Every Applebee's Appetizer, Ranked Worst To Best

Over the years, Applebee's has been a trending topic of viral stardom and infamy. It has been a restaurant that people love to hate, but hate to love in the secrecy of their leather booths. The casual weekday date night vibe paired with the now 2 for $24 dollar deal at Applebee's (when did that happen?) created a restaurant that seems to be both mediocre, yet pleasantly nostalgic.  

According to CNN, the Walker Hayes'  song "Fancy Like," helped sales grow 10.5% from 2019, despite a pandemic plummet that affected casual dining restaurants, and created an endless replay of a song forever stuck in our heads.

People unofficially crown Applebee's as the worst of the worst, as Reddit threads derail tales of horrible restaurant experiences. However, within every last place, there are small, appetizer-shaped victories, like Kid Cudi's origin as an Applebee's server told by Complex, that makes Applebee's the restaurant we love to loathe.

11. Chicken Quesadilla

People would give it zero stars on Yelp, if it were possible, due to the general outrage associated with the quesadilla appetizer. It's surprising based on how tasty it looks in the picture — house-made pico de gallo, melted cheese, and chipotle salsa wrapped in warm tortillas, like a hug, and served in perfectly symmetrical and shareable pieces — the level of dislike people have towards it. What makes this the most disappointing is how the reality is so far removed from the perfectly photogenic appetizer advertised.

One Yelp review explained that when they asked for no pico de gallo, the quesadilla that they got was "simply cheese and tortilla," which would be acceptable if it were free and after midnight. A line cook explained in an Applebee's Ask Me Anything Reddit thread that the little effort put into it wasn't worth the money. The only redeeming quality is that one former employee explained, in an Ask Me Anything Reddit thread, that the pico de gallo is made in house, so at least that is fresh.

Besides, the best quesadilla is made at home.

10. Neighborhood Nachos

Like the infamous quesadilla, the Neighborhood Nachos is disappointing in its inability to reach its full munchy potential. Nachos are like deconstructed quesadillas, but fried, and piled high with all the toppings a quesadilla could never handle. This one is no exception — "freshly made" tortillas with chicken or beef, cheese, house-made pico de gallo, jalapeños, cilantro, guacamole, and sour cream. Despite this salivating copywriting, Applebee's nachos have no match against this expectation vs. reality meme.

Reviews continue to be as scathing as the food itself. One review in a worst restaurant experiences Reddit thread claimed that when they requested cheese on their nachos, "they were given two melted cheese slices" (Queso dip, this is where you could have shined, Applebee's.) A TripAdvisor review said that their nachos came out "less than lukewarm," and another review described it as flavorless, while screaming into the blank void of the internet: "how do you mess up nachos??" The world may never know, but leave Applebee's to do it.

9. White Queso Dip & Chips

It's hard not to love even the most disappointing queso and chips. This toss-away appetizer is less about inventiveness and more about filling a small void for vegetarians at Applebee's to fill with more cheese. Even the other cheesy appetizers seemed more imaginative when compared to the queso dip, as one Yelp review referred to the queso as "uninspired." In that same Applebee's employee Ask Me Anything Reddit thread, the Applebee's line cook said the tortilla chips weren't exactly freshly made, but instead were described as nothing more than the sort of overpriced tortilla chips that aren't worth the value compared to the appetizer cost.

On top of that, an Applebee's scandal detailed in Redbook magazine detailed how the restaurant was accused of microwaving their dips and desserts, leaving patrons feeling icy and cold-hearted about their next appetizer choice.

For a queso fix that won't leave you with a bowl of cheesy regret, maybe try Moe's queso instead.

8. Brewpub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip

An inventive reconfiguration of the pub classic, the pretzel sticks and Blue Moon white cheddar cheese dip replaced their similar-looking breadsticks with Alfredo sauce. Even though finding more ways to ingest alcohol is good for the soul, it can raise unwanted cholesterol levels.

The previous breadsticks with alfredo sauce had a whopping 48 grams of fat, and was listed as one of the dishes you should never order at Applebee's. The brewpub pretzels clock in at 46 grams of fat as listed on Applebee's nutrition page, and 1,170 calories on their website.

Ranked against some of the other cheese dips (cough, cough), it stands out in this take on a classic, plus the lack of targeted scathing reviews helps, for now. Despite this drawback, fans seem to rave about the appetizer on Twitter, even ranking it third in a Applebee's Twitter poll for best cuffing season appetizer, because who wouldn't want to snuggle next to something warm and gooey?

7. Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Fans of Applebee's who say they hate spinach and artichoke dip don't want to admit that they love a comfort dish made of what seems to be 70% vegetables, even if the other 30% is straight butter. It's a vegetarian's delight that can double as an entree while still being able to say: "yes, I did eat my vegetables at dinner."

In the same Applebee's Twitter poll ranking cuffing season appetizers, Applebee's Spinach and Artichoke dip ranked higher than the Brewpub Pretzels and the Quesadilla. It was still ranked second to chicken tenders, but who can compete with a challenger like that. Plus, chicken tenders are not considered an appetizer on Applebee's menu, so a recount should be in order.

The main downside remains the controversy over the value of the chips claimed by a former line cook in an Ask Me Anything Reddit thread, and allegations that Applebee's uses the microwave to heat its dips. However, staff members claim it is a safe and decent choice from the appetizer menu.

6. Boneless and Bone-in Wings

Nothing embodies happy hour more than chicken wings, cold beer, and $1 Margaritas in a crowded Applebee's bar . The boneless or bone-in wings are a go-to for most patrons looking for a quick hunger fix without taking up too much room for dinner, especially with an array of flavors such as Buffalo, extra hot buffalo, garlic parmesan, honey BBQ, honey pepper, and sweet Asian chili.

The only glaring downside that fades the happy hour glow is realizing that Applebee's chicken wings are frozen, and not made fresh to order, according to a former employee's response in an Ask Me Anything Reddit thread.

That being said, the $1 wings special available with any burger makes the mystery worth the money, especially when comparing bang vs. buck. Plus, with the introduction of their Cosmic Cheetos-encrusted wings, available at select restaurants for delivery, how can you resist the mystery?

5. Mozzarella Sticks

The timeless "little black dress" of the appetizer world, many a fond memory at ballparks, amusement parks, and pools involve this salty and gooey snack. It's lovable comfort food that has been reinvented and remodeled time and again by countless restaurants. However, it had humble beginnings as one of Applebee's first appetizers to appear on the menu next to other deep-fried delicacies like onion rings and french fries, according to Thrillist.

It's hard not to love a food that has been so quintessential to American pub fare, more broadly, American appetizer culture. Yes, just like a lot of things that come out of Applebee's kitchen, they are– as Michael Chaney described on Quora -– "factory cooked."

"They come frozen in, like, blocks, and all we have to do is stick them in the deep fryer for a little bit. It's crazy-easy," one anonymous line cook told Thrillist, before adding, "if I had to guess, I would say we get more orders for mozz sticks than any other appetizer. Which I definitely don't mind."

Can't judge for loving a classic.

4. Crispy Cheese Bites

One of the newer additions to Applebee's appetizer menu, the crispy cheese bites, reinvent the classic mozzarella sticks we know, love, and hold late at night. The shape isn't groundbreaking compared to the invention of the wheel, but anything served with a side of firecracker mayo shouldn't be disregarded. However, creating fried Cheetos cheese bites reinvented the reinvention (reinvention-inception), and broke vegetarian's and carnivore's expectations of Applebee's power.

In a Timmy's Takeout Youtube review of the Cheetos cheese bites, Alvarez describes them as tasting very salty and chewy with a faint, barely there, Cheeto flavor. Overall, Alvarez rates them an overall 6.5 out of 10, citing that they were still delicious regardless of the negatives and "delectable with ranch."

Despite their saltiness and lack of Cheeto flavor, cheese bites seem like a solid appetizer choice when looking for something different and dangerously cheesy ... because who doesn't like fried cheese?

3. The Classic Combo

Cue up the 2000s' "Hannah Montana," because the Classic Combo is "the best of both worlds" — the meat and veggie, crunchy and gooey, saucy and savory, dip-able and shareable.

With all the lovable (and some not so lovable) options — boneless wings, mozzarella sticks, spinach & artichoke dip, and chicken quesadilla– everyone can get the flavor, texture, and dietary option they desire. Even though it is third on this list, it wins gold for the Applebee's menu item with the most calories with (gasps in unison) 2,250 calories but, hey, this is a judgment-free zone over here.

However, some other competitors have better options for a similar combo dish. In a Fast Food Face Off Youtube video comparing TGI Fridays' and Applebee's appetizer sampler, regular guy, Josh, gave the upper hand to TGI Fridays in terms of overall texture and flavor profile, down to the marinara sauce used. He compared the chips at TGI Fridays to "homestyle" and Applebees more towards "Tostitos," which ultimately is a personal preference. Even though TGI Fridays is more expensive, he deemed the value to be better; however, if comparing only Applebee's appetizers, this is the best value that pleases everyone.

2. Chicken Wonton Tacos

The chicken wonton tacos at Applebee's are like the bloomin' onion at Outback Steakhouse or the unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden – a cult classic in the fast casual dining world.

A beloved 2 for $20 (now $24-$25) favorite of Boston Celtic's, Al Horford, this cultural blending of egg rolls and tacos created a collision of Hispanic and Asian cuisine that rocked the traditional appetizer fare of American dining. What made the demand skyrocket was when the chicken wonton tacos were removed from the menu and brought back in 2020, creating a demand for copycat recipes.

Even the wonton taco nutrition facts are surprising compared to other appetizers, with only 590 calories, six grams of saturated fat, and reduced cholesterol and sodium levels, making it one of the healthier appetizers alongside certain wings.

However, in a Mashed survey, roughly 22% of responders said that the chicken wonton tacos were the worst appetizer on Applebee's menu, despite rave reviews and outcry to put them back on the menu. The only response is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and beauty looks like an open-faced wonton taco.

1. New Brew Pub Loaded Waffle Fries

If someone is reading this part, congrats for skimming to the end to discover the highly anticipated finale. The newest appetizer at Applebees, the uNew Brew Pub Loaded Waffle Fries, are served up hot with cheddar cheese, white cheddar beer cheese (the same cheese that's served with the brewpub pretzel,) and Applewood-smoked bacon.

It is simply the best because it uses the best fry cut like Chick-fil-A, arguably the best fast food french fry (any other answer is unacceptable), and it incorporates one of the newest fan favorites to hit the menu — the beer cheese.

In a Timmy Takeout Youtube video reviewing the loaded waffle fries alongside the new Applebee's Impossible Burger, Alvarez explained, through mouthfuls of food, that the fries themselves were seasoned enough to compliment the melted cheese and bacon toppings, but the star of the dish was the beer cheese. He explained that it had a strong beer flavor and good consistency, and that they are so good, they didn't need ranch, giving it an overall rating of 10 out of 10. Based on that alone, their loaded waffle fries could reign as the new classic at America's favorite restaurant to hate.