Times may be tough in Egypt right now, but that hasn’t stopped several international franchises from opening up in Cairo, including fast food and ice cream chain Dairy Queen in Citystars Mall. If you’re not familiar with the franchise, DQ is a US soft serve and fast food restaurant chain best known for its delicious ice cream flavours and soft ice cream concoctions.

Its location in Phase 2’s Food Court in Citystars may easily be overlooked, as the eatery is wedged into a corner next to McDonalds. The sign reads DQ Chill & Grill, which may not familiarise you with the Dairy Queen name.

At the time of this reviewer’s visit, the staff was eager but clearly still in their training phase, as their supervisor instructed them on what to do and say in front of us. No printed menu was available; instead we read off the menu display above the front counter. The menu includes many of the chain’s staple fast food sandwiches, includes the 1/2 lb Flame Thrower Grillburger, the mushroom Swiss Grillburger and the chicken sandwich, in addition to popcorn shrimp baskets, hot dogs and iron grilled sandwiches.

We sampled the ½ lb grilled burger with cheese combo for 31.82LE (we were oddly charged an additional 1LE for the drink), the turkey iron grilled sandwich (29LE plus 1LE for the drink) and chilli cheese fries (20LE). First of all, the chilli cheese fries were disappointing: instead of the deliciously unhealthy mound of melted cheese and chilli beef on fries that we were expecting, we got a meagre portion of melted cheddar cheese with a few bits of chilli beef here and there. The mix wasn’t cheesy, the ingredients didn’t blend together and we were left discontented.

The grilled burger with cheese arrived moderately hot with the same mayonnaise sauce that we’ve tasted at other burger joints. While the meat patty was thick and tasty, the burger didn’t taste any different from other burger chains.

The turkey iron grilled sandwich was a much healthier option with its grilled whole wheat toast, but its mayonnaise sauce (which tasted quite similar to thousand island dressing) didn’t add anything special to this boring turkey and melted cheese option. Granted, this sandwich is probably the healthiest choice on the menu, but at 30LE for a combo meal, we’d opt for something juicier second time around.

Disappointing fast food aside, we came back for the dessert menu, which included DQ’s signature Blizzards (12.75LE for a mini-size) in flavours such as Kitkat, mango coconut and banana split. Our order of the Reese's peanut butter cup Blizzard was a nice though mild dessert; there weren’t enough blended Reese's bits in the soft ice cream, and the ice cream itself tasted too milky. The strawberry cheesecake Blizzard fared worse, as this reviewer’s companion complained that the Blizzard tasted more of strawberry than cheesecake.

Other desserts include the banana split (22.73LE), Oreo brownie earthquake (22.73LE) and the pecan mudslide (20.91LE), which was served in a plastic cup and tasted pretty much like a McDonald’s sundae, if it weren’t for the addition of pecans.

Additionally, DQ offers drinks like Fruit Freezes (10.91LE for a regular size) in orange, strawberry and raspberry, premium fruit smoothies (13.64LE for a regular) and Moolattés for 14.55LE.

Maybe we’re getting old and have lost touch with reality, but paying 20.91LE for an ice cream seems so farfetched. We remember the days when ice cream cones and sundaes cost less than 10LE – yes, shocking; we’re that old. Tax included, we paid 91.20LE for two combo meals and chilli cheese fries. That price seems far too high for the just okay meal that we had.