Pile it on. That’s the strategy du jour of some restaurant execs. More layers, more combos, more 3,300-calorie “appetizers.”
And why invent a brand new dish, when you can mix and match what’s already in the kitchen? We’re talking mac & cheese sandwiches, fried cheesecake nachos, cheeseburger egg rolls, and fried chicken & waffle benedicts.
It’s not like America has a weight problem or anything. Nah.
“Want more than one app?” asks Applebee’s (1,870 locations). Its solution to this pressing need: a Build Your Sampler with two to five “handpicked” appetizers or bar snacks. Take these five:
- Cheeseburger Egg Rolls. White-flour wrappers stuffed with ground beef and cheddar totals 630 calories.
- Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip. It squeezes 510 calories’ worth of white flour and beer-cheese dip onto your plate.
- Chicken Quesadilla. How about (drumroll) more white flour and cheese plus chicken for another 610 calories?
- Boneless Wings with Classic Buffalo Sauce. A 440-calorie classic. (Don’t forget to add the 240 calories of bleu cheese dressing.)
- Spinach & Artichoke Dip. With tortilla chips, it rings up 960 calories (plus 14 grams of sat fat and 3,980 mg of sodium).
Congrats. You’ve graced your table with 3,390 calories, 65 grams of saturated fat, and 11,650 milligrams of sodium. Share with a friend, and you each get 1,700 calories. Split it four ways, and everyone polishes off 850 calories—about what you’d get in an Applebee’s Classic Burger with cheddar cheese.
And that’s before the entrées arrive.
There’s nothing like a romantic dinner with your sweetie.
Take Marco’s Meal For Two at Maggiano’s Little Italy (51 locations). After the complimentary white-flour rolls, you choose an appetizer or flatbread or two side salads, move on to two “Classic” pasta dishes, and end with a dessert...plus two more classic pastas to take home. Such a deal!
Let’s say you and your date skip the rolls and go with the 1,530-calorie Mozzarella Marinara appetizer, the 1,400- calorie Taylor Street Baked Ziti (with Italian sausage) and 1,560-calorie Fettuccini Alfredo as your pasta dishes, and the 1,180-calorie Warm Apple Crostada for dessert.
Each of you shuffles out of the restaurant with roughly 2,840 calories plus a four-day supply of saturated fat (79 grams) and sodium (6,390 mg). And don’t forget the 11 teaspoons of sugar from the Crostada.
Of course, you could wrap some up to take home...except you’re already taking home two more pasta dishes for tomorrow (or next week, when you get hungry again).
If you pick the 1,020-calorie Mom’s Lasagna and the 1,250-calorie Spaghetti & Meatball with Meat Sauce (yes, just one meatball...because it’s about the size of a baseball), you’ve got another load of white flour seasoned with about 3,300 mg of sodium waiting for you tomorrow. And Mom’s Lasagna comes with a bonus 31 grams of sat fat. (Thanks, Mom.)
“Sundays were made for Fried Chicken & Waffles Benedict,” tweeted The Cheesecake Factory (189 locations) earlier this year. “What brunch hybrids are you craving?”
If your list includes a “Belgian waffle topped with crispy fried chicken strips, poached eggs and Hollandaise” served with maple-butter syrup and (usually) a side of breakfast potatoes, The Cheesecake Factory has your number.
True, that number comes to more than a day’s calories (2,580), a four-day supply of sat fat (86 grams—compliments of the Hollandaise and butter syrup), two days’ worth of sodium (3,390 mg), and 15 teaspoons of (mostly added) sugar.
It’s like eating two Marie Callender’s one-pound Chicken Pot Pies topped with half a stick of butter and a quarter cup of maple syrup.
But what are Sundays for if not to stock up on fat cells that you can—okay, probably won’t—burn by next weekend?
Dave & Gut Buster’s
Dave & Buster’s mission is to create “frequent fun” with “the latest and greatest games, ultimate sports-viewing, extraordinary food and remarkable drinks.” Think of the 83-location chain as Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults.
You can see why the Short Rib & Cheesy Mac Stack is such fun. Was it Dave or Buster who thought of stuffing mac & cheese and short rib into a sandwich? Not enough carbs from the “thick slices of sourdough” (white) bread and pasta? No worries. The Stack comes with a side of “crispy seasoned tots.”
Your “fan favorite” comes to 1,910 calories (done for the day!) and two days’ worth of sat fat (42 grams) and sodium (3,390 mg). It’s like eating three McDonald’s Big Macs and a medium fries, plus an extra half day’s sat fat. What fun!
“SONIC’s craveable, icy slush made with sippable candy!” That’s how SONIC (“America’s Drive-In,” with 3,526 locations) describes its Candy Slushes.
Craving the RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy? You’re adding 370 calories’ worth of candy to a 44 oz. sugar slurry. The tab: 970 calories.
You might as well pour 1¼ cups of sugar into your Styrofoam cup, though you’d need some Red 40 and Blue 1 food dyes and artificial flavors to make it “grape.” It’s like downing three XL (40 oz.) Fanta Wild Cherry Slurpees at 7-Eleven.
And for “Happy Hour” (2 to 4 p.m.), SONIC slushes are half price! America’s Drive-In does its part to expand America’s waistline.
“Braised pork shank, marsala wine sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted parmesan potatoes,” says the menu at Romano’s Macaroni Grill (136 locations). Its Cremini Pork Shank is a “Romano’s House Favorite.”
You can see why. Who could pass up two pounds of pork, potatoes, etc., that supply 1,800 calories, 43 grams of sat fat, and 3,700 mg of sodium? It’s like eating two Outback Steakhouse 10 oz. Ribeye Steaks, each with a side of seasoned french fries.
Add the complimentary 480-calorie (white-flour) Rosemary Peasant Bread, and it’s like eating two Chipotle Carnitas Burritos (with pork, rice, beans, sour cream, cheese, and salsa).
Romano’s is proud of serving “unforgettable meals that leave a lasting impression,” says the chain’s website. Look for it on your bathroom scale.
“Think you can handle this Whole Hog Burger?” asks the menu at Uno Pizzeria & Grill (129 locations). “OVER A POUND OF MEAT. Hamburger, sausage, bacon, prosciutto and pepperoni. PLUS–Four types of cheese, garlic mayo & pickles. With fries & onion rings. Extra napkins free!”
Extra calories, too! Enough to hit 2,850—more than a 24- hour supply. And don’t forget the three days’ worth of sat fat (62 grams), six-day stockpile of sodium (9,790 mg), and white-flour bun! You might as well eat four McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese and two medium fries doused with 18 packets of salt.
In March, Uno asked its social media followers to “share their Whole Hog Burger Experience” on Facebook. Among the prizes: a free Whole Hog Burger every month for a year. Holy cow.
“Our Chipotle Cheese Steak is sure to put a pep in your step,” says Jersey Mike’s Subs, the fastest-growing major U.S. restaurant chain (1,125 locations). “Made with freshly grilled steak, melted white American cheese, peppers and onions, then drizzled with our spicy chipotle mayo.”
It’s not clear if you’ll feel peppy or sleepy after swallowing the 1,850-calorie, 14-inch Giant Chipotle Cheese Steak on a white-flour roll stuffed with 30 grams of sat fat and 4,330 mg of sodium. It’s like eating two Subway foot-long Roast Beef subs. And that’s if you don’t spring for a “Giant Combo” and add a 240-calorie bag of Lay’s chips and 400-calorie (32 oz.) Pepsi.
“Wings. Beer. Sports.” That’s what you get at Buffalo Wild Wings (1,052 locations), which calls itself B-Dubs. And Dessert Nachos.
It’s a “crispy flour tortilla sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, loaded with ice cream and our gooey breaded cheesecake bites, all topped with chocolate and caramel sauce.”
Yup. There’s nothing like a giant whiteflour tortilla fried in beef tallow and topped with 30 teaspoons of sugar (from the ice cream, cheesecake bites, and sauces).
Surely, you have room for its 2,100 calories and 64 grams of saturated fat after your wings. And don’t forget the 5 grams of trans fat. (Most of it likely occurs naturally in the beef tallow, but odds are, it’s no less damaging.)
It’s like eating four Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos (filled with beef and cheese) topped with a (14 oz.) container of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream and two melted Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars.
“Start your meal with nachos. End it with dessert nachos,” wrote B-Dubs on Facebook in 2015. “It’s the circle of nacho life.” Could end up being a pretty small circle.
Restaurant Survival Tips
- Order from the “light” menu. Try The Cheesecake Factory’s “SkinnyLicious,” Applebee’s “Lighter Fare,” or Dave & Buster’s “600 or under” dishes. (Heads up: Many of Maggiano’s “Lighter Take” dishes have 800 to 1,000 calories.)
- Bypass the appetizer. Why order 1,000 calories before dinner? Start with a green salad (and no bread) instead.
- Skip the beef burgers. Try a grilled chicken or veggie burger.
- Lose the bun. Many chains will wrap your burger, sub, or sandwich in fresh lettuce or turn it into a salad (Jersey Mike’s calls it a “Sub in a Tub”). Or at least ask for a whole-grain bun or bread.
- Veg out. Fill half your plate with fruit or vegetables (potatoes don’t count). Make the rest lean protein and whole grains.
- Doggy bag it. Bring home half your entrée for tomorrow.