TGI Fridays Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Chris Vespoli

AWKWARD NEW YORK is a weekly column about the uncomfortable experiences of Chris Vespoli in and around NYC. Every Tuesday is another cringe-worthy account, from being fat shamed by a Dunkin’ Donuts employee to crashing Fashion Week.

It wasn’t until TGI Friday’s started placing “Est. 1965 NYC” at the bottom of their logo in their commercials that I realized the casual dining restaurant was founded right here in the Big Apple, making the brand a New York native. And like most things born of the City, it was ahead of its time.

The brainchild of Alan Stillman, a braggart of a businessman who claims that he was the inspiration behind Tom Cruise’s character in Cocktail, TGI Friday’s began on the Upper East Side at the dawn of the ‘60s sexual revolution as one of the first singles bars in the nation — not how you’d expect the backstory of a family restaurant to read.

The franchise’s bold beginnings inspired me to do something bold myself. It got me thinking: If I dedicated these 500 to 800 words, the length of copy I’m contractually obligated to turn into this website every week, to singing the benefits of TGI Friday’s here in the City, would they, in repayment of this shameless display of free advertising, treat me to free appetizers?

Well…let’s find out.

If you’re concerned, TGI Friday’s, that this experiment will hurt my journalistic integrity, don’t be. It’s not that I lack journalistic integrity; it’s just that it can be easily compromised. “How easily compromised?” you ask? Well, my question to you is, “‘how many Loaded Potato Skins ya got?”

Here’s my hard sell of your wonderful eatery to our core readership — everyday New Yorkers:

Though I celebrate the entire TGI Friday’s menu (who doesn’t love Jack Daniels sauce on everything?), it’s those delicious appetizers I so dearly covet that are the real stars of the show, especially when consumed while drunk and/or high at 1:00 in the morning. Sure, there are the old favorites — mozzarella sitcks, Buffalo wings — but when you’re dining under that beautiful red-and-white-striped awning, there’s one thing you know you must do: treat yo’self.

So, you go wild. You get the Sesame Jack Chicken Strips. You splurge on the Pan-Seared Pot Stickers. Hell, you even jump for the Crispy Green Bean Fries. “Whoa, wait, vegetables, Chris?” Don’t worry, they’re breaded and fried, and paired with a creamy Cucumber-Wasabi Ranch dip. You won’t even be able to tell they once grew in the ground. That’s right, TGI Friday’s has your back.

But it doesn’t end there…Savor the Tostado Nachos. Revel in the heaven nectar that is the Tuscan Spinach Dip. Roll up the BBQ Chicken Flatbread and make sweet, dirty love to it. And if you’re into threesomes, opt for the Friday’s Pick Three-For-All and create your own holy trinity of taste.

It’s right about now that common New Yorkers are saying to themselves, “why am I going to eat at a chain restaurant when I could get those same types of apps at any neighborhood bar?” That’s true. You could go to a bar, but have fun being just another faceless shlub trying to get the bartender’s attention. Have you ever tried asking for a menu at one of these places? They hide them behind the counter. And when one of those indifferent barkeeps does manage to rustle one up, they act like they’re doing you a favor.

A bar “where everybody knows your name”? Good luck finding one of those. They only have those in Boston, and this isn’t Boston. This is New York. And in New York, there’s only one bar and grill worth its weight, the original, TGI Friday’s. It’s where you’ll be treated to a table with a smile by a waiter wearing suspenders — and everyone loves suspenders, because they’re a lot of fucking fun. Try not to smile around someone wearing suspenders. Go ahead. It’s impossible.

So, that’s my pitch to the New York consumer, TGI Friday’s. I hope you will respond in good faith, and compensate me for my efforts by way of those free apps. I’m thinking a year’s worth should do it.

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