Neighborhood restaurant ignores 'big box' persona
By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
While working at the University of Florida several years back, Applebee's on the corner of NW 13th St. and NW 10th Ave. was a reliable stop for a good lunch.
When I recently entered Applebee's big red brick building for a quick lunch, I took a place at the bar in the center of the dining room, and I immediately felt like I was entering an old friend's home after a long hiatus.
I have to admit Applebee's possesses all the franchise, big box lunch opportunities I have pooh-poohed in other franchise establishments. However, Applebee's doesn't seat 350 people. I haven't seen their staff hurrying customers in one door and rapidly out the other.
Applebee's does have a menu that tries to supply customers a giant number of meal time choices they think will satisfy every lunchouter in Gainesville. I copied off of their online menu the entree choices you can find: Salads, steaks, ribs, chicken, seafood, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, and sliders.
Having just written what I think are negative comments about Applebee's, I do have a special fondness for what I see as a very nice neighborhood restaurant.
Applebee's has some enticing lunch specials including an all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread entree for $6.99. This isn't the typical salad bar approach to lunch. Your lunch is served to you and your server will happily supply you with all the roughage you can eat.
In the Applebee's sea of choices I opted for the Reuben sandwich and French fries. The AKS -- Applebee's kitchen staff -- did an excellent job of preparing my lunch.
I was presented a nice stack of thinly sliced, very tender corned beef. My protein was complemented with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut sandwiched between toasty slices of rye bread. I added my own spicy mustard to this sandwich to top off a lunch time flavor bonanza.
To put it another way: The tender, salty corned beef and sharp cheese played off the bitter flavors of the sauerkraut and mustard to create harmony between toasted book ends. From the first bite to my last bite, all the sandwich's flavors made my taste buds sing.
The French fries were crisp and lightly seasoned.
My Applebee's lunch didn't surprise this professional eater. I've always enjoyed my visits to this handy, neighborhood lunch stop.
The Pluses and Minuses of Applebee's:
Applebee's (+) indicators: Good food, nicely prepared with an excellent customer friendly approach.
Applebee's (-) indicators: Too many choices for this lunchouter.
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