What You Should Never Order From TGI Friday's

Founded in 1965, TGI Friday's has become a staple on the American sit-down casual dining scene. With more than 850 restaurants across more than 50 countries, it's not uncommon to see a TGI Friday's in any American mid-size town, right alongside competitors such as Applebee's and Olive Garden.

But when the restaurant industry is struggling to attract customers, can restaurants such as TGI Friday's really rest easy on their laurels, assuming they're too big to take down? TGI Friday's own CEO is bemoaning the fact that the restaurant industry is suffering (not a good look for the brand), and some of the restaurant chain's announcements seem to say that it's attempting to innovate in order to stay relevant. For example, one marketing campaign is latching on to the 2020 election, with a presidential bid for TGI Friday's famous potato skins. Meanwhile, TGI Friday's additionally appeared on the premiere of the latest season of Undercover Boss, and a new partnership with Beyond Meat brings more plant-based options to the table.

But are all of these efforts enough to make up for a menu riddled with issues? From frozen and microwaved seafood to appetizers with enough sodium to cover your dietary intake for a week, here are the menu items you should never order from TGI Friday's.

Don't order any high-end liquor from TGI Friday's

While most diners aren't going to TGI Friday's and expecting a high-end dining experience, when you order a spirit neat, especially a top-shelf spirit, you expect to get what you pay for. Unfortunately, that's not always been the case at TGI Friday's, though.

Several years ago, 13 New Jersey locations in the chain were, as part of a year-long investigation, found out to be swapping out their high-end liquor for cheaper variants, or sometimes not even liquor at all. The "Operation Swill" initiative claimed that one of the bars it investigated served rubbing alcohol mixed with caramel food coloring as scotch, while another tried to pass off dirty water as liquor.

The TGI Friday's corporate office addressed the issue and called it "very disturbing" and said that "if accurate... would represent a violation of our company's values and our extensive bar and beverage standards which are designed to deliver the highest guest experience in our restaurants."

So, before you order that top-shelf whiskey, think twice. You might be safer saving your money and going with one of the chain's other beverages.

Stay away from the endless appetizers at TGI Friday's

One of the biggest, most popular promotions that TGI Friday's runs is its Endless Appetizers promo. For a while there, TGI Friday's and endless apps were pretty much synonymous — and for a good reason. TGI Friday's was one of the very first restaurants to offer such a promo, when it first appeared in 2014. Then, you could just pay $10 and get one appetizer from the menu with unlimited refills.

Since then, things have changed a bit — you can now mix and match appetizers, for a more varied dining experience (because really, how many mozzarella sticks can one person truly eat?). TGI Friday's also announced endless apps would become permanent, in 2017, though that seems to no longer be the case, with the deal disappearing and returning to the menu intermittently, usually in the fall, and at $12 instead of $10.

But when the Endless Appetizers promo is running, why should you avoid it? It's generally not worth your cash, even if it might seem like a great deal. Technically, you're not allowed to share your appetizers with the table, which means you're left to eat an entire serving of the appetizer of your choice on your own. Can't finish it all? Well, there are no doggy bags either, and even if you do want more appetizers, subsequent servings after your first order are halved — which means there's a good chance you'll be left waiting a while for a refill every few bites.

Take a pass on the TGI Friday's soups

If you want to eat reheated, frozen soup, you could likely do that at your own home, no putting on pants and driving to a TGI Friday's required.

Over the years, TGI Friday's has offered a range of soups on its menu, including French onion, white cheddar broccoli cheese, chicken noodle, chili, clam chowder, tortilla, and tomato basil. But according to one employee who dished some secrets on Reddit, they're all frozen, then microwaved to order.

Additionally, Reddit user "jmacdoogs" notes, the soups all contain meat-based stocks, so if you're eating vegetarian and think you're safe with the French onion soup or white cheddar broccoli cheese, or even the tomato basil — think again. "There is a LOT of things we microwave," they say, "... This goes for almost every side we offer including broccoli, rice, spinach, the black bean burger, all soups, spinach dip, both types of mac and cheese. Just of [sic] the top of my head."

Don't order anything you think is vegetarian from TGI Friday's

If you're avoiding the soups for their meat-based ingredients, you might as well just go ahead and avoid anything else you assume is vegetarian while you're at it. Another TGI Friday's employee took to Reddit to drag the chain's culinary habits, saying "anything 'vegetarian' actually isn't." The user, "goodbyeshrimp," had fellow employees backing them up.

User "my_soul_must_be_iron" commented, "I used to work at a Friday's and everything you said is spot on ... I always tell people to stick to steaks and fried items."

Taking a look at the TGI Friday's allergen menu pretty much confirms this pattern, with a shocking number of traditionally vegetarian or even vegan items containing meat products. Why is there meat in the warm pretzels? Meat doesn't belong there.

This is really a shame for anyone dining at TGI Friday's who has a food allergy or has chosen to avoid meat and meat byproducts, as a lot of the items you might be able to rely on at a similar restaurant just aren't an option for you, and knowing what is or isn't safe to eat requires a bit of extra homework.

Avoid the steak and lobster special from TGI Friday's

Another seasonal promo that TGI Friday's fans rave about, the steak and lobster special, isn't something you should avoid due to any overall lack of value, as with the Endless Appetizers promo. Instead, the steak and lobster special is just kind of gross.

The steak is your typical safe-to-order, mid-range steak that you'd expect from a TGI Friday's, but the lobster is frozen, then microwaved, according to employees.

When Insider ran an article featuring the quote from the employee, which also claimed that their TGI Friday's location had a habit of keeping cooked and raw meat next to one another, the publication reached out to TGI Friday's for comment.

While the brand produced a corporate, rather vague quote on operational standards, they did not deny the existence of the frozen and microwaved lobster: "Friday's employs a third-party audit system and internal team to ensure team members adhere to the procedures we have put in place to ensure a high-quality, safe and transparent dining experience for our guests," they said.

Don't order the TGI Friday's cheddar mac n' cheese

When Reddit user "jmacdoogs" dropped their information regarding the frozen and microwaved soups, they also noted that all of the pasta and rice is made far, far in advance of diners actually ordering.

"The thing to remember is that we can't make your rice or pasta to order," they say. "That s*** was either cooked yesterday or in the morning and portioned out in little bags and weighed at 5 oz and put back in the fridge. Then it only takes 50 seconds to reheat in the microwave."

On one hand, this is a lesser offense that could be overlooked, as cooking rice and pasta is a lengthier process that a busy restaurant like TGI Friday's might not be able to handle if they want to get customers fed and out the door. On the other hand, if you're paying $20 or more for a meal that includes jasmine rice or the Cajun pasta, you probably want something a little fresher.

Of course, when you consider that much of what goes on top of the rice and the pasta has been microwaved, too (looking at you, simply grilled salmon), it's all par for the course.

The warm pretzels with beer cheese from TGI Friday's deserve a 'no'

When you think of warm pretzels with beer cheese, you are probably thinking of some sort of Bavarian treat, with freshly-baked pretzel bread and creamy, delicious, lager-infused cheddar. You probably aren't thinking of a big bag of liquid "cheese" product. But, at TGI Friday's that's exactly what you get.

According to Reddit user "jmacdoogs" in their "I'm a cook at TGI Friday's" AMA, the favorited TGI Friday's appetizer is incredibly easy to make, because, "the recipe is to add [a] couple ounces of harpoon beer to the bag labeled 'beer cheese.'"

Additionally, as we've already noted, the warm pretzels contain some surprising allergens, like shellfish and fish, which doesn't really add up. Those aren't exactly "normal" pretzel ingredients, or even normal beer cheese ingredients. If TGI Friday's decided to get creative with its Bavarian goods, it really should indicate that on the menu, without forcing diners to investigate the allergen warnings.

Skip the TGI Friday's bucket of bones

The Bucket of Bones is a TGI Friday's appetizer option that consists of "Big Ribs" with signature whiskey glaze, traditional wings tossed in apple butter barbecue sauce, and seasoned fries. (Yes, that does seem like more of a meal than an appetizer, but that's beside the point.)

The Bucket of Bones is a whopping 1,570 calories for just an appetizer, and if you're truly treating it like an appetizer, it's assumed that you'll probably be getting an entrée, too. But you've already used up the majority of your calories for the entire day. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's joint Dietary Guidelines publication, if you're a sedentary man or woman between the ages of 21 and 50, you really only need, at max, 2,400 calories per day.

And then there's the issue of the questionable name. Do you really want to ask the waitstaff for a "bucket of bones"? The name isn't even cute and kitschy. It's just plain bad.

Avoid the innocent-looking chips and fries at TGI Friday's

If you take a look at the TGI Friday's allergen warning menu, you'll quickly notice a somewhat disturbing trend. Just about everything comes with an allergy warning for fish and shellfish. Yes, even the chips and salsa. 

Additionally, the chips and salsa come with allergen warnings for eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. A normally innocent appetizer that's traditionally perfectly safe for most diners with allergies suddenly becomes a huge risk containing some of the most popular allergens in the world.

Along the same lines, the seasoned fries also come with both a fish and a shellfish allergen warning. There are also warnings for eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. These may be plausible if the fries are batter-dipped before frying, but the fish and shellfish content still doesn't make sense and seems unnecessary — especially considering that so many diners with allergies count on fries as a safe, reliable menu item.

It's likely these warnings are just do to possible cross-contamination, but it shouldn't be out of the question to expect the fries and chips be kept far away from the fish, right?

Don't order the bloody mary from TGI Friday's

So you decide that, if you don't really want to get your spirit on the rocks while dining at TGI Friday's, at least you can have a bloody mary. Usually made in big batches anyway, a bloody mary should be safe. But while there aren't any reports of the vodka in the TGI Friday's bloody marys being swapped out for rubbing alcohol, there is a separate way this cocktail could hurt your heart.

The TGI Friday's bloody mary contains 1,580 milligrams of sodium, in one, singular cocktail. The Centers for Disease Control recommends Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day to remain healthy, but the American Heart Association clarifies that ideally Americans consume less than 1,500 milligrams per day, as too much sodium in your diet can put you at risk for things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

If you already have high blood pressure (which, the American Heart Association says, more than 100 million U.S. adults do), then that daily recommended limit is even lower, with the AHA recommending cutting down to 500 milligrams per day.

All that said, you probably want to avoid the TGI Friday's bloody mary.

Skip the Chinese chicken wrap from TGI Friday's

But when it comes to sodium, none of the TGI Friday's menu items can even hold a candle to the Chinese chicken wrap. This singular wrap contains a shocking 8,220 milligrams of sodium — enough to feasibly last your body more than a week.

When you consider that many diners choose wraps as a more healthy alternative to traditional burgers, steaks and other "heavier" items often found on American dining menus, the Chinese chicken wrap is more or less a horribly disguised heart attack waiting to happen. Comparatively, other TGI Friday's wraps — the barbecue chicken, grilled chicken Caesar, and million dollar cobb — all have significantly less sodium content, all under 2,000 milligrams per serving.

Another alternative — if you just can't give up that Chinese chicken flavor, which is admittedly one of the favorites TGI Friday's has come up with — is to just order the Chinese chicken salad, no wrap required. That puts you at 2,960 milligrams of sodium, which, while not ideal, is not at all as bad as it could be.

Don't try any of the wings at TGI Friday's

The sodium fest continues when you take a look at the TGI Friday's wing menu. The restaurant offers an extensive menu of wings, both traditional and boneless, alongside a large number of sauce choices, and then even more choices when it comes to mixing and matching wing options. And that doesn't even get into the strips.

Unfortunately, none of the wing choices are exactly heart-healthy. Take, for example, the Frank's RedHot Buffalo boneless wings, with 4,100 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

If you go from boneless to traditional wings, the sodium content goes down a bit (the Frank's RedHot Buffalo bone-in wings have 2,660 milligrams of sodium). However, if you're really craving TGI Friday's wings specifically, but you're not keen on all that sodium, you could literally pick up a box of TGI Friday's frozen wings at the grocery store, and you'd be saving your body a lot of damage. The frozen wings only have 770 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Take a pass on the TGI Friday's whiskey-glazed ribs

If you're watching your sugar intake, you probably assume that you're safe when it comes to most entree items, but that's not always the case at TGI Friday's. The whiskey-glazed ribs come with an astonishing amount of sugar — 132 grams per full-rack serving. The American Heart Association recommends men not consume more than 36 grams of sugar per day, and women not consume more than 25 grams of sugar per day, so you'd be consuming approximately quadruple the recommended amount.

Another way to look at it that puts into perspective just how much sugar these whiskey-glazed ribs have in/on them? One teaspoon of sugar is four grams. So, in other words, eating those ribs is the equivalent of eating 33 teaspoons of sugar.

If you really want ribs at TGI Friday's, go for the full rack of apple butter barbecue ribs, which contain just 33 grams of sugar.

Just say 'no' to the red velvet cake from TGI Friday's

When it comes to dessert, you're probably expecting to have a little bit of extra sugar. But you might not expect 36.5 teaspoons of sugar in just one piece of cake. Yet, somehow TGI Friday's has managed to cram all those teaspoons of sugar (146 grams) into its red velvet cake.

What does that look like in calories? A hefty 1,690. Now, to be fair, TGI Friday's does say on its menu that the red velvet cake is "perfect for sharing." With three tiers of cake, cream cheese frosting, whipped cream, sprinkles, and ice cream, the dessert really is, as the restaurant proclaims, a Friday night celebration in itself. Unfortunately, it's the kind of celebration that you might regret the next morning.

Your only other dessert options, though, are the Brownie Obsession, which has a more appealing, but still frightening, 1,180 calories, and then whatever the cheesecake of the month happens to be at that time.

TGI Friday's might be a restaurant where you want to skip dessert entirely.