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Chili’s – Deptford, NJ

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Downright frigid.

Chili’s – Deptford, NJ
1760 Clements Bridge Road
Deptford, NJ 08096-2010
(856) 384-1212
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 430p
Price (excluding coupons): $37
Website: Chili’s Website

A few weeks ago I got a gift card for Chili’s and decided to take the girlfriend for a spin to the Deptford location. With nearly an hour wait on a Friday night, that didn’t work out so well and we bailed. The following Saturday, we tried again to use the freebie and had better success hitting the senior circuit around 430p. We still managed to wait 10 minutes or so in a poorly conceived holding area that spilled into the bar and dining room floor. No worries though, as we were fortunate enough to spot a BOGO Chili’s coupon in the redplum spamular, so we were in for a pretty cheap night. Gift card with a coupon .. how can a woman not be impressed?

There wasn’t anything remarkable about the outside of the restaurant. It looks like your cookie-cutter casual sit-down restaurant complete with oversized corporate logo. Horray for originality. Inside, looking past the abysmal pre-seating, I was a bit turned off by the cleanliness of the store. Several tables were left uncleaned, and I caught one of hostesses complaining about not having any tables available because none of them were clean. The bar area was really small and is too close to the entrance. In the winter, that means you don’t want to sit on the end of the bar because it’s cold and even noisier than it would be elsewhere. We opted to just wait for a dining table when someone got around to cleaning it. After the aforementioned 10 minute wait (when we could see a half-dozen empty but uncleaned tables), we were escorted to a rear addition of the building to take our seat – well, kind of. Even though we were walked back there by the host, there wasn’t really a seat available. Jokes on us! At that point, I was getting annoyed and just picked what looked like a vacant table and sat down. When our host objected and said that someone was sitting there, a kind couple across the row let us know that they in fact left. Nothing like finding a seat because someone else was tired of waiting.

Surprisingly, our waiter got to us pretty quick (perhaps because he spaced on the last guys, who knows). I was looking forward to getting some freebie chips and salsa, but apparently Chili’s thinks theirs are too good to just give away. I can respect that, and decided to shell out the reasonable $3.29 to get the appetizer anyway. Unfortunately, I don’t think the brass at Chili’s management actually tried the chips because they’re probably the worst I’ve had in a restaurant. In fact, if you went into your local supermarket and bought their store brand tortilla chips, they’d dominate Chili’s. We’re talking about paper-thin tortilla-flavored wafers loaded with salt. Way, way too much salt. More water, please.

After rocketing our sodium intake to levels unknown, we hoped for better luck with the dinner entrees. Autumn tried the chicken fajitas, coming in at $12.99, and I tried the taco sampler (two smoked chicken and two crispy shrimp) at $9.99. As is becoming the case more and more, Autumn’s was much better. Her fajitas came to the table sizzling on a hot plate, with a pile of onions and peppers alongside a nicely seasoned set of grilled chicken strips and all the fixins (lettuce, salsa, sour cream, guac). It was definitely enough for three full fajitas. She was a little bummed they didn’t give more peppers proportional to the onions, but otherwise she enjoyed it.

My tacos, though, were not so solid. You get 4 soft shell mini-tacos wrapped in paper staggered in a metal mini-taco-contraption. If you get them, take them out the wrappers first, as they will STICK to the wrapper and really make a mess out of your taco. Lesson learned. The smoked chicken ones were really good .. with a nice, unique, cheesy flavor I really enjoyed. The shrimp ones, however, didn’t really mesh that well for my palate. The cole slaw was supposed to be spicy, topped with tequila lime sauce and cilantro. That sounds like 3 really bold flavors, but the cole slaw overwhelms everything and I just tasted like someone dumped fried shimp and coleslaw in a bowl. It’s definitely a flavor you dont have everyday, but in the same respect it wasn’t a very good flavor. Mine came with a tiny portion of rice (a big spoonful!) and a good side of beans.

For desert, we needed something that could travel with us so we tried the sweet shots. We picked the red velvet cake, warm cinnamon roll, and double chocolate fudge brownie. We both love chocolate so we naturally really liked the fudge brownie, but disagreed on our thoughts on the other two. I really liked the velvet cake, and Autumn preferred the cinnamon roll. Either way, we both agreed they were a good, not great, ending to the meal.

Looking around the restaurant, we saw our friendly neighbors from across the row send back an appetizer, and a general sense of frustration with another table waiting for their food. I didn’t see a lot of really satisfied faces. I simply didn’t understand why everyone was there. Hopefully, they’re all getting the same junk mail that I am and they’re using that coupon. Even with, you might just have a better time somewhere else.

Pros:

– We had a good waiter
– Good menu choices (including 2 for $20)
– Email club (that’s how you get free chips – if you want them – once)

Cons:

– Chips
– Cleanliness
– Crappy bar
– Poor management

Guru’s Score: 1.9 Chews
Autumn’s Score: 2.0 Chews
Combined Score: 1.95 Chews
★★☆☆☆
Subjective rating: At the bottom of the casual/retail barrel.

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