sucks. Well, not entirely, it's edible if you don't have time to
go anywhere nicer, but none of their food is much better than fast food
quality, and it costs a lot more. And since the odds that some table
full of drunks will ruin your meal with their drunken screaming and
cheering, you're not trading up much on ambience either.
I used to enjoy Chili's, but that was mostly because 1) my dad was buying, and 2) I didn't know any better. Claim Jumper isn't exactly gourmet headquarters, but it only costs about 10% more than Chili's, and since basically everything at CJ is at least double the size of a comparable meal at Chili's, the choice isn't hard to make. For example:
Here are two examples of leftovers, a half sandwich from Chili's and a half sandwich from Claim Jumper. These sandwiches both came with fries, and cost about $9 each. Say no more, eh?
The sandwich on the left is a Chili's tuna steak sandwich. On the right you see a Claim Jumper BBQ chicken sandwich. The meat, of which there is an obscene amount, is hidden beneath the carpet of ripe tomato slices and mixed greens. Neither sandwich is touched up or altered in any way, other than by being cut in half and lifted open to show the difference in contents. There are also some leftover onion rings scattered below the CJ sandwich. There aren't any on the Chili's side since they give you such a small pile of over-salted French fries that I ate them all in the restaurant and had none left to heat up with the other half sandwich.
It's not all about portion size (since we don't all want to be fat little piggies), but I assure you that the CJ food tastes as much better as it looks. I'm also not claiming that CJ is the epitome of quality semi-fast food, especially since they might not even have them where you live. Chili's is roughly comparable to TGIF, Denny's, Olive Garden, Marie Callender's, and other basically mediocre restaurants, that sell low brow food for middle brow prices. Don't let the cute dancing vegetables and catchy theme songs fool you.
Chili's sucks. I used to like it, and last time I was there I got a pretty good quesadilla, but I'm not eating chicken anymore, and I've been making quesadillas at home the last few weeks (inspired by the one I had at Chili's) so I went for my usual tuna steak sammich. Which used to be quite good, but has also gone downhill substantially. It's not very good steak, and it's sort of diagonally sliced, like a cucumber sandwich, if you see what I mean. So you get a full sammich-width cut of fish, but it's not very good fish. Sort of tasteless.
They put crappy little tomato slices on it, and shredded lettuce (which is never good, outside of cole slaw. It's just messy and a tease.) and several squirts of some sort of white lubricating liquid. It's sort of like mayo, but it doesn't really taste like anything. That's not entirely bad, since I don't like mayo, and when I get it on a sammich I usually scrape about 80% off, leaving just enough to taste. But the Chili's fake mayo stuff is just white goop. It's not tartar sauce, and it has no real taste, but they ladle it on, for some reason. I'd rather have 1/10th as much with flavor, rather than 10x as much that's just... slimy.
In addition their FFs are no longer any good. They do use real potatoes, not just sausage-like, playdoh-style extrusions of potato mush like you get at McD's or other fast food places, and they cook them pretty well, but there is so much salt on them it's physically painful. They shake on some pepper also, which is cool, but the amount of salt is like they're trying to kill off a slug infestation. I tend to lift up the fry, run my fingers down it like I'm peeling off (or perhaps putting on) some miniature tuber rubber, which removes an audible shower of salt.
The topper is their chocolate shakes, which were always really good in the past, but have now gone the liquid foam-rubber gunk like in McD's shakes. So it's just sort of carbonated crap, weighs about 1/3 what a real ice cream shake does, and feels like fuzz in your mouth. That's like the only sugar treat or chocolate or ice cream (or all 3) I ever have, and I might do one bi-monthly, and now they suck too.
Anyway, that's Chili's off my list of places to eat when dad's feeling like buying.
The amusing part is that the tuna steak sammich is always tastier when I take it home than in the restaurant. I generally eat half there and save half for later, and it's much better later. The problem is that I so seldom eat flesh, and when I do I like it in sparring portions. Criticize them as I will, they lay on a thick cut of (crappy) tuna.
I take the leftover half, and cut it into strips, and have those on a full Kaiser roll. So basically I have half the sammich worth of fish on a full sammich, with more tomato and lettuce and melted cheese, and it's far better. Not sure why I go to a restaurant when I can make a sandwich that's far better myself... oh right, because dad buys dinner.
The funny part in this case is that I put the somewhat soggy buns into the oven, right on the rack on about 250, while I was nuking the tuna and some Jack cheese. A minute later I smell smoke, and look and one piece of the bun has fallen through the over rack, landed on the electric heating element, and actually burst into six-inch flames. Pretty yellow ones!
Given the opportunity I showed off my keen sense of danger and home economics Doctorate by closing the over door, turning off the oven, turning on the exhaust fan, and leaving it to burn while I sliced a Kaiser roll in half and put it into the toaster.
I did manage to remember to take out the charcoal today, before heating the oven for veggie lasagna, at least.
We finally got out and went to dinner at Chili's, eating there for the second time in a week, after I hadn't eaten at a Chili's for something like 6 months. I'd sworn them off after the food had gotten steadily worse every time I went with my dad (about once a month) for about half a year, but either they've improved or I was having a run of bad luck, since it's been pretty damn good both times with Malaya.
Last week I got a cajun chicken sandwich which was tasty and decently spicy, and the chocolate shake was excellent as well. This time I got a veggie/mushroom quesadilla with rice and beans, and it was very good also; if a bit too oily, resulting in the bottom of the quesadilla being rather soggy. Malaya had chicken fried steak last time and loved it, but got mediocre chicken strips with fries this time. She didn't like the flavor of the beer-batter too much.
Anyway, it's nothing earth-shaking, but the food was pretty good, there was no wait to be seated (something I never saw in San Diego at any Chili's I ever ate at), the service was pretty quick and it was about $20 for the two of us each time, not including the tip.
All of the wait staff at Chili's had on costumes as well, though I don't really consider that a bonus since they were lame costumes. Our waitress was dressed as Poison Ivy, according to Malaya. I would have thought she was the Jolly Green Giant, personally, with green tights and lipstick, but this big baggy leafy dress thing, and leafy shoes as well. Zero sex appeal, and I believe Poison Ivy was supposed to be hot, in the old Batman lore. The door greeter/"I'll show you to your table" guy was in some sort of prairie maternity dress, for no reason I could ascertain. One other waiter I noticed had on an Indiana Jones outfit that was pretty cool, aside from his white and black striped whip.
So Chili's. I'd sworn it off, hadn't been to one in months, since the tuna steak sandwich I liked had gone downhill in quality, and even my requisite chocolate shake (with sprinkles) was pretty crappy the last time. However I weakened, or something, and went with Malaya the other day, and we enjoyed it, and went back a 2nd time within the same week on a night (Halloween) when we were too hungry to wait any longer or think of anything better.
I don't drift off at night, thinking and drooling about their sumptuous numptions, but I wouldn't mind going back again in the semi-immediate future.
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