Jay Fox's Dining Guide

FOX: THEM PLACES I LIKE THAT I USTA NOT LIKE AFTER I LIKED THEM

“If Broadway shows charge preview prices while the cast is in dress rehearsal, why should restaurants charge full price when their dining room and kitchen staffs are still practicing?” — Marian Burros

CHILI’S GRILL & BAR RESTAURANT
Everywhere you go
www.chilis.com

MANY YEARS AGO G AND I TOOK OUR KIDS to a variety of restaurants, including national chain eateries, to expose them to the “dining” experience. When we were first married, Douglas and Jason were eight and Camille was ten. The only time we went to a “real restaurant” was if they had accomplished something special. Good grades, helping G in the kitchen, and in one case, cleaning that person’s room; I don’t want to embarrass anyone. Actually, Secundo went once, the other two never got to go. At least that’s the best my memory serves me.

One of our favs at that time was Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant (88 Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood, 303-238-2996). They served catfish dinners that blew my mind. I couldn’t get enuf of ‘em. They also served large burgers with fries in a basket. I’DON’DO baskets. Icky greasy messy. I had to fight to get a real plate, but always won the battle. Great burgers, cooked to order. Their very popular baby back ribs were outstanding. That’s usually what the kids feasted on. G had a salad.

Over the years the folks running this casual eatery chain decided not to like me and quit serving burgers other than burned to death so I didn’t go back. Don’t know how many years that dumb idea lasted, but it was quite a while. Then they started changing their menu almost daily. It wasn’t a good time for me to go in. Then I heard that they were cooking burgers to order again. Someone lied. They would cook sorta almost medium. When I heard that, I decided to stay and eat anyway. I looked over the menu. Other than burgers, I wasn’t impressed. I really couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat so I left. Then life got good.

About six months ago I heard that rare was really back in, so, without any advance notice, and without telling my family mem-bers, I went. Me alone. Had some mango iced tea. I know it’s fake stuff, but it was mighty tasty. Dare I order a burger? I did, and it was good. Not the best, but good. I even had a brownie sundae. That was good too. Noted that the menu had shifted to a southwestern-themed eatery and G would like that.

Since then G and I often have brunch there (8450 W. Cross Dr, Littleton, 303-973-5863) on Sunday before we head to Costco. ‘Ceptin I don’t do dessert there cuz Costco has this strawberry sundae that has me hooked bad. Yummy and cheap.

It’s not all rosy, but that’s true in most restaurants. They’re currently promoting top sirloin steak dinners. Don’t let the word, “top” fool ya. This is the tuffist cut of meat on a restaurant menu. I had one at an upscale restaurant a few weeks back and it was disgusting. Flavorless and like eating law school text books. Then they screwed it up further by putting butter on the top. Ugh. Try Chili’s rib-eye if you want a steak. Or better yet, stick to a burger.

G has tried lotsa stuff on their new menu. Last week she and the Cuda shared a Santa Fe chicken wrap and both raved about it. Filled with chicken, corn, tortilla strips, avocado, and tomatoes. Came with (ugh) steamed broccoli. I had the disappointing chicken crispers. Tasted like it was cooked in cement. Don’t ask how I know that but I do. I usually have the mini-burgers. They’ll come medium-rare if requested. Mighty tasty.

The huge menu includes a variety of Big Mouth® burgers, sangies, salads, lighter choices (like the chicken wrap — altho it was a huge portion), lunch combos, soups, chili, sides, fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, chicken and seafood. Most everything we’ve tried in a dozen or so recent visits was very good.

G and I sit in the bar section where she can watch a ball game and I can people-watch, which is my absolute favorite thing to do here or in any restaurant. ‘Ceptin the devouring of the food of course. That’s why I always get a table in a back corner.

If you think there are lotsa Chili’s around Denver, they’re now all over the world, including places you can’t pronounce the names of: over 200 restaurants in more than 20 countries. Most stores are open til 11 p.m. and midnite on weekends.

In addition to Chili’s, Brinker International also owns Maggiano’s Little Italy. I’ve never had good luck there, ‘ceptin for a banquet I attended where all the grub was upscale steaks and chops. But the two stores in metro Denver are always jammed; just don’t know why.

Former affiliates include Macaroni Grill sold in 2008, and On The Border, sold in 2010. I was thinking since Chili’s is thriving, maybe I oughta…. neh, ain’t never going to Applebee’s.

Cya.

Help Jay stave off even the remotest possibility of eating at Applebees. Send him your suggestions for other places to try: jay@jayfoxcpa.com.