Monday, November 19, 2012


This blog isn't abandoned, I swear.  I got a [real!] job and am still finishing up my dissertation.  It'll be another couple of months.  Then I'll return to regular posts. Promise!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Up-coming Events

Image source.

Starting this weekend, October 6th and 7th, and running through November 25th, the Texas Renaissance Festival will bring you all the lords, ladies, galliwomps and wenches of years past to the fairgrounds just outside of Plantersville, Texas. Bring your appetites as I've been told that food selections have expanded significantly this year. My favorite selections include the prime rib sandwich and fish and chips at the Prince of Wales Pub, the Polish Food Sampler in the Polish section (I *heart* that they have a Polish section), the wonderful apple dumplings ala mode found throughout the festival, and absolutely delightful fudge and pastries at the cappuccino shop whose name I can never remember. The festival, of course, also has all the standard fare you'd expect at a Ren Fest, including everything on a stick. Come ready to imbibe as well as there is always a nice selection of national and international brand beers as well as craft beers.  And for the last 2 years there has also been a working brewery on-site known as Brigadoon Brewery.  They also have rootbeer for teatotallers.  I have many friends who work as merchants at Texas Renaissance Festival, so please support them all with your business!  [Merchants, send me your URLs and I'll post a link when I feature TRF in its own separate post.]

Image Source.

Friday and Saturday October 12th and 13th bring the Texas Reds Steak and Grape Festival to Bryan, Texas. Come and sample wines from across the region.  When you're ready for a break from the sipping sample steaks from some of the best steak grilling teams across Texas.  The festival was originally in June but was moved to October because of the oppressive heat in Texas in June.  The quickest, easiest parking can be found at Blinn College and a free shuttle will take you to the festival. Admission for the entire day is $5. Drink tickets, glasses and food are all extra.  And there are many other vendors if wine and steak aren't your thing.  All downtown restaurants will be open. There are plenty of awesome ones from which to choose. There will also be activities throughout the day, a kids' play area, and live music and performances from some of the regions best-known performers.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tito's Vodka wants to bring someone to Austin!

Tito's Vodka, made in Texas, is having a contest via Wine Enthusiast.  Winners get a trip to Austin for two (airfare wouldn't be that much for me and The Lovely Spouse) as well as other awesome benefits.  And I like my 6 readers so much I'll even include the url so that you all can enter too.  [I heard about this from the ever-awesome Cookie Madness.]

The fine print states that this post has to be a minimum of 100 characters and say something about Tito's.  How's about I tell you all the recipe I usually make with Tito's?  It's simple and refreshing for when the weather gets unbearably hot here in Texas.  The vodka is pretty darned good so we usually keep it on hand.

Key Lime Vodka Tonic

1. Fill a pint glass 3/4 the way full with cubed ice.  None of that shaved or crushed stuff for us (and it'll mess up the measurements).
2. Fill about half way full with Tito's Vodka. Available at Spec's.
3. Add a splash or two of key lime juice, available at the grocery store.
4. Fill the rest of the way with tonic water. We use the diet version.
5. Stir and enjoy!

So there you go, Tito's!  Choose me and I guarantee I'll blog about it.  Beside, can't you help a girl out who's finishing up her PhD?

I promise we'll have fun with it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

We'll be right back after these short messages...

Stolen from a facebook meme.
I'm taking a break from regular blogging for a couple months.  I need to finish my research project and dissertation and have a pretty tight deadline.  In the meantime I'll post quick news bits from the food world.  Then will return with the're used to seeing in this space.  


PS - If you haven't already done so, check out my friends' kickstarter campaign.  Give them money to help them expand their business and they'll send you really cool stuff in return. Everybody wins!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Great people making great beer

Image source.
The good folks at New Republic Brewery are doing what they can to expand the business of making great beer in the town of College Station, Texas.  To assist in this effort they have launched a KickStarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete their expansion. Check out the video (blogger will not allow me to embed a non-youtube video for some reason, so please click the link) and kickstarter site, and please consider donating to help some really good people make even more great beer. Minimum donation is only $1. Donations of $12 will be rewarded with swag, such as pint glasses, stickers, laptop skins, t-shirts, and much more.

Support your local independent brewery!

Friday, September 7, 2012

T. Jin's China Diner

Believe it or not there is a fierce rivalry among foodies in the B/CS area as to which Chinese restaurant in the area is the best. There are those who will only eat at Jin's World Cafe.  Some will only eat at Chef Cao's.  Some swear that others are the best or most authentic there is in the are.  I, personally, adore T. Jin's China Diner and eat there regularly. If you click on the link you'll see there are 3 locations, with one in Bryan and one in College Station. This review is for the location along Rock Prairie in College Station.

I'm also going to state from the get-go that I don't know what is and isn't authentic as far as Chinese food is concerned. I've never been to China and it's a large country so I imagine there are regional differences in the food. I do know what I think tastes good.

On this latest trip to T. Jin's my group of three got soups and entrees.

A cup of hot and sour soup.  Well balanced and a great way to start a meal.  The soup manages to be both light and hearty at the same time.  Great mushroom flavor.
Chicken Fried Rice.  The Lovely Spouse orders it time and again so it must be to his liking. 
Szechuan Chicken. I love the balance of sweet and spicy.  Lots and lots of veggies.
Szechuan Eggplant.  Again this has the sweet and spicy mix, but here with all veggies.  I ate around the onions. 
The above, except the fried rice, were served with a choice of steamed (white) or fried (brown) rice for an additional fee. House specialties are also served with orange slices.

In addition to the above there are a few other entrees we gravitate towards including green beans and tofu (I like the flavor of tofu), Thai chicken and shrimp, moo shoo anything, Pad Thai, the dumplings on the appetizer menu and the meat of choice with veggies on the special healthy/light menu.  But really everything that has sounded good on the menu has been delicious there. All three of us made at least 2 meals out of the above.  If I order off the healthy menu I usually make three meals from a single entree.

The also have my favorite iced tea in B/CS.  I'm not sure what tea they're using but it has a nice, strong flavor. No sugar or cream needed.  They have beer and wine available as well.

The service has always been incredibly fast and for the most part very friendly.

Would we recommend T. Jin's?  Of course.  Again, I don't know if they're authentic or not, but I enjoy their food.

Will we be back?  Of course.  We eat here regularly.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Upcoming event

I wish I could attend this but have other plans.  Click the picture to enbiggen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Madden's Casual Gourmet

Image souce.

I've been trying to blog about Madden's for awhile now.  I love the food and dining experience there and we go every time we have something to celebrate.  However the lighting is such that it's nearly impossible to get good images of the food without using a flash.  And who wants to use a flash with fine dining?  Well, here's an attempt to do the meals here justice.

Image Source.

Madden's Casual Gourmet is located in downtown Bryan in the Bryan Marketplace. It is a chef-owned family friendly restaurant that specializes in seasonal American style fine dining, but with a low-key casual approach.  You can visit Madden's in jeans just as you can also visit there in a tux.  You'll be equally comfortable either way.

Our particular visit was last week to celebrate my birthday.  The Lovely Spouse got me a new cell phone, to replace the broken one I've been using for the past few months.  It has a new camera, which I used to take the picts here, and a screen without a series of large cracks on it.  I also got an Otter Box so hopefully I'll manage to not break this one any time soon.

This was the middle of the week at the beginning of the school year so Madden's was not busy. We started with appetizers. I got the tomato bisque and The Lovely Spouse got the deviled eggs.  As I mentioned above, the lighting is soft so the pictures were dark.  I edited them on powerpoint and paint so they might look like they came from Instagram.

The tomato bisque is light but hugely flavorful.  It's a very nice way to start a meal.  Maddens also starts meals with a nice fococcia served with high quality olive oil and an herb chiffonade.
The Lovely Spouse started with deviled eggs. I was unable to eat them due to them containing onions (listed on the menu = yay!), but he said they were absolutely delicious with a complex herbal flavor.  He said the onions served with them were a very nice touch.
Next we ordered our entrees and wine.  We got a bottle of the Tempesto for the table, which beautifully complemented my duck and The Lovely Spouse's tenderloin.

I used a flash to get this image. This is a smoked duck served over homemade jambalya, with grilled okra, topped with zucchini noodles.  The entire thing was spicy yet complex.  Not to mention the duck was perfectly, melt-in-your-mouth cooked.
Also taken with a flash. The Lovely Spouse got beef tenderloin cooked three ways. Perfectly cooked, that is. Everything was delicious.
And while Peter Madden, the chef, is known for his entrees, the desserts at Madden's are not to be missed.  I didn't get a photo of it, but The Lovely Spouse got the bread pudding.  Always creamy and delicious and served with homemade vanilla ice cream.  I got a scoop of the toasted marshmallow ice cream.  And the server happened to mention that she also had a caramel popcorn ice cream and we just had to try it.

On the left is the toasted marshmallow ice cream.  My usual favorite.  And on the right is the caramel popcorn ice cream.  Something new that totally impressed me.  It had the texture of very high quality ice cream, but tasted exactly like caramel popcorn.  Truly amazing. And a friend who joined us who doesn't like desserts completely fell in love with it.
Other items we've had at Madden's that are exceptional include the scallops, which are cooked to buttery perfection and the chili rubbed tenderloin.  The wine list is also very, very good.  And the coffee served is some of the best in the area. They also serve a nice selection of dessert cordials.

The service is always fantastic.

And while everything is fine dining quality, the prices are very reasonable.  This meal would cost much, much more in Houston, Dallas, or DC.

Madden's is also an excellent place to host larger celebrations.  They have a small, but nicely appointed, party room that may be reserved for up to around 20-30 guests.  And the restaurant itself may be reserved for private engagements.  Friends of mine tell me the service for private engagements, for both professional and private events, is second to none. This quality of service would easily cost four times as much in a large, major metropolitan area.

So, do I recommend Madden's?  Absolutely.  It's fine dining without being stuffy.  The service is fantastic while making you feel at home.

Will we be back?  I certainly hope so. :-) As I said above, it's our go-to place for celebrations.

ETA (1/21/16): Madden's is now owned by Chef Tai of Veritas. Veritas has some excellent food so I'm sure that Madden's will remain in good hands. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's my party and I'll bake if I want to...

OK, I'll admit I didn't come up with that title. I found it on another blog, whose name I can't remember, while searching for things to bake for the ol' birthday. 

Lately all of my friends are on a low-carb and anti-dessert kick. Additionally our house rules involve an "if you want it you have to make it" rule when it comes to sweets. However as it was my birthday and I really wanted baked goods, I made my own desserts.  The Lovely Spouse hosted a small party for the occasion so I served them as well.  And people asked for the recipes so here they are.

The Salted Caramel Cupcakes came from Pass the Sushi.  I made no alterations to the recipe.  I'm guessing the cupcakes didn't rise because our baking powder was old.  However the caramel filling made them moist and chewy, in a good way.  I don't own a piping bag.  I just used a gallon sized zip lock bag, pushed the frosting to an end and cut the tip with a pair of kitchen scissors. 

The Preacher Cake came from Just a Pinch. This cake is one of those "throw everything in a pan, mix and bake" kinds of recipes.  I followed the instructions for the less sweet version using 1 cup of sugar instead of two and left the icing off.  I also used pecans instead of walnuts, because walnuts taste like soap. Believe it or not I found this by clicking a link off of facebook.  People tell me no one ever clicks through the ads there.  Well, I did. And the results were tasty.

The secret to The Lovely Spouse's super savory hamburgers:  vegemite.  On its own vegemite tastes like what I imagine salt would taste like if it could decompose.  But it's super savory and chock full of "umami" therefore it makes a good flavor enhancer.  Kind of like garum.

Thanks to everyone for making this birthday special.  I loved all the facebook well wishes as well as the visit from close, local friends.  Thanks, as well, for the birthday cards from my family back in my home state. 

<3 <3 <3 <3 all around.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Azure Fusion Bistro and Sake

Azure Fusion Bistro and Sake is located at the intersection of Rock Prairie and Highway 6 North in South College Station.  You can find it next door to Luigi's and Honey Baked Ham.

This picture makes it look like it's just a bar. But it's also a restaurant, I swear.
The first thing anyone notices about Azure is the decor.  While it's dark inside, with heavy curtains to keep out the afternoon and evening sun, it's uniquely lit and decorated.  And, true to its name, it's blue.  The menu is far more extensive than any other sushi place in town and includes many, many prepared dishes that are not sushi and not even fish.  They also have an extensive sake menu that includes items not found anywhere else in B/CS.  The review and pictures here are from two separate visits.

The Singapore noodles were actually quite good.  My only complaint is that there were too many onions, which weren't mentioned at all in the menu description.  I ate around them, and the remaining noodles and veggies were good.  It just took a long time to eat because I was picking out the onions.
Soup and salad as part of a meal. Typical of what you find at other sushi places all over the US.
Mixed sushi: nigiri and a California roll.  I was somewhat surprised that the fish wasn't higher quality.  This was what I would call supermarket quality.  The nigiri was all prepared with a sauce, which leads me to believe it wasn't all that fresh.
A friend got the pink panther roll.  He was unable to finish it due to the fishy flavor. I found it also tasted of being supermarket quality. It was not improved by the addition of copious amounts of wasabi.
Given the disappointment with the other entrees the duck was a surprise.  Moist and delicate and served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes. All was perfectly umami and well-presented.
We celebrated a birthday on one of our trips.  This ended up coming with fried green ice cream. I loved the ice cream, but not the exterior breading. Luckily The Lovely Spouse thoroughly enjoyed it.
Non-birthday meals end with sectioned oranges.  Very cute and tasty.
So what are my feelings on Azure?  It seems that the sushi is not the strongest thing on the menu.  From our experiences it seems that it's best to stick with the cooked/prepared foods. So we'll do that on all future trips. The service was good. 

Would I recommend Azure?  Sure.  Stear away from the sushi towards the cooked entrees.

Will we be back? Most likely.  The location is convenient and the duck really was delicious, even if priced for fine dining.  There are other cooked items I haven't tried yet as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mongoose vs Cobra?

Believe it or not that's the name of a new bar in Houston that features craft beers.  First thing I thought of was The Bloggess discussing taxidermy. Specifically this post.  Sure enough, the bar is named after taxidermy found within the bar, as was discussed in today's Houston Chronicle here.  No word on whether or not the owners are fans of The Bloggess.  Surely they must be.

Also, Houston Restaurant Weeks have been extended until September 3 in order to include the entirety of Labor Day weekend. Not all restaurants will be participating in the extension so check the list to see if the one in which you're interested is.  According to their website, some restaurants in Montgomery and Galveston Counties will also be participating.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Messina Hof VIP Reception

Image source.

This past weekend The Lovely Spouse and I spent some time at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, TX.  They have another location in Fredericksburg, TX, but we haven't been there.

Messina Hof is a family owned and operated winery that is very well-known in the Bryan and College Station area.  If you ask around people seem to either love them or hate them.  I'm in the camp that likes some of their wines but finds the pricing to be a bit perplexing.  More on that later.  The marketing, however, is in my opinion, genius.

The parking lot gets rather full during events.
Messina Hof Winery in Bryan includes the production winery itself, fields and fields of grapes, a bed and breakfast, gift shop and wine bar, and restaurant.  Most visitors start at the gift shop and wine bar.  When there aren't special events, the winery offers wine tastings and tours for $10.  It's a pretty good tour of their production facility, which has been growing over the years, and includes tastings of their more popular wines.

The gift shop.
What most other visitors sometimes notice is the brilliant marketing machine at play.  First there are the events.  Two of the most popular ones are the Run Through the Vines 5K/10K that happens in the Spring and Harvest, which happens in Summer.  Right now we're in the middle of Harvest. And people are spending their weekends and $49-$79 a person to pick grapes for the winery. Brilliant! 

The wine bar.
In addition to the two major events the winery has something called a VIP Club. Our memberships were gifted to us, which we greatly appreciate.  Otherwise we'd never know about this.  All levels of VIP memberships get discounts on wines, the bed and breakfast, the restaurant and such, and a red beret, just like the one worn by the gentlement behind the bar in the pict above.  Last year it was nice because there were VIP receptions roughly once a season.  So far this year there's been one reception, which is the one discussed here. Now there are upgrades to the Gold and Platinum levels, which include additional events only for Gold and Platinum members.  And judging by what we saw at this reception, people are buying all of these.  Again, the only word I have for this is brilliant! 

Where the wine tastings are held. This is located within the gift shop.
Anyways, on to the reception.  The invitation stated the reception was 1:30 - 3:30 pm on Sunday.  We arrived a bit late, but still got a taste for the activities.

Real oak barrels for aging the wines.
New for this reception was a Guess the Wine competition.  At a number of stations, bottles labeled 1, 2, or 3 were placed within paper bags.  Guests that could guess the wine based on taste alone won a prize. We were all given a list of available wines, it was pretty long, and the employees were happy to give hints.  They were also happy to indulge the guests who just wanted to sip wine.

Thank goodness for mild, over-cast days in August in Texas!
There were also stations with wine and food pairings. As you can see these were pretty popular.

This was held in one of the winery's event spaces. My only criticism is the noise. It got loud.
I rather enjoyed the Paulo Cab Franc. Jammy with a velvety mouth feel and lingering berry finish.  Also available here was the Paulo Zin which had a stronger velvety mouth with greater tannin content, leading to a stronger red flavor and nose.  The Zin paired well with blue cheeses and sausages, while the Cab Franc paired well with milder cheeses. Both would probably be lovely with red meats and spiced pastas.
There were also tastings in the warehouse. Not very busy at this time because there were announcements being made on the patio. The staff was all wonderful during the event and provided excellent customer service.
Just a reminder that this is a real, working winery.  We could have gotten tours of the production area, but we had been through them before.  If it's been awhile since you've been you'll notice they've expanded quite a bit.
This is just fun. Also another great idea.
The grounds at Messina Hof are lovely.  They have a nice set-up for weddings and other special events.
Special announcements from the Bonarrigo Family.  CEO duties are being passed from father to son.
I like Messina Hof.  And I enjoy their wines.  They have a good selection from wine-geek reds through the sweetest kool-aid varieties favored by many.  The family is lovely and are truly nice people, even when not doing any sort of business with them.  And they are truly passionate about what they do.
Some of the seating in the wine bar.
The only reason I often don't purchase their wines for general consumption is because of the price.  There's stiff competition among the wines available for purchase at your average grocery store (in Texas) or wine bar. The entire Paulo Signature wine series (of which the Cab Fanc above is a member) retails for $44 a bottle. That price puts the wine in my Special Occasion category.  It's rare that I spend that much on a bottle of wine.  I'm more in the up-to-$20 per bottle categry and usually spend up to $10 for a bottle of table wine. The Cab Franc is good...but not enough for me to spend that kind of money on it. I know my folks enjoy the Solera Sherry so I don't hesitate to spend the $30 for a gift bottle for them.  But, again, at that price it's not something I would be buying regularly.  I like the ports, even the not-a-true-port-by-definition Port of Call (available at grocery stores here).  But, again, the $19-$30 pricetags put them out of my every day range, making it more likely that I'll purchase a different brand.  The exception is the G-miner, which is exceptional served with turkey. I usually purchase a bottle to go with Thanksgiving dinner every year.
Additionally, we have tried the restaurant at Messina Hof. The prices and setting are undeniably fine dining.  But the meal, beyond the bread and sampler appetizers (the Paulo antipasto and Texas wine and cheese plate), was forgetable.  There's incredible competion in town from Madden's, Christopher's and The Republic. Forgetable doesn't cut it for fine dining. And we're just not interested in the murder mystery dinners or cooking classes. 
I have been told, however, that they are fabulous for hosting events, including professional events.  Judging by the VIP reception, I believe that. 
As for us, we'll continue to visit Messina Hof strictly for lower key things like wine tastings.  It's also a good place to take out of town guests.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's all about the flavor. No, really!

I'm Ryan, a.k.a. Static Source, but you know me as Lovely Spouse (I didn't have any say in the nickname).  My wife asked me to consider adding an entry or two to the Cibatarian blog since I'm an avid foodie and cook.  My own blog (Static Source, in case you didn't catch it two sentences ago) is all about making stuff.  Specifically I make... well... stuff.  I make pretty much anything that inspires me, really, and fortunately I also make dinner, so that qualifies.  I'll be adding some of my food based inspirations both here and on my own blog from time to time.  Think of it like those fun cross-over events that were so popular on TV in the '80s where the cast of one show would appear on the set of another and everyone would act like it was perfectly normal while the live studio audience went crazy.  I suppose I need a title, then.  Since I didn't have any say in my nickname I claim full license to select my own title.  From this day forth I shall be known as "Contributing Editor" since I get to contribute... and edit... at least I get to edit what I contribute.
It's over 100 degrees outside, and that can only mean one thing: Hatch Chile Season!  While everyone else in Texas is looking for anything at all to help them cool off foodies in the South are turning up the heat.
I was born in New Mexico, and I grew up in Texas.  My mother was born in Arizona, and she grew up all around the American Southwest.  To put it mildly I grew up with spicy food.  My mother introduced me to the incredibly complex flavor of the green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico in a recipe her mother had taught her when she was young: green chile burritos.  I hadn't seen the chiles since I moved away to go to college in 1992 until a few years ago when I happened, much to my surprise, upon a basket of rather sad looking Hatch chiles at a local super market, and my mouth began watering immediately.  The smell of the peppers is unmistakable, and I took every pepper they had on the shelf.  I roasted them myself once I got home by putting them on my barbecue grill and rotating frequently until the skins were blistered and blackened all the way around.  Since then H. E. B. and the Central Market in Houston have begun annual Hatch Chile Festivals at which they fire roast the peppers by the bushel for you at the store and send them home with you piping hot.  Temperature-hot, that is.  Well also flavor-hot, of course.  Why did we have to use the same word for both in English?  It's so much easier in Spanish where "caliente" means temperature-hot and "picante" means flavor-hot.  Picante sauce therefore just means "hot sauce", and "hot" picante sauce is redundant.  Not that I speak Spanish fluently.  I don't even have any Latin or Spanish heritage.  I just like the food, and growing up in Texas I've learned more than a little Spanish.
The following recipe is the first with which I have ever come up on my own.  It's really simple, which is why I chose to lead with it.  It takes about forty minutes from prep to table, but about half that time is waiting while the potatoes boil.  It's perfect if you happen to be doing other things at the same time.
 - 5 pounds of potatoes cut into 3/4 inch cubes (skins-on is my preference)
 - one stick of butter
 - one cup plus one shot glass of cream (I didn't say this recipe was diet friendly)
 - five to ten minced, roasted Hatch green chiles with the stems and seeds removed (hot or mild,  I like hot)
 - salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a large stock pot with a tablespoon of salt and oil.  When the potatoes squish easily between two spoons (about twenty minutes) drain the potatoes and return them still hot to the stock pot.  Add the butter, Hatch chiles, and cream and mash with a potato masher or ricer to the desired smoothness.
If you decide to try this recipe at full strength your first time out (10 hot chiles) have the shot glass of cream right next to your plate.  If it turns out that you've gotten in over your head with the heat of the chiles take the shot and swish it around in your mouth until the flames are extinguished.  The fat in the cream will help dissolve the capsaicin (the naturally occurring chemical that gives peppers their characteristic heat).  I accept no responsibility for the effects you may experience the following day (we've come to call it "afterburners" or "the ring of fire").

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TGI Fridays

Fridays has been around for a long time.  And I feel they don't get any respect as a restaurant.  Probably because they've been around for so long.  I remember hanging out there as an undergrad *cough* years ago.

I'm going to guess they also don't respect for this reason:
Gif source.
Luckily for the restaurant themselves they've changed over the years.  The waitstaff are no longer required to wear so many piece of flare.  And while bits and pieces of the decor remain, the branding has been revamped and the menu has changed.

We went on a night when we were both hungry for carbs so we started with the pretzel sticks in the appetizer menu. Doughy pretzels served with a beer cheese dipping sauce. Bacon is involved so you know it tastes good. [My picts are dark due to the amber-toned lighting in the table seating area.]
Beer's available in 2 sizes. I like that they have Shiner on draft.
I typically order off the "Right Portion Right Price" menu.  Here's a 6 oz sirloin served with steamed broccoli and sweet potato fries.  According to the menu this would be 700 calories with double broccoli. I just really wanted those fries, though. :-)  The sirloin was much futher cooked than I wanted but the taste was there. And it was one of the less expensive items on the entree menu.
The Lovely Spouse got the rum ribs with slaw and sweet potato fries. He said the ribs were sweet, as he was expecting.
Obviously he enjoyed them because there was a caveman pile left over.
We didn't get dessert because we didn't feel the need for it. I'm told the desserts at Fridays are quite good.  We just never bother with them.

Other items on their current menu (it changes seasonally) we've had on other trips that we'd recommend include the Strawberry Fields Salad (with the optional grilled chicken) and their burgers.  During marathon season they have special menu designations for items recommended for training, carb loading and recovery. They're also running a Pick 2 for $10 special. 

The bar area after re-branding. It's a lot more bright than the dark Friday's of years ago. They have nightly drink specials.
The wall decor remains, but there's just less of it than before.
The service is always good.  And the food is generally not perfect but what I've come to expect with a chain restaurant that wants to compete with the many, many others on the market.  The prices are competitive.

So, yea, Friday's is very much the mid-range chain restaurant they've always been. But they've updated with the times and have been smart about keeping up with a changing menu.  I never expect fine dining with them and I don't expect the same kind of experience I find with a mom-and-pop establishment.  But for a casual mid-week night out, there are far worse places you could choose.