So my father-in-common-law was in town from a Bickford'sless area, and missing the Big Apple pancake that he loves, and we live close to the one in Woburn/Burlington, so we went. It was the first time we had gone since the remodel that turned them into a "Bickford's Grill" (or maybe "Grille", I don't recall)
I had already had breakfast, and (oddly, for me) didn't feel like having another one, so I had resigned myself to a mediocre burger - but when they remodeled the room, they remodeled the menu, too. I didn't trust them enough yet to order any of the lobster preparations they tout on the menu (lobster roll, lobster pie, steamed lobster), or the steamed clams appetizer (at a Bickford's! I could only imagine them coming individually wrapped in silver dollar pancakes...), but decided on the fried haddock sandwich.
Surprise one: the sandwich was okay. It was a real piece of haddock, competently fried, it tasted fine, the menu swore up and down that it had never been frozen, and I believe it. It was a decent pub-style fried haddock sandwich, which made it the best non-pancake entree I had ever eaten at a Bickford's.
Surprise two: really good onion rings. Thinly-sliced sweet onions, light batter, again competently fried, exactly the kind of light-blonde crumbly sort of coating I like on an onion ring.
Surprise three: for an additional pittance ($.99 or something?) you can upgrade from plain old fries to sweet potato fries, so I did, like I always do wherever I can. (My brother-in-common-law didn't, and I made the better choice - the french fries, surprisingly, were exactly what you'd expect - those bland, oversized flattened rectangles of possibly-frozen potatoey substance that are the default in any "casual dining" restaurant) The sweet potato fries were good - crispy instead of flabby (hard to do with sweet potatoes without burning them), minimally processed, well- but not over-salted.
None of these surprises make Bickford's a new destination for me or anything, and I'll still probably never try their lobster or their steamers - but it's always nice to have your expectations exceeded, and I'll grumble less the next time I have to go there.