Eat Up
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Eat These Gut-Busting Appetizers at Your Own Risk

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Eat Up
DronG/istockphoto

Eat Up

Restaurants often serve huge appetizers that are loaded with calories, fat, sodium, but those indulgent dishes are usually the most tempting items on the menu. While moderation may be the key to a healthy and happy life, sometimes you just need to cut loose and eat what you want. To help you on your way, we took a look at some of the most popular appetizers at family restaurant chains across the U.S., based on customer reviews, to find the most over-the-top, gut-busting options on the menu with impressively high calorie counts or simply decadent ingredients. Here are the most irresistible appetizers, often fried and full of cheese, that you're bound to be tempted by — just be sure to proceed with caution.

Related: 20 Most Decadent Chocolate Desserts Across America

Loaded Pasta Chips | Olive Garden
Courtesy of olivegarden.com

Loaded Pasta Chips | Olive Garden

Who asked for a mashup of Tex-Mex and Italian food? We're not sure, but Olive Garden had the answer with loaded pasta chips. Deep fried pasta chips are covered in Italian cheeses, three-meat pasta sauce, alfredo sauce, and a few sliced cherry peppers for good measure. If you ever wished your pasta was crunchy — and delivered 1,529 calories in one serving — this app is perfect for you.

Loaded Boneless Wings | Chili's
Courtesy of chilis.com

Loaded Boneless Wings | Chili's

Getting things like fries and tater tots "loaded" isn't unusual, but loaded boneless wings are. At Chili's, the deep-fried, boneless chicken wings are smothered in white queso, shredded cheese, chopped bacon, and green onions. Ranch also comes on the side for dipping — because why not — making it a 1,390-calorie splurge.

Langostino Lobster, Artichoke, and Seafood Dip | Red Lobster
Courtesy of redlobster.com

Langostino Lobster, Artichoke, and Seafood Dip | Red Lobster

In addition to those amazing cheddar bay biscuits, Red Lobster has plenty of other buttery appetizers to consider. The most indulgent is the langostino lobster, artichoke, and seafood dip. Imagine creamy spinach and artichoke dip, then add chopped seafood, three kinds of cheese, and some pico de gallo for a little freshness. Scoop it up with warm tortilla chips and it could easily be a full meal — and with 1,170 calories, it’s almost all you should eat for the day.

Bloomin' Onion | Outback Steakhouse
Courtesy of outback.com

Bloomin' Onion | Outback Steakhouse

This list wouldn't be complete without the original, high-calorie, over-the-top appetizer, the bloomin' onion from Outback. Just in case you haven't had this creation before, it's a whole large onion that's split into wedges in a way that makes it look like a flower. It's then battered and fried and served with a creamy sauce for dipping. It's almost 2,000 calories, so it’s a big commitment for onion lovers.

Loaded Nachos | BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
Courtesy of bjsrestaurants.com

Loaded Nachos | BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

The loaded nachos at BJ's are maybe the best bang for your buck on this list, at least in terms of calories. They're a whopping 2,750 calories for just $12.25. What makes up all those calories? A huge pile of chips, sriracha queso, cheddar and jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos, and pico de gallo. There should be some kind of award for finishing these yourself, though we can’t recommend that.

Buffalo Blasts | Cheesecake Factory
Courtesy of thecheesecakefactory.com

Buffalo Blasts | Cheesecake Factory

The folks at Cheesecake Factory figured out how to make chicken wings less messy. Chicken, cheese, and Buffalo sauce are all stuffed into a wonton-like wrapper and deep-fried for their Buffalo Blasts. Along with a huge pile of those crispy pockets, you get celery and blue cheese dressing, just like buffalo wings. This 1,670-calorie dish has been on the happy hour menu for a discount at some locations, so check your local Factory.

Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart | Dave & Buster's
Courtesy of daveandbusters.com

Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart | Dave & Buster's

Dave & Buster's put pizza into a bite-size, dipping-friendly form with their pepperoni pretzel pull-apart appetizer. Chunks of soft Bavarian pretzels are baked with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and parmesan on top. Pull them apart and dip them in the bowl of marinara for the full pizza experience — not to mention 1,274 calories.

Pizza Skins | Uno Pizzeria & Grill
Courtesy of unos.com

Pizza Skins | Uno Pizzeria & Grill

If you've ever eaten a deep dish pizza and wished it had more carbs, you should try the pizza skins appetizer at Uno. It's a mashup of potato skins and deep dish, with mashed red potatoes, bacon, and cheddar cheese baked in a buttery, mini deep-dish pizza crust. There's sour cream on the side for topping, bringing the calorie count to an even 2,100.

Texas-sized Nachos | Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen
Courtesy of CheddarsScratchKitchen/facebook.com

Texas-sized Nachos | Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

The Texas-sized nachos at Cheddar's deserve a spot on this list just for their sheer size and calorie count. The tortilla chips are served on a metal cafeteria tray and are topped with queso, black beans, corn, pico de gallo, cilantro, jalapenos, honey BBQ sauce, ranch, and your choice of meat. Plus, there are bowls of salsa and even more rich queso served alongside this nacho monstrosity. It's almost 2,000 delicious calories.

Towering Onion Rings | Red Robin
Courtesy of redrobin.com

Towering Onion Rings | Red Robin

Red Robin's signature appetizer is also an indulgent one. Exactly thirteen huge breaded onion rings are stacked in a tower with campfire mayo and ranch dipping sauces on the side. They go almost as well with a burger as the bottomless steak fries, and at just about 100 calories per onion ring, they're just as filling.

Avocado Club Egg Rolls | California Pizza Kitchen
Courtesy of cpkpostoak/facebook.com

Avocado Club Egg Rolls | California Pizza Kitchen

While many restaurants have jumped on the fried avocado trend, California Pizza Kitchen takes it one step farther than most. They add chopped chicken, cheese, and smoky Nueske's bacon to their avocado, then roll it all up in a wonton wrapper and fry it. Two different kinds of ranch for dipping are served with it. Each roll clocks in close to 400 calories, and there are three per serving.

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Crispers | Perkins
Courtesy of perkinsrestaurants.com

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Crispers | Perkins

Why not eat dessert first? At Perkins, a very dessert-like offering is listed on the appetizer menu: strawberry & cream cheese crispers. Juicy strawberries and sweetened cream cheese are stuffed into pastry rolls, then deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar. It sounds like a dessert, but they're giving you permission to eat it first, so take advantage.

Loaded Cheese and Bacon Fries | Main Event
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Loaded Cheese and Bacon Fries | Main Event

No one has ever said that cheese and bacon fries are healthy, but Main Event's version really takes the cake in the outrageous calorie category with 2,990. It's hard to imagine how they packed that many calories into a pile of fries with cheese, bacon, queso, and ranch, but it's very impressive.

New England Lobster Bites | Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
Courtesy of pappadeauxseafoodkitchen/facebook.com

New England Lobster Bites | Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

If you're looking for a decadent seafood starter, Pappadeaux has a few to choose from. The best of the bunch is the New England lobster bites. Big chunks of fresh lobster meat swim in a dish of lemon and garlic butter. What could be better than that? It comes with grilled cheese bread, so you can soak up every last drop of that delicious butter.

Reuben Fritters | Bennigan's
Courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Reuben Fritters | Bennigan's

How do you make a Reuben sandwich even better? Deep fry it, naturally. At Bennigan's, they take chopped corned beef, sauerkraut, cream cheese, and Swiss cheese and roll it all into a ball. They're breaded and deep-fried for a crunchy coating and a cheesy, gooey interior. Dip it in thousand island dressing to complete the bite.

Crispy Zucchini Fritte | Maggiano's Little Italy
Courtesy of maggianos.com

Crispy Zucchini Fritte | Maggiano's Little Italy

Fried zucchini might not sound all that unusual, but the way Maggiano's prepares it makes it a standout. Instead of wimpy little sticks of zucchini, the whole vegetable is sliced lengthwise into thick planks. You get lots of crispy breading that way, and lots of calories — over 1,700.

Loaded Tots | Twin Peaks
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Loaded Tots | Twin Peaks

The loaded tots at sports-bar chain Twin Peaks go further than most. On top of the pile of deep-fried potato tots are typical things like pepper jack cheese, chipotle queso, bacon bits, and green onions. But there's also chipotle butter — because everything's better with butter — a fried egg, and a sprinkle of black pepper. That soft egg yolk running down onto everything adds a whole new layer of flavor.

Redneck Egg Rolls | Sonny's BBQ
Courtesy of sonnysbbq/facebook.com

Redneck Egg Rolls | Sonny's BBQ

At Sonny's BBQ the "redneck" egg rolls take everything in a pulled pork sandwich (minus the bun) and stuff it into a fried egg roll. Smoked pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and pepper jack cheese make up the substantial filling. It comes with smoky ranch dip, but barbecue sauce would be great, too. At over 900 calories, these egg rolls are practically a full meal.

On The Border: Firecracker stuffed jalapenos
On The Border: Firecracker stuffed jalapenos by yummyinthetummyblog (CC BY)

Firecracker Stuffed Jalapenos | On The Border

On the Border kicks up the standard jalapeno popper with their firecracker stuffed jalapenos. Six jalapenos are mounded with a thick chicken and cheese filling, then dipped in tempura batter and fried — for 920 calories. Just in case you need more cheese, there's queso for dipping.

Shrooms | Houlihan's
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Shrooms | Houlihan's

Stuffed mushrooms don't sound so unhealthy, but when you find out that they're deep-fried you can understand why they're over 200 calories each. Houlihan's "Famous Shrooms" are filled with a garlic and herb cream cheese before being breaded and fried. The filling is gooey and the coating is crispy, making for an irresistible combo.

Sriracha Peanut Fries | Punch Bowl Social
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Sriracha Peanut Fries | Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social, a chain of "adult playgrounds," has quirky, game-filled restaurants and bars where sharing a bunch of apps is the norm. Sriracha peanut fries are covered in Asian flavors for something a little different than the usual cheese-laden variations. Hoisin, sriracha, and creamy garlic mayo join pickled red onions and Fresno chiles, cilantro, and crushed peanuts for a big saucy pile of tastiness.