While I’m certain that New Jersey must offer independently owned restaurants, upscale fare, creative cooking–it’s a big state—that’s not how I treat our neighbor. My regular weekend visits are an escape from homemade pickles, impeccably sourced produce and backyard slaughtered meat. Sometimes a girl wants breaded fried cheese and cocktails made with sour mix.
But you can’t have it both ways. In order to see Greenberg opening weekend and avoid my fellow Brooklynites, I had to seek out The Court Street cinema (the smaller one with E.T. murals on the side, not the Court Street theater near Atlantic where everyone talks through the movies and can’t stay in their seats, that would be the AMC Aviation 12 in Linden, New Jersey) of New Jersey, a fourplex in Millburn.
I didn’t know the first thing about Millburn. It’s cutesy. They had a Trader Joe’s, a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts designed to look old-timey so as not to destroy the main street character. No major casual dining chains. Our GPS led us five miles southeast to the nearest Applebee’s in Union, New Jersey.
Union is kids selling candy in parking lots (aggressively at Target, knocking on parked car windows) while Millburn is more Cheeks Boutique (those pre-roll ads touting local businesses really work on me) and middle-aged men wearing Crocs.
One of the waitresses at this Applebee’s had a tattoo on the back of her neck with the numbers 333 sprouting devil horns and the phrase “half evil.” She was also half-helpful, explaining to the table behind me how their Two for $20 special (which doesn’t show up if you browse the Applebee’s menus online using an NYC zip code) has a lot more food than Chili’s two-fer deal. I wonder if the servers at Chili's say the same thing about Applebee's?
This was my first encounter with a margarita garnished with a lime and a green olive. I couldn’t be bothered to say anything or to remove the offender. If anything, the briny traces probably balanced out some of the drink’s sweetness.
The Ultimate Trio with an appetizer threesome of our choosing. Yes, the pork wonton tacos were on purpose. The hot wings had been given the usual Buffalo sauce bath and had an extra sprinkling of cayenne for good measure. We got stuck on the question, “buffalo wings or boneless buffalo wing?” Can you call something a wing if it lacks bone structure? Dynamite shrimp are an updated take on popcorn shrimp, coated in panko crumbs, fried and coated in a sweet-and-sour glaze.
I was very tempted to order the fried chicken salad, but anyone with even rudimentary nutritional knowledge realizes that you may as well eat a burger and fries at a chain restaurant (they did have an Asian Crunch Salad in their under 550 calories section, but grilled chicken breast, snap peas and cucumbers is the last thing I want to eat at an Applebee’s).
The Fire Pit Bacon Burger employs a chipotle spread and pepper jack, but no particular flavor stood out. It is not a burger to rhapsodize about (unlike the cheeseburger I tried at eerily empty on a Friday night, Black Market, this weekend) I was happy enough to eat my remaining half for lunch the following afternoon, though.
Applebee’s * 1721 Morris Ave., Union, NJ