Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Applebee's

The Drive to the Restaurant:
I don’t like highway BB, it’s very narrow, very curvy and there is virtually no shoulder, just deep rocky ditches and cliffs. This is why I don’t go to the towns on highway 30 very often; BB is pretty much the only way to get there without driving ten miles in the wrong direction. Angel was driving though and she’s much more the adventurer/daredevil/better driver. The big fat SUV was taking the turns, though I could see gravel falling into the gulches. It reminded me of that famous Bolivian road I saw on TV that is basically a paved goat path carved into the side of impossibly high cliffs.

Another thing about BB, if you get behind someone going slower than you, you’re screwed. The entire road is painted with double yellow lines, no passing, violators will likely die. This didn’t stop Angel though, she passed the trailered truck as if it were just another mailbox. Fortunately I was distracted by the trailer maker’s logo emblazoned on the back. “Master Dump” is what it said, and I just knew there was a joke there somewhere. I found a few:
“Where do you take worn out graduate degrees?”
“When you absolutely, positively have to go.”
“What’s in your wallet?”
I scolded her for breaking the law, yet again. She insisted that on double-lettered county roads that things like signs and painted lines were merely suggestions. I vowed to look that up when we got back home. As it turns out, she was lying.
Despite the overt criminal behavior and the dangers of the road we made it rather quickly to our destination.

The Place:
Applebee's
Dillon Plaza Dr.
High Ridge, MO

The town is called High Ridge because… seriously do I need to explain that? It’s on a ridge, okay? And it’s sort of high, not nosebleed high but it’s certainly higher than most of the surrounding land. High Ridge is one of many generic towns that line up on highway 30, Cedar Hill, Byrnes Mill, House Springs, High Ridge, St. Louis, I get them all confused.
The restaurant looks like every other Applebee’s, just off the road in a minor shopping complex. It wasn’t packed, so we trod right in and were immediately seated. Our booth was next to the bar but it wasn’t very busy. Large TV’s were strategically placed so that patrons could not avoid whatever sporting event was being shown. In this case it was the Kentucky Derby, for which I showed great pride, being as I am from Kentucky, the very same Kentucky that was hosting the race. Kentucky doesn’t have an NFL or Major League Baseball team, but we’re sure in the bigs when it comes to the sport of dwarfish men forcing horses to run around in a circle.
The place is sports themed, though aside from the race on TV, none of the memorabilia stapled to the walls were related to the king of sports, mostly just football, hockey and baseball crap. The music was contemporary, and a bit too loud.
We ordered our drinks, tea, tea and sweet tea. The menus were heavily laminated and about six pages thick. The fare was mostly steaks and burgers with a pasta page thrown in. Adam and Angel eat lunch there occasionally and already knew what they wanted, appetizers. Unfortunately they didn’t want the same one so we ordered two. Sweet and spicy chicken for the boy, spinach artichoke dip for Angel and I.
The Food:
The tea was actually pretty good, though Angel added about nineteen packets of the blue sweetener to hers to kill the actual tea taste of the tea.
Angel and Adam shared their entrees, a ‘2 for $20’ deal.
Adam took Chicken tenders, Angel the seven ounce sirloin, Adam sided fries Angel a baked potato.
I chose the Parmesan Shrimp Sirloin and a baked spud. The waiter asked about vegetables, mentioning that the default was zucchini, broccoli, and as I recall, horse manure, at least that’s what it sounded like. I gagged and shouted “No!”, the waiter stepped back a little. “What else is there?” I asked calmly. “Coleslaw, French fries, mashed potatoes. . .” Seriously, no corn or beans, so I opted for the coleslaw, not wanting a steak and potato with a side of even more potatoes.
The appetizers arrived, Adam dug into his sweet spicy chicken which smelled pretty good. I grabbed some hot chips and plowed into the ‘spin dip’ as the waiter called it, which would more accurately be abbreviated ‘spin-choke-dip’ but I guess that sounded a little too graphic. The dip and spinach were pretty awesome; I avoided the chunks of artichoke as a matter of principle. I found the chips to be too salty overall, Angel vehemently disagreed. This is perhaps the biggest difference between us after that whole boy/girl thing; she likes more salt than I do. On this topic we will rarely agree and is likely to be the actual cause of our divorce, should we ever bother to pursue one. But the dip was very good. Adam shared some of his chicken, I liked it quite well but had a suspicion that it would be too sweet after a while.
We watched the horse race, or at least one or more of the two dozen replays. One of the many brown horses won, the owners and the jockey seemed quite pleased, the horse didn’t seem to really care. Like car racing, people really just watch this sport to drink and see wrecks and carnage, but sadly no horses exploded this year. The tipsy, bonneted ladies and their fake cowboy partners in the crowd seemed not to mind. Mint Juleps are capable of making lots of otherwise terribly boring things seem interesting, that’s exactly how people can live in Kentucky for long periods of time.
The entrees arrived, all looked good. My steak was two ounces bigger than Angel’s and covered with melted cheese and shrimp (the bacon of the sea). The coleslaw was in its own ramekin and ice cold. The potato was average sized and covered with about a quart of butter and about as much sour cream. I located the nearest portable defibrillator and dug in.
I was quite happy with the meal for the first half, the shrimp/cheese was an awesome compliment to the rare-ish steak. The steak didn’t quite live up to it though, it was over the long haul, too salty. Outside of shrimp and maybe actual bacon, not much can be added to a steak to make it better. A pinch of salt maybe, but just a pinch, please.
Even though we disagreed about the saltiness of the chips earlier, Angel agreed that the steak was indeed too salty, a real shame indeed. Adam’s chicken tenders seemed to suit him just fine.
I didn’t quite finish my steak as I was starting to fell a bit like Lot’s wife, also because I had consumed about a pound of chips and spin-choke-dip.

Summary:
The service was lackluster at best. The entire staff seemed to lack energy and inspiration. As our tea glasses emptied (almost completely), fresh tea was brought in new glasses without clearing away the old. The appetizer trays stayed on the table throughout the main course. The waiter did not engage us in conversation or even salutations, the guys at my quickie oil change establishment are more personable. He wasn’t negative, just barely there.
Aside from the steaks, the food was quite good, the place was clean and well staffed, the music was too loud. The restroom was half broken, but clean as well.(details spared)
The meal including appetizers came in at just under fifty four dollars. We deliberately shorted them on the tip, adding a mere two dollars.
It’s a tough nut having to spin ‘except for the main course the food was good’ into a positive review, so I won’t bother. They blew it with the steak and the service was only mediocre. How can I possibly give it a good score or recommend it to anyone? I suppose if instead of ‘Applebee’s’ they called it ‘Salty’s’ I would not have as much room to complain.


* Brush with fame!
Although I am from Kentucky, my family lived in a part of the state that is about as far removed from the white fenced horse farms and pristine stables as one can be and still be in the same state. I did participate in some of the festivities once though. I think it was either my freshman or sophomore year in high school. I was in the band as was my lovely, deceitful, lying, blabbermouth, and tattletale sister. I pretended to play bass trombone and she played something that she could hit with a stick, a portable xylophone kind of device. The band was invited to march in one of the foreplay parades held a few days prior to the race. We had to pause at one intersection as there was some sort of delay halfway through the parade route. We were just standing there waiting, in formation, looking around and lo and behold there on the corner stood none other than the real and original Colonel Harlan Sanders. Really! He was just standing there smiling and waving, looking exactly like he did on TV and on the bucket. Outside of shaking hands with the tiny, former Secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, this was my only ever real brush with fame.

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