Well as it turned out- they can! However, there is a BUT- talk to the staff first!
The table was decked with plenty to keep us entertained while we waited. We each had a cracker with the inevitable joke inside and there was a Name Them! game card where one of you has to pick a topic and the other people on the table have to come up with as many answers as they can think of. It passed the time and was a conversation starter to say the least. If you're feeling thirsty, I would recommend the Berry Blitz Mocktail-Fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries mixed with cranberry and blueberry juice then topped with Fridays® foam (if you're drivng). And if not- the Christmas Long Beach Iced Tea- Vodka, gin, rum and Triple Sec, topped up with citrus juices and cranberry juice was my husband's frink of choice.
For starters, I opted for the Nachos- A layer of corn tortilla chips with melted cheese, chilies and jalapeños. Served with spicy guacamole, fresh pico de gallo and sour cream on a hidden extra layer of crispy tortilla chips to dip. Choose from: Jack Daniel's Beef Chili or Cheese- sans the cheese, so simply guacamole and nachos.
Followed by Festive Roasted Vegetable Fajita- Garlic and roasted veg topped with a selection of dips and warm tortillas- with extra guacamole instead of the sour cream.
And for dessert- Warm Apple and Blackberry Sundae- Warm spiced fruit layered with crunchy amoretti biscuits, meringue, real dairy vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream- without the cream, meringue and ice cream.
I sent off my order, thinking that I had covered all my vegan bases and then Steve came over and talked to me about my options.
He told me that the we wouldn't be getting value for money with the nachos and suggested the hummus, chips and pitta from the regular menu instead.
All of the vegetables are apparently prepared in butter for the fajitas earlier in the day, so they had to make mine from scratch. The dessert would have also been miserable without the dairy element so he arranged for orange sorbet from the Chocolate Orange Brownie with a side of fruit.
As I'm writing this- I discovered that the hummus is actually for sharing but it was so tasty- my husband didn't get a look in! The creaminess of the hummus is in perfect balance with the tanginess of the BBQ sauce and who doesn't love dipping foods to start?
The fajita mix was bursting with loads of veggies- including butternut squash, peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes- there was such a generous portion- I couldn't finish it all- and I don't say that too often! The staff kindly gave me extra guacamole instead of the sour cream so I had plenty of avocado to spread on the tortillas before loading on the vegetables.
The dessert was a welcome palate cleanser, the coolness of the sorbet, crispiness of the fruit and the dusting of icing sugar made it taste far more indulgent than it was.
TGI Fridays is ideal if you're a veggie dating a meat eater because there is plenty for both on the menu- my partner enjoyed the Sesame Jack Frost Chicken Strips- Crispy Jack Daniel's® chicken breast strips topped with pomegranate, sesame seeds, chilli flakes and icing sugar - it's a sweet, savoury, fruity and spicy flavour phenomenon.
He followed this up with the Full Rack of BBQ Ribs- Full rack of BBQ ribs, served with Cajun spiced onion rings, winter slaw and crispy fries and polished it off with the Chocolate Orange Brownie- Chocolate brownie smothered with chocolate sauce and topped with orange sorbet.
Steve shared with me that he has another regular customer who is a vegan so he is used to tweaking the menu for him. All of the staff who served us bent over backwards to make sure everything was dairy, meat and egg free. I was really impressed with how attentive they were, given that it was a busy Friday night. In fact, I will go as far as to say I have never had any establishment make so many alterations to fit in with my dietary choices.
Although the menu doesn't explicitly state 'vegan' next to the veggie dishes- like many chains- it's worth asking what the kitchen staff can do for you. It only takes a phone call before you dine. I do hope TGI Fridays will introduce exclusively vegan dishes in future- but as it stands they are very accommodating if you start a dialogue with them.
Thank you to Steve and all the staff who made our night so bespoke- it was greatly appreciated.