(Wo)Man vs. Mozzarella: What Happens When You Commit to ‘Endless Appetizers’

Paul Francis (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

11:34 a.m. My first plate arrives. The mozzarella sticks are golden, dense, and huge. Each one is greater than the width of two of my index fingers. As a frequent and enthusiastic consumer of mozzarella sticks, I estimate that these are about twice the standard size. They are softly cuboid, not cylindrical, for reasons I assume are obscure and related to the maximally efficient, foolproof method by which they are packaged, shipped, and cooked. They arrive in herds of six, lightly dusted with shavings of “Parmesan” and “Romano” and flakes of parsley. (Over the course of several orders, this coating will become increasingly patchy, as TGI Friday’s and I stop standing on formality.) An order normally costs $7.50, which means I will have to eat at least two in order for TGI Friday’s Endless Apps to qualify as a “good deal.” Each plate of six contains 1,100 calories.

They taste like goddamn garbage.

I would prefer to stop eating after the first one. I seriously regret not getting the potato skins, which appear on the menu alongside the word “FAV” printed inside a white circle with scalloped edges. A key at the bottom of the appetizer page explains that the presence of this symbol indicates the potato skins are a “House Favorite.” The spot next to the mozzarella sticks listing that could conceivably be occupied by a “FAV” badge is vacant.

I do not blame the waitstaff of TGI Friday’s for the taste of the mozzarella sticks, which, for the entire length of my stay, will be marched to my booth piping hot and accompanied by an inch-deep cup (two, if I so request) of marinara sauce, as advertised.

Nor do I blame the kitchen staff that cooks the mozzarella sticks to what must be called, thanks to their menacing consistency across the span of the day, a kind of perfection, every time.

I blame the TGI Friday’s test kitchen executive chef (a prepaid cellphone that Guy Fieri texts recipes to while high on whippets) for making the prototype of these sticks accidentally one full moon—for by accident is the only way such an item could ever have been deemed suitable for human consumption—and then never copping to the mistake.

12:00 p.m. I order my second plate.

— Caity Weaver spent 14 hours alone in a TGI Friday’s restaurant, testing the boundaries of the restaurant chain’s “Endless Appetizers” promotion and chronicling the experience for Gawker. In the end, the only things that were truly tested were her sanity and waistband.

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