Back in April of 2017, I had my first major job change. I switched from working in a small community hospital to working in one of the biggest hospitals in the city. Moving back into the city was a goal of mine that I knew would take a few years to accomplish. After gaining an incredible amount of clinical experience and saving up money living at home, I was ready to get back into my city routine. The hardest part of the job switch was leaving the amazing staff I worked with for over 2.5 years. As a last hoorah, my coworkers and I shared memories over a beautiful cake and later on some of my quirkiest work friends and I participated in a happy hour.
We decided on Applebee’s for the happy hour. I wrote up a taco blog post about a year ago, but for some reason I never got around to posting it. I thought I would be back for another visit shortly after to add a follow-up post for the other tacos on the Applebee’s menu. Well that never happened. Almost one year later, I met up with my former coworkers again at the same Applebee’s where we said our first goodbyes. Basically, what we can conclude here is that tacos brought us back together. So without further adieu, here is my complete then and now posts of Applebee’s tacos, almost exactly one year apart.
Over a Year Old Unshared Taco Post…Basically An Ancient Taco Time Capsule!
Before my last day of work in Greensburg as I am starting my new job in the city, some of my coworkers took me out to dinner to Applebee’s in Greensburg. I have only been to Applebee’s one other time in my life, and I don’t know if I am proud or not to announce that we were there for five hours….
We arrived at 3pm after my 6-230pm shift. Happy Hour at Applebee’s includes rotating drink specials almost daily running Monday thru Friday 4-6PM and Sunday 8PM-12AM. They also have half off appetizer specials Monday thru Friday 4-6PM, Sunday thru Thursday 9PM-close, and Friday & Saturday 10pm-close. We were too early for Happy Hour at first, but since we were there for 5 hours, we made it through the entire Happy Hour and then some.
For my first drink, I tackled the white peach mint sangria. The drink came in a giant margarita style fish bowl glass. The drink was heavy with canned peaches and little peach stringy residue that filled up inside the straw with each sip. A little peach surprise in every slurp. The drink was refreshing, but definitely high in calorie content which is probably why I could only eat half of my tacos.
Little did I know, Applebee’s has two non-traditional tacos on the menu. They have steak or chicken wonton tacos with the meat stuffed in wonton shells with slaw and cilantro. Under the ‘Sandwiches, Tacos and More’ section, they also added a new menu item called BBQ Brisket Tacos. The BBQ brisket tacos consist of three shredded brisket tacos in flour tortillas mixed with a spicy Texas BBQ sauce and topped with cheddar, pico, crispy onions and Mexi-ranch dressing. French fries and slaw came on the side.
Since we initially did not plan on being at Applebee’s for the start of the specials, I didn’t order the wonton tacos and I went with the BBQ Brisket tacos instead.
While enjoying my humorously massive Applebee’s cocktail, my tacos arrived. The plate was colorful with the chopped cilantro, pink Mexi-ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and the deep red saucy brisket, but it was not presented like the picture on the menu. My reaction to the actual presentation was the same way I would react after reviewing the result of a microwave frozen dinner to the picture of the meal on the box. I was slightly disappointment and puzzled that it could look so off. Anyway, the picture on the menu had more of a balance of ingredients than what was actually presented. The tacos in front of me were drenched in the Mexi-ranch dressing and cheddar cheese. Just like the sangria, I had a feeling this would be a high calorie count meal. The highlights of this taco was the beef brisket and the crisp fried onions. The brisket was tender and the spicy Texas BBQ sauce was light and sweet without any notable spice. The crisp fried onions and the toasted flour shells added a nice crunchiness to the taco that tried to balance out some of the heavy creaminess, but it was still too much. I was not a big fan of the Mexi-ranch dressing on the tacos. The brisket was covered in the dressing and I would have preferred it on the side. By itself, the dressing had a strong flavor profile of lime and onion like lime ranch Doritos. I could only handle a little bit of it.
Overall, the brisket tacos were just average. The brisket was tender, but it was hidden in heavy creams, cheese, and fried onions and lacking in fresh flavor. I missed the mouthwatering factor that I know brisket can serve on its own.
The weekend after the visit, I ran into a couple at Grist House Craft Brewery who raved about the wonton tacos at Applebee’s. This was the second and third person I met who loved the wonton tacos there. Maybe I’ll cut out the heavier fruity drinks and save room for the wonton tacos for my third visit to Applebee’s.
My Return to Applebee’s…..Back to Present Taco Time.
Almost freakishly enough, my third trip to Applebee’s ever was about one year later (this past April) with the same core crew from my second visit. Since I had the day off from work, I went to the hospital beforehand to spend some quality time with my past coworkers, analyze the Pittsburgh’s Marathon course with my former supervisor for our relay team, and handout homemade burnt cookies for everyone in the pharmacy (I was really bad at multi-tasking that day which resulted in over baking the cookies). After the pleasant reunion, I made my way back to Applebee’s.
This time around we did a few things differently. 1) We made it for the start of Happy Hour with the intentions of taking advantage of the specials. 2) No fruity high calorie drinks as we all stuck to domestic drafts. 3) We limited our stay to 1.5 hours versus 5 hours. I realize this may be a bit of a letdown for you, dear reader, but one can only spend so much time in an Applebee’s.
In addition to the half off domestic drafts (Yuengling, Coors, and Bud Light) we also took advantage of the selected half off appetizers which included the chicken wonton tacos. I was excited to finally try the wonton tacos after waiting over a year! Megan and Ashley, who were with me this visit, also ordered the wonton tacos and Megan pointed out that she basically gets this meal every time she is here. Lacey, who was not able to join us this time, was a big fan of the BBQ Brisket Tacos and according to the girls, that was her go to choice at Applebees’s. Despite making fun of me for having ridiculous hobbies like writing a taco blog, the old work squad can sure put some tacos down!
After we spent a good bit of time laughing and catching up, three plates of wonton tacos arrived. There were four tacos per plate which were a good size for the appetizer. I loved the look of the crunchy wonton shells. They were so cute and held the chicken cubes and slaw perfectly in place. A nice advantage of the wonton shell too was its stiff structure. It was sturdy enough to hold the Asian chile and dumpling sauce without breaking, leaking, or becoming too soggy. The sweet sauces complimented the texture and taste of the wonton and tangy chicken. There was a good bit of spice stemming from the makeup of the ingredients, but the cabbage cooled down the heat. Overall, I liked this taco. I prefer it over the BBQ Brisket taco based on the unique ingredients and taste and I would get these tacos again, but maybe with an additional appetizer to completely satisfy the belly. However, like the BBQ brisket tacos, I have no clue about the nutritional content of these tacos and some of the freshness was lacking here as well. I feel compelled to disclaim that I fully realize wonton tacos at Applebee’s are not exactly on the same level of culinary excellence as the non-traditional tacos at somewhere like Smoke, Doce Taqueria, or Baby Loves Tacos, but they are kinda good!
Megan, who has these tacos quite frequently, stressed the use of the lime wedge. She said “it changes it for the better.” Megan loves the unique nature of these tacos as “the taco lives in a whole different taco venue.” I asked for Ashley’s thoughts and she said with bliss “crunch-a-licious!”
I must admit, I am open to more return visits to the Bee’s. Maybe the girls and I will make it an annual tradition since we are on a roll with two visits now. Who knows, maybe Applebee’s will unleash a third non-traditional taco for us to try. The possibilities are endless. Either way, this post is long over due so I am not waiting around for another taco to appear.
Price: BBQ brisket tacos $11.99, Wonton tacos $7.99