It’s a meal that even Chandler would love.
Whether or not that reference immediately jogs your memory, Taylor Shaver, the assistant general manager of the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar in Minnesota, believes the restaurant’s unique holiday menu honors a broader theme than simple nostalgia—although fans of the hit TV show Friends might be a little more than ecstatic when they see the menu crafted by Executive Chef Dinesh Jayawardena in its honor.
The theme, Shaver says, of enjoying Turkey Day wherever you might be physically, especially if that happens to be apart from the family table, is universal. “We’ve noticed in the last couple of Thanksgivings that there are a lot of people traveling. Maybe they’re staying here to meet with family, maybe they’re in between one place or another. Or maybe they’re separated from their families. And you start to hear these stories, and there becomes a need to recognize those people. That’s very important to us.”
The idea even delves a little deeper, he explains. There’s a scene in the first Friends “Friendsgiving” episode—“The One Where Underdog Gets Away”—where everyone begins making personal demands of chef Monica, especially when it comes to potatoes. Ross wants lumps, Phoebe asks for peas and onions whipped into the mix, and Joey requests tater tots. Shaver says this was a main reason his staff started to seriously consider the inspiration for this year’s menu, which is available during the week of Thanksgiving and costs $32.95 for adults ($14.95 for children up to 12 years old). “Thanksgiving conjures up the same elements in everybody’s mind,” he says. “If everyone thinks of Thanksgiving, you’re thinking of that turkey, you’re thinking of your potatoes, you’re thinking of your stuffing, green beans, and cranberries. And it is difficult to deviate from those standard elements, but at the same time, you have to recognize that everybody’s ideas of Thanksgiving are different. It represents something a little different for everybody.”
There’s no denying, however, that the staff had a little bit more fun than usual with this experience. Chef Jayawardena wasn’t familiar with the show and had to stream the episodes for background. Shaver says the menu began as a throw-into-the-pot mention and then matured once the conversation started to bounce around the room. One memory of the show sparked another, and soon they started to realize the theme could truly resonate with a large audience. Additionally, it created a wide enough canvass for Chef Jayawardena to imprint interesting and personal flavors.
The first course is Phoebe’s Gathered Greens Salad, which is followed by Monica’s Famous Turkey. The turkey is the restaurant’s recipe and starts as a fresh product. A choice of three mashed potatoes is offered—Mashed Potatoes with Gravy like Ross’ Mom Used to Make; Phoebe’s Favorite Whipped Potatoes with Peas and Onions; and, of course, Joey’s Special Tater Tots.
There’s also Central Perk Maple Glazed Yams and Apples, Green Beans for Phoebe, and Crimini Mushroom, Crispy Shallots, and Cranberry Orange Relish Perfected by Monica.
The dessert is Pumpkin Praline Pie with Whipped Cream, with a reminder that it’s “so much better than Rachel’s traditional English trifle,” an odd mixture of ladyfingers, jam, custard, raspberries, more ladyfingers, beef sautéed with peas and onions, a little more custard, sliced banana, and whipped cream.
“It was great because we didn’t need to read off their script and go,” Shaver says. “You look, you watch, you laugh, you revisit, then you look at the bits and pieces we have in our kitchen and then say, ‘Oh yeah, this is something we could do in our kitchen.’ It was a lot of fun and we think people will really enjoy it.”