Applebee's Apple Walnut Chicken Salad, Now With Free Insect Leg

Here at the Consumerist we’re wary of stories where people “find something in their food.” That being said, we believe Stacie found an enormous insect leg in her Applebee’s salad…after biting into it.

It’s gross, but we could understand how it could happen. Not that it should happen, but Stacie did not find a lost Picasso painting or a severed finger in her salad. Insect legs are within the realm of possibility. We understand how that could happen. What we don’t understand is Applebee’s response to Stacie finding a huge insect leg in her Applebee’s salad…. offering her more salad. Read her story inside. (Warning, gross pictures.)

This is an email Stacie wrote to her friends and then sent to us:

On Mar 6, 2007, at 10:21 PM, Steve and Stacie wrote:

You all know me. I am, in general, not one to complain and pretty much have a positive outlook on life. Well, something so disgusting happened to yours truly today that I just can’t keep it to myself and wanted you all to be aware…

My friends and I have a habit, about once a week, of ordering Applebee’s To Go for salads when we are at work (in Warren, MI). Today that ended.

Famished after a conference call, I was happy to see my friend had dropped off my order of the full size apple walnut chicken salad. As I perused my emails, trying to catch up, I dove in (as I typically do). However, on about the third bite, I bit something hard.

“Hmmmm…chicken bone,” I thought. It was, as you know, a “chicken” salad. So I opened my mouth to pull out the bone and well…see for yourself. I about died–spitting my salad back into the bowl. My boss, who sits right behind me asked what was going on (because by this time I was ranting going, OH MY GOD!!!).

Well he freaked about as much as I did.

So, of course, being the trouper that I am, I gathered myself, as much as I could after having some sort of HUGE insect leg in my mouth, and called the restaurant, asking to speak directly to the manager.

I told Ann what I had found. She was a little quiet and then said, “Well, would you like to come over and pick up another salad?”

I about came out of my chair. “Are you kidding?” I asked. “I’m not sure that I ever want to come into your restaurant again.”

Now, truthfully, after that, I can’t remember a whole lot of the conversation–yes I was pleasant, even offering to bring in the “leg” so they could see it–uncomfortably laughing in horror and disbelief of both the “finding” and the “response.” But the conclusion to all of this is that my name is now in the “Red Book” so I can come in and get my free salad whenever I want–and no, she didn’t want to see the leg!!

So, you know me, not being satisfied I called the corporate Customer Assistance number and told them my story. The person who answered my call was empathetic, but the answer he gave was upsetting as well– he did take my name, address and phone number and told me that he would immediately contact the District Manager for the Store (WARREN–12MI & Vandyke, btw). However, he couldn’t say for certain that I would hear from the district manager. And at the time of this note–about 12 hours later–I’ve gotten nothing.

Final call today was to the Macomb County Health Department. When I told my story, the person taking the information seemed not to be phased what-so-ever. She even went so far to ask if I’d like to leave my name and address so they could send me a letter to let me know what they had found. Lets see, I had a two inch insect leg in my mouth– DUH!!! Of COURSE I would like to see the resolution.

What a crazy day. I guess the moral to all of this, besides AVOID APPLEBEE’S, is pay attention to your food while you are eating it when you do not make it. Yes the leg would have been there…but I wouldn’t have been nearly as traumatized if I’d found it before it entered my mouth.

And yes…I still have the leg.

Take care (and say a little prayer for me and my sanitized mouth!!),

Question for the readers: Is free salad the correct response to huge insect leg in a salad? Stacie seems really nice and never mentions wanting to sue Applebee’s… and the district manager didn’t even call her to apologize. Were they even surprised? IS there a proper response to something like this?

Any insect experts want to tell us what the heck used to own that leg? Is it, you know, native to Michigan?—MEGHANN MARCO




Edit Your Comment

  1. acambras says:

    I know Meghann warned us about the photos, so I was dumb for looking… Instead of NSFW, they should be labeled NSFLH (Not safe for lunch hour).

  2. blackscreen says:

    I’m not an insect expert, but it looks like the rear leg of a grasshopper.

  3. acceptablerisk says:

    Perhaps I’m in the minority, but somehow things like this just wouldn’t bother me. Salads have vegetables in them, vegetables grow in the ground. Insects are found on/in the ground.

    I’d probably go *crunch* “Hmm, what’s that? Oh, a bug must have gotten into the lettuce. Oh well.” *Discard bug leg, continue eating.*

    I don’t think anyone really owes anything to anyone else, here.

    • Conformist138 says:

      It doesn’t make me freak out cuz, you know, it happens, but I do hope that the kitchen staff isn’t leaving it all up the farmers. After all, they had to wash, cut up, and otherwise prepare the food. So, perhaps an offer of a free replacement OR a refund would have sufficed. I can’t say this alone makes an entire chain (or even just the one location) bad, mistakes happen.

  4. lindyman77 says:

    When did Applebee’s start making frog-leg salad? Come on people, when are you gonna stop eating at these places?!

  5. Chairman-Meow says:

    So, that’s where it went! (looks at stub where my left arm should be)

  6. cabinaero says:

    Strange, but all my trips to SE Asia means I probably would have eaten the leg anyway.

  7. WindowSeat says:

    It’s a grasshopper leg, I imagine Applebee’s uses prewashed, bagged greens and stranger things have been found in bags of greens like live frogs. This doesn’t excuse the leg being in the salad, but given the wide spectrum of horrible things you COULD find in a salad, this rates low on the “ick” factor.

    Federal law actually provides for the maximum amount of rat hairs, feces and insect parts allowable in food..think about that.

    It’s entirely appropriate to offer a new salad, gift certificates or whatever Applebee’s has at hand to make the situation better.

    I hate to think how many posts I’ve commented on regarding pre-washed greens, but I’ll reiterate..It may say it’s clean, but it isn’t.

  8. kerry says:

    A friend of mine found a whole grasshopper (one of those smaller green ones) in a salad in the cafeteria where we work. I figure that the lettuce is so sanitized before it gets to you that the bug may be gross, but It’s probably pretty clean.
    Not just big chain restaurants have this problem. There’s a local chain of pan-Asian places around here (Joy Yee) that’s pretty well-regarded. A couple years ago we ordered from the one in Evanston at work and a coworker found a cockroach cooked into her stir fry. We took pictures, we called to complain and they said that they didn’t believe us. We photocopied the pictures and plastered them around the department. We don’t order from Joy Yee Evanston anymore.

  9. LAGirl says:

    oh for f*ck’s sake. now i know you warned us that there would be photos. but i just had to look, didn’t i? and i just had to look at the ‘close-up’ photo.

    well, will not be having BREAKFAST, LUNCH or possibly even DINNER today. also, note to self: never NEVER eat at Applebee’s EVER again. dang that was gross. oh, and i just threw up in my mouth a little.

  10. mandarynn says:

    I wish I wasn’t eating my lunch when I read this. I just about yorked it up.

  11. Citron says:

    @WindowSeat: I found the website with the guidelines a while back. It’s a good read. It’s called the “The Food Defect Action Level Handbook.”

    That’s quite a grasshopper leg, by the way! Or is it a grasshopper?

  12. Wargazm says:

    The only acceptable resolution to this would be for applebees to offer a full refund.

  13. misskaz says:


    Ahh! I just ate at Joy Yee in Evanston a week ago!

    It was tasty though. :)

  14. MissPinkKate says:

    Ok, this is totally nasty, and I’m dreading the 15 times I’m going to see it on my RSS feed (have you not been able to fix that problem yet?)

  15. kerrington.steele says:

    That leg looks EXACTLY like Hopper’s from “A Bug’s Life”! Totes a grasshopper.

  16. WindowSeat says:

    @Citron: Thanks for the link! A cursory glance at the glossery suggests the leg is an “esthetic defect, one that offends the senses.”

  17. heinzs says:

    If you want to be disturbed, many counties have similar pages. Look up your favorite restaurant and there’s a good chance you will never want to go there again!

  18. mewyn dyner says:

    *rolls eyes*

    I’m sorry, but Stacey did overreact to this. Yes, it is gross to find a bug in a salad, but it can happen in any bulk packaged vegetable, especially lettuce. I don’t find this Applebee’s fault, no restaurant is going to check all it’s greens for little insect bits. Plus, with the washing and sanitation that bulk lettuce goes through, she’s likely to get just as sick from a bug-free salad as she would with this salad with bug added. If I were the manager I would have offered her a refund not just a free salad and perhaps a few other perks to keep her as a customer (to me customer retention is the key to service industries), and both parties should have been done with it at that point.

    There are whole cultures out there who eat insects, there’s nothing wrong with them as food, this is just a taboo of our culture that insects aren’t food. Heck, we eat lobsters, which are insects of the sea, yet many will freak out when confronted with a grasshopper.

  19. mopar_man says:


    I have to agree. This isn’t bad at all even though there’s more than a few people grossed out that are commenting. I think I’d be more worried about the employees using the bathroom and not washing their hands.

  20. Uurp says:

    No extra charge!

  21. WindowSeat says:

    @heinzs: Pages like that are pretty common now and a lot of television newscasts use the reports as well. I think it’s important to note that a lot of the information in these reports are comments on conditions that could be harmful and need to be corrected, but aren’t indicative of an unsafe kitchen. The Macomb County cites an uncorrected backflow preventer and what that means is the County probably has amended their building code regarding plumbing and the situation hasn’t been dealt with yet. Theoretically, sink drains can back up into the supply lines and contaminate the fresh water. If the building code had required a backflow prevention valve prior to the restaurant’s opening, they couldn’t have gotten their Certificate of Occupancy. Information on these sites are only useful if taken in context.

  22. scrooks says:

    To those who say “I’ll never eat at Applebee’s again,” you’re dreaming pretty dreams if you think other restaurants don’t occasionally have similar “extras” in their produce. That’s the nature of produce, folks. Things will slip by no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

    A bug leg: BFD. I hope you never eat any hot dogs or sausage.

    The appropriate response for Applebee’s was at a minimum to offer a replacement salad and and apology, and at a maximum to offer a free meal and an apology.

    You people who are freaked out by this need to come to grips with where most of your food really comes from and get over it.

    This is in a totally different league than finding a severed finger (you can presume someone knew they lost a finger) or something maliciously placed in your food.

  23. heinzs says:

    Yeah, that specific report wasn’t too meaningful. I just wanted to make people more aware of the fact that this information is often easily available. If there is a problem, it’s usually not too big of a deal. It becomes an issue when you see a restaurant that’s had a substantial history of problems.

  24. revmatty says:

    I’m pretty squeemish about foods (escargot, most shellfish, calimari, etc) but this just isn’t that big a deal. They should get a couple free meals and move on. While I’m not going to eat a bug, they are a good source of protein. On the upside, you gotta figure the greens weren’t overdosed with pesticides…

  25. ElizabethD says:

    ::shrug:: Extra protein in the salad? Sounds like a bargain to me.

    Seriously, a refund for the cost of the salad would have been a nice gesture by Applebee’s. But that’s about the extent of it.
    (remembers why we don’t eat out much…)

  26. c0nsumer says:

    I have to say, I do find it a bit odd that someone eating a salad made with chopped animal bits all over it would be so horribly bothered by bits of another living thing being inadvertently found in it.

    It’s very likely that whatever insect bits which ended up in the salad grew up in a cleaner, healthier environment than the chicken.

  27. juri squared says:


    ACK. I eat at Joy Yee a lot. Fortunately, it’s usually the one in Downers Grove, but still…

  28. spanky says:

    I am more worried about the side of feces often served with Applebee’s menu items than the occasional bug leg.

    I’ve always thought Applebee’s was notoriously filthy.

  29. droppedD says:

    Come on. Cockroaches or grasshoppers or whatever that have found their way onto the floor of a chain restaurant kitchen are gross, factory-farmed chickens aside.

    If you only feel pity for vegetarians, I once found an entire moth in my (i thought) vegan salad from the Aramark-run dining hall at my university two or three years back. Ridiculously big thing; blended right in with the spinach leaves and whatnot. Almost took a bite out of the thing before I realized.

    It was about a week or two before I had the slightest desire to eat leafy greens again.

  30. c0nsumer says:

    @droppedD: It’s unlikely that the grasshopper leg in the salad came from the floor of the kitchen. It probably was torn off during the processing of the greens and washed along with all the other bits.

  31. B says:

    I think the proper response for Applebees is to refund her money, perhaps for the entire order but at least for her salad, and offer her a replacement salad free of charge. And no matter how fresh the greens are, finding a grasshopper in a salad is gross.

  32. B says:

    @mopar_man: Why? Do you think the grasshopper was kind enough to wash his legs before he jumped into the salad?

  33. mschlock says:

    One of my favorite local restaurants recently switched to organic greens, and a couple visits back a coworker found a LIVE centipede in her salad. They comped the meal, said they were instructing the prep cooks to wash the salad better, and you know what, we’re still going there.

    Applebee’s should have comped the bug salad AND washed the salad greens, but yeah, bugs happen in produce.

  34. kevjohn says:

    @mewyn dyner: My thoughts exactly. What were the Applebees employees supposed to ask, “would you like to see our psychological counselors to help you get over your unfortunate trauma?” Offer to replace the food, or to refund the price of the meal, or both.

    This lady’s trying to make a federal case because an insect part touched the inside of her mouth. I guess no one has ever told her what goes on when she goes to sleep every night.

  35. FutureRoadie says:

    I am a koser food inspector and as such first of all kosher law requires us to check all leafy products for insects for we are not allowed to eat a single insect knowingly (when theres the possibility that they exist we have to check). As such I can tell you that it is common for such things to end up in your salad when the salads are used straight from the bag. I can say with what I have found I am happy that I keep kosher and only eat in kosher places.

    On another token I believe Applebee’s is correct in offering a replacement salad and an apology. They didnt put that leg in your salad, blame the salad company!

  36. marike says:

    I recently found a plastic twisty tie in a salad at a restaurant (it blended in with the salad very well and I discovered it while chewing). Although there was a chance it could have cut my tongue or gums and who knows what germs were on it, I’d probably prefer the twisty tie over the bug leg.

    Course, just thinking about it right now while not eating, I kinda prefer the pre-cleaned bug leg, but the gross-out factor while sitting at a table and eating is so much greater with the bug leg.

  37. hurmpees says:

    Bug leg….not so gross, part of life and natural.

    Band-aid… really gross, not natural

  38. @B: Word.

    Frankly, I’m surprised at how many commenters here have not only have no problem with bugs being in their food but can’t understand why it would bother people.

    @c0nsumer: That makes no sense. That’s like saying someone with a pet dog should be ok with getting a pet shark as a gift. Just because they’re both animals doesn’t mean they both make good pets.

  39. The Bigger Unit says:

    @scrooks: You took the words out of my mouth.

    “I’ll never eat at any Applebee’s again!”…umm, the crappy Chili’s down the street is just as prone to the same thing people. Any restaurant is prone to this kind of thing really.

  40. MeMikeYouNot says:

    The chicken in the salad looks ickier than the leg does. I’d rather see the bug leg in it that the piece of broken glass I found in a salad years ago at a local mexican joint. They comped my meal and I was happy! I also ate there many times after that.

  41. Youthier says:

    I think the original reason this was posted is whether we though Applebee’s did enough. I’m a little disappointed that when the salad offer was refused they didn’t offer a refund but other than that, it was handled properly.

    The health department? Seriously? For a grasshopper leg? I think I’ve swallowed worse bugs riding on a motorcycle.

  42. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    Meh…as a vegetarian, my initial thought is that the bug leg and bits of chicken are equally gross to me. That’s obviously not Stacy’s situation, though.

    I think she should have asked for a refund and an apology and left it at that. Finding a bug leg in a salad is a little different from finding a bug leg in, say, a pile of french fries or a pasta dish. It happens, and while I’d be upset (seeing as how I don’t eat ANY creature that once moved of it’s own volition) I wouldn’t have made as big a deal out of it as she had. Refusing to eat at the restaurant again is a bit much–I only stop patronizing restaurants that willfully cause problems (the ones that repeatedly switch out my veggie substituted for real meat, or where the waiter stole my credit card info, for example).

  43. valkin says:

    Applebee’s was right to offer another salad and when she said no, they should have offered her a refund.

    That said, I don’t understand how one can be grossed out over an insect when there’s a dead animal all over the salad. What that chicken went through and how it got onto her salad is a far more revolting story than a poor grasshopper getting accidentally scooped up, chopped and bagged. In comparison, a bug isn’t that gross.

  44. Anne says:

    I had a similar incident at a Perkins in the Twin Cities some years ago, only I saw it before I put it in my mouth: a large, still-moving beetle.

    I calmly called the waitress over and nicely asked her to identify the insect for me. She was horrified, immediately said, “I imagine you don’t want another salad, then?” and proceeded to replace my meal (with something cooked, thank you!) free of charge.

  45. march_or_die says:

    I used to work in a grocery store and if someone like Stacie knew what came in the produce boxes she would probably never eat vegetables again. Bugs, frogs, and lizards are all pretty common. A grasshopper leg isn’t really that bad of a find–even though it’s still gross to find it in your mouth. Applebees should have refunded her money and given her a free salad (since she’ll probably never redeem the salad anyway).

  46. VA_White says:

    I saw a dead fly in the big bin of salad bar coleslaw at chain place once so I reported it to management.

    Perhaps my expectations were too high but the resolution was stomach-turning. The worker came out from the kitchen with an empty plate. He used the scoop that was already in the coleslaw, scooped out the dead fly and surrounding slaw, dumped the scoop out onto the plate, smoothed out the slaw divot with the back of the scoop, returned the same scoop back to the slaw and went back into the kitchen.

    I would have expected that they would replace the scoop they used to fish out the fly at the very least but replacing the whole bin would have been better.

  47. Grasshoppers have the same texture as shrimp and will absorb the flavor of whatever it is that you cook it with. Pretty good with rice and some boullion.

    Unfortunately they served this poor girl the most unappetizing part of the grasshopper. Too bad the legs arent really very edible.

    If trying grasshopper for the first time I reccommend removing the back legs and the wings. Make sure you get a nice plump one. The tiny ones dont have much flavor or meat on them and they just get stuck in your teeth.

    BTW Meghann, I was totally ready to go eat some lunch and then I looked at the pictures. Shame on me. Maybe I will lose a couple pounds after not eating today.

  48. rockysjewel says:

    NO biggie really. It was just a bugs leg. They live on veggies and leafy green things. You find those and lady bugs all the time in the produce before serving them (restaurants). One reason the manager wasn’t all wigged out about it. I know that if I was not expecting it it would be weird but would just finish me salad.
    Really it isn’t the same as find a rats leg !

  49. rockysjewel says:

    @cabinaero: me too !!! hehe no biggie really

  50. stenk says:

    I don’t really see any issue here at all! This is what happens! Vegetables and Fruits attract insects. When we as humans harvest in Bulk you are going to find insects in your Produce.

    If the Salad was fresh then the insect must be also!

  51. GreenHawkIA says:

    Out my way we’ver known for a while that Applebee’s salads can contain odd things. A University of Iowa professor and his wife ordered a salad at Applebee’s in Coralville, Iowa in 2003 and found a 3.5″ lizard head in it. At the time, there were pictures, but I can’t seem to find any now. Here’s the link:

  52. xredgambit says:

    I think at most she should’ve gotten maybe a gift certificate that was twice as much as her salad or maybe 2 free meals, but it was just a leg. Many people eat bugs. But she, and others on here, act as if it was a bit of semen covered poo. It was a grasshopper leg. Nothing terrible, I’m sure that leg is healthier than most of applebees menu.

  53. faust1200 says:

    I ate at Applebees once. At the Applebees I went to it was designed so that every table was in view of every other table in the whole place. At the time I was there it was very crowded and I felt like I was in some sort of sports arena which is definitely not a good atmosphere for me. Because of this experience and the lackluster food I never went back. And to all the “OMG! I almost barfed up my lunch!” WUSSES!

  54. asherchang says:

    @kerry: Joy Yee’s? I’ve been to one once…

  55. Hirayuki says:

    I seem to be a magnet for bugs, etc. in food. I’ve found a dead potato bug (one of those little gray arthropods that roll up when you tap them) in Applebee’s broccoli, larva of some sort in a pomegranate, a nice brood of tiny flies in a chocolate bar, and of course the requisite use-by stickers that assembly-line restaurants like Applebee’s use on their produce packaging. With all these bad experiences, you’d think I’d have stopped eating most things by now. Unfortunately for my waistline, this is not the case. I have, however, stopped eating at Applebee’s, since they have been responsible for most of these offenses.

  56. Hirayuki says:

    Oh, and it might be worth mentioning that I live in metro Detroit and know exactly where that Applebee’s is. It might even have been the one responsible for the buggy broccoli.

  57. Helvetian says:

    A letter is due, an apology, a refund for the full meal AND a courtesy gift card worth at least $25 for the inconvenience. It’s disgusting, I would deem the entire meal as soiled and not pay for anything. It just would upset anyone, especially while eating.

    I hate despise roaches, that would kill me to find one fried in my food. I would probably just go into cardiac arrest. I absolutely hate roaches!!

  58. hildeaux says:

    JESUS! what kind of bug WAS that???

  59. gardencat says:

    I never liked Applebee’s in the first place. The pictures and comments here have turned me off on eating at any restaurants for the time being. In the future, when my food is served I will be examining it more closely.

    Finding a bug or its parts in your food is stomach-turning, and pulling a hair out from a mouth full of food is one of the worst!

  60. oudemia says:

    I’ve never eaten at an Applebee’s. Partly I suppose that’s because I’m a vegetarian, and those big chain restaurants where the entrées are shipped to them pre-made and frozen can’t be very responsive to requests like, “Can you leave the bacon out of that?”

    But really I think it’s because someone told me that the nearby Applebee’s has a two drink MAXIMUM.

  61. kerry says:

    @asherchang: Yeah, the one in Evanston. The one in Chinatown is supposed to be really top-notch, so I don’t know if they suffer from the same cleanliness issues as the Evanston one.
    @Hirayuki: That’s not a potato bug, these are:
    Potato bugs are bigger and way scarier than little pill bugs. They’re also nigh uncrushable. A friend of mine couldn’t kill one with a hammer while it ran around under her carpet. If I ever found a potato bug in my food I would never eat again.

  62. Victorlazlo says:

    If it’s a grasshopper leg, you can go ahead and eat it.

  63. aestheticity says:

    i dont think its a grasshopper leg. the thigh is too lean. grasshopper leg thighs are big and muscled, this one is thin and tapered.

    personally, i rank finding bugs in my food as one of the top three horrors i can experience in life. id rather get shot somewhere non-fatal than have it happen again. ive found beetles in my salt; weevils in my bread and cereals; earwigs in my peaches; maggots in my peas and apples; maybugs in my drink; cockroaches in icecream; pupae in muffins; wasps everywhere and moths on everything. i cant think of any time ive experienced a greater sense of horror than when i find crawling things in what im eating.

    all these people laughing about it must either be aborigines, survivalists or full of shit.

  64. poornotignorant says:

    It is quite annoying so many of us are culturally adverse to eating a good, cheap protein source. I’m ashamed(of myself). If you had a chance of $1M payday, would you eat a bug(big part of Survivor, yes?). On another point, I emailed Applebee’s as to why they didnot respond to my signing up for thier email offers, they sent me a gift certificate for $25. I wasn’t really complaining! Really!

  65. xodus says:

    I don’t order any salads or gilled chicken meals from applebee’s to go any more. the Three times I had done so my chicken wasn’t cooked all the way through. The chicken was white on the outside and raw pink in the middle; the cook cut the chicken into strips and arranged them on top of the salad with the pink visible. How they could have missed that is beyond me.

  66. try says:

    Ugh, until I read this story I had forgotten about finding a giant slug in my vegetable curry from what was previously my favorite Thai restaurant. Now I remember and I think I’m going to be ill.

  67. jenniferc says:

    Applebee’s does not grow or package the lettuce the salad was made from. There are quite a few stops between the place the produce was grown and your to go bowl. Yes they made a mistake and it ruined your “power lunch” which is sad. The local vendors are not being mentioned and they are the ones to blame.
    What in the world do you expect a manager to say when you call them in hysterics saying an insect leg was in your food? What could anyone say to make things better at that point? Get over it! Things happen, people make honest mistakes.

  68. Vegconsumer says:

    oh no! One dead animal part disgusts me while I gladly eat a different animal part! Stop the presses.

    It’s not what she ordered, and yes, to Westerners, that’s probably gross, but I feel that allowing her to get a free salad whenever she wants was enough.