This weekend is Northside Festival, when sweaty, music-loving New Yorkers will flood Greenpoint and Williamsburg to bounce from venue to venue checking out a pretty sweet lineup of bands. It’s also a great time for #brands doing that thing #brands do when they give out free stuff, take pictures of cool Brooklynites holding said stuff, and therefore feast on your urban cultural cachet like a logo-slathered dementor. But surely, in an era where artisanal is long dead and Johnny Rockets is considered “hip,” there is no more life left in the Brooklyn artisanal corpse to even fingerbang these days?
Well, no, because TGIFridays, the restaurant chain that first tried to bottle and export quirkiness like it was a box of frozen potato skins, is unearthing that corpse and fucking it some more by entering the food truck business. Said monstrosity of Guy Fieri-approved fried apps will park at Northside this weekend, giving out free samples to all you youngins in its Target Demographic. Don’t worry, in case you doubted its authenticity, Fridays set up a Tumblr featuring a tattooed barista too.
From Friday through Sunday, the Fridays Food Truck will be at Northside (exact location TBD, but probably around Bedford, because that’s where people still think is “cool”). My colleague Max Gross at The Post reports the truck will be handing out free sliders, ahi tuna crisps, loaded potato skins and Oreo Madness desserts. (The only Fridays in BK is way down in Sheepshead Bay, btw).
This is part of Fridays’ nationwide voyage, as it says in a press release (hold on to something), “identifying and highlighting the most compelling handcrafters in Brooklyn and across the country.”
But are there any bloggers involved?
“Fridays has enlisted a group of talented bloggers, Instagrammers and videographers to document and share both the truck’s travels and the unique stories of these incredible handcrafters via the Fridays social media channels and a tour- specific Tumblr page.” OK, phew.
So brokesters, does this mean you shouldn’t eat the free food? No, of course you should eat their free food, then walk away, come back with a false mustache and eat more free food. We would never stand in the way between you and a free slider. Just know that a chain where every location from Ohio to Florida looks exactly the same is the exact antithesis of “handcrafted” food.
We do recommend, however, that you laugh so hard that you shoot ahi spittle in their direction of anyone in the truck tries to pass off the food as anything more than mall chow. Fridays shouldn’t be able to piggyback on the idea of Brooklyn “crafters” just by showing up in town for one weekend, no more than I should be able to pass myself off as a whiskey sommelier by consuming one plate of Jack Daniel’s® Chicken & Shrimp. “Handcrafted” is basically a nonsense word now, indicating nothing more than the fact that the “food” menu was designed by a human being, and not a sentient Skynet-type system with cold robot claws that has a particularly affinity for mozzarella sticks.
You should be used to this kind of #branding astroturf campaign by now, seeing as everyone from Pizza Hut to Dunkin Donuts (don’t think we didn’t notice your “vintage wood” paneling on your Bedford Avenue location, DD) does this hipster minstrel show dance these days. Much like macrobrew crap beer companies have spent years trying various packaging gimmicks instead of, you know, actually making the product better, these corporate campaigns are a cynical stab at trying to be trendy without really making any fundamental changes.
Of course, the chain started in NYC, but it’s not exactly a beloved local institution any more. This is not a diatribe against TGI Fridays; eat there if you want, I certainly spent lots of boardwalk-job money there in high school. But brands need to stop trying to be something they’re not: you’re a suburban mall chain where people go to feel like they’re in what they think a Fun city bar is like after shopping at Aeropostale, Fridays; you’re not the fucking Cinnamon Snail.
Because, really, what the shit does a tattooed barista in Asbury Park, NJ have to do with TGI Fridays, the national home of dinner-with-stepdads? Nothing. So just be careful who takes your picture by that truck this weekend.
Follow Tim, who remembers when TGI Fridays coming to Toms River NJ was a sign that town was finally big time: @timdonnelly.