Saturday, September 24, 2011

…Chili’s?! (I think not!)

Before you ask, NO, you cannot get extra credit by going to Chili’s!

And here’s why…

I was invited to meet some of my middle school teacher friends at Chili’s before they chaperoned the Middle School Teacher Dance on September 16th.  I never get to see my middle school teacher-friends, now that I am teaching at the high school, but I wanted to see and hang out with them, even if it was for a little bit.  I also had a gift card to use that a certain other Spanish teacher – who shall remain nameless, but I’m sure not anonymous - bought me for my birthday 2 years ago (which shows you how often I go to Chili’s). 

If you didn’t know, middle school teachers are probably some of the most fun people you’ll ever meet.  You’ll never understand that unless you become a middle school teacher yourself, but it’s a fact.  No lie.  No doubt.  You, as a student, may think that middle school teachers are lame, but I will tell you, it’s quite the contrary.

Anyway, I met 7 other teachers at the Chili’s in West Mifflin…first it was 5, then 4, then 6…yeah, we’re not good at figuring out exact numbers (even though 3 math teachers were part of the group).

The waitress came to take our drink order, and I was going to get an iced tea to drink, but then I was reminded that they had mango iced tea.

I love mangoes.  A lot (remember?)

Of course, I ordered a mango iced tea, and no trip to Chili’s would be complete without ordering the bottomless chips and salsa.

My iced tea arrived, and I took a sip - you know how some beverages have that…perfume-y taste to them?  Yeah….this definitely tasted like cheap perfume instead of mango.  What a letdown.

I was trying to order something relatively healthy, considering how much I have eaten out lately (and will be again this week).  Chili’s is probably one of the worst offenders for making foods seem “healthy”, when they’re still horrible for you, calorie-wise.  I used to order the Quesadilla Explosion Salad often when I went there in the past; that is, until I found out that this salad – which sounds super-duper healthy, right?  Salad? – has 1400 CALORIES!  For someone who is only supposed to eat 1800 calories per day, and likes to eat often, this is no longer an option for me.  They have “guiltless grill” options, so I chose the Margarita Chicken, which was supposed to be margarita-flavored (so basically, lime-flavored).

I wasn’t expecting a culinary masterpiece, and the presentation is nice (although black beans always tend to look like a protein-spill-in-a-bowl...), but…umm…it tasted like grilled chicken.  No exciting, pucker-y lime flavor.  No exciting, flavorful seasoning.  How lame.

Looks can be deceiving.

Oooh, but check out those grill marks - a true sign of grilling perfection (total facetious tone as I say that, however...)

I was hungry, so my meal was gone way before anyone else was done – a few people had ordered the crispy chicken tacos, which were enormous compared to what a “real” taco (like from Smoke) should look like, along with sides.  I had a student complain to me already that the tacos at Smoke are too small, and I told her that that’s because we’re used to the “bigger is better” theory, our portion sizes have increased dramatically, and those “too small” tacos area actually more filling than you think.  Our perceptions are skewed here in America. 

My meal, as you can see, simply came with rice and black beans, not atypical for a Mexican-style meal.  And let’s compare calories – Margarita Chicken – 550 calories.  Crispy Chicken Tacos – 1630.   I think I chose wisely…

However - so much for my “healthy” meal - I continued to indulge in the chips and salsa.  The chips were “homemade”, and were probably the best part of the meal, but the salsa was way too tomato-y and did not have enough flavor.  REAL Mexican food has flavor – cilantro, onions, peppers, garlic, and hints of seasonings such as chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper - add to the unique flavors of Latino cooking.

The chips and salsa experience is supposed to be about the salsa – not the chips.  Way to blow it, Chili’s.

The company made up for the difference.  My teacher-friends and I spent about 1 ½ hours catching up on each other’s lives before most of the teachers had to split for the dance, so it was well-worth the poor food experience, in that respect.

Sometimes we cannot help the choices that we make because we are at the mercy of others, but food, no matter where or when or how, brings people together.  Despite the choice of venue, I was able to choose a (relatively) healthier (although not at all tasty) meal, while still enjoying the company of my friends. 

No, you will not get extra credit for eating at Chili’s.  Go somewhere new.  Go somewhere authentic.  Go somewhere where both the company and the food come together for a more memorable and enjoyable experience.   My friends and I have already decided to do so…

Chili’s – West Mifflin
2207 Mountain View Dr.
West Mifflin, PA 15122

Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

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