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    Score: 3.25. Votes: 4

    Bloomin Onion Menu Description: "An Outback Ab-Original from Russell's Marina Bay."

    If you go to an Outback Steakhouse expecting exotic Aussie prairie food that someone like Crocodile Dundee would have enjoyed, you're gonna be a bit disappointed, mate. Except for a little Australia-themed paraphernalia on the walls, like boomerangs and pictures of kangaroos, the restaurant chain is about as "down under" as McDonald's is Scottish. The three founders, Tim Gannon, Chris Sullivan, and Bob Basham, are all U.S. boys. And the menu, which is about 60 percent beef, contains mainly American fare with cute Australian names like The Melbourne, Jackeroo Chops, and Chicken on the Barbie.

    The founders say they chose the Aussie themes because "Most Australians are fun-loving and gregarious people and very casual people. We thought that's exactly the kind of friendliness and atmosphere we want to have in our restaurants."

    In only six years, Outback Steakhouse has become the number one steakhouse chain—in part because of the Bloomin' Onion: a large, deep-fried onion sliced to look like a flower in bloom that was created by one of the restaurant's founders. What makes the appetizer so appealing besides its flowery appearance is the onion's crispy spiced coating, along with the delicious dipping sauce, cleverly presented in the center of the onion.

    The restaurant uses a special device to make the slicing process easier, but you can make the incisions with a sharp knife. It just takes a steady hand and a bit of care. This is how they did it in the early days of the chain.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Menu Description: "Fresh baked on premises, sliced into eight pieces, brushed with garlic butter, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella and basil, topped with chopped plum tomatoes and herbed olive oil." 

    In 1988, London-born restaurant mogul Robert Ian Earl joined with movie producer Keith Barrish and a gaggle of celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore to start a Hollywood-themed restaurant that is on its way to becoming his most successful venture yet. In 1991, a gala star-studded affair in New York City celebrated the opening of the world's first Planet Hollywood.

    But even the coolest theme restaurant won't fly if the food doesn't please. Earl told Nation's Restaurant News, "People don't eat themes—no concept in the world can succeed for long unless it also delivers great food at the right price." Planet Hollywood features a menu of delicious dishes rivaling food from national chains that don't have a theme to lean on.

    The Pizza Bread appetizer comes highly recommended by Planet Hollywood servers. The "bread" is pizza dough, rolled thin, with a light layer of cheese, basil and tomato on top; then it's baked in a pizza oven at the restaurant. Since most of us don't have pizza ovens at home, this recipe has been designed for a conventional gas or electric oven.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Full-flavored jalapenos stuffed with cool cream cheese and deep-fried in a cracker-crumb coating. Served with sweet jalapeno jelly & sour cream."

    Red Robin was one of the first restaurant chains to serve No-Fire Peppers, an item which can be found on many restaurant menus today under a variety of different names. The cream cheese-filled, battered and fried jalapeno peppers are called "Poppers" by their creators at Anchor Foods, a restaurant food supply company which manufactures Poppers and a variety of other appetizers for sale to restaurant chains everywhere. According to Restaurant and Institutions magazine, Poppers were the #1 food item added to restaurant menus in 1995, with restaurants purchasing over 700 million of the little suckers.

    It's important when you make these that you allow time for them to freeze. The freezing stage in this Red Robin jalapeno coins recipe ensures that the breading stays on when the peppers are fried and prevents the cream cheese from oozing out too soon.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 8

    "Ruth's Chris Steak House" is such a difficult name to spit out that a restaurant critic suggested it be used as a sobriety test. Surely anyone who could say the name three times fast couldn't possibly be intoxicated. But the hard-to-say name has worked well for the steakhouse chain—it's memorable. The name came from the first restaurant that Ruth purchased in 1965 called Chris Steak House. When she opened a second restaurant with that same name, the previous owner, Chris Matulich, tried to sue her. She won the case, but to avoid future lawsuits, she put her name in front of the original and it became the tongue twister we know today.

    The delicious creamed spinach served at Ruth's Chris inspired this recipe that has just a hint of cayenne pepper in it for that Louisiana zing. The recipe requires a package of frozen spinach to make it convenient, but you can use the same amount of fresh spinach if you prefer.

    Now that you've chosen the veggies, finish off the meal with my copycat recipes for Ruth's Chris Petite Filet and Au Gratin Potatoes.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    Menu Description: "In cream sauce, topped with melted sharp cheddar."

    There are many ways to order potatoes from the Ruth's Chris menu including steak fries, julienne fries, shoestring fries, cottage fries, Lyonnaise, baked and au gratin.

    Here's a traditional, classic recipe for the delicious side dish inspired by the Ruth's Chris creation. You may use less of the cream and milk mixture in your version depending on the size baking dish you use and the size of your potatoes. Stop adding the creamy mixture in your version when it is level with the sliced potatoes in the baking dish. Be sure to use a casserole dish that has a lid for the first stage of baking.

    Click here for more of my copycat recipes from Ruth's Chris Steak House

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur. 

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    Menu Description: "Refried beans, cheddar cheese, guacamole, black olives, seasoned sour cream, green onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Served with tortilla chips and fresh salsa."

    When the first T.G.I. Friday's opened in New York City in 1965 as a meeting place for single adults, Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post reported that it was the beginning of the "singles age." Today the restaurant's customers have matured, many are married, and they bring their children with them to the more than 300 Friday's across the country and around the world.

    The Nine-Layer Dip is an often requested appetizer on the T.G.I. Friday's menu. This dish will serve half a dozen people easily, so it's perfect for a small gathering. Don't worry if there's only a couple of you—leftovers can be refrigerated for a day or two. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.40. Votes: 10

    Menu Description: “Homemade, fried golden brown & dill-icious. Cut into thin slices and served with dipping sauce.”

    Fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, fried bull testicles, fried crickets—just about anything can be battered and fried, but that doesn’t always mean it’ll taste good. I’ve tasted many unexpectedly delicious foods out of a fryer and these pickles are one of the delicious surprises. The combination of sour pickles, crunchy breading and creamy dipping sauce was really good. It’s no wonder these are such a popular pick at the chain known more for its chicken wings, orange short-shorts, and belly shirts. After a little sleuthing I discovered that Hooters use Mrs. Klein’s crinkle-cut pickles, but that particular brand can be hard to find in most stores. I did a taste test of all popular brands and found that the most similar tasting pickle slices happen to be one of the most popular brands on the market: Heinz. Find the hamburger dill chips and be sure to blot the pickle slices dry before breading them. The breading recipe here should be enough to coat all the pickle slices in a 16-ounce jar (50 to 55 slices). As for the dipping sauce? That’s just a simple matter of stirring a little cayenne pepper into some Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Done and done.

    Click here for wings and more of your favorite foods from Hooters.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    This cold couscous salad side dish served at the 96-unit chain is very unique and seriously delicious. The secret is cooking the couscous with orange juice so that it is filled with flavor. Then you toss in some golden raisins, almonds, radishes, tomatoes, mint, green onion and parsley, and the couscous party is on. This is a great warm weather side for pool parties and picnics that can be made a day ahead. It’s easy. It’s tasty. It’s finally cloned.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    This 8-unit Scottsdale Arizona-based chain founded in 1999 was named one of the top 10 steakhouses in the country by the Gayot restaurant and travel guide, and is planning to build 40 additional restaurants over the next 10 years. Mastro’s restaurants are known for their elegant settings and delicious prime beef served on 400-degree plates, but this side dish ranks high among the most popular menu choices. As if the creamy gorgonzola cheese sauce isn’t incredible enough, this dish is topped with a bubbling cheese layer that includes mozzarella, Fontina, and Pecorino; plus a little Grana Padano, which is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can track down all of these cheeses separately and make your own cloned blend, or you can use a pre-shredded Italian cheese blend found in most markets that will include from 4 to 6 Italian cheeses in one bag. Even though the bagged blend is not exactly what is used at the restaurant, I found these cheese blends to be an easy and inexpensive substitute that taste very close to the original. When using the pre-blended cheese spread 1½ cups over the top of the pasta and get on with the broiling.

    Source: "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3" by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: “Wok-seared tofu, red onions, water chestnuts with mint and lime. Served with cool lettuce cups.”

    After publishing the original version of my clone for this chain’s Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps in 2006 I began receiving requests for a clone of the vegetarian version. I was hesitant to even try the vegetarian version thinking that it could not possibly be as delicious as the chicken version. Boy, was I wrong. The red onion, lime juice and mint set these lettuce wraps apart, and finely diced baked tofu replaces the chicken. Baked tofu has a dark exterior and is much firmer than regular tofu. If you can’t find it at your supermarket you can get it at Asian markets or in specialty stores such as Whole Foods. It comes in a variety of flavors like teriyaki and curry, but you want the unflavored stuff. Slice it by cutting it into thin slices, cut those slices in half lengthwise, and then cutting across those julienned slices so that you end up with very small diced pieces. Crank your stove up as high as it goes for this one.

    Find more clone recipes for your favorite P.F. Chang's fare here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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