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Applebee’s Opening First Hawaii Location in Ewa


Applebee’s Ewa Beach Ohana ~ September 7, 2016

Applebee’s® Opens First Location in Hawaii, Bringing America’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar to All 50 States

  • Ewa Beach Oahu location represents a milestone in the brand’s 36-year history
  • New restaurant creates 136 local jobs and will raise funds for Make-A-Wish® Hawaii

(Honolulu, Hawaii/Glendale, California, September 8, 2016) Applebee’s Grill and Bar was established in suburban Atlanta in 1980, and has since grown to be one of America’s most popular restaurants, with over 2,000 locations in 49 states, two US territories (Guam and Puerto Rico) and 17 countries. However there has never been a location in Hawaii… until now!

On September 18, 2016, Applebee’s marks a milestone, when Hawaii — the last remaining state in the Union without an Applebee’s — will celebrate the opening of its first location in Ewa Beach on the ever-expanding west side of Oahu.

Adding to the excitement, a second Applebee’s location is already planned to open next year at the Ka Makana Alii Mall in Kapolei.

The new Applebee’s restaurant in Ewa Beach will feature the brand’s new American-made wood-fired grill menu, which includes certified USDA choice steaks and bone-in pork chops that are hand-cut in-house. As well as chicken, shrimp and salad entrees that benefit from the smokey fresh taste of food being grilled over American Oak wood.

Applebee’s Ewa Beach Franchisee, Vince Espino, Make-A-Wish® Hawaii representative Siana Hunt and Daniel del Omo, President, International of DineEquity, Inc (NYSE: DIN) ~ 9/07/16

Applebee’s will also bring the tradition of giving back to the community of Hawaii by sponsoring a month of fundraising activities for Make-A-Wish® Hawaii, which grants wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. Beginning in mid-September, the restaurant will offer the charity’s Make-A-Wish® “Stars” for purchase in the restaurant, which will contribute $1 from each sale of a designated Applebee’s menu item, among other fundraising activities. These events will culminate with a ceremony where a very special surprise will be revealed to a local wish child.

“For 36 years, Applebee’s has been the quintessential American neighborhood grill and bar, for guests all across the Unites States, and increasingly, around the world — with one exception, our great 50th State.”, said Daniel del Olmo, President of International, DineEquity Inc., the parent company of Applebee’s. “I am delighted that as of today, we can say “Aloha” to our friends and neighbors on Oahu and welcome them to the first Applebee’s in Hawaii.”


Sarah Espino, Chief Operating Officer of Union MAK Corporation, Daniel del Olmo, President, International of DineEquity, Inc (NYSE: DIN) and Vince Espino, President and owner of Union MAK Corporation, franchisee of both IHOP and Applebee’s Bar and Grill Hawaii ~ 9/7/16

This location is expected to bring 136 new jobs to the local economy. Applebee’s is now located at 91-1401 Fort Weaver Road, Ewa Beach, in the same mall where Longs Drugs and Foodland are. It seats approximately 128 guests and is open Sunday through Thursday from 11am to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 11am to 1am.

Kamehameha Schools Kahu Kelekona Bishaw performed the blessing of the new Applebee’s Ewa Beach Restaurant

Press release courtesy of Craig Hoffman, DineEquity, Inc.

Pomai’s Take

Yesterday on Wednesday, September 7th, Applebee’s Ewa Beach hosted a press preview luncheon and VIP dinner party ahead of the September 18th grand opening. On behalf of the Tasty Island, Yours Truly was invited and was humbly honored to attend the luncheon, which started at noon, and carried on again at 4pm, with VIP guests including local politicians and executives.

While I could have stayed for the evening VIP event, due to my schedule, I only attended the noon media luncheon, where I sat and had lunch personally with Applebee’s Ewa Beach owner and President, Vince Espino and his business partner Sarah Espino, along with DineEquity, Inc. President Daniel del Olmo, Siana Hunt, representing Hawaii’s Make-A-Wish foundation, Kahu Kelekona Bishaw of Kamehameha Schools who performed the Hawaiian blessing of the restaurant earlier that morning, and Craig Hoffman, also of DineEquity, Inc, the parent company of Applebee’s, as well as iHop here in Hawaii.

As for the press, to much surprise, other than myself, sitting next to me was a reporter from the Honolulu Star Advertiser (sorry, didn’t get her name), and that was it. On top of that, the reporter didn’t eat anything, but was only there for an interview. I was like, “OMG, don’t tell me I’m going to be the only outsider food critic here!” But yep, that’s pretty much what it came down to. Hey man, can’t complain, right? Yet the owners were happy to oblige! lol

Really though, it was more a press Q&A session than a menu-tasting, however they did bust out a pretty nice spread that covered the gist of their menu’s theme, which I’ll share in a follow-up post.

That said, my take from talking with Vince, Sarah and Daniel, the 3 top people behind this restaurant, is that they’re COMMUNITY-DRIVEN. They want to give back to the neighborhood of Ewa Beach and Oahu in general any way they can, starting of course with the Make-A-Wish drive in their first month of business.

For the life of me, I can’t remember his name (didn’t write it down), however this gentleman on the left is the general contractor of Design Build Hawaii, in charge of building out the Applebee’s Ewa Beach restaurant from the ground up, converting the space where was once a Blockbuster

The big question of course most folks who don’t live in Ewa Beach will ask is, “Why Ewa Beach? Why didn’t Applebee’s open first in the Ala Moana or Waikiki area?” And their simple answer to that is DEMOGRAPHIC. Ewa Beach has the perfect demo’ for their business model, which again, is community-driven. Ewa has the perfect balance of well-established locals, along with mainland transplants who are either retired or active duty military, whom are already familiar with the Applebee’s brand.

On top of that, they got a sweet deal for the lease of the space from the mall owners, being Applebee’s is a well-known, attractive brand, surely to bring high numbers to that mall, not just for the restaurant, but the surrounding businesses. So like Blockbuster was, Applebee’s will sort of serve as a third anchor tenant, alongside Longs and Foodland.

The owners also emphasized employing the local community, noting that a majority of this restaurant’s staff live in Ewa, or nearby, thus boosting morale within due to the convenience of working close to home.

As for the size and design of the restaurant, Daniel explained to me that a typical Applebee’s on the mainland range anywhere from about 3,000 to 4,000 square feet, with the larger restaurants about 5,000 square feet. The Applebee’s Ewa Beach is 3,500 square feet, putting them in the “sweet spot” from a business model perspective. This, based on over a year of market research they did before going forward with the project.

The design of the interior space is a departure from Applebee’s of the past, modeled somewhat on newer locations they’ve opened on the mainland. And I must say, it is GORGEOUS. Contemporary-meets-casual would be the best way I’d sum it up. It feels very inviting and warm, with ambient lighting that’s bright enough for them great Yelp shots of your dish, yet not so bright as to feel you’re in an institution, but more at home. The variety of seating options is also great, where I myself appreciate the privacy of booth seating they have to offer. While if you book a large party, they could certainly accommodate that as well.

We’ll close off this press release with a look around the new Applebee’s restaurant in Ewa Beach. Enjoy. ;-)


Craig Hoffman of DineEquity, Inc (NYSE: DIN) with Pomai Souza of the Tasty Island “share the roundtable” at Applebee’s new location in Ewa Beach ~ September 7, 2016


Daniel del Olmo, President of Applebee’s parent company, explains the benefits of flame grilling with American Oak wood, a focal point of their revamped menu


Siana Hunt gives a presentation on Make-A-Wish to the Applebee’s Ewa Beach team after their morning warm-up meeting; the gentleman to the left with the orchid lei is Nathan Hughes, the Brand & General Manager of the restaurant


Applebee’s Ewa Beach Bartender Leia and server Liam ~ 9/07/16


Applebee’s Ewa Beach dining room view from the entrance hosting area; a side note on all those apples: while I thought they might be plastic, they’re all REAL, FRESH APPLES. I was gonna’ take a bite out of every red and green apple here in honor of the launch of the iPhone 7 that same day, but didn’t wanna’ get banned from Applebee’s for life. lol


Applebee’s Ewa Beach front-side dining area offers a variety of seating options to fit your party


Applebee’s Ewa Beach central dining area, facing towards the “semi-open” kitchen in back


You’ll find the spartan new and beautiful restrooms (a.k.a. “da’ Lua”) right there on the left side of the dining area, in the doorway next to that cattle cut chart


Applebee’s Ewa Beach main dining area, facing towards the bar on the right side of the establishment; as you can see, there’s enough big screen TVs here to keep the armchair quarterbacks happy ;-)


Applebee’s Ewa Beach dining room, with full service bar on the right, including big screen TVs everywhere within view


Like I said, big screen TVs everywhere


Applebee’s Ewa Beach full service bar


Applebee’s Ewa Beach menu includes a concise, yet respectable wine list sure to pair with any dish and personal preference; good choice with the Cab as the featured wine there!


Semi-open kitchen, with the Oak wood-fired grill encased in that stainless steel box highlighted in this larger window


Kitchen expediting area


Applebee’s logo gift glasses for the VIP guests that day; I was hoping there’d be a brand new gloss black iPhone 7 Plus stashed in mine, but nope. Dang it! lol It’s actually an Applebee’s Brewtus 16 oz. beer glass with an Applebee’s logo koozie and reusable ecobag in it. 


Applebee’s Ewa Beach is located in the same mall as Longs Drugs and Foodland, in the standalone building next to Subway, in the space where was once Blockbuster

Once again, there will be a follow-up post to this introduction coming soon that will give you a preview of the entire menu at Applebee’s Ewa Beach, along with a showcase of a variety of tasty appetizers and entrees I got to sample while chatting with the bosses. So stay tuned.

Until then, we’ll leave you with this…


Applebee’s Ewa Beach new Oak Wood Fire-Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop with Honey Apple Chutney

29 thoughts on “Applebee’s Opening First Hawaii Location in Ewa

  • September 8, 2016 at 11:58 am
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    Pomai,

    Yuck!!! This is just what Hawai’I adults and children need, more mainland chain restaurant frozen pre-processed high salt content quick food. No Thank You!

    Reply
  • September 8, 2016 at 12:07 pm
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    Ken,

    IIRC, Cheesecake Factory took the prize for highest sodium and fat content in their dishes, ounce-for-ounce, topping out even the fast food chains.

    Applebee’s owners did emphasize that a lot of their ingredients are sourced and grown locally, especially the produce, and the dishes are made from scratch. So it’s not like you’re being served some restaurant chain “TV Dinner” that was “nuked”.

    I will say this: we were served a wide variety of appetizers and entrees from Applebee’s menu, and they were all for the most part, absolutely DELICIOUS! Admittedly one or two dishes were a bit overcooked (well-done), but that was likely because the dish sat there longer than it should while we were talking ‘n stuff. Certainly nothing came across as being too salty or overbearingly rich.

    Hey, if not for the food, they do have a full service bar and giant flat screen TVs everywhere to catch the new NFL season! I’m sure Ewa Beach party peeps will appreciate that option to Buffalo Wild Wings right up the street.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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      Pomai,

      I used to have a Applebee’s in my neighborhood that I would go to. The food was so, so and salty, mostly over cooked. One night at the bar I ordered the wings and they really screwed them up. Vowed I never eat in the chain again. Buffalo Wild Wings charges $5 more in Hawaii per order than they charge on the mainland and their wings are small like KFC. Cheaper to go to Wings Stop for full size wings. Five Guy’s Burgers & Fries in Mililani is charging about $7 per item over the mainland price.
      When you look at Applebee’s nutrition Information published by them 2016 10 page PDF the highest amount of sodium listed is 7270 MG for Classic Combo w/of sauce. Add sauce and that meal is over 8000 MG of sodium or more than 4 tablespoons of salt. Your best bet in Applebee’s is to eat from kids menu to lower salt intake. Adults are supposed to intake no more than 2200 MG of sodium a day across all three meals and snacks combined.

      Reply
      • September 9, 2016 at 5:28 pm
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        Four tablespoons!  That can’t be right.  A tablespoon of table salt is about 17 grams.  8000mg (8 grams) would be less than 1/2 tablespoon.  Still a lot, though.

        Reply
        • September 9, 2016 at 6:07 pm
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          Kyle, then you have soda pop, which has on average 39 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 10 teaspoons. So what I’ll do is order the Classic Combo and a large Coke. Perhaps throw in the fried cheese sticks for good measure. Yup, sounds like a plan! lol

          Reply
        • September 9, 2016 at 9:26 pm
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          Kyle,
           
          1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
           

          Reply
      • September 9, 2016 at 5:35 pm
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        Ken,

        Holy Sodium! Dang, 7,270 MG? I suppose after you eat that, just eat carrot sticks for the rest of the week. lol

        Looking over the menu for the Ewa Beach location, it lists the Classic Combo as a lunch item, where you pick any two from the soup, salad and entree selections for 11.49. There’s a footnote taht states the Combos are half portion sandwiches and “combo” size soup and salads. So maybe they reduced the portion to lower the sodium stats.

        Had I known that, I would have researched the nutritional information before going there, so I could address the concern to the bosses, and get feedback from them on it. I really thought there’d be more media folks there to ask those type of questions, so I could concentrate on critiquing the food more. However the Q&A got left in my court, as the Star Advertiser reporter left early, halfway through the luncheon. So my questions steered more towards the business as a whole than food specific.

        As for the wings, I tried their boneless wings with classic Buffalo sauce, and it was excellent. However I’m sure enthusiasts like you probably prefer them on the bone for gnawing.

        Since you live on that side, I really think you should give the new Ewa Beach location a try. Aside of your nutritional concerns, they just might put away your dissent from the Rhode Island location. You gotta’ try that THICK-CUT Pork Chop on the bone with Honey Apple Chutney… it is EXCELLENT! And just $18.49, which comes with a DELICIOUS sweet potato mash topped with big chunks of crunch bacon bits and steamed broccoli, as shown above at the end of the post. Sweet deal!

        Reply
        • September 9, 2016 at 9:20 pm
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          Pomai,
           
          http://www.applebees.com/~/media/docs/Applebees_Nutritional_Info.pdf
           
          Your boneless wings w/o sauce had 340 calories and 900 mg of sodium. Add classic Buffalo Sauce and that adds 100 more calories and 1,300 mg of sodium plus dip them in blue cheese dressing and that adds 240 calories and 250 mg more of sodium for a total of 680 calories and 2,450 mg of sodium.
           
          So you want me to spend $18.49 for the THICK-CUT Pork Chop on the bone with Honey Apple Chutney which is 560 calories and 1590 mg of sodium with steamed broccoli at 90 calories and 260 mg of sodium and you said; “sweet potato mash topped with big chunks of crunch bacon bits” but your photo shows maple pecan mashed sweet potatoes at 400 calories and 860 mg of sodium for a total of 1,050 calories and 2,710 mg of sodium. Not counting an additional appetizer, salad or soup, desert or drinks for dinner and also not including breakfast, lunch or any daily snacks.
           
          According to the National Institute of Health: http://www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov/dsld/dailyvalue.jsp the average adult without high blood pressure and child over age 4 based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet should not ingest more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day.
           
           BTW; Applebee’s is on the list twice for the 10 saltiest meals in America taking the number 7 spot with Applebee’s Sizzling Skillet Shrimp Fajita at 5,140 milligrams sodium and the number 2 spot with Applebee’s Appetizer Sampler 6,260 milligrams! PF Chang’s holds on to number 1 with Hot and Sour Soup Bowl 7,980 milligrams of sodium! Equivalent to eating in one sitting slurping down the sodium equivalent of 44 individual bags of Doritos Cool Ranch Tortilla Chips.

          Reply
  • September 8, 2016 at 1:11 pm
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    I’ve been to Applebee’s only once on a volleyball trip for my daughter’s club team.  Wasn’t expecting much, but it turned out to be a very pleasant dinner.  They accommodated our large party very well, and the food was excellent.  Definitely planning to try the Ewa Beach location!

    Reply
  • September 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm
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    While living in California, we visited a couple of different Applebee’s and liked the food we ate.  Out of the various restaurant chains, it was probably our favorite and always thought they should bring one to Hawaii.  As for their food being unhealthy, you could say the same thing about the many mom and pop restaurants in Hawaii.  And usually every chain restaurant now has “healthier” alternatives on the menu.

    Reply
  • September 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm
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    @ David –  Regarding the mom ‘n pop restaurants here in Hawaii, um, YEAH! It’s not like your typical plate lunch or diner grub with a heaping pile of meat (high in sodium and fat) 2 scoops white rice (no fiber) and 1 scoop mac’ salad (carbo’ overload) aren’t just as guilty. As you said, just about every restaurant has healthy options, including the likes of Applebee’s and Cheesecake Factory. I’ll be posting the complete Applebee’s Ewa Beach menu a little later, which showcases that.

    @ Kyle – Good to hear your positive experience with them. Based on the friendly staff and management I met there, I have confidence this Ewa Beach location will be successful. I’m only cringing once Yelpers get in there. And believe me, the owners are very aware of the “Yelp factor”.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2016 at 4:06 am
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    Glad Hawaii (Ewa) now has an Applebee’s. But personally, I am not a fan of Applebee’s. I think their food and pricing is mediocre at best. But what you really need is a Wells Fargo Bank in Hawaii/Honolulu. I can’t imagine why WFB has no locations in Hawaii after all these years.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2016 at 7:15 am
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      Wells Fargo – too busy setting up unauthorized accounts?  ;)

      Reply
    • September 9, 2016 at 9:47 am
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      Alan,

      Wait until you see the next post on the entire revamped menu and tasting preview; I think  you’ll rethink that thought.

      As for Wells Fargo Bank, same could be said for Bank of America, which we don’t have a physical location as well, save for a mortgage house in Downtown Honolulu, and that’s it.

      Reply
      • September 9, 2016 at 9:58 am
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        It could be that the national banks know that customers in Hawaii trust the local banks more and wouldn’t “migrate” to a national bank if a branch opened up here in Hawaii?

        I just noticed the photo of the exterior of Applebee’s.  Why did they paint it black?  That doesn’t look inviting at all!

        Reply
        • September 9, 2016 at 10:37 am
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          David,

          Aside of a specific local FCU that bends me for a VERY personal reason, I agree about sticking with local banks.

          As for the black painted exterior, now that you mention it, you’re right! It kinda’ looks like a KB bar with “Applebee’s” written in front. When you walk in, Mama-San going greet you at the door, “Herro, relcome to Applebee’s. You rike eat-u, or you rike drink-ee?”  LOL!!!

          I looked up Applebee’s locations on the mainland, and many of them have a pleasant brick facade/construction. I’ll mention this to Vince and Daniel in an email. I think they should replace the black paint with a brick facade. That would look WAY more inviting…

          Speaking of which, now I’m wondering why the sign in front doesn’t include the red apple logo, like most other locations have. I think it’s amiss without that. I’ll ask about that ask well.

          Reply
          • September 9, 2016 at 11:28 am
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            When I think of Applebee’s, the photo is what I think of, since that looks like the Applebee’s we used to visit in California.  It’s a lot more inviting than the black paint.  If they can’t do the brick, maybe they can change the paint scheme.

            I also agree with Kyle, that pork chop does look good!

      • September 9, 2016 at 10:57 am
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        Mmmmm…  That pork chop looks good…

        Reply
  • September 9, 2016 at 9:55 pm
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    Pomai,

    You missed the first opening of a Johnny Rockets in Hawaii located in Pearl City Highlands Shopping Center. I loved this place back on the mainland. Prices are reasonable, serving mainly burgers, fries and milkshakes, which are all great!

    The interior is 1950s with lots of chrome and juke boxes at each booth so you can play Your favorite songs. When certain songs are played, cooks come out from behind the counter and dance.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2016 at 10:47 pm
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      Ken,

      One of the fondest memories I have about juke boxes, was dining at Zippy’s Restaurant in the back of the Kaneohe location, when back in the day, they had a classic juke box that played vinyl 45 rpm singles. Always fun fighting over who got to choose the next song by punching in your song choice, which was type-written on paper inserts placed within buttons you pressed to select your song, which would play in that order. There’s a wonderful nostalgia about classic “pre-digital” (mostly analog) machines like that!

      Reply
      • September 10, 2016 at 6:49 pm
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        Pomai,
         
        Johnny Rockets, Pearl Highlands Shopping Center (next to Buffalo Wild Wings) will be sure to bring back those memories, juke box, restaurant white paper hat, white uniforms with black bow ties and décor (red vinyl, black and white checkered tile, plus chrome and more chrome, good ole juke box spinning 45s), burgers, fries, sodas, ice cream shakes and deserts made like back in the 1950s. A step into Johnny Rockets is like stepping back into the 1950s and 1960s; great food and grooving on the juke box (play the right song and cooks, wait-staff do a rocking line dance for the restaurant)! It’s like stepping back in time to “Happy Days” with teenager Richie Cunningham and the  Arthur “Fonzie”/”The Fonz” Fonzarelli plus gang!! Checking out Johnny Rockets Nutritional Guide shows the Rocket Wings have you dancing into really high sodium zone but a regular burger with fries and Minute Made® Lemonade is 1590 calories and 1560 mg sodium for all three. Check out Yelp Johnny Rockets or: http://www.johnnyrockets.com/
         

        Reply
  • September 10, 2016 at 4:21 am
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    Pomai, ate at Calif. Applebees a lot and enjoyed their salads the most.

    Too bad no location at former Kenny one.  Great for students to head to after

    school.

    Reply
    • September 10, 2016 at 11:19 am
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      Amy,

      I’m glad Kenny’s was replaced by Kam Bowl, as other than Kenny’s, that’s the most fitting business for that location. I’m NOT glad to read the MANY bad Yelp reviews about Kam Bowl. Especially the bad comments about their Oxtail Soup either not tasting good, and/or portions really small. How can you not get your signature dish right?

      If you want excellent Oxtail Soup, stick with either Asahi Grill, The Alley Restaurant in Aiea Bowl, or Pho Bistro 2 (near Don Quijote Kaheka).

      Reply
      • September 10, 2016 at 11:34 am
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        Oxtail. Huge meaty soup at TipTop, Lihue.

        Reply
  • September 11, 2016 at 11:21 am
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    I’ve never liked Applebee’s. I can’t comment on the quality of most of the menu, but through all their menu changes over the past 25 years or so, they have not ever made changes to accommodate vegetarians. Most Applebee’s-level chains (Red Robin, Friday’s, Chili’s, etc.) have options that can easily be made vegetarian, and also have a meat-free alternative for burgers (garden burger, black bean burger, etc.).  At Applebee’s, the salads, pastas, just about everything is not suitable for a vegetarian. By that I mean that the meat portion is an integral part of the dish, as opposed to something just topping the salad.

    Reply
    • September 11, 2016 at 11:51 am
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      h,

      Looking over the menu, you’re right about it not being vegetarian-friendly. Aside of only a few apps and soups, just about every dish is “meat-centric”. The only other option you’d have is to order the sides that are served with their wood fired grill menu (choose two with grilled meat of choice), however it’s not set-up to be sold that way.

      They said that 90% of the menu at the Ewa location are standard items at ALL Applebee’s locations. They will eventually introduce some regional items unique to the Hawaii location. Perhaps there they can cater to the vegan folks, such as oh, say, a “Hawaiian Organic Salad”.

      If you ever visit Honolulu, you must try Greens & Vines, an all-vegan restaurant. You’d LOVE it.

      Reply
  • November 8, 2016 at 9:25 pm
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    This ewa beach applebees is suck service worst

    food is not good and its expensive i been there for the first time and would be my last

    the food is made in microwave people are coming in but they make it waiting outside even though

    lots of empty table..the food was just in the top of the counter sitting there for the long time that makes it bad..i order a salmon it was grilled oh my gosh its salty and dry.

    so i say thank you for the bad experience

    Reply
    • November 12, 2016 at 2:02 am
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      Len,

      Keep in mind, they’re still new, having just opened a month ago. As with most businesses, you have to give them time to work out all the kinks. Liliha Bakery on Nimitz had these same what seems like more logistical issues than anything else, and they got thrown under the bus on Yelp for it. However eventually it seemed they improved, according to more recent Yelp reviews.

      When I talked with the owners at the press preview event, I hit them with the “Yelp factor”, and being in the industry for a long time, they clearly knew how important that is. Which I think is a good thing, as not only does it keep consumers informed, but also business owners.

      Reply

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