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An American chain of casual dining restaurants.

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Applebee's: Contributing to the downfall of a nation

  • Oct 13, 2000
  • by
Pros: Fifty types of chicken!

Cons: Bland, wretched cuisine designed to hasten the downfall of Western civ.

Oddly, the Applebee's web site offers more damnation of its restaurants than I ever could. From a section touting its children's menu:

This is your restaurant. No brussels sprouts or lima beans. We don't even try to sell liver. Kids love the yummy food on their own special menu at Applebee's. Your tummy will love it, too. We've got the best meal of all, our famous chicken fingers basket with french fries. And all the hungry-mungries will want to chow down on our hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

Vegetables are icky. Fried, pig-out (sorry, "hungry-mungry") meals are the order of the day. Feeding children frighteningly unhealthy and fattening food is, of course, best done while you are a little bit tipsy yourself; like T.G.I. Friday's and other similar purveyors of bad food, irritating servers and garage-sale decor, Applebee's prides itself not on finely-made classic beverages [*] but "Bahama Mamas" and the like.

I'm given to understand that this is a chain with some wild variations between franchise locations. Fine. My experiences with various Applebee's have been uniformly abysmal. I don't see any excuse for this place: it is not good food, it is not deeply discounted, the atmosphere is nothing appealing, and so on. It seems to survive on two groups:

* those desperate for food, viz: people on road trips et al who must pull off at the next exit no matter what it is because they're starving (me)

* people who simply like a lot of bland, fatty food served in an environs that does not require them to change out of their pyjama-like "casual" clothes

Vegetarians should just try and live off the crackers in the back of the car, mind. I have only witnessed two vegetarian entrees on Applebee's menus: the obligatory Gardenburger (not great), and a steamed vegetable plate, cheese on top optional. I've only actually managed to order the latter once; they specialize in running out of it, presumably because it is the only dish that requires vegetables. At any rate, "steamed" meant "dripping in low-quality butter," and somebody in the kitchen (or, more likely, corporate HQ) labours under the belief that all vegetables need the same cooking time, leaving you with crisp potatoes and shrunken carrots. I ordered it with (cheap, unsavoury) cheese on top, and was amazed to see just how fat and disgusting something so simple as steamed vegetables could become in the hands of Applebee's: floating in bad butter, poorly cooked, and topped with blah cheese!

The various entrees (also not high on the vegetarian concept) are not that bad, but this does not redeem a restaurant: good onion rings are a dime a dozen on the American road.

The remainder of the menu is just "fifty ways to destroy low-quality chicken." Curiously, few items escape from Applebee's without chicken. The salad menu:


At this point the place starts to look more like a parody than a restaurant, and it is. (Admittedly, there is one house salad that has escaped unscathed and chicken-free. It comes with bacon. Special orders do upset them, so don't try anything foolish like asking for a dish without the meat.) Entrees are more about greed ("over a pound!") and co-branding ("with Boboli bread") than anything else.

Save yourself. Save your health, save your society, and eat elsewhere. McDonald's is less of a cultural blight; at least it does not make any pretensions at being a "proper" restaurant.

[*] About that drink thing: in 90% of these lower-tier chain restaurants, just don't bother. I once tried to order a regular margarita in a place that went rather heavy on the advertising for Slurpees with tequila. "Just with ice, please." This got me one very, very confused waitress: could they be made that way? She'd never heard of such a thing. I offered (may or may not be true) that margaritas had been around longer than blenders. Her face brightened, but I still ended up with a remarkably crummy drink. Note that the beverages offered by these purveyors of bad taste are flavoured beyond all reason, like cheap olive oil sold at a premium as "garlic-infused!", where garlic has been used to mask the taste of the cheap oil. Asking for a little less sugar means asking for ethanol, mostly.

Service:This has been oddly and uniformly wretched, and needs some additional tsk-tsking. I have frequently been irritated by the inability to get a simple meal and get out in under an hour and a half. Any sort of special request will be ignored. Drink refills are absurdly hard to come by. Side dishes ("with Boboli bread!") will be forgotten without apology.

Despite all this, Applebee's servers are trained in every unctuous, low-brow tip-me technique in the book. They will crouch down to your level, use first names, and every other irritating practice that is said to extract more dimes from the hoi polloi. One veers between trying to get service, and trying to dismiss the service when it actually makes an appearance.


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More Applebee's reviews
Quick Tip by . October 20, 2010
A tasty menu but the Applebee's I've been to had a long wait and chlorine flavored water. I've only been to the one a couple of times, maybe it was just mine.
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
Half-off apps after 10pm = wonderful
review by . December 13, 2008
A friend and I went here for lunch one day for a "girls day out."  It was the first time I'd been there so I wasn't sure what to order.  I went ahead and ordered he Chicken Penne.  And it was fabulous!   The ticket came to just over $10 a person so it's pretty cheap to eat there.  This is now my favorite restaurant in town! I love the staff, always so friendly and helpful. And their food is really nice. Service was quick and the waitress even stopped for some …
review by . December 13, 2008
In general and if they're an option local places do it better then Applebees. This goes for all the chain eateries. As a former employee (cook) of both chains (Applebees) and local spots, small businesses seem to put more 'love' into their food.
review by . May 30, 2008
Pros: Braille menus; numerous selections; relatively inexpensive, considering quality; tasty entrees; service; curbside delivery.     Cons: Ambiance; some entrees and sides are of inferior quality.     The Bottom Line: Four words: Three-Cheese Chicken Penne. Need I expound on such delights?     THE FIVE MAJOR FOOD GROUPS      These consist of cheese, garlic, pasta, crunchy bread, and more cheese. Particularly when I …
review by . July 24, 2005
Pros: Good service.     Cons: Sub-par food.     The Bottom Line: We are very displeased with Applebee’s. The atmosphere is agreeable, the service is always good, but the food is sub-par.     Ah Saturdays, made for rest and relaxation, for sleeping late and watching all of those TiVo’ed programs you recorded during the week and now have the change to watch. Yeah Right! Saturday’s are really for running all of those errands you were …
review by . August 22, 2002
Pros: good prices and quick service     Cons: b-r-r-r-r-r     The Bottom Line: What is it? "Eating good in the neighborhood"? Sounds about right.        I’ve decided I have become proficient at making bad choices. Perhaps it is because when Surg & I decide to finally go out to eat somewhere we suddenly become stealth. As invisible diners, we seldom are shown a table, we never converse with a waitress, we never get served – but …
review by . September 03, 2000
Pros: Versatile; Fun atmosphere; Great food     Cons: Sometimes the food is a little cold     I had never heard of Applebees until about two years ago while performing at the Airport Playhouse in Bohemia, New York. After the first performance, everyone started singing the Applebees jingle, "You belong at Applebees!" When I asked what it was from, you could have heard a pin drop in the dressing room. I was simply told it was a tradition, and I had …
review by . July 02, 2000
Pros: Delicious food and good service     Cons: Limited menu, need menu for children     We have eaten at our local Applebee's Restaurant several times. Today we took our daughter, Jessica and our granddaughter, Brooklyn Jean there for dinner. The atmosphere is always friendly and the restaurant is clean. The bathroom has accommodations for babies and the handicap individuals.      Whenever I go there, I tend to order the same thing. So …
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K. Mennie ()
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Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
Last Login: Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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About this product


Applebee’s International, Inc. is a United States company which develops, franchises, and operates the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurant chain. As of November 25, 2007, there were 1,965 restaurants operating system-wide in all 50 states, 17 countries, and one U.S. territory.

The Applebee's concept focuses on casual dining with mainstream American dishes such as salads, shrimp, chicken, pasta, and "riblets" (which is considered Applebee's signature item). All Applebee's restaurants feature a bar area and serve alcoholic beverages (except where prohibited by law).

In November 2007, IHOP announced that it had completed a $1.9 billion purchase of the Applebee's chain.
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