Tony Roma’s is the latest American franchise to hit Abu Dhabi. Competing in an oversaturated marketplace with the likes of Chilli’s, TGI’s, The Cheesecake Factory and countless other American eateries – what makes Tony Roma’s different?
Tony Roma’s is a well established brand that has more than 150 restaurants located across six continents, that all began with a small opening in Miami, Florida in 1972. The initial restaurant was popular for its relaxed dining atmosphere, reasonable prices and signature ribs, which attracted quite a following. It would seem as though little has changed to this day.
The restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall (a place that itself is undergoing a bit of makeover, with numerous new food and beverage outlets on the way) is a small space that is simply furnished and screams casual dining. This is most definitely not a bad thing and we really appreciated the fact that Tony Roma’s puts a firm focus on family, with a varied menu that looks to cover all basis.
Our meal began with an introduction to the friendly staff and a welcome from manager Fatima, who led us to a comfy red leather booth. Screens display images from the menu… that seemingly covers everything! With salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas and an abundance of grilled items on offer… not forgetting those ribs!
The physical menu itself is large and diners are likely to be spoilt for choice. Not usually being a fan of photographs in menus, we found that it really helped in this instance and kudos to the food photographer who has managed to make each every dish look appetising.
We began with a selection of drinks. Strawberry milkshake (sweet and creamy) a cranberry mojito (that tasted more like Cheery Coke, but was delicious all the same) and last but by no means least, the wonderful mango pina swirl. A cool and refreshing beverage that takes a virgin pina colada and adds mango puree and chunks of sweet pineapple.
With retro food posters hanging in frames and entertaining slogans such as “eat, drink, be happy” and “today’s special… EVERYTHING” emblazoned across the walls. The decor prepares diners for a sense of casual fun.
For our starter we couldn’t resist the ‘kickin shrimp’ – Tony Roma’s take on the famous ‘dynamite shrimp’ made famous by P.F. Changs. We adored these tender shrimp, golden fried and mixed into a satisfying creamy sauce, that packs a little bit of a punch. More so for the fact that they were not completely smothered in the sauce, allowing for the flavour of the shrimp themselves to shine through.
‘Tony’s Sampler’ is a great choice for those looking to share, or if you are undecided on what to order. Combining a trio of the brands most popular dishes into one sharing feast. The onion loaf is of special note and is a feat of foodie engineering. As battered onions are spiralled onto the plate, creating an impressive tower of fried goodness.
Also included on the sharing platter are tortilla nacho chips and boneless bites, that are slightly on the spicy side, with the juicy chicken chunks being covered in a fiery mix of chilli. You also get salsa, sour cream, BBQ sauce and a surprisingly tasty spinach dip
With the main courses being heavily focused on steaks and the like. Options for non-fried food are also available. We tried the grilled hammour which had a good flavour and attempted to make healthier choices with the sides. Selecting steamed vegetables, that were thankfully not overcooked (a common problem in the UAE when it comes to veg) and a loaded baked potato. That despite having a great filling, was a little on the dry side.
Now ribs are the name of the game here and are the dish that has made the brand famous. Having never dined at Tony Roma’s, we had heard many great things about the ribs and were hoping for the best. First off, the ribs are gigantic! Partly in fact that ribs used here in the UAE come from cows and even the most seasoned of diners will be shocked by the size of the plate. The meat came of the bone easily and was cooked in a very desirable sweet BBQ sauce. Though a little fatty at times, we did enjoy the ribs, accompanied by fried shrimp, slaw and salted French fries.
When it comes to children’s meals, Tony Roma’s understand that it is all about keeping it simple (children can be very fussy eaters and very particular about their food). A gloriously cheesy pasta and chicken tenders were the choice for our kids, though looking for something slightly more healthy may come as a bit of a struggle.
The dessert menu on offer is short and sweet, and we sampled two of the five desserts available. The cheesecake was exactly as one would expect and came with an abundance of strawberry sauce that slightly overwhelmed the plate, but tasted good all the same.
The chocolate brownie on the other hand, impressed us with its combination of cream and ice cream. Though we would have liked for it to be served a little warmer.
The company has won numerous awards across the USA and even received national acclaimed industry recognition as “The Best Ribs in America.” Tony Roma’s are exactly what you would expect from an American influenced restaurant. With an extensive menu, good prices, massive portions and a family friendly vibe. Kids will love it as much as the adults and there is plenty to keep you coming back time and again.
We were invited to dine at Tony Roma’s though views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.