Hunter’s Casual Crusades: Applebee’s is a Disaster All Over

Photo source: The Business Journal
Photo source: The Business Journal

Surprisingly enough, there are exactly 2,033 Applebee’s locations sprinkled across the United States. They boast themselves as “The Neighborhood Grill”. To me, that just means there’s 2,000-plus neighborhoods I definitely would not want to live in.

I’ve checked into locations all over New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even dined in their three-story New York City venue. Let’s be honest: if it was not for the numerous flat screens showing sporting events and Pay-Per View, the place would be a disappointing ghost town. The single ace they hold in their losing hand is their bar, the only thing always filled. That should not surprise anyone due to the simple fact that you would have to be wasted in order to want to be there in the first place. Their appetizers are alright, as long as you do not get too many at once. Apparently that’s too complicated for the kitchen staff in any region. At various visits and locations, appetizer samplers I like to order have been utter disasters—enough to cause laughter.

Spinach dip is crusted on top and like glue all the way through. Ever notice that even though it appears to be smoking-hot, it’s actually cold in the middle? Microwave cooking at its finest. The thickness makes dipping any chips beyond the point of possibility. It would not matter anyway, because I’m never given any whole chips to dip with. More like bits and pieces. I wish these were leftover chips from the bottom of the bag. Instead it was like the bag fell off a truck. As far as mozzarella sticks, they must be cooked inside a sauna. There’s so much moisture and condensation on the outside of them, I’m left wondering if they were dropped on the floor and rinsed off under the faucet.

I used to be in love with the wings everyone raved about, but I would be ashamed to recommend them now. I was tired of dropping just short of $20 on a crappy sampler to receive just three popcorn-sized “wings.” So I often ordered the boneless wings by itself, which makes no significant difference. The first thing I notice is the wings are not served in the normal cheap plastic baskets anymore. They must have went to my house and taken the charred crumb tray out of the bottom of my toaster, and put my wings on that—clearly too lazy to plate the six tiny bits I receive in any fashion.

Expect Applebee’s to announce a nationwide sauce shortage too; when I pick up a wing from the wet plastic sheet, there’s zero sauce residue left behind. Like the earth with water, only 70% of the wings are covered, and that’s rounding up. I can see the original chicken bite’s golden crust as opposed to buffalo sauce or honey barbecue. I wish I could even see the crust around the chicken itself, but it often falls off onto the tray. The best thing about the dish would be the celery sticks, if I was given more than a ketchup packet’s worth of ranch or blue cheese.

The Quesadilla Burger from Applebee's own website. In their dreams it looks this good.
The Quesadilla Burger from Applebee’s own website. It only looks this good in their dreams.

Formerly featured on the menu with a single giant picture was the usually competent Quesadilla Burger. A delicious burger patty topped with jack and cheddar, “Mexi-Ranch” sauce, pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce on none other than a perfectly toasted tortilla. It was the shining star of this restaurant. I consumed it for the first time after a disappointing hockey game loss. It lifted my spirits. Absolutely incredible! It was like a beacon of light in a sea of darkness. But then something went wrong. The next few times I ordered it, I shook my head in shame. It was mashed, soggy, and disgusting, falling apart and dripping with grease during every bite. It was my own fault for thinking it would get better or at the very least maintain the same quality. But nope. You needed a freakin’ shovel to pick up this train wreck. Serving it in a bucket with ten trees worth of napkins would have done it justice. I ordered a burger, not beef nachos. A success turned into a mess.

I could go on about this all day, or you could just look at the official rating Applebee’s shows on their own website. A 6.5/10 is not exactly something I’d display— a “good enough” at best. Like getting a 65 on a test in a subject you hate. You’re just happy you did not bomb totally. That pretty much sums up this lousy chain.

Hunter Dillon is a guest blogger on Eating New Jersey. As a hockey player, he is always on the go, which has served as the inspiration for his “Casual Crusades” column. He has more than four years of restaurant kitchen experience and can cook up the best cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia. 

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