Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:

East Coast, USA

Review by Veronica

Friendly's is a chain of restaurants with representation up and down the east coast of the U.S. As diner chains go, it's one of the smaller ones. What are they famous for? Sit-down meals and ice cream sundaes made from Hershey's and Mars Co. candy bars, senior citizen specials, and kids who eat the stringbeans on the plate. The restaurants even have a sort of New Englandy look to them, almost like they were churches in disguise. Waitresses tend to be matronly. It's very homey, kind of Norman Rockwell-esque, in a way.

Long before "mix-ins" this place offered ice cream sundaes mixed and sprinkled with your favorite candies, cake (brownies), hot fudge, whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry -- all for a couple of dollars. It was served in a big, thick-glassed, stemmed bowl. Every franchise restaurant like Ruby Tuesday's or TGI Friday's owes their dessert presentations to Friendly's, who did it first, and I think they still do it best.

Unlike other diner chains, the portions served here are not immense -- they are actually realistic -- something like what your mother might put in front of you, and the prices are a bit lower, accordingly. There are patty melts (burgers on griddle-toasted bread, rather than on buns), fries, shakes, and that ice cream. Many Friendly's have a window that opens in warmer weather just to serve ice cream, and they do a brisk trade in quart-box sized sales of popular mixes found at the store. Their most recent ice cream invention is the Hazel and Joe -- hazelnut espresso and coffee chocolate double-sized cones. Mmmm ... and such a nice and stodgy name!

This is not a diner, by the way. There is no counter, no wise-crackin' staff, no marginally sexy anythings. It's a restaurant with booths which are built high enough on the back and sides so you don't get interrupted by the sight of others eating. Sometimes the dividers are curtains or pseudo stained glassy type boards.

As of a few years ago, there must've been some cost-cutting policies put into place. Many of the restaurants closed and the portions got smaller and the help got careless and the place was grubby and dirty. It was a real pity -- as if mom and pop couldn't handle themselves anymore and things went to pot. But they seem to still be hanging in there! In addition to the standalone stores, Friendly's is in many malls, too.

Friendly's is often the place open latest in many towns, so it's a good place to go after a movie. You can fantasize that you are in ideal America, where "retro" was not a concept and people behaved and ice cream was always good. Go here to experience a bit of innocence again.

Photos property of www.friendlys.com

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