Look, it’s not like Applebee’s hasn’t heard the jokes. Applebee’s is not some out-of-touch square with no ears for hearing or feelings for feeling things. Applebee’s is a restaurant. An honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood-and-Potato-Twisters restaurant who is right here—right everywhere, really—and who can easily hear you laughing it up at Applebee’s’s expense.
What about all the good times we had? Remember those? Applebee’s does. Applebee’s even remembers your very first date. You know why? Because it happened right here at Applebee’s. You could have taken her to any number of dining establishments, upwards of a dozen of which are located within 75 yards of Applebee’s. You could have taken those first steps toward adulthood at Ruby Tuesday or Texas Roadhouse, or even (god forbid) O’Charley’s. You could have taken her to T.G.I. Friday’s. You could have grabbed vacuum-packed ham sandwiches at the 7-Eleven next door and eaten them in the parking lot of the Dick’s Sporting Goods next door to that.
But you didn’t.
You decided that the best spot to impress your crush was a little place between an AutoZone and a frontage road, and you dined by the light of the moon and the parking lot lamps and the traffic lights and the neon Applebee’s sign all combined into one light and reflected off the fleet of Dodge Caravans from Bill Taylor Dodge parked twelve feet from your booth. You chose the Fire Pit Bacon Burger, and she chose the Chicken Quesadilla Grande, and in that moment, all was perfect. Remember that, my friend. When it was go time, you brought her to the Neighborhood. And you ate good in the Neighborhood. You ate good, damn it.
And yet as soon as it becomes “hip” to have a little fun at Applebee’s’s expense, you’re right there with the crowd, cracking wise about the Double Barrel Whiskey Sirloins on your Tumblr. Well, the only thing tumbling right now, old friend, is Applebee’s heart after you shattered it into a million pieces and then gravity made the pieces “tumbl” to the ground.
Does it even matter to you that the guy from Northern Exposure does our voiceovers? No, not the doctor. The other one.
So just go ahead and sue Applebee’s for trying to show a little prefabricated hometown spirit. For manufacturing a little bit of low-rent nostalgia with castoff signage and newspaper clippings about the local high school’s state runner-up volleyball squad from 1999. Applebee’s can’t help it that when you see outdated and marginally accurate local simulacra, the first thing you think of isn’t “home,” but “depressing nightmare.” And, frankly, if you’re too dead inside to appreciate the benefits of eating an Apple Chimi Cheesecake within throwing distance of four gas stations, then there isn’t much that Applebee’s can do to save you anyhow.
Even after all of that, of course, there’s still room for you here. And there always will be. But just know that when we say “See You Tomorrow,” Applebee’s’s heart will break just a little bit knowing that you are no longer the “you” Applebee’s used to know.