In Deer Park, Applebee's opened the chain's first to-go-only restaurant.

In Deer Park, Applebee's opened the chain's first to-go-only restaurant. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

The first to-go-only Applebee’s in the world has opened in Deer Park. Whereas every one of the company’s other restaurants — and there are more than 1,600 on the planet — features lots of tables and dine-in service, Deer Park’s has just a few tables and no service.

In a development few saw coming, Applebee’s fans with a passion for purchasing riblet platters and Irresist-a-Bowls online will now be able to “grab their order from one of the innovative new pickup locker systems,” according to a news release, a streamlined, contactless experience that will benefit both consumers and third-party delivery services.

 But a nettlesome question remains:  Isn't it a risky decision for Applebee's to open a restaurant without dine-in table service when that, for many of us, is the very essence of an Applebee’s experience? For generations, the Applebee’s dining room, with its thousand-yard-stare servers and garage sale aesthetic (carousel horses, random sports memorabilia, an animal collar maybe?) has served a wide audience in every sense, people who, on the face of it at least, would seem to agree about little save waffle fries topped with beer cheese. Think of the countless first dates you’ve witnessed there, their awkward moments of silence filled by Applebee’s menu of conversation-starters (e.g., chicken wonton tacos? quesadilla burgers?) and the vexing questions it raises, of which who goes to Applebee’s for blackened tilapia is but one.

And while the same might be said of the dining rooms at, say, TGIFriday’s and Chili’s, Applebee’s alone is a place of poetry. Just ask country bard Walker Hayes, whose use of “Applebee’s on a date night” as a powerful metaphor for fanciness, especially when accompanied by “that Bourbon Street steak and an Oreo shake,” sparked instant viral madness last year, a Grammy nomination and an endless parade of sweat-stained TikTok dancers.

And then there’s Applebee’s legendary two-count-em-two daily happy hours. A world without an Applebee’s bar is a world where you can’t get antifreeze-identical Blue Hawaiian Long Island iced teas in the late afternoon, much less return the same evening for obscene amounts of half-price mozz sticks. Absent the bar, it is impossible to imagine the satisfying, cost-effective evening we recently spent crushing Bee’s $12.99 all-you-can-eat wings deal, because AYCE isn’t available to-go, and besides you couldn’t fit that many wings in an Applebee’s locker.

So as happy as we are for Deer Park, we can’t resist warning Applebee’s against straying too far from its dine-in roots. Eatin’ good in the neighborhood is what brings fiesta to the Fiesta Lime chicken, mucho to the Mucho Margaritas and sizzle to the Sizzlin’ Butter Pecan Blondies. So Applebeeware.

Applebee’s To Go is at 403 Commack Rd. in Deer Park, applebees.com. Opening hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

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