Thursday, November 2, 2017

Northside Applebee's

Finally, the City of Cincinnati's Northside neighborhood has something to celebrate!

- A menu at Applebee's new Northside location. Featuring some of the most creative and unique cocktails you'll ever find. 

I got my first taste of Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood in 2010, when I was photographing Midpoint Music Festival in its original, unorganized format that relied on multiple local venues - a setup loathed by the general public. While there, I was forced to spend a good amount of time amongst the musicians and artists of a neighborhood that some see as a hub of creativity, but those of us with real jobs know is just a reservation for folks who got degrees in pottery. I couldn’t stand the plethora of quaint, locally owned businesses along Hamilton Ave. or the houses that were as diverse as the community. While they say property values here are rising, the homes look too dissimilar and lack the curb appeal, lawn space, and multi-car garages found in the safe areas of town such as Deerfield Township, West Chester, and Mason (are you expected to talk to your neighbors when living that close? *shudders*).

“No thanks,” I said.

I had absolutely no desire to go back to a place that doesn’t have easy highway access or ample amounts of free parking. Frankly, it's a dangerous area. One where cyclists constantly break the law, riding in the streets and not on sidewalks like they’re supposed to. They roam the neighborhood like gangs of motorcycle bandits on FX’s hit show “Sons of Anarchy” (a program we loved watching as a family, but certainly don't want as our reality!).

I would often think to myself: what would set this community straight, bring it together, and make it an enjoyable place to live? It needed a space where the locals could come together over good food and drinks that could be shared across the table. The combination Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell is a nice start, but Northside really lacked a true neighborhood grill and bar. The kind of place that really cares about the community and proves it by displaying photos of local high school athletes in the breezeway.

Then one recent fall day, it was so cold outside that it felt like CHRISTmas. That feeling was bolstered by the joyous occasion that brought me back to Northside. Finally, this oft-forgotten Cincinnati hamlet had something worth celebrating.

Northside had an Applebee's.

- You'd never find friendly service like this at those local bars progressives, hipsters, and coastal elites are always trying to lecture us about. 

Previously, the building had housed a bar which referred to itself as a “yacht club” in the kind of ironic way that kids find funny with all their meme sharing on the twitter and in text messaging. However, the Northside Yacht Club was far from the kind of place where you could bring your kids and scuff up your Sperry’s on the shuffleboard court. It was a place run by local ruffians, that catered to bands of the “punk” variety. A place run by the same kind of people who think it's ok to visit “Hot Topic” in the Kenwood Towne Centre. Thankfully, Applebee's rode into the neighborhood and drained the swamp.

Now, I know what you're thinking: “Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods already have an Applebee’s!” That's actually just Lachey’s, though. And it's in a dangerous part of the city near the silly trolley that forced Oktoberfest to change locations. Northside received a bonafide, genuine Applebee's. The kind you've come to love and know from the good folks at DineEquity Inc.

I entered and was greeted by a nice young man who bellowed out “Welcome to Applebee's” from the server podium’s microphone. He escorted me to the bar where my friend Bob was already enjoying a "Bourbon and Berries" cocktail. It was just like running into Kelsey Grammar on “Cheers!” I ordered up a "Bahama Mama" as our minds entered what Applebee’s describes as “handcrafted beverage bliss.”

- An Applebee's "Bahama Mama" was just what the doctor ordered.

We caught up as two old friends do, discussing the recent fake news being pushed by the liberal media and how we want to boycott the unpatriotic NFL players, but don't want to miss our Bengals (they've got a real shot this year!). When it came time for another round of drinks, Bob settled on the "Fireball Whisky Lemonade" while I weighed my options of two craft beers: Blue Moon or the Sam Adams’ seasonal selection. I opted for the safe, domestic choice of Pabst Blue Ribbon, clanking the can against the umbrella adorned mason jar Bob was sipping from.

We took a moment to take it all in, swaying back and forth to the iconic jams of Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Phil Collins as well as Simon and Garfunkel. The easy listening hits were only occasionally interrupted by the hostess happily calling out “(last name), party of two, your table’s ready!”

As friends of ours arrived, we all knew what needed to be done. We could all see it in each other's eyes: we were craving the comforting familiarity that can only be derived from artisanally prepared dishes shipped frozen and heated up in “the bee’s” kitchen before being served piping hot to your family.

We needed some shareable apps in our life.

- Delicious choices, bold flavor, and real value!

You might think you can find these dishes at any number of “bar and grills” near the freeway exit. However, TGI Friday's, O’Charley’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, and Chili’s all lack the fun and kitschy decorations that Applebee's decorates it's warm walls with.

- I hope that in the future, Applebee's removes these fish tanks and covers this wall in fabricated decorations that evoke a synthetic nostalgia and view of our past that never really existed, back when this country was truly great. 

It was tough to decide on snacks as we glanced at the laminated menus, but eventually we settled on the "jalapeƱo poppers" (which come with Cool Ranch Doritos Nascar Sauce) and the "double crunch, bone-in chicken wings" as our “Appleteasers.”

Diabetes be damned, it was time to be “eatin’ good in the neighborhood!

For the first time in a long time, I felt close to my friends. I felt our collective bond grow stronger as the warm, melted cheese swirled in my mouth and buffalo sauce tricked down my cheek like the tears of a man who loves his country and is listening to Lee Greenwood. You know what they say: “Live, laugh, and love. A true friend is always willing to share his appetizers.”

We called it a night and thanked the staff, tipping them with booklets containing our favorite Bible passages and promotional materials for our church. That night, seeing an Applebee’s alive and thriving in a once desolate neighborhood that no-one’s clamoring to move to… well… it gave me hope.

As that familiar, old Applebee's  stomach growl started, I loostened the belt on my Faded Glory brand jeans and made a beeline for home on the highway, taking in the sultry sounds of 700 WLW. I went to bed that night full, thankFULL actually, for my neighborhood grill and bar.

God bless America.

…and God bless Applebee’s

Disclaimer: None of this is real. Applebee's isn't actually any good, but does have its place every now and again. Kudos to the Northside Yacht Club for dressing up their bar as an Applebee's for Halloween. NSYC is an excellent establishment that you should go visit if you haven't yet. The food and beer selection are quite good.

For the story on how the bar's owners got the idea, check out this City Beat article.


  1. As I read this article I thought wow the sarcasm levels are much higher than usual. Then I got to the end and it all made sense.

    1. Robo, no sarcasm at all here. I love Applebee's and am grateful for its presence in a derelict neighborhood. All hail our deep friend overlords! Make Applebee's Great Again!

  2. Well I have been following this blog for sometime now and all that was going through my mind was is did he have a few to many drinks at "Applebees" since I know the content you tend to write and this was opposite. Honestly you had me fooled until you got the the jalapeno poppers but even then I still continued on scratching my head going this can't be real then I reached the end. I must say lol this was amazing and funny!

    1. Haha, thanks for reading and following all this time, Terry. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Lol... After every sentence, I kept telling myself that it's not April

  4. This was a little terrifying and a lot amazing!

  5. I love Ruth's, much more of an actual "in the neighborhood" feel than NSYC.

    1. Ruth's Parkside Cafe? Excellent brunch. NSYC has some good stuff too.