Applebee's has drawn a bit of heat recently for comments made by a franchise owners implying that the Affordable Care Act would force it to cut back on employee hours and hiring. But this week, the company unveiled a plausible antidote to the criticism: alcohol.
On Monday, the casual-dining chain debuted a new boozy section on its dinner menu, which it's calling "Spirited Cuisine." The section has just three items: Napa Chicken & Portobellos, Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip and Double Barrel Whisky Sirloin, which feature a cabernet demi-glace, American lager and whiskey respectively. The chicken and pretzel dishes are new additions to the menu, while the steak has just been newly reclassified as part of the "Spirited Cuisine" menu.
Prices at Applebee's are determined individually by each franchisee, but the steak and chicken will start at $9.99 and the pretzels will sell for several dollars less than that in most cases.
Though the idea that any alcohol in liquor used in cooking cooks off is actually a myth, Applebee's spokesman Dan Smith told The Huffington Post that guests of all ages can order food from the Spirited Cuisine menu.
Applebee's is far from the first casual-dining establishment to prominently feature alcohol-themed foods on its menu. The most popular chicken dish at Cheesecake Factory is topped with a madeira sauce. And TGI Friday's has a whole section of its menu dedicated to meat topped with Jack Daniels barbecue sauce. The latter chain also sells an appetizer, Warm Pretzels with Craft Beer-Cheese Dipping Sauce, that's eerily similar to the new pretzels with beer cheese dip at Applebee's.
For the time being, Applebee's plans to have the Spirited Cuisine menu run only for a limited time, but Smith said that the chain would consider adding it to the permanent slate of options if it performs well this time around.
Here's a video in which Applebee's executive chef Michael Slavin explains the (possibly fictional) genesis of the pretzels with beer cheese dip in his own home kitchen:
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LAST PLACE: Planet Hollywood, 2.57
"These are potato wedges, not skins. I miss the crispy skin flavor." "Not skins but good as potatoes." "Potato-heavy, but par for the course." "Undercooked. Too firm." "A wedge smothered in cheese. I loved it." "Thoroughly unpleasant." "Too much potato flesh."
3rd Place: TGI Friday's, 2.7
"Bland and starchy." "Lacking salt/flavor. Needs more bacon/cheese." "Bland, soft and disappointing." "Not crisp enough but potato had a nice texture and wasn't dried out. Nice amount of bacon/cheese." "Bland. Needs salt."
2nd Place: Hard Rock Cafe, 3.8
"Crispy bacon, sizeable, good amount of potato." "Totally average." "Could be crunchier, but otherwise enjoyable." "Delicious with plenty of bacon."
WINNER: Chili's, 4.4
"Very greasy, not a whole lot of taste. Could have used a bit more salt." "A little greasy. Nice soft potato flesh and a nice balance of toppings." "Best potato skins out there. They actually taste like potatoes, are crispy/creamy and have just the right amount of cheese and bacon topping." "Like potato skins should be." "Perfect."