On Veteran's Day, I want to recognize restaurants that honor the military with free meals. These acts of generosity (which many also do on Memorial Day) is appreciated by most of the military and veterans like myself. For some such as the homeless, lunch/dinner from places like Hooters and Blues City Cafe is one of the few decent meals that they will have this year. While I'm fortunate to have a home and a job, I'm just as grateful for the gratitude shown by these charitable restaurants.
One of the many restaurants offering free meals is T.G.I. ("Thank God It's") Friday's. I usually get cheeseburgers whenever I'm there, but this time I chose something different for Veteran's Day. For lunch (which is the only time (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) that T.G.I. Friday's offer it), I got the Korean Steak Tacos. Wrapped around corn tortillas and loaded with ginger lime slaw, cucumbers, cilantro, basil and Sriracha sauce, the tacos are sweet and spicy in a non-gimmicky cheap Chinese take-out way. A little less of the former and slightly more of the latter, the tacos had a robust Asian flavor that was impressive. They came with a slice of lime that would've been an unneeded distraction. A side of jasmine rice pilaf nicely complemented the tacos, making it a complete meal. Overall, my lunch at T.G.I. Friday's was better than I expected, especially for a chain restaurant that's not my cup of tea (by the way, service was excellent). For an occasional lunch spot, T.G.I. Friday's isn't a bad choice.
Second Street Shoppers' are better on both those qualities while not costing nearly as much ($10.60 for T.G.I. Friday's skins that includes a 10% take-out service charge). I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds, but I felt it needed mentioning.
After work, I stopped by Applebee's to take advantage of its Veteran's Day special. Unlike my visit to T.G.I. Friday's, Applebee's had a full house of mostly veterans and their families. After managing to get a seat at the bar, one of the bartenders quickly greeted me with a menu. Once I looked over the menu, I chose the Three-Cheese Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato Penne to satisfy my occasional pasta craving. Consisting of grilled chicken breast strips, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, parmesan) basil, tomato pesto and Alfredo sauce, the pasta was cheesy and somewhat garlicky. I liked that the sauce was thick and creamy, something that I don't see at most Italian restaurants in America (especially at chain restaurants). The entrée also comes with a small loaf of bread (Applebee's version of bruschetta) that didn't receive until I asked for it. The buttery garlic-tasting bread tasted great after I dipped it in the Alfredo sauce. In all, I had a nice experience at Applebee's, for the food was good and the service was friendly and very attentive. While I will never be a "regular" there because of my preference for locally-owned restaurants, Applebee's is a nice place to take the family to for a nice dinner.
Again, I want to express my thanks to both T.G.I. Friday's and Applebee's for treating me and my brothers and sisters in arms to delicious meals. From the looks of the men and women that I encountered, I can confidently say that most of them enjoyed their meals. Not including myself (a nine-year Air Force vet), I feel that the meals were well deserved for those who took the oath to protect the U.S.A. Committing yourself to defend your country is a courageous act that most Americans don't either have the time and/or guts to do. I'm not saying this as a criticism, for there are many ways to serve the country. Although most will never serve, it is great that many support the military. While that's a good thing, it shouldn't be limited to verbal support and gestures like displaying magnetic "ribbons" on vehicles. To me, "support" should include accountability for our leaders who put our military in harm's way. The troops can only do what they're told, so it's up to us to ensure that they are only deployed when needed. Using the military to resolve a conflict should be a last resort, for anything less would be a betrayal to those who proudly serve. The military should be seen as one of America's greatest assets that is cherished and not taken for granted.
Veterans of the military deserve all the support it needs, such as job training, housing and in some cases, drug rehabilitation. Far too often, I've seen vets who are homeless and destitute, seemingly forgotten by society. These men and women are owed a debt greater than a few free meals a year. I hope they get all the help that they need from citizens enjoying freedom in America.
For homeless veteran assistance in Memphis, more information can be found at:
|Alpha Omega - a non-profit that helps veterans with drug rehab, mental illness and housing. Website: www.aovs.org|
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - provides job training, health care & housing assistance. Website: www.va.gov/homeless
Those living in Memphis can obtain more information at www.memphis.va.gov/services/homeless/index.asp
Veterans Crisis Line - offers help to veterans who are contemplating suicide (current rate: 22 a day). Website: veteranscrisisline.net
Labels: American, Asian, Appetizers/Bar Food, Chain Restaurants, Commentary, Family Friendly, Multiple Locations, Pasta, Tacos
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