enamored of the low-fat options at Fridays.
For dessert my wife ordered the “Brownie Obsession”—billed as “A warm chocolate-fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, Ghirardelli® caramel sauce and pecans.” That’s got to be low-fat, right? (1200 calories, actually. With 6o grams of fat) I had to have a taste, anyway, and it was indeed all that it was cracked up to be. But not, I’m afraid, something I could eat.
She Said: Yeah, Ruud, I can see why I’m not losing weight these days. These review meals are killing me, and this one is no exception. I didn’t have the All-American Stacked Burger, which is more than a week’s worth of Weight Watchers points on one plate. But I did have the green beans, as you mentioned, which were a handy go-to when I was trying not to eat any meat or dairy but still go out with friends. For this outing, I chose the pecan-crusted chicken salad for my entree. This has 1,080 calories and 71 grams of fat. It’s a salad, but it’s not healthy. It is delicious, though. The chicken is really tender, and the pecan coating is rich and satisfying. There is dried fruit and cheese in the salad, as well, so every bit tastes great. I had to work hard to resist ordering a side of fries. They are delicious, and so I’m going to warn my readers: If I’m at Fridays with you, and you order fries, I’m going to eat some right off your plate.
So, how did I have room for dessert? Maybe it’s just that fatty-food phenomenon that occurs when you’re eating lots of fat and calories and you just want more. The dessert was delicious, and I don’t want to think about how I’ll have to run 12 miles to work that one dish of this meal off. But I guess you don’t go to Fridays for health food.
We know that restaurant portion sizes are increasing, and because of our exposure to these heaping plates, we are conditioned to think we need more in our meals at home. Ruud’s serving sizes were actually pretty healthy, but given the calorie count of my meal, I think the size of my order is part of the problem, not the solution.
He Said: Friday’s does have fine service. You are greeted by friendly hosts/hostesses who hold the door for you, and you get seated where you like if possible, get your drink order, appetizer, and entrees all promptly, and the servers are always friendly. This is something they do well.
She Said: Well stated. We had a friendly waitress this evening, who was chatty but not overbearing. She talked to us about our choices as if we were friends she had invited over, but wasn’t going to crowd. They have the take-your-time/efficiency dichotomy down to a science here.
What We Got and What We Paid: Fried green beans, a pecan-crusted chicken salad, bourbon chicken, broccoli, and jasmine rice, a root beer, a cocktail and a glass of wine. Oh, and the Brownie Obsession. All for $48.82.
He Said: Yeah, I’m not in a big rush to come back. When I do, I’ll probably order something different.
She Said: It’s a fun place for cocktails…and delicious fatty food. They are great at service and a “chillaxing” meal. But, it’s low on my personal go-to list because I struggle so much to find something I don’t feel guilty about eating when what I want is everything else on the menu. When I convert these dishes to treadmill time, it’s not worth it.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a delicious caloric splurge and tasty cocktails. Go somewhere else for healthy options.