Thursday, April 19, 2012

Low quality, high prices

T.G.I. Friday's
T.G.I. Friday's (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor's note: Today, I compare meals at T.G.I. Friday's and Lotus Cafe, both in Hackensack; and publish photos of Korean comfort food in Palisades Park.

I once had a cheeseburger at what I believe was the first T.G.I. Friday's -- on Third Avenue in Manhattan.

That was decades ago, and I no longer eat cheeseburgers or any other meat or poultry, and when I did, I tried to find beef, lamb or chicken raised without antibiotics or growth hormones.

I worked in Hackensack for nearly 30 years, and never visited the T.G.I. Friday's on Hackensack Avenue, so I wished my wife well earlier this month, when my 14-year-old son said he wanted to have dinner there.

My wife, son and his best friend spent $74.90 on food and soft drinks, got $18.72 in coupon and other discounts, and ended up paying $69.11 for three, including tip and tax.

For not much more than the original amount, four of us could have had a six-course Chinese dinner across the way -- at Lotus Cafe, a BYO in the Home Depot Shopping Center.

Looking at the itemized T.G.I. Friday's check, I see lemonades for $3.49 each, with free refills.

They shared the Tuscan Spinach Dip for $9.19. According to the nutritional information on the company Web site, the dip has a whopping 1,000 calories and 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

Nothing on the Web site indicates that Chicken Fingers ($10.79) or any other meat is naturally raised. 

At Lotus Cafe, the Dinner for Four ($66) includes Chicken & Wild Bamboo Soup, Mooshu Delight, Seafood and Tofu Casserole, Filet of Sole with Ginger and Scallion, Garden Fresh Vegetable and fruit for dessert.

With tip and tax, the dinner costs about $21 per person.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 201-488-3202. Open 7 days. BYO.

Kimchi with raw oyster

Last weekend, we had another great meal at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park: Soft-tofu stew, fresh egg, seafood pancake, rice and side dishes.

The stew, a popular Korean comfort food, is $9.99 with rice and four side dishes, and tax is included in the price, which is rounded up to $10 on the check. 

The stew is available not spicy, spicy or more spicy.

A birthday party at the second-floor restaurant.
I broke a fresh egg into my bubbling soft-tofu stew with oysters.
A seafood-vegetable pancake is made from rice flour.
We love the kimchi (rear), but not when we get a raw oyster with it.

So Gong Dong Restaurant, 118 Broad Ave., Second Floor, Palisades Park; 201-313-5550. Open 7 days. BYO. Free parking on side streets.

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