Wait a minute! Is he really reviewing ARBY’S? (https://arbys.com/) He’s only had a food blog for two months and he’s talking about a fast food chain, and a critically-derided, notably un-hip fast food chain?
I try to be good. I try to support local restaurants AND avoid fast food as much as possible, but I’m only human. I’m a sucker for Krystal sliders, I have a nostalgic fondness for McDonald’s breakfasts (and was thrilled when they started offering all-day breakfast, even though I rarely partake), and Arby’s hits the spot more often than not (although I almost never go). Sure, I think of obnoxious little Sherri from The Simpsons (or was it her twin Terri?) whining “I’m so hungry, I could eat at Arby’s!”, which I think ruined it for a whole generation. But the truth is, Arby’s is cool. It’s always trying new things, taking risks, adding crazy new menu items, and killing it with social media marketing — and these gambles are working! Arby’s is the quirky, likable guy in a rom-com who might not end up with the girl, but he has a full and rich life with friends, hobbies, a good job, and you rooted for him and know he’s going to be okay.
I went twice in 2017, which was twice as often as I had gone in the previous decade. Once was to try their porchetta sandwich while it lasted (surprisingly good), and the other time was to try their venison steak sandwich the one special day they offered it (incredibly good). Yes, this is a fast food chain people regularly crack on, but they’re rolling out porchetta, a pretty classy Italian pork preparation that you rarely even see on menus at Italian restaurants and takes some real talent and patience to make at home, and venison, which is almost impossible to get unless you’re friends with hunters. They’re not just adding bacon or chips or (eurgh) sriracha (sorry, it’s nasty!) to the same tired old offerings. They’re introducing people to entirely new meats, which is a noble and ambitious undertaking!
So yesterday, my best friend sent me this entertaining and insightful essay about the new golden age of Arby’s, and I was impressed by the writer’s obvious passion and enthusiasm, something I always try for here on The Saboscrivner.
He touched on all my thoughts more eloquently and at greater length than I would, so I’m not even going to try to top it. But I am extremely suggestible when it comes to food, so of course that means I had to try Arby’s again. I went today for lunch, and I have no regrets.
Their current limited-time special is the Smokehouse beef short rib sandwich, served with melty cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and barbecue sauce on Texas toast. I’m always happy to find Texas toast, whether it’s made into garlic bread, served as a sandwich, or just lightly toasted and buttered and served with some Zaxby’s chicken tenders. This sandwich was a real winner. I have to admit, it was better than some sandwiches I’ve had from barbecue restaurants. It was a decent size, with lots of flavors and textures going on, and the shredded, smoked short rib was very tender and tasty. The Texas toast held everything together well. I’m always disappointed when some barbecue places serve their wondrous, lovingly-prepared, low-and-slow-smoked meats on the cheapest buns or white bread, but not so here.
I had also recently been advised to try Arby’s gyro and their onion rings, a combo I enjoyed at Theo’s Kitchen earlier this summer (see my recent review here). I knew they had a gyro, but it never occurred to me to try it until a few people vouched for it. And like I said, there’s no such thing as a bad gyro, right? Well, this one was better than some I’ve had from dedicated Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants. It certainly wasn’t the best gyro I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worst, and only $3.99. This was the good kind of pita bread — nice and soft, like you get from actual gyro shops but never find at the supermarket. They included a generous portion of thin-sliced, processed gyro meat, which is usually a salty, garlicky beef and lamb combo, plus tzatziki sauce, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and thin slices of onion.
I can’t say the same for the onion rings, which had that craggy, crumby breading that mostly fell off. I can’t Ring the Alarm! in good conscience for these rings. At least Arby’s has some good dipping sauces in pumps: their legendary Horsey sauce (creamy horseradish), very decent three-pepper sauce that is more like a spicy-sweet barbecue sauce than an actual hot sauce (which is more than fine with me), and a creamy Dijon mustard sauce.
Finally, because this was a hectic week and we’re heading into our busiest and most stressful time of the year at work, I treated myself to an orange cream shake, because orange shakes are hard to find, and I freakin’ love them.
I also brought back a Jamocha shake for one beloved co-worker and two cherry turnovers for another one. Food gifts are some of the best gifts, if you ask me.
So yeah, Arby’s. If you haven’t had it since you were a teenager, or if pop culture has conditioned you to think it can’t possibly be any good, think again, and try it again. Even if you don’t love their old-school roast beef sandwiches (tasty, but super-salty), they have a ton of newer menu options including the limited-time Smokehouse beef short rib, and I definitely vouch for that. Their seasoned curly fries might be the best in the game, and I wish I had gotten those instead of the onion rings. Nowadays they have Italian subs, Reubens, smoked brisket sandwiches, and even some healthy-looking options! Seriously, try it, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.