Generally, once you experience a particular chain restaurant, you can go back in the future and get pretty much the same thing, even if you visit another location 300 miles away. Sometimes this is what you want- familiarity and knowing what to expect. You either like a certain chain or you don’t. You aren’t pleasantly surprised by a creative daily special…you know what your choices are before you get there.
Saturday, I went to the movies with a group of women to see Sex & The City (yes, this was my second viewing) and afterward we wanted to go somewhere for drinks and appetizers. The group chose Chili’s. I am not sure what each individual’s reasons for choosing Chili’s might have been but I heard the option of outdoor seating mentioned several times. Personally, I like the southwest eggrolls appetizer. I am not a fan of this chain so when I end up at a Chili’s, I usually order the triple dipper – a selection of 3 appetizers – as my meal. I have tried many other things on their menu, I just don’t particularly like any of it, especially for the price.
As I mentioned, you know what you are going to get before you get there at most chains, so I had been gearing up for my triple dipper all day by depriving myself of most other food so I would not feel guilty about all the carbs and calories that would arrive on my plate at our outdoor table that night.
Upon arriving, we ordered up 3 Cosmopolitans, like any devoted Sex & The City fans would do, and we waited. We waited a long time. Our server let us know she was nudging the bar for our drinks, but no luck yet. It was about 10:00 by this time and the restaurant was busy-ish, but no where near full capacity.
Ron planned to meet us there and arrived about 45 minutes before we did. While he waited, he quenched his thirst with a draft beer (or three) and had a couple baskets of chips & salsa waiting on us. Nice, huh? I didn’t want to say anything, because the chips may have been sitting on the table a while, so I ate several and stayed quiet. They weren’t good at all. They were extremely salty in places. The worst, though, was the way you could bend the chip almost completely in half before it would let out a stale-sounding, faint, crack…and finally break in two. When my triple-dipper arrived, I couldn’t bear to force the yummy, hot, creamy, garlicky spinach-artichoke dip to ride into my mouth on those awful stale chips, so I asked our server if we could have a fresh basket because the ones on the table “had become kind of stale”. She promptly brought out a fresh bowl of chips and much to my dismay…these were also stale. So I gave up on that third of my meal and packed it up in a to-go box instead. . I don’t know if the chips were simply old and stale or if the person frying the chips let them soak up too much oil. Something wasn’t right.
The southwest eggrolls were just as delicious as every other time I had ordered them. In fact, my triple dipper was very good. As for the price…$9.79 got me a small dish of spinach-artichoke dip, 2 southwest eggrolls (which they cut in half to make 4 pieces) and five boneless shanghai wings (which look like chicken nuggets). It also comes with a basket of chips and 2 dipping sauces. I think $10 is kind of a lot for that when you think of what you could get other places for $10. For instance, I would have to order practically the most expensive thing on the menu at a Mexican joint to rack up a bill of $10, but I knew going in what the price point was at Chili’s. The total of my bill was $17.58 plus tax. (The photo came from Chili’s website.) Ron’s bill…whole other story. He can compare and contrast the Chili’s ribs with those from Famous Dave’s and complain about the price himself.
The reason was bill was so much, is the drink. I had a bit of sticker-shock to find out my Cosmo cost $6.79. Have you ever noticed that restaurants NEVER print the drink prices in the menus? Why is that? I think we should all vow to ask for drink prices before ordering them. I have done this occasionally in the past, and I rarely get an immediate answer. The servers usually don’t know the prices, either. Even on draft beers. Is this a scheme to get you to order drinks more freely if you don’t know what they cost? Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this issue.
I will award Chili’s only TWO FORKS.
Just the phrase “Grill & Bar” means a lot to me, giving me the impression that this is a place I can come and kick back with friends, have some drinks, and spend an evening. Having to double check the prices of the drinks, worried about spending too much for a beer or some chips, doesn’t come to mind. “Grill & Bar” makes me want to feel at home.
Chili’s Grill & Bar, however can shove my Ba-Bab-Baby Back Ribs right up their rear. I had just spent nearly two hours mountain biking out at Kanawha State Forest and at somepoint during that ride I had actually begun to look forward to coming to this joint of “familiarity” as Susan points out above. I had decided I was definitely getting ribs, and I also am a fan of their Southwest Eggrolls…
Well during my ride, I receive a text from Susan stating that the movie didn’t start at 5:30PM and was later thus I shouldn’t be at Chili’s till around 9PM instead of Eight. No big deal really… except I find out later that during this 5:30 lapse this hen party had moved to Quaker Steak & Lube across the way at South Ridge…. Oh, only if we could have went there.
I arrive at Chili’s about fifteen till Nine, and receive my next text approx 9:20 stating that they are leaving the Theatre now… I then realize that that previous text was probably meant for me to be here at 9 instead of “by 9” but, again, no big deal.
However what is a big deal is that, while waiting, my first draft, which was a 22oz Michelob Ultra, was $4.75 (I believe it was 22oz and I’m praying that it was because I’ll definitely jump off the Oakwood Bridge if I got this jacked up on a 16 oz beer without a lap dance.) Right there probably set the stage for me… I mean COME ON – I think my drafts at the Gator Bowl were right around this price range what makes them think they need to charge this much for beer – ITS GREED I TELL YOU – GREED… (I struggled onward and percevered) I stated before I was tired/thirsty/and hungry – probably more thirsty but nevertheless I was determined to get that table for seven outside – the ladies were counting on me. ( unapproved edit)
Chili’s easily and quickly set the table up and I was seated in just a few minutes, as they were not too busy in my opinion. Then I ordered the stale chips… NOW THIS BEGS THE NEXT QUESTION – HOW DO THESE so-called AUTHENTIC MEXICAN JOINTS GIVE CHIPS AWAY, YET CHILI’S HAS THE NEED TO CHARGE $2.79?? Other than the fact that they know they can charge… why? WHY I SAY????? ( see above for answer) Normally though their chips are not half bad but these were terrible, as they’ve already been described as stale. Remember, the newer batch was just as stale as the earlier batch (if not more so).
Well after the Michelob price gouging, I decided to go back to the old faithful of Bud Light, which was priced at $3.99. Chili’s really has no shame… NO SHAME WHATSOEVER… This is stealing money and there should be a law against it (and probably is but being a professional I carried on). Dan should start a sister site and call it BEER-4-U…
I digress again….
Several years ago, I would have said that Chili’s probably did have the best ribs around here… I’ll say that to Joey’s and Danny (User-Fee) Jones any day… However, a few years ago, we got a Famous Dave’s in Barboursville, and the now defunct Smokey Bones out at South Ridge… Both of these are chain restaurants that – at least around these parts – do not have the same name recognition as Chili’s yet their ribs were, and are, ten times better. (My opinion, and because I’m writing this, it’s the only opinion that matters.)
At Chili’s I ordered the 1/2 rack of the Habanero ribs and 1/2 rack of the Brown Sugar ribs… along with rice and apples for $15.29. (Sarcasm Mode = On) Because Chili’s was taking their time to make sure my order was correct and do their best, my meal was promptly brought out with French Fries and flying BBQ sauce (Sarcasm Mode = Off) seriously folks my server – Allie, I think – was as polite as can be but she about pelted me with my very own BBQ Sauce. Thankfully it missed, but I was wearing black, and besides I probably wiped more sauce on myself than she could have managed to spill on me.
Well the food… I know that’s what you’re waiting for…. In 2006 It was voted best Tex Mex around these parts – (kind of shows you Charleston’s idea of good cuisine) It wasn’t too good. My apples were luke warm, I had to ask for my original side orders, again luke warm rice, however Allie was nice enough to allow me to keep the fries at no charge.. Typical frozen fries…tasty but typical. But most importantly the ribs….. well they were not bad… but I think my sauce was mixed up… 1/2 rack came with the Habanero sauce on it, the other half – I believe it was the Brown Sugar ones as they had what looked to be brown sugar residue on them did not have sauce. (it is now residing in the floor). When Allie brought my new sauce out, I think she brought me the same sauce as my spicy Habanero sauce as both tasted similiar. I can’t really say the meat fell of the bones and I did have to use a knife more than once. Familiarity.
Overall normally at these chain stores one can expect to get what you pay for. Lately it seems that Chili’s may have dropped the ball somewhat and have developed that “Restaurant Apathy” syndrome… where they’re in it to make a dime and pass as much on to the customer as they can. (A Perfect Example of this “Restaurant Apathy” is where some fast food joints recently have been removing tomatoes from their burgers. But do they lower the cost of said burger? No.) Another way of describing it is I feel as though I’m treated as though it’s my pleasure to be eating at Chili’s, and not Chili’s pleasure to have me as a patron.
Overall it was pretty good as by the picture you can see I had leftovers Monday morning…..