(ran TP edition)
Riblets, the trimmed ends of pork tenderloins slowly hickory-roasted in a spicy barbecue sauce, have become a menu favorite at Applebee's. Their popularity even prompted the company to buy pork futures, the restaurant's owner said.
Recently we ordered the riblet platter as part of an after-church dinner to go. The portion was so bountiful that it provided lunch the following day. A large portion of french fries and a container of cole slaw was included in the delicious meal.
I was told on the telephone that the food would be ready in 20 minutes. When I arrived, I had to wait five more minutes, which was not surprising because the restaurant was full and people were waiting to be seated.
The food was packed in foam containers and stayed warm on the 10-minute ride home. Napkins and plastic utensils were included. The best surprise was the onion peels appetizer that was still warm and crisp. Fried in a special batter and dipped in a creamy horseradish sauce, the onions were a tasty prelude to the main course.
My husband had the blackened chicken salad with garlic bread, which he said was good, although no dressing had been included. He sampled my barbecued ribs and declared them first rate. He prefers the more hearty-sized pork or beef ribs, however.
Franklin Carson, owner of 30 Applebee's restaurants in 10 Florida counties, said there was no market for riblets until 1985.
"A meat guy came to Atlanta, where I worked at the time, and I started steaming, smoking and cooking them in the sauce," he said. "There are only two riblets on a hog, so it takes three hogs to make the dinner. No one else wanted it (the riblets), so we control the market."
The restaurant's offerings include a few low-fat dishes such as lemon chicken pasta, veggie quesadillas and blackened chicken salad. The non-fat honey mustard dressing and non-fat cheddar/mozzarella blend limit the chicken salad to 5 fat grams. For dessert, there's a brownie sundae with fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt and non-fat hot fudge with a total of just 2 grams of fat.
Some of the specialties include broiled Cajun trout with potato and vegetable ($7.29); stuffed shells Florentine ($5.99); and Bourbon Street steak ($9.29), a 10-ounce sirloin marinated in Cajun spices, charbroiled with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and served with fried new potatoes.
HILLSBOROUGH TO GO
Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar
829 Providence Road, Brandon
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-midnight Sunday
Consumers: Two adults
What we got: Blackened chicken salad, onion peels and riblet platter.
What it cost: $21.47
Time it took: 25 minutes
Pay With: Cash and major credit cards