Pros: Prices, Variety, ICE CREAM SUNDAES!
Cons: Inconsistent Service, Some Menu Items, Cleanliness
Friendly's has been around since the mid 1930's, when they opened their first location in Springfield, Massachusetts. Although this town is known for the Basketball Hall of Fame, and for being the birthplace of Smith and Wesson,(sellouts)it has contributed to the dessert industry with these restaurants. When most people hear the word Friendly's, they almost always think of ice cream. Their sundaes are world famous, and they are my favorite part of the menu. However, there are actual breakfast, lunch, and dinner items to choose from.
This chain promises 100% satisfaction, as part of their guest policy. I cannot say that I'm that pleased with their service and menu, but they offer a fair amount of value for the dollar. While most locations are clean, and have employees that are helpful, I've visited their other chain called "Grouchy's." There have been a few times that I've been a bit shocked, as I would expect anti-social tendencies from a Denny's employee. However, I have seen this type of behavior at Friendly's, but most times I've eaten at this restaurant there have been no problems.
If you want an appetizer to start off, there is a fair amount to pick from. They have a Munchie Mania meal(Sampler), which is chicken quesidillas, mozzarella sticks, and Fronions. Their chicken quesidillas also are their own appetizer as well, and I cannot recommend them. They come with sour cream, salsa, monterey jack cheese, grilled chicken, and cheddar cheeese between tortillas. The taste is bland, and the portions are unbelievably small for paying $6. They are almost like the microwaveable quesedillas that you get at Costco's, and the salsa lacks any bite whatsoever. The cheese has not been melted down completely on the two occasions I've endured eating these, as the tortillas fall apart easily.
I like the Waffle Fries for the appetizer, as this has got to be the unhealthiest concoction ever invented. Many cardiologists thank Friendlys for these, as their business has increased greatly. These french fries are covered with cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, and are served with sour cream and ranch dressing on the side. They are really good, and the portioning here is quite generous. Everytime they have come out completely hot, and they will easily feed two-three hungry people. The mozzarella sticks are pretty good too, and I think the Towering Fronions are worth a try. These are not from any of the Lord of the Rings movies. They are onion rings, served with Ranch, Garlic, and BBQ sauce. I don't know what it is, but Friendly's Ranch dressing is really good for some reason.
Would you like a Soup or Salad? Stay away from the New England Clam Chowder! Now, I will admit that I'm biased, and have to have top of the line stuff to enjoy it. I'm convinced that Friendlys got their clams somehow from the Charles River....when it caught on fire. This mixture of clams, onions, potatoes, and bacon is truly disgusting. The texture is enough to turn away even the hungriest of diners, as they cut corners in making this stuff. It doesn't taste like the wonderful Clam Chowder I grew up on, and crackers won't make this formula any better. The chicken noodle was decent, but not worth writing home about. Friendly's has garden salads as well, and they are pretty good. The amount offered is average, and the tomatoes and veggies have been fresh. The Ranch is the best sauce to go with.
When it comes to sandwiches, the Reuben Supermelt is hard to beat. This is an absolutely delicious item for lunch or dinner, and its the best $6.99 I've spent in a lot of restaurants. This sandwich has corned beef, cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island Dressing.(aka Big Mac Sauce) Although I recommend taking a Pepcid before eating this, it is a wonderful item that has a little bit of bite to it. Its a good sized sandwich for the hearty diner, and has always come out piping hot. It has always looked like the picture on the menu, with its beautiful layering.
If you are a burger type of person, try the Ultimate Bacon Cheese. This burger is served on a grilled bun, with lettuce, tomato, and onion. While its not large, its a tasty meal. My only real complaint about it, is not the fault of the patty or the materials that accompany them. The cooks need to learn that extra well done means charred. Although the last time was okay, I've had to send this burger back a couple of times due to finding the meat pink in the middle. That's right Friendly's, Extra Well...not medium! The fries that come with burgers and sandwiches are pretty good.
There are plenty of basket meals to choose from. These are the healthiest of all items-they are all deep fried! There are fried shrimp, fried clams, fried fish, and fried chicken strips. They are all served with coleslaw and fries, and they are sure to increase your cholesterol count to an outrageous amount. For some reason, this New England based chain, screws up all of my favorites. Their New England Fish and Chips, should be called the Rotten Groton Fish and Chips.(This after a wonderful town in Connecticut, that houses a large amount of navy vessels) I'm convinced that this filet is whiting, rather than the traditional cod. This small portioned meal is a disgrace to the fine folks of New England, and should be scrapped from the menu.
There are steaks on the menu, and even a few barbecue platters. I haven't tried these, and these tend to cost a few more pennies than the rest of their menu. I have seen them, and the portioning appears to be quite generous. However, the Meatloaf appears to be the Mystery Meat that was a hit at my school's cafeteria. Fishamajig! I don't mean to scare you, but this is one of my favorite meals, and its from their properly named "Favorites Line." This is fried cod, topped with melted cheese and tartar sauce. I love this meal, and its only $6. Its quite filling, and comes with a serving of french fries.
Do you want a beer, or a Tom Collins with your meal? You'll have to go across the street to the local bar, as Friendly's doesn't serve alcohol. Its a shame, as most people become friendlier with a bit of booze-usually. At their locations, you can enjoy a refreshing cold Coke product. The best beverage is a dessert item, and that is the Fribble.(Not to be confused with those fuzballs from the original Star Trek series) These Fribble milk shakes, come in Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, and Coffee flavors. I always get the chocolate flavor, and these milkshakes are from a bygone era. They are thick shakes, and similar to the ones that the Silver Diner serves. They are a bit expensive($3.00), but the size of them is unbelievable.Plus, Friendly's quality of ice cream is outstanding. They also have Root Beer Floats, and I've never had one, yet.
The desserts are my favorite part of the menu, and their selection is excellent. There are all kinds of sundaes to choose from, and I'm addicted to the Cookies and Creme and Reese N Pieces Sundaes. The Cookies and Creme has vanilla ice cream with crushed oreos, whipped cream, and hot fudge. It is truly decadent, and probably accounts for a few extra pounds that I've put on recently. The Reese N Pieces Sundae is vanilla ice cream, with peanut butter marshmallow toppings, hot fudge, reeses pieces, and whipped cream. It is hard to beat, and one of their more popular items. You can also order many other varieties, and the prices are good for what you receive. ($2-5 range)
The service has been inconsistent, and there was one time where I'm convinced our waiter was on the prison work release program. I'm not against tattoos, as a lot of my friends have them. However, I don't want to see them all over my server, with a whole bunch of piercings. This individual looked like he just returned from the set of the show "Lost," and certainly could have used a shower.(He could use some of his tips to buy flip flops at the local jail) His attitude was nasty, and I didn't like his overall demeanor. He was indifferent to all diners in his section, and could have cared less about any of the food items quality.
This was the worst experience I've had at a Friendlys, and I've seen a lot of indifference in their service staff. It seems that a lot of their locations are staffed by people, who refuse to go the extra mile. They get your drink order, drop off your food, check on you once, and throw the check down on your table. I'm not sure if its how they do their hiring, or if their training curriculum is flawed. However, some of their servers have been fantastic, and the last two times we had the same one. She is a local college student, and she really has done a wonderful job in insuring that everything is fine. Our drinks have been refilled without asking, and she is attentive to the overall food quality. One of my friends son's joined us the last time, and she brought him all kinds of crayons, paper, and activity books before the meal arrived. She even put a smily face on his ice cream sundae!
The cleanliness has been an issue at some of their locations, and usually during their rush times. A lot of tables have been loaded with plates and busing trays, which can make anyone lose their appetite if enough of an issue. On some occasions I've found the bathroom to be as clean, as the local $25 a night motel. Luckily, most of the time they keep the place reasonably enough clean to allow for a pleasant dining affair. The chairs are quite comfortable, and I love their booths. A lot of booths at restaurants are restrictive on long legged individuals, but I've found them to have enough room for some serious stretching out.
Friendly's is a place to go, if you want a quick dinner before a movie. Its nothing fancy, but it is a place to eat for a reasonable amount of money. Their menu offers a fair amount of selections, and they have senior citizen discounts. I primarily enjoy Friendly's restaurants for their sundaes, which are top of the line. Try the two I suggested-you won't be disappointed!