You know how people who ”know” stuff always scoff at others for going only to the most well-known restaurants, most of them chains? These people often claim that the best food is always to be found in secret locales on elusive streets, the existence of which only they are privy to. I should know, because I sometimes tend to be such a person. Today, however, I’m going to stick my neck out and claim that some of the best food in Riga is to be had at a one of these big chains I would normally dis.
”the food here is big, bold and won't take no for an answer”
How can I betray my principles like this? Easy. I just happen to recognize good stuff when I see it (or rather, eat it). If you like your food testosterone-laden and loud, and don't mind going to a place where ”subtlety” is a bad word, TGI Fridays is the place for you. I say “testosterone-laden” not only because the food here is big, bold and won't take no for an answer, but also because it’s very centered around meat. This is not really a good place for vegetarians. No, here you will find all sorts of steaks, grilled meats, burgers and Tex-Mex dishes. You will also find cajun-inspired flavors, which I happen to love and wish there was more of in Riga (in fact, I think TGI Fridays is the only place where you can have anything even remotely cajun).
Just as loud as the food is the restaurant itself. Speakers are often on full blast, so prepare to do lots of pointing in the menu instead of talking, and the same goes for conversations with your friends. Eat, and then go somewhere else to talk. The noise level also summons lots of yelling tourists, so if you're not fond of fat, middle-aged, red-faced Danes screaming in your ear from the next table, you might want to go to TGI Fridays during off-hours.
Now that you've been warned, let's move on to the good stuff: the food. I've now been to TGI Fridays quite a few times, and they maintain a high and very consistent level of quality. I'll kick this off with my absolute favorite; the Alfredo pasta with chicken and shrimp. This has everything I'm looking for in a good pasta: it's creamy, it's full-flavored, and it got that cajun edge which gives you the slap in the face that you deserve. It actually got me so amped up that I went and got myself a spice grinder, made my own cajun spice mix and attempted my own version of it. But goddamn you, TGI Fridays – even though mine turned out awesome, your version is still a notch or two awesomer.
”i don't often drool while writing reviews”
The Tex-Mex section of the menu is also really satisfying. Unfortunately my camera was drunk that evening, so you just have to take my word for it. I personally think that fajitas, tacos and other classic Tex-Mex dishes shouldn’t be fiery hot, but instead pack a more moderate punch. For me, the secret to great Tex-Mex is adding a more creamy ingredient. For example, in my own kitchen, my homemade chipotle mayo really takes my Tex-Mex to a whole new level. And at TGI Fridays, they seem to have the same philosophy regarding spiciness. It's there, but it doesn't take over. (I don't often drool while writing reviews*, so now that I do, you should really take it as proof that I'm telling the truth)
The only part of the menu which doesn't quite convince me is the burger section. And by ”convince” I mean that it doesn't knock my socks off. The BBQ Burger is fine, but lacks that sexiness that would push it all the way. The Chili Cheese Burger, however, is more to my liking, especially when combined with not one, not two, but three great dipping sauces. The Stackhouse Burger is also an experience I wouldn’t mind having again. These are all served with great fries. My complaint about them, though, might be of the more unusual kind. They are simply too big, so to get all the stuff that make up the taste experience in your mouth at once is difficult, not to say impossible. They are assembled for a purpose, and having to disassemble them in order to eat them sort of takes away from the experience.
Finally, the ”smaller” things on the menu (I use a lot of quotation marks in this review, don’t I?). ”Smaller”, of course, means that they are still huge. The chili fries starter is more or less a main dish, and a tasty one at that. Great fries with green jalapeño, ground meat and cheese, which I recommend that you share with a friend, otherwise you won’t manage your main dish. Most of the drinks that I’ve tried are also great, and they are so big that if you're smaller than average, you’ll probably be both drunk and full after having just one. Two birds with one stone.
”it's fat dane expensive”
So, what kind of money do you have to cough up for all this loveliness? Well, TGI Fridays is not a cheap place. It’s fat Dane expensive, actually (in general between €10–30 per main dish, although there are a few less expensive options). However, as I've hinted earlier, there is consolation: all servings are just ridiculously large! For me, that’s only a good thing, since it suits my eating style perfectly: I prefer to have just one awesome dish and then feel like Octomom, instead of going for a tasting menu with 27 microscopic dishes. Still, not all people roll like me, so keep this in mind.
As should be perfectly clear by now, I really, really dig TGI Fridays. The only reason that I don't go there four times a week is the regrettable fact that I don't sneeze €100 bills. But when I have that craving for something extra, this is where I'll go.
* it's true!