We were a Chili’s family growing up. There was a location no more than a quarter of a mile from our house, right across the street from an Olive Garden. If we were ever in a pinch for dinner – maybe someone forgot to put out chicken breasts to thaw, maybe mom and dad didn’t want to cook – we would either get Chili’s to-go or just eat there. It wasn’t often, but it was nice when it happened.
As I got to college, our focus began to shift to TGI Friday’s. Endless apps for super cheap? Look, just because you could only pick one appetizer didn’t mean you couldn’t strategize with your table. If everyone ordered something different, you could game the system and rock a killer dinner for, again, super cheap. We didn’t do it often, but every once in a while it was a nice change of pace.
However, I had never been to Applebee’s. Shocking, right? It’s not like there weren’t any in the town I grew up or in my college town. It just never happened. We never went. Applebee’s was like a storm on the horizon that never rolled in. A constant fleeting thing, always slipping through my fingers.
That is, until last Friday night when I went for the first time. And holy shit, my friends. I won’t lie to you: Applebee’s is fucking lit.
I’m not going to try and steer you wrong here. My main goal with this column is to try and get you to try Applebee’s if you haven’t yet and to have accurate expectations going in. Is it elegant? No. But is the food good? Also, no. How about the drinks? We’ll get to that. To be frank, the best part about Applebee’s is that none of it really makes sense, from the variation amongst the patrons to the absurd deals. It leaves you wondering why you came yet also yearning for more.
When we first walked in, I was expecting the kitschy décor of either a TGI Friday’s or Chili’s. Maybe there would be chandeliers over the tables made from broken taillights. Perhaps a collection of license plates on the wall, or framed newspaper clippings that were completely out of context. Instead, I was met with relatively plain table designs and framed posters of Chicago landmarks. Not bad, but I felt it was lacking in character.
That’s when I sat at the table and realized that each group had their own tablet that allowed you to play bar games on it. I’m talking trivia. I’m talking memory stuff. I’m talking that game where you and your girlfriend are asked the same question and you have to try to guess each other’s answers. Not only that, but it allowed you to call a waiter or waitress over and pay for your meal.
But I digress. Let’s talk drinks. Lila and I both ordered a “Special Patron Margarita.” It was a dollar more than the regular margarita, and we were living large because it was date night. Not only did Applebee’s go above and beyond by offering us Patron as an option for our tequila, the drink came with a shaker that was still three-quarters full. So for a dollar more than the regular margarita, we were getting Patron and refills. Where else can you get that shit? Where? Tell me a place. I dare you.
The finishing touches on the masterpiece that is Applebee’s is, and will always be, their food specials. We each got a 3 for $13 appetizer sampler. That’s three full appetizers for $13. Total. We had pretzel bread, two separate orders of mozzarella sticks, some spinny art, a chicken quesadilla, and 12 boneless wings. That wasn’t even our main course, motherfucker.
In addition to our 3 for $13 apps, we hit the 2 for $20 entrée special. That allowed us for one additional appetizer (more wings), and two entrees. Chicken fingers and fries? Fuck it. Chicken breast with beer cheese and bacon and a side of broccoli and mashed potatoes? Yeah, we got that too. I, specifically, got that. Truth be told, I ordered wrong, it wasn’t very good. But you know what? That’s okay because I had six other appetizers to choose from.
Want to know what the best part of all of this was? At the end of the night, my bill at Applebee’s was $34 plus tip. That exact same meal anywhere else could easily have cost an arm and a leg, and then some. Sure, we took a lot of the food home and ate it when we were hungover the next day, but that’s just more of the reason why it was so great. It was the meal that kept on giving.
So do yourself a favor and go to Applebee’s. It’s fucking lit. .
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