Friday, February 2, 2001
Carlisle Comments Applebee's Grill & Bar - friendly and not pricey 235 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, (508) 628-1813
On Superbowl Sunday, when at least half the population were settling down in front of their TVs, we were driving back to Carlisle from North Grafton, looking for someplace to have an inexpensive dinner. We'd just dropped our sweet and probably epileptic dog, Pippin, off at Tufts University's Fowler Small Animal Hospital for tests, and felt in need of cheering up as well as of food.
"What would you like to do about dinner?" Sandy asked as we approached Framingham.
"I was just going to ask you the same thing," I said, and, unenthusiastically, we went through the possibilities: pizza, Chinese food, the various not-very-fancy restaurants near Carlisle.
"Maybe we could find that Indian restaurant in Framingham Center," Sandy suggested, and we both perked up at the idea.
But it had vanished.
At last, on a brief detour to avoid a tricky intersection, we spotted an Applebee's. We'd never been to an Applebee's before, and this one looked both friendly and cheerful.
It was. Inside, we were greeted by colored lights, collages of sports artifacts and local memorabilia, and a smiling maitress d'. Customers were watching pre-Superbowl frolics on a couple of reasonably unobtrusive TVs aimed toward the bar; the maitress d' suggested a booth, with which we readily agreed. On the way to it, she recommended the steak specials, which were colorfully shown in a menu insert. Although there were other tempting items on offer - intriguing appetizers, for example, a chicken breast prepared with lime, and several Mexican dishes we told our friendly, efficient server, Vicky, who made us feel right at home, that we'd have the steak. I chose the South Philly steak and Sandy the one with barbecue sauce.
We shared a large house salad: a heap of lettuce topped with onion, bacon bits, cut-up egg, and shredded cheese, surrounded by cucumber slices and tomato wedges, with our selection of dressing on the side. Allowing for the difficulties of finding great salad makings, especially tomatoes, in January, it was crisp and satisfying.
The steaks came medium rare, as we'd ordered them, juicy and tender. Both the barbecue sauce and the South Philly embellishments were delicious. They were accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes that not only tasted pleasantly of garlic but also incorporated tiny bits of skin something we do with mashed potatoes at home, but have rarely seen in restaurants. Along with the potatoes was a generous serving of perfectly sauteed al dente vegetables. A thick slice of garlic bread completed the array, and its taste, unlike the stuff called garlic bread at similar restaurants, actually lived up to its name. It was wonderful.
For dessert we shared a large slice of one of those "all chocolate" creations: chocolate cake, filling, frosting, and sauce. Again, unlike similar confections elsewhere, this one was indeed richly chocolate without being sickeningly sweet.
Over dessert, we had a friendly chat with the maitress d', Ruthie, who is one of the restaurant's three managers (and an animal lover to boot; she was very sympathetic about our poor Pip). Applebee's, she told us, has recently engaged a woman to oversee their operation, and the menu and food preparation have risen to new heights under her supervision.
We agree! Although this was our first Applebee's meal, it won't be our last. It's clearly a perfect place for a simple and not pricey meal out, when you're looking for good food in a friendly atmosphere.
To get there from Carlisle, follow Rt. 126 through Wayland and across the Framingham town line. Shortly before Route 30 (where it's quickly followed by Route 9), you'll see a sign on your left saying "Old Path Village," and a strip mall below it. Turn sharp left at the sign; Applebee's is at the near end of the second section of the strip mall - the section that also contains a Super Stop and Shop.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito