EVEN WHEN you spend your life eating out in the Chain Gang, it's hard to find a good meal for $10, so it was with great enthusiasm that the prettiest Gang of the year headed over to Ben Franklin Parkway to check out the new, 10-buck dinner menu at T.G.I. Friday's.
Since it was a beautful evening, we sat out on Friday's spacious deck, trying to talk over the booming sound system. Since there were only a dozen people on the deck, one of the Gang members asked the bartender to turn down the noise.
One flash of that Gang bling and he couldn't refuse.
You can't sit on a deck without drinks, so we kicked back with a pinot grigio with fly ($5.49), which was quickly replaced by a pinot without fly, a rum and diet Coke ($4.59), the Ultimate Captain Colada ($6.99), which would have been even better if it didn't have the consistency of a chunk-ice Slurpee, and the big winner, the Ultimate Mango-Berry Margarita ($6.99), deemed "delicious" - and the size of an oil tanker.
The wussiest Gang member had a Coke ($2.19). Someone has to drive the limo.
As an appetizer, we had Crispy Green Beans ($5.49), which were like string beans tempura. While the Chain Gang is usually more than willing to stuff oversized portions down our throats, this Girly Gang had their svelte figures to worry about, so we shared. The beans, however, were a hit. Served with a tasty, cucumber-wasabi dip, the dish won over even the Gang-sters who thought it sounded "gross."
For main dishes, we tapped the Pecan Chicken Salad ($9.29) and four of the new $10 dinner specials: Sangria Chicken, Bruschetta Chicken Parmesan, Lemon Splash Chicken and Grown-Up Mac & Cheese.
We'll start with the worst. The Mac & Cheese may have grown up, but it hasn't aged well. This hodgepodge of a dish comes with chicken, onions and peppers atop elbow macaroni mixed with three cheeses.
And there's more: Along for the ride are chopped ham and bacon and sliced mushrooms and pico de gallo.
One bad sign: They wouldn't let us order it without the mushrooms, which made even a Chain Gang member question how freshly prepared it was. Said our hard-nosed critic of the dish: "Too much crap in it that didn't have taste."
The chicken parm with a bruschetta topping had a bit more taste, but the breaded chicken cutlets were dried out. (When we had this dish a few weeks ago at the Friday's on City Line, it was much better.)
The Sangria Chicken (the prettiest of the dishes) and the Lemon Splash Chicken were much more moist and better prepared, but neither dish overwhelmed with flavor. The Lemon Chicken certainly could have used a bigger splash.
Best of the main dishes was the Pecan Chicken Salad. Although the blue cheese dressing made the Gang a little blue, the chicken was "nice and pecan-y."