Quick Hits: Hats Off to Chili’s

I took a page out of Hunter’s book and went on a Casual Crusade of my own. It’s funny that whenever I eat at a chain, I find myself comparing it to that unforgivable slop known as Applebee’s. With Will and I not wanting to drive far to eat after a long day in Lancaster last week, we opted to try the Chili’s across the street from the hotel. I’m glad we did, because it was far better than I expected. Most major chains have something along the lines of the “2 for 22” deal. Here you get a smaller-portion appetizer to share and full-size meal each for $22 total. The selection is limited, of course, but it’s good enough. Where Chili’s differs is having an add-on option: for $35 you get the above two items plus two margaritas and a dessert. Why not?

Before we left, I had a couple of vodka-tonics, using some of Pennsylvania’s own Jacquin’s Royale 100 Proof Vodka. So it was a welcome relief when Will wanted to order us the Texas Cheese Fries. Not that I was drunk or anything, but that’s some damn good drunk food right there. A skillet of fries with cheese, bacon, scallions, and a handful of jalapeño peppers to sop that alcohol right out of you. As for the margaritas, they brought over two tiny, salted martini glasses. We each got our own shaker filled with ice and the margaritas themselves. All in all, it made for about three drinks each. A total bargain.

For meals, Will had a grilled chicken salad which he enjoyed, and I went with one of Chili’s staples, which was the chicken fajitas. I was taken aback by the portion size, especially as part of a deal like this. Two large breasts of chicken, grilled and seared perfectly, over a bed of onions in that burning hot skillet. On the side was a metal tray of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and cheese, with four hot tortillas. I could not even finish, because it was just so much food. Honestly, these fajitas were as good as any that I’ve had in Mexican and southwestern restaurants spanning New Jersey to Texas. Dessert was an Oreo molten cake which was more than satisfying.

There’s a Chili’s in my town, and after years of ignoring its existence, I may have to go back and give it a try. The high quality cannot be contained to Pennsylvania. At least I hope not. Job well done. This was a fantastic meal for a chain or anywhere else.

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