A two-year joke in Northside will become a reality today when Applebee’s Bar & Grill finally opens on Spring Grove Avenue, just in time for Halloween weekend.
Before Northsiders unleash their pitchforks on a corporate entity moving into a fiercely local neighborhood (save for the lone KFC/Taco Bell), know it’s the brainchild of Jon Weiner and Stuart MacKenzie, owners of Northside Yacht Club, rebranded for the weekend as Northside Applebee’s Bar and Grill.
“Applebee’s is one of the best restaurants in the country,” MacKenzie says. “We wanted to stop doing this whole creative thing in Northside.”
Weiner adds: “We’re officially Applebee’s this weekend, and we’re definitely trying to be Applebee’s forever. Now we’re happy — we can finally achieve our dreams.”
NSYC opened in 2015, soon after an innocent fake news story on Applebee’s looking to open in the neighborhood went viral. Northsiders freaked out. “When Jon and I were opening the bar, they were like, ‘Oh great, not another hipster bar,’ ” MacKenzie says. “We got it from both ends. It was like, ‘Two independent guys trying to start their own business. Blah.’ And also, ‘What’s it going to be — an Applebee’s? Blah.’ "
The truth is, the guys recently dined at Applebee’s and said they had “a legit good time there.”
The Northside Applebee’s cocktail menu will mirror the national chain’s version as much as possible — but with a made-from-scratch spin. Their version of the Blue Hawaiian LIT (Long Island Iced Tea) will be a housemade blue Curaçao mixed with Crown Russe vodka, Cruzan rum, tequila, lemon, sugar and cane cola.
“I rewrote the recipes to make them good,” MacKenzie says.
Unlike Applebee’s, MacKenzie spent 14 hours juicing the fruits for the simple syrups: peach, blackberry and raspberry. Five other cocktails, such as a raspberry Cosmo (vodka, St-Germain, housemade raspberry simple and lime) and an Irish Peach Sour (Hell-Cat Maggie Irish whiskey, peach simple, lemon and lime juice) adorn the handcrafted-cocktail menu.
As for the Appleteasers, Northside Applebee’s re-creates the sampler — mozzarella sticks, spinach and artichoke dip, jalapeño poppers and boneless wings. It clocks in at a whopping 69,420 calories, which is 34.7 times the daily 2,000-calorie diet, according to the bar owners.
“Our math may be wrong,” MacKenzie says. “We just ate it and that’s how many calories it felt like.”
Northside’s version of Applebee’s chili cheese fries differs with vegan lentil chili and Rhinegeist Truth beer cheese. NSYC’s staple smoked wings and boneless cauliflower wings make an appearance in the Applebee’s world. Akin to Applebee’s, the staff at Northside will greet every customer and don name tags.
Weiner and MacKenzie spent a month and a half planning the venture. They redesigned NSYC’s menu and re-shot photos of the cocktails. The bar menu and several photos of employees eating cheese sticks are available at northsideapplebees.com, along with a late-night full-priced apps menu. The NSYC Facebook page has been similarly updated.
Word appears to have gotten out — a group of Applebee’s fans installed a bus bench ad in front of the Taco Bell on Hamilton Avenue yesterday.
“We’re not sure who did it,” MacKenzie says. “I think it was a DIY operation.”
And what about the possibility of Applebee’s recognizing the elevation of the brand to a new level?
“Hopefully when they see our attempt, they’ll welcome us into the fold,” MacKenzie says.
Northside Applebee’s Bar & Grill
4227 Spring Grove Ave., Northside 513-541-0528
4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday