The bad news is T.G.I. Friday's is a noisy restaurant.
The good news is T.G.I. Friday's is a noisy restaurant.
It may not be the place to go after a tedious day when your head is pounding. But if you've got hungry kids in tow and you don't want to worry about them disturbing other people, it's just the spot. Nobody even scowled when my 2-year-old decided to "sing" loudly after dinner.
The noise seems to be a raucous combination of music, happy chatter and general clatter. Some restaurants seem to thrive on it; I find it a bit disconcerting except, of course, when I'm eating out with two youngsters. Then, I hardly notice.
There are other reasons to recommend T.G.I. Friday's as a good place to eat out with children:
* A separate, specially designed children's menu, served with crayons. Its offerings are a mix of the usual -- hot dogs, chicken fingers -- and the unusual -- five brunch items and a long list of drinks such as "The Peppermint Panther" and "Strawberry Sunrise."
* Young waitresses who wear crazy hats and brightly striped blouses to match the red-and-white decor, and who seem nonplused by little customers.
* Other children. On a recent weeknight, we saw several tables with youngsters of varying ages. That is not to say that there were not childless customers. There were, lots of them: singles stopping for cocktails, solo diners, older couples.
T.G.I. Friday's, in Towsontown Centre, offers an eclectic menu that seems to have something for everyone: soups, salads, cold sandwiches, burgers, Oriental offerings, pasta, Tex-Mex and pizza.
We started with Cheddar Cheese Nachos ($3.45). The warm cheese was wedded to the tortilla chips and topped with a hot jalapeno slice. My older dining companion -- age 6 -- loved the nachos; my younger companion loved the sour cream served with them. They also come with diced tomatoes and a spicy guacamole for dipping.
From the children's menu, my co-diners chose Pasta Straws ($1.95), long macaroni noodles topped with marinara sauce. The "noo-noos," sturdy enough to be eaten by hand, were a big hit. The sauce was flavorful but mild and there wasn't so much that it became a problem.
The "straws" and sauce were served in an oval compote with a small side dish of strawberry-flavored applesauce and a hard roll. I liked the applesauce but my companions passed it by.
I settled on a Taco Salad with chicken ($5.75) and was not disappointed. The salad was huge and pretty; the black beans gave it a nice flavor not common in taco salads and the chicken was tender and delicious. The mixture of greens and beans made it both crunchy and smooth. It was served, with salsa and a buttermilk dressing I found unnecessary, in a large tortilla shell that added to the crunch.
We did not stay for dessert although some of the offerings were tempting. My companions had been sitting long enough, they decided.
The service was prompt but not exactly speedy. Our food was served by several waitresses in something of a team effort that I could not figure out. Our main waitress was, however, thoughtful enough to serve the children's drinks in paper cups with lids and to ask if I wanted the entrees held when they "came up" just after she had served the nachos.
Our bill for the three dinners, plus one cocktail, one soft drink refilled free and a milk, was $18.79. The children's entrees were less than the packaged meals at their favorite fast-food stop, and mom even got to sit back and be served, though not in peace and quiet.