Monday, December 29, 2008

Why hasTGI Fridays become anti-vegetarian?

For Christmas 2008, I went out to dinner with my meatatarian brother again. Last year we went to my favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Manor, which features a whole section of meatless entrees for a vegetarian like me (personal favorite: vegetarian honey sesame chicken).

This year we found out that the local TGI Fridays was open so we went there. The good news is that they were open for Christmas. The bad news was that they had eliminated the last remaining vegetarian option on the menu, some kind of lame cold pasta salad concoction so spiked with sulfiting agents as to be virtually inedible, yet still it was marginally better than nothing.

This is perplexing in that when I became a vegetarian 30 years ago, TGI Fridays was the first chain restaurant to offer a veggie burger (at least in the DC area). They had an excellent Garden Burger on the menu, served with a black-eyed peas salad on the side. Inexplicably, this disappeared from the menu about 3 years ago, along with the veggie wrap (served cold, but delicious) and assorted other veggie alternatives, as they began touting their red meat and Jack Daniels entrees (who oversaw this change, Karl Rove? Rush Limbaugh?). Apparently management has made a decision to stop catering to the white collar yuppie vaguely health-conscious demographic of years past to reach out to the red meat craving blue collar NASCAR demographic (much like Monday Night Football did when they brought in Hank Williams Jr. to annoy us with his "Ready for some football" braying).

I mean, its not just that Fridays has made it impossible for vegetarians like me to enjoy meals there with their non-veggie friends. It is that TGI Fridays has decided to become militantly anti-vegetarian, and that is indeed a troubling trend. It may be TGI Fridays but its not the Fridays I used to love to patronize.

For the record, my brother went with the ribs and I had to go with either the house salad or the Tuscan spinach dip with tortilla chips. I went with the dip since vegetarians need and deserve our veggies hot, not raw (we ain't frickin' rabbits, for God's sake!), even though in retrospect it was probably made with chicken soup since thats the way most restaurants insist on making it.

Therefore, unless and until Fridays gets its act together, I'm sticking with Ruby Tuesdays (great veggie burger, very good salad bar, and lots of veggie alternatives on the menu. Plus they are not afraid to cater to the more health conscious diners).

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