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Applebee’s offers free samplings nationwide today

The Sriracha shrimp is fried with Applebee’s special coating then tossed in Sriracha Chile Lime sauce.
The Sriracha shrimp is fried with Applebee’s special coating then tossed in Sriracha Chile Lime sauce. mnewman@kcstar.com

Today, diners at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar across the nation can try free samplings of two of its newest dishes: Sriracha shrimp and Churro S’mores.

The items are part of Applebee’s continuing image revamp that includes a “permanent, standing menu of bar-and-grill classics, elevated with premium ingredients” such as quinoa and Sriracha, according to a press release. (The Kansas City-based chain has also rolled out a customer loyalty program, tableside tablets, and healthier kids menus.)

I got a chance to sample of six of its newest items, which are on the current menu. And although I’m not an Applebee’s regular — I am a fan of the half-priced apps special — the dishes had a surprising amount of flavor.

Sriracha shrimp

The shrimp is fried with Applebee’s special coating and then tossed in Sriracha Chile Lime sauce. It was one the best of the six. The Sriracha, an ingredient-of-the-moment, gave it a really nice flavor. It wasn’t too spicy — but it did have kick — and paired really nicely with the lime. 720 calories.

Churro S’mores

This dessert was my favorite dish. The cinnamon churro twists are served with a warm marshmallow and chocolate dip. The roasted marshmallow and sauce elevated the churros, and created a delicious pairing. The dessert was decadent, but I also didn’t feel like I was eating a thousand calories. 640 calories.

Triple Hog Dare Ya

This sandwich is one of the restaurant’s new “handheld” items and is stacked with pulled pork, Black Forest ham and bacon, with crispy onions and melted cheddar cheese on a Ciabatta bun. Before trying the dish, I was wary about how the meats would work together. It was a hardy sandwich, and I really enjoyed the pulled pork and bacon combo. I didn’t taste too much of the ham, but I didn’t mind. The crispy onions gave it a nice crunch. 1140 calories.

Brew Pub Philly

This take on the classic had Montreal-seasoned steak, peppers, onions and jalapenos; the vegetables are fried instead of sauteed. The dish includes a beer cheese sauce and is on a Ciabatta roll. While I liked the variety of flavors, the fried peppers, onions and jalapenos were overwhelming at times and made the sandwich a tad greasy. 1180 calories.

Maple Bacon Chicken Piadini

This handheld sandwich includes cedar-seasoned chicken with bacon, cheddar cheese and maple mustard in a Piadini wrap. The sandwich was too sweet for me. The maple mustard overshadowed most of the flavors and I wasn’t able to taste the thick bacon or seasoned chicken. 1050 calories.

American Standard All-In Burger

The concept of All-In Burger didn’t disappoint. The burger has pickles, bacon and onion seared into the fresh ground beef. It’s then topped with American cheese and signature sauce. The burger had simple, clean flavors. The patty was juicy and sauce light enough so it didn’t cloud the flavors of the pickles, bacon and onion. While I did miss having the toppings laid on top the meat, this was a nice twist on the classic American burger. 1030 calories.

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