Despite what you might think, Saudi Arabia is full of American influences. I see more GM cars on the road here than I ever did at home--and I used to live just miles away from a Saturn plant! Turn on the TV and most of your choices are in English and are American. They have McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, and boy howdy do they love KFC!
So if the Mister and I get a hankerin' for some home goodness, we just go out to eat! We typically eat at American restaurants for two reasons: 1). We know we'll find something on the menu that we'll like, and 2). There's a very very good chance that the staff will speak close-to-fluent English. We're all for experimenting and trying new foods, but on date night, it's just easier to avoid the language barrier.
Last night we went to T.G.I.Fridays. From the exterior, it looks just like a Fridays at home...except that there's a Family Section door and a Single Section door....so it's kind of like two restaurants in one. Plus, if you look just past the building toward the public park that is on the waterfront, you'll see men sitting in plastic chairs and smoking the hookah, a couple on a little rug burning a campfire so they can share a pot of tea, and children running up and down the sea wall, inches from a fall into the Arabian Gulf.
It's just like a Fridays at home!
I got a little chuckle as we walked under the "In here, it's always Friday" sign that hangs over the Family Section door. In the Kingdom, Friday is like Sunday. It's the day of worship. The day you wake up from your afternoon nap and realize you have to go back to work tomorrow. Fridays are not fun and exciting here. The sign should read "In here, it's always Wednesday."
You walk through the door and it's just like a Fridays at home. There are tchotchkes on the wall:
The severs are dressed in stripes with flair and backwards hats. And the menu looks just the same:
Well, sorta. This is actually the placemat. Our server picked up on our Whiteness and gave us English only menus. Everything on the table was in English on one side, and Arabic on the other.
There are a few things that a TGIFridays in Saudi Arabia has that you won't find in America:
Mint lemonade (or, as the receipt said "Lemodade")!! Now, at home, this would be an overpriced drink consisting of nasty Minute Maid yellow stuff with a sprig or two of mint "muddled" at the bottom of the glass. But in Saudi Arabia it's an overpriced drink consisting of fresh, hand-made lemonade which is then put into a blender with a sprig or two of mint and then combined into a heavenly concoction that I love love love!!
They don't even mess with ice! Just the minty, citrusy goodness of the two ingredients having a party in my glass and then all the way into my belly!
Another menu item that I suspect is not available at home:
Ice cream fondue! I'm not sure if this dessert is up for purchase at home, but the fondue craze has just hit Saudi Arabia, and it seems like every restaurant is adding a fondue dish to its menu. Fridays is no exception. We didn't buy it--it's more than $10!!--but it certainly looks yummy!
Last night's date night was a success--the hubbins got a bacon burger (beef bacon), and I got the garlic chicken pasta...just like we would at home. Globalization: hate it or love it, it's alive and well in the Kingdom. We're grateful that Saudi offers us a little taste of home when we need a fix.