Unless you’re new to this blog, you know that I really prefer homemade ice cream, frozen yogurt and the like over store bought or chain options. It’s fresher, it’s tastier, and I know I’m supporting a business that is as local as it gets.
But winters are pretty quiet on the ice cream front in New Hampshire. And since, in an unusual turn of events, I have been to Friendly’s TWICE this year, I feel compelled to write about it, even if I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I went there.
For those who aren’t local/aren’t old enough to remember Friendly’s, here are some highlights about what makes Friendly’s unique.
- Tons of kids. Tons of kids! This is basically kid-central. They offer special deals on certain days for families, plus they have an awesome kid menu that includes lots of kids-only sundae options that are way cuter than the adult options. This is not the place to come for a quiet, or a fancy, dinner, but it’s a great choice for a group of kids or teenagers that needs their non-alcoholic food and ice cream fix. It was a very popular stop when my family wanted to go out to dinner growing up. Inexpensive & something for everyone, as long as everyone is happy with old-fashioned American food. Like chicken fingers and ice cream.
- The decor…in the past, it felt pretty dated. Red and white, the colors of the logo, are a part of the theming, and it kind of felt like a glorified cafeteria, or maybe a super-kid-friendly diner. Usually it had an ice cream counter as well as tables and booths. The decor (and how easy it was to clean it all) made it feel a little too kid-friendly to me in years past…you always felt a little dirty and silly, like going to IHOP. But, I’m happy to report that the Friendly’s locations of today (at least the two I’ve been to in Concord) are embracing their history. The walls are lined with black and white photos and articles emphasizing that Friendly’s has been a part of the New England dining landscape, for meals and ice cream, since the early twentieth century – 1935 in Springfield, MA to be exact. As a result, it seems to be more of a fun retro vibe rather than feeling like a fancy fast food place. I really like it!
- Did I mention it’s inexpensive? Their website describes the feel as “informal” and I think that’s apt. This is the place for a burger, a “Supermelt” and a sundae.
- They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve always wished you could get breakfast all day (you definitely cannot) but there’s lots to choose from here. And they are currently running a “half off breakfast” deal Monday – Friday, which is pretty awesome!
- The ice cream, of course! Now, they sell it in grocery stores, at least in New England, and as a general rule, Friendly’s ice cream isn’t super exciting. But they have some very tasty frozen yogurt – Vienna Mocha Swirl is one of my absolute favorites currently unless I’m springing for Gifford’s – and most importantly if you’re dining at Friendly’s, they have super fun shakes and sundaes. The one thing I cannot recommend, unfortunately, is a Friend-Z. It’s like a blizzard (DQ) or a flurry (McDonald’s). But in my experience growing up, they are NEVER well-mixed. Ever. It’s about 20% toppings, and then 80% vanilla for the rest of it. A definite skip. Just go find a Dairy Queen.
So, I’m sure you’re anxiously awaiting the results of my trip(s) to Friendly’s. I went with my family in January and I got a tasty fried chicken salad – you know the kind, with honey mustard dressing? Not very healthy but delightful. And I got their medium size sundae, should have gone smaller, but it’s hard to mess up Oreo ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry. My dining companions were happy too.
When Ross and I went two weekends back – I sent him a list of six cheap places, and Friendly’s was the one calling his name – we had a similarly pleasant experience. I had a tuna roll, mostly because it came with fries – the tuna was a little too dry (and there was way too much!) but the roll was tasty, and Ross had a very nice honey BBQ chicken salad which was of course not the healthiest choice but very fun.
I had a coupon due to St. Patrick’s Day week, and there were a few desserts I could save half price on. Since the Monster O’Mash sundae had a face – and since it’s a kid sundae, but the waitress told me I could order it anyway – that was the obvious choice for me. They also have Pop Tart ice cream sundaes – really! – so Ross ordered one of those. (It turned out the coupon wasn’t good yet, but they made an exception for me, which was very nice! Fill out those surveys and help those nice people out.)
My sundae was mint Oreo ice cream, with Reese’s ears, m & m eyes, a cherry nose and hot fudge hair. Since I don’t normally eat candy it was kind of overwhelming and fun. The mint always hits the spot. It was very small – which was a good call because Ross’ super-cheap ($1.99 normally/) ice cream sandwich was huge – it is actually 2 Pop Tarts, not one. He went with the chocolate frosted pop tart, which comes with chocolate ice cream. I’m not a huge Pop Tart fan. It was a great vehicle for holding ice cream and since it wasn’t overly sweet, it was kind of a nice compliment, but not my favorite thing. Hard to mess up chocolate ice cream though! Ross was really enjoying the flashback to his childhood.
Our Friendly’s dining experience was as nice as we could have asked for. I definitely recommend an ice cream stop in a pinch, and the food is always satisfactory enough if it isn’t something I’d crave. I don’t think I’ll be returning for dinner any time soon. Maybe in another five or ten years. But hey, you never know. Sometimes, especially when you’re on the highway driving, you just want a taste of your childhood…
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