It’s summer time and the rising heat index makes the thought of a heavy meal that’s been fried and covered with cheese almost unappetizing. But anyone who says the last thing they want for dinner is a rich pasta and meatball dish clearly has not sampled the new Stacked, Stuffed, and Topped menu.
Applebee’s is known for recreating classic dishes and flavors. The new menu has taken meals like Mama used to make to the next level. All items on the menu are stacked or topped with similar flavors and ingredients so that they overlap and form a kind of saucy, cheesy story.
The Provolone stuffed meatballs and mozzarella scoops appetizer is a solid beginning to any of the meals on the menu. The meatballs are topped with a spicy marinara sauce and melted parmesan cheese and served in the center of a circle of mozzarella scoops.
A mozzarella scoop is fried mozzarella cheese. The scoops are gooey and crunchy and salty, and they taste great when eaten alone or with a piece of the meatball and sauce. The meatballs are fresh, not frozen like other chain restaurants. They are moist and hold together well. The provolone cheese does fall out when the meatball is cut in half, and the cheese also doesn’t really add anything to the dish except calories. The provolone can’t be tasted over the flavor of the meatball and sauce. The tomato marinara sauce is the glue that holds the dish together; brings the meatballs and mozzarella scoops together. Serving meatballs over fried mozzarella rather than spaghetti is an inventive twist.
The spicy sauce in the appetizer is also used in the chicken parmesan stack, which is served over thick Fettuccine tossed in a light garlic Alfredo sauce. The chicken is moist and tastes like it’s encased in a mozzarella scoop. There’s a subtle, zesty kick to the breading on the chicken, which is a flavor that can be found in Applebee’s zesty ranch chicken dish.
“The chicken stack is very popular with the customers, and it is a recreation of our zesty ranch chicken,” said Mark Gabriel, the kitchen manager at the Applebee’s at Woodbridge Center. “It’s something different for the summer.”
The Bruschetta topped chicken salad isn’t exactly a lighter alternative. It’s enough to serve four people and is topped with strips of tender grilled chicken, a bruschetta and kalamata olive topping, a sprinkling of Asiago cheese, and mozzarella scoops in place of croutons. Everything is tossed in a Champagne vinaigrette that is sparkling and light like Champagne, and drizzled with a thick, molasses-like balsamic glaze. The salad is salty and tangy—it’s just as bold and flavorful as the chicken parmesan stack and provolone-stuffed meatballs.
The bruschetta topping used on the salad is also part of the topping on the Florentine topped sirloin steak, which is another popular dish on the menu. The salad also has the mozzarella scoops served in the appetizer, and the meatball and chicken dishes are cooked in the same sauce and served over Fettuccine in a creamy sauce. Similar flavors and ingredients are used in all the dishes on the new Stuffed, Stacked, and Topped Applebee’s menu, which connects and layers the bold and delicious flavors.
The new menu items have been popular with customers, and they’re only available for a limited time.
“We add promotional items to the regular menu if our customers demand it,” Gabriel said, “so if the new items are popular enough, they might become regular menu items.”
If there is still room for dessert after one of these hearty meals, a strawberry cheesecake or hot fudge sundae shooter is a light and decadent way to end the meal. Either of these shooters will satisfy any sweet craving.