The Internet Provides a Bounty of Recipes to Recreate Restaurant Favorites
Every so often, a restaurant will offer a particular thing on the menu that’s tasty, memorable and seems to have almost universal appeal. I’m thinking Bella Bella’s bubble bread or the pretzels and beer-cheese dip at Friday’s.
It becomes your go-to menu item and the thing that can get you out of your jammies on a Friday night when a craving hits and draw you to Olive Garden (Zuppa Toscana!) or Bonefish Grill (Bang Bang Shrimp!).
And then there’s the worst-case scenario: when you can’t even cave in and order the P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps or Tony Roma’s Baby Back Ribs that you love, because the food you’re craving is from an out-of-town restaurant. My daughter’s friend would pay her a bounty to bring packages of Zax Sauce back to their college campus in Sarasota, because there were no Zaxby’s restaurants nearby.
Lucky for us, there are kitchen wizards with time on their hands, desire in their souls and a generous nature who are willing to share the fruits of their “hacking” on recipe sites (food.com, allrecipes.com, copycat.com, foodnetwork.com) and Pinterest (so you get the how-to plus luscious photos for inspiration).
The three recipes listed here were found on the food.com website. But never fear, if one of these isn’t your favorite restaurant fare, you’ll probably find it in one of the more than 3,500 other copycats listed on the site at restaurant.food.com. If you’re looking for a recipe, it’s always useful to scroll through the comments. You’ll often find commentary from restaurant employees past and present who let you know just how close the copycat has come to recreating the original recipe.
Cheddar Bay Biscuits
There are no less than 29 iterations of this Red Lobster favorite on food.com and many more on other recipe sites. This particular recipe has garnered many five-star reviews since it was posted in 2007. The poster swears the secret is to use really cold butter.
Yield: 9 biscuits
2 ½ cups Bisquick baking mix
4 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¾ cup cold whole milk
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 pinch salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine Bisquick and cold butter, but don’t mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter about the size of peas. Add cheddar, milk and garlic powder. Mix by hand until combined, but don’t over mix. Drop nine equal portions onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15–17 minutes or until tops are light brown. For the topping, stir garlic powder and parsley flakes into the melted butter. Use a pastry brush to spread garlic butter over the tops of the biscuits.
Bang Bang Shrimp
These spicy, sauced-up fried shrimp have earned the local Bonefish Grill a “Best Appetizer” win in the Best of Tallahassee contest for years. There are a lot of permutations of this recipe on the Web with many different “secret” ingredients. Some complain the sauce in this recipe is too “mayonnaise-y,” so you might want to start with a lesser amount. A commenter who claims to know the exact recipe says Bonefish uses Mae Ploy brand sweet Thai chili sauce and Hong Foy garlic chili sauce.
Yield: 4–6 servings
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined; smaller shrimp works best
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce
3–5 drops hot chili sauce, just a few drops
½–¾ cup cornstarch, for coating shrimp
Mix mayo and sauces for coating. Bread shrimp in cornstarch. Deep fat fry the shrimp until lightly brown. Drain on paper towel, put shrimp in a bowl and coat with the sauce. Serve in a lettuce–lined bowl, top with chopped scallions.
Zaxby’s fans swoon over this sauce. It’s meant for chicken dipping, but many a French fry has taken a dunk in it, too. Commenters on the recipe recommend swapping in tomato paste for the ketchup. There’s no cooking involved, but you should let it sit for at least two hours after mixing so the flavors can mingle.
Yield: ½ cup sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup tomato ketchup
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½-1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix together the mayo, ketchup and garlic powder, blending well. Add Worcestershire sauce and blend well. Cover the surface of sauce with lots of black pepper until just coated. Blend well. Repeat process, covering surface with black pepper. Stir until blended well and refrigerate.