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Applebee's Ultimate Trio

Applebee's Ultimate Trio

Having made it this long without eating at a Denny’s, I have no intention of starting. And I pretty much felt the same way about Applebee’s, to the extent that I thought about Applebee’s, which for the most part I didn’t. When I see their ads on TV, I imagine the ads are for other people. We don’t have Applebee’s in greater Seattle. At least I can’t picture one. I figure they’re somewhere else. Like maybe Georgia.

I’ve just learned that Georgia is in fact where they began. I have also learned, in reading the historical summary on their website, that in 2005 they expanded to Ecuador, Brazil, and Jordan, and in 2007 to China. That’s a pretty good clue that somewhere along the way to those places they probably managed to stumble into Washington State. It turns out that they have.

Gail called me just before noon from Des Moines, near the airport, where she was discussing where to eat lunch with her sister, our brother-in-law, and some friends. She wanted to know if I would join them or if I wanted to stay home and grade papers, as I told her I might be doing. She said we could meet by Southcenter. Southcenter is a large suburban mall just east of the airport, with the usual mix of on-site and neighboring chain restaurants. I had this picture of us meeting at Bahama Breeze. In my continuing research on the Darden family of restaurants (here and here), I had focused more on Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Having been to Bahama Breeze just once, in January for a light lunch, I had more work to do. And the only Bahama Breeze west of the MIssissippi besides one in Las Vegas is the one at Southcenter. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to investigate.

But Gail called back a few minutes later to say we were going to Applebee’s. I said no. I don’t eat at Applebee’s! She didn’t argue. She just said that’s where the other 7 people were going. I could stay home.

I went.

In trying to make sense of the menu, I learned that like so many other chain restaurants — Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory — it has a little of everything. This can be a good thing, but for me it’s a bad thing. I have a hard time deciding whether to go Italian, Chinese, Mexican, or just steak or a burger. Well, I knew I didn’t want a burger. Not after having one Friday night at the Mariner game. (I didn’t get around to talking about our dinner at Safeco Field in my post on the game. Too late now. Suffice to say we had cheeseburgers made to order at a grill, which meant standing around with other fans for 10 minutes waiting for our names to be called, then getting a decent burger on top of enough fries for three, all for just $15.) Maybe a steak with choice of garlic mashed or baked potato, plus vegetables. Or maybe a salad with chicken with some sort of sauce. Or maybe the talapia with rice pilaf. Then I discovered the appetizer section of the menu. Or rather the “apps”. Given the Apple app store for the iPhone, this was confusing usage. Nothing looked all that great, but here’s the thing. You can get three. They call it the Ultimate Trio: “Pick any three trio-sized appetizers below for your Ultimate Trio for $11.99.” I could have three cuisines! You can’t beat that.

And just yesterday, while watching the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship semi-finals (to which I will return in another post), I saw a profile of one of the players, who said his favorite food is chicken parm. Since which time I’ve had chicken parm on my mind. It was my lucky day. One of the apps, listed as a new one, was Chicken Parmesan Tanglers: “A juicy chicken breast is sliced and tossed in breading with our signature spices, and golden fried. Topped with Parmesan and served with marinara.” Let’s do it. I ordered the trio, complementing the Tanglers with Steak Quesadilla Towers: “Sirloin steak topped with onions, pico de gallo, peppers, and cheese. Rolled in a grilled tortilla and served with salsa,” and Cheeseburger Sliders: “Fresh ground beef seasoned and topped with American cheese, grilled onions and signature burger sauce on a toasted bun.” It did occur to me that this wasn’t the most balanced meal, but at least I could sample cuisine of three countries.

Turns out I made a mistake. The trio was way too heavy. The quesadilla towers had way too much tortilla and too little steak. They were like big fried bread and cheese sandwiches. The chicken, once sliced, had lots more surface area for breading, so they were again lots of bread and not lots of meat. Plus, they really were just chicken tenders, with some grated parmesan on top, nothing like real chicken parmesan. And the burgers, well, they were burgers, which I already had decided I didn’t want. With, yes, more bread and cheese. What was I thinking?

Gail says I shouldn’t judge Applebee’s harshly on account of my own foolishness. Still, I’m kinda thinking maybe I don’t need to go back. Not when Bahama Breeze awaits. And Cheesecake Factory, and California Pizza Kitchen, and P.F. Chang’s, and Chevy’s.

Categories: Food, Restaurants
  1. awilliams53
    May 24, 2009 at 7:43 PM

    When we go to Safeco, and we did the night after Randy’s last appearance in Seattle (a class act), we find it necessary to stop at Uwajimaya for provisions. Sushi and baseball, a Seattle tradition.

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