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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chili’s, DFW Airport, Grapevine, Texas, Terminal C

Fry Spy Talley (not this Talley) recently submitted this (rather lengthy) report.  Enjoy.

As the wheels of my aircraft touched down at the Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport I could hardly contain my unbridled excitement. After countless months of anticipation I was finally returning to a Texas institution: the (I’d Rather Be At) Chili’s in Terminal C. My hair stood on end. Oh, the rapture!

That, dear reader, was SARCASM. S. A. R. C. A. S. M.

Dammit. Trapped and hungry (for a First Worlder) I opted for, not the least of all evils, but the one that served beer – for its numbing qualities.

I avoid fast food and fast-food-disguised-as-a-restaurant food like the plague, mainly because it IS a plague (a plague that, when not ingested in moderation, leads to other plagues like obesity and diabetes, etc. etc. – maybe even the Black Plague, but I haven’t actually looked into that thoroughly). And I did not have time to research the offerings of Terminal A, the nouvelle cuisine of Terminal B, or the innovative, slow-food, high-cheffery of Terminal D – so, Chili’s in Terminal C sucked me in.

And, lo, what a suction force. Marks were left.

Here’s what I learned. Well, I think I knew this already, so here is what I RE-learned: Chili’s (and it’s poisonous ilk) are all about the SAUCE. If the sauces and other coverings are flavorful enough (i.e. have exceptional amounts of sodium) you will forget (or never notice) that the food has no flavor, no nuance, no love.

I ordered some kind of chicken wrap that was predominantly iceburg lettuce (research the nutritional value of iceburg lettuce sometime) and some canned corn they blackened in a back room somewhere (was it actually grilled or is there a guy with a Sharpie back there, corn-sketching away?).

The wrap came with a special sauce. This wrap sauce was something along the lines of “chipotle-buffalo-smoked-ranch-seasoned-pepper-dipping-forgetfulness-just-look-at-our-37-big-screen-TVs” sauce. It was good in the sense that it masked the invisible texture and taste of the actual wrap.

“But, the fries, the fries!” you say. Alright…

Yes, I got a side of fries. They were covered in some sort of patented-formula salt/pepper/spice sprinkles shake-down (your regular host, Kyle, may have some term for this crystal combo they shimmy out onto fries).  [Gibby: It's called crack dust.  It's used to hide the age of fries]  I’m sure in the menu somewhere it describes this concoction as something only Chili’s has perfected over years of experimentation and discussions with happy customers, blah blah blah.

The fries were fine. They were cooked all the way through. Crisp where they should have been and soft right where I like them. The secret formula sodium nightmare that coated them was clearly concocted to light up my primal need for various minerals (should there just be a communal salt lick near the restrooms maybe?). Heinz ketchup (sodium and sugar swimming in tomato sauce) always helps with fries, of course, but these likely would have been enjoyable even had ketchup not been available…and that says a lot, actually.

In the end, fries don’t lie. They are what they are. Sure, they might be batter-dipped, or wedge, or string, or home, or golden, or sweet potato-based, or curly, or baked, or waffle, (like Bubba’s approaches to shrimp) but regardless of the unique cut or preparation approach they’re just spuds. And that’s a solid foundation. It is their simplicity that will not let them hide and, tasty or not, you gotta respect them for that.

At Chili’s it is all relative, I guess. My chicken ridicu-wrap was so bland (but for the dippin’ fluid) that, by contrast, the fries (coupled with beer and ketchup) were particularly tasty. Under the circumstances, exceptional, actually. They were positioned to win. Put it this way: I did not finish my wrap, but I cleaned my plate of fries and emptied my super-sized beer.

Don’t go to Chili’s. But if you must (as I felt I did), just keep it simple. Don’t let them hypnotize you into something forced, complicated, or wrapped. Get some fries and a beer…and then get out of there as quickly as possible without having your picture taken.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Grunion and Z Go Fry Crazy

The Grunion and Z recently served me with a formal grievance document with 114 individual areas of concern.  Concern #54 specifically noted that they felt "underrepresented with respect to matters regarding the disposition and subsequent promotion/publishing of accurate french fry data."  The following review created by the Grunion and Z is the result of legally binding arbitration and in no way reflects the views, attitude, beliefs, and/or opinions of Gibby.  I was, however, legally obligated to supply them with the fries for this endeavor.

Z:  Okay, so we've got fries from three places to review today.  Let's start with McD's.  Good presentation, good color, relatively hot.

Z:  Nice length, good consistency of product throughout.

Z:  Ah, yes.  A balanced bouquet, with broad character and depth that begins alkaline but finishes strong with a salty effervescence.

GRUNION:  These are good.  Next!

Z:  Let's see.  Wendy's fries next.  Whoa!  This is huge!  Why didn't the fat man get us large orders of all of them?

Z:  The package says natural cut with sea salt.  Hmmm.  Meh.  I find these fries to be undercooked and unmotivated.  Pedestrian in taste and presentation.  Fie!

GRUNION:  Ummm...let's see...I think that these fries are like...stupid or something.  But good.  Cause there's a lot of em.  So...stupid but good.

GRUNION:  Check out these Spider Man fries from Hardees!  They taste all spidery!

GRUNION:  If I was Spider Man, I would use my web shooting thingys to get fries all the time.

Z:  Hey, that reminds me.  How can you spot a hipster spider?
GRUNION:  Dunno.

Z:  He doesn't have a web, he has a website!  Get it?

Z:  Hello?  Grunion?  Do you get it?  Where are you going?

***Several dozen fries later***

Z:  Oh man, my stomach is killing me!
JET the DOG: Does that mean you're done with that fry in your hand?

Z: stomach!  I'm soooo full!

GRUNION: Full?  What does that word mean?  Wanna file a grievance for ice cream?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Loafin Joe's

***Disclaimer***  The following review is of potato chips.  Technically they are not "fries", but I thought they deserved it.

The other day we found a coupon for Loafin Joe's stuck in our door handle.  I hadn't thought about that joint in years, but we started talking about it and remembered that they had good in-house made chips that were ranch-flavored.  So off we went.  The Grunion tagged along.

I didn't take a picture of the inside, but it is exactly the same as the last time I was there 15 years ago.  Seriously, they have not made a single change except for replacing the old big-butt TVs with flat screens.  We ordered the ranch, parmesan-garlic, and BBQ flavors for "testing".

The ranch ones were as good as I remembered them.  They were not hot, but I suppose chips don't necessarily have to be.  And there were a lot of them for $2.70.  Totally worth it!

The BBQ and parmesan-garlic ones were kinda stupid, but still worth it.

The Grunion approved.