The Most Underrated Menu Item at 13 Popular Restaurant Chains
The boneless wings at Applebee's. The chicken and dumplins at Cracker Barrel. The Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse.
There's a reason these chain restaurant dishes are so iconic. Fans have been ordering them consistently over the years, and they're standout offerings from the restaurants. But chains aren't one-trick ponies, and there are likely plenty of hidden gems on the menu at your favorite restaurant.
OK, so you probably wouldn't expect to get, say, perfectly slow-smoked barbecue at Chili's, or a made-from-scratch tiramisu at Olive Garden. But there are still great menu items at your favorite chains that lie outside of the most popular orders. For example, Red Robin serves a tasty plate of battered fish and chips, and Steak 'n Shake's hot dog is just as good as its burgers.
Here are some of the most underrated chain restaurant menu items—this list might just inform your next dinner choice.
TGI Friday's Oreo Madness
With a wealth of apps and burgers galore, it's easy to fill up before making it to dessert—but don't. The Oreo Madness features two larger-than-life Oreos with cookies and cream ice cream sandwiched in between and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. It's big enough to share, but you probably won't want to.
Chili's Skillet Queso
You probably know all about the Big Mouth burgers and fajitas, but there is another gem in Chili's appetizer section: the skillet queso. It's a creamy cheese peppered with seasoned beef and perfect for dipping tortilla chips in until your entrée arrives.
Applebee's Brisket Tacos
You may consider Chili's the go-to chain restaurant for Tex-Mex, but Applebee's has a taco that is not to be missed. The BBQ Brisket Tacos entrée features three flour tortillas loaded with mouthwatering brisket and topped with crispy onions. It's the perfect bite.
The Cheesecake Factory Avocado Egg Rolls
Sure, most people probably go to The Cheesecake Factory for, well, cheesecake. But they're missing out on the greatness that is the Avocado Egg Rolls. An egg roll wrapper is stuffed with avocado, sun-dried tomato, onion, and cilantro, and fried for ultimate crispiness.
Grand Lux Cafe Asian Nachos
As at The Cheesecake Factory, the extensive menu at Grand Lux Café can be overwhelming. Go in with a plan and order the Asian Nachos. It's listed as an appetizer, but the loaded "chips" (made from fried wontons) are the perfect portion for a meal.
Outback Steakhouse Bloom Petals
You know about the Bloomin' Onion at Outback. Everyone knows about the Bloomin' Onion at Outback. But just a few rows over on the menu is its better brethren: the Bloomin' Petals. You don't have to do the work of pulling apart the onion, and each onion piece is completely breaded and crisped, ready for dipping.
Olive Garden Toasted Beef and Pork Ravioli
A dish made popular in St. Louis, toasted ravioli is just like it sounds: ravioli that's breaded and fried. And it's delicious. Some Olive Gardens offer it as a standalone appetizer, whereas at others, you'll have to get as part of the Sampler Italiano. It's worth the splurge!
Red Lobster Lobster and Langostino Pizza
It might feel odd ordering a pizza at a seafood restaurant, but just trust us. Fresh lobster is added to a crispy thin crust alongside juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and a thin layer of mozzarella. Don't let the "appetizer" name fool you—order it for yourself as a meal.
Red Robin Arctic Cod Fish & Chips
We know—it's strange to go into a place famous for burgers and order the fish. And the fish and chips, no less! But this battered cod is fried to a golden crisp and served alongside the restaurant's Bottomless Steak Fries. The Dill'd & Pickl'd Tartar Sauce is a perfect complement.
Steak 'N Shake Classic Steak Frank
Steak 'N Shake is famous for its steakburgers, but there's something incredibly satisfying about the plain Steak Frank. There's not much to say other than that it's a tasty hot dog with a buttery bun, and you won't be disappointed.
Cracker Barrel Apple 'n Cinnamon Oatmeal
Pancakes are the star of the Cracker Barrel breakfast menu. But this slow-cooked oatmeal is just as delectable. (And you can still order it with one of those signature mini syrup bottles, too.)
Texas Roadhouse Fresh-Baked Bread
Why spend money on a steak when you can fill up on the free bread? Okay, yes, they will probably make you order something. But get a salad and triple up on these buttery, fresh, warm rolls that are served with cinnamon butter. Who needs surf and turf when you have this combo?
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup
With its fresh bread, a sandwich may seem like the go-to move at Panera. But we recommend a classic: the Broccoli Cheddar Soup. It's a simple dish of just cheese and broccoli. But it's rich and creamy, and it pairs perfectly with a baguette.
It's always fun to get the popular menu items, but sometimes it's nice to branch out of your comfort zone, too. Consider trying out these menu options the next time you're at these chains—you might just be pleasantly surprised.