Despite a recent rumble over ribs, Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB) still managed to serve up a healthy second-quarter serving of earnings. That's good news for anyone who might be wondering whether the economic-recovery-driven return to restaurants might be abating.

Applebee's success flies in the face of recent slowdowns in other casual dining chains, such as Outback Steakhouse (NYSE:OSI) and Lone Star Steakhouse (NASDAQ:STAR). However, it doesn't hurt to wonder whether there's something about casual steakhouses, since it doesn't seem to be affecting all restaurant chains -- Cheesecake Factory's (NASDAQ:CAKE) quarter recently enthralled Fool contributor Phil Wohl, while Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RI) got rave reviews from Nathan Slaughter.

The company reported second-quarter net earnings of $28.2 million, or $0.34 per share, which included the $2.3 million charge that decreased earnings by $0.02 per share (see again the rumble over ribs). Second-quarter same-store sales increased 6.3%, while total operating revenues increased 12.4%.

It's all pretty much status quo, seeing how Applebee's didn't see fit to change its forward outlook. One can imagine that its recent menu innovations featuring Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) items could likely be a boon in a nation where we are obsessed with our own fatness -- even more so if the Atkins craze begins to dwindle, a state many predict has started already, prompting Tim Beyers' Foolish look at some high-carb stocks last week.

Another thing to ponder for the short term is the monthly report from Smith Barney that just came out, citing falling wait times at lots of popular casual dining chains. It might make one wonder whether this summer's high gas prices have cut into consumers' pocketbooks, driving some to cheaper fare such as McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) or Wendy's (NYSE:WEN).

For now, despite a little bit of rib-induced food coma, there doesn't seem to be a fly in Applebee's soup even while competitors such as Outback show some signs of anemic times. However, in the short term, anyway, there's a mixed menu of trends, some of which could work in the company's favor.

Do you pass on restaurants such as Applebee's, maybe going for the low-carb menu offered over at Ruby Tuesday's? Do you have -- or need -- tips on dining out on the low-carb diet? Stroll on over to the Low Carb Way of Life discussion board, only on

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.