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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Applebee's: American Comfort Food Chain Doesn't Cut it in Cairo's Citystars
Although its enjoyed huge popularity in the US for some 35 years – and considering the fact that Cairo loves imported restaurant franchises – Applebee's in Citystars has largely gone unnoticed over the last few years and many will be surprised to realise that it has actually been operating at the Heliopolis mall since 2013.
Located next to E-Zone and the main elevator, the noise was inescapable, thanks to the fact that 75% of Applebee's is an outdoor area. As a space, there's nothing remarkable about it and it has very generic mall-dining ambiance; from the wooden tables and the puffy leather couches, to plain ruby red and apple green painted walls with images showing various historical mosques and antiquities not really fitting in.
While swimming through the big menu, we ordered White Peach Sangria (27LE) and Red Apple Krusher (20LE). A mixture of peach syrup, apple juice, tropical juice, and lemon-lime soda, the flavours of the white peach sangria sent us to a tropical island – a definite showstopper. On the other hand, the red apple krusher had unbalanced flavours from the grenadine and the apple juice to the pineapple juice and soda, but the crushed ice visually made this drink look better.
With so many tempting appetisers, we decided to just go with the Appetiser Sampler (83LE) – because go big or go home. Starting with the cheese quesadilla grande, it had a generous amount of cheese and the diced tomato and onion lightened it up, but the jalapeno and bacon bits were nowhere to be found. Served with tortilla chips and salsa, the spinach and artichoke dip didn't have that cream cheese flavour that the dish demands, and the amount of spinach was just overwhelming. As for the cheeseburger sliders; they were super juicy and well-seasoned and the bread was light and fluffy, but the chicken wings stole the show. The chicken was perfectly cooked with a great crunch, and the spot-on thick consistency of buffalo sauce and the tangy flavour of it with the blue cheese dip made our day.
From sandwiches and steaks to seafood and burgers, the menu has a huge variety of mains, but the Southwest Fettuccine with Steak (94LE) was the first dish that grabbed our attention.
We also tried the Santa Fe Chicken (77LE), which was served with regular French fries and very chunky mashed potato that failed to really register on the palate. Coated with a great, thick crust the otherwise tasty cream sauce made the crust very soggy, thought the chicken itself was tender and had great flavours from the cheese mixture stuffing, which complimented the cream sauce.
There's always a room for dessert and we went with the Sizzling Apple Pie (47LE). Served in a hot skillet, the beautiful layers of the soft cinnamony apple and the crust topped with streusel, walnut and a drizzle of rich caramel sauce was breathtaking. The only downside was watching the ice cream scoop fall from its position and onto the onto hot skillet as it was being served; though the waiter did his best to put it reposition it, it was far too late and much of the ice cream melted immediately. However, digging into the hot apple pie with the cold vanilla ice cream was definitely the highlight of the meal.
All in all, our experience at Applebee's was a little hit-and-miss. The staff were friendly, the service was fast and terrific – besides the ice cream incident – but the racket of the mall and the badly executed dishes were a letdown and it maybe explains the restaurant's failure in making an impact in Cairo.