Believe it or not, but I find Applebees burgers to be the best burgers I have ever tasted! This may be heresy coming from a self confessed foodie, but hear me out. Usually, I find burgers from chains fairly throw away affairs, you get it, eat it, it’s hot, it probably has some nice toppings, and you’re done. However, I don’t know whether it is the new line of “Real Burgers” they started doing months ago or if they just started making them better, but their recent burgers, particularly the A1 Steakhouse burger is just fantastic.
It comes on a lightly toasted bun, on which they put a drop of tangy A1 sauce and a creamy mayonnaise type dressing and plenty of fried onion straws. Now, if they’ve done it properly the burger should have some pink to it but still be warm throughout and that is when you get a good juiciness to the burger. They’ve been a little bit inconsistent recently and not asked how I want the burger and sometimes I get it well done and other times I get it nice and pink-ish. Since they can’t decide on a default, just tell them you want it pink and warm throughout (medium as opposed to medium well).
When this thing arrives, you start by biting into the soft bun and then you plough through the onion straws which have a mildly crunchy fried texture and a slight sweetness from the onions. You then hit the soft mild (swiss?) cheese and the burger which is a patty of tender juicy beefiness with just the right crumbly texture to the burger and a juiciness that drips. In there somewhere is the tangyness of A1 which punctuates the other flavors now and again. These things are awesome and they are on the 2 for $20 menu (2 meals plus an appetizer for $20). I think they are grinding their meat fresh, and gently forming the patty so the meat doesn’t form into a tight beef puck which just gets tough.
Next time I plan on broadening my horizons and trying one of their other burgers (cowboy or cheese burger) to see if it is as good. The A1 burger doesn’t have bacon on it which normally should be an instant penalization, but regardless this burger is still so tasty. I used to have the cowboy burger (well done) but the toppings (onion rings, bacon and BBQ sauce) were tastier than the burger. I plan on trying it with the new improved burgers since perfect burger plus fantastic toppings could lead to an epic event!
(Update – 8th Feb 2010 – After taking my brother and Sister in law there, we found that a) They are thoroughly inconsistent, with the better burgers being the exception not the rule. b) Their service was crappy as they delivered appetizers, salad and the burgers in the space of 2 minutes after letting us wait for 10 minutes (Their problem, we planned on having a long meal and working our way through the cocktail menu). Also, they just got usurped by Michael Symon).