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.