The Good: Different food selection from most fast food restaurants, Good coupon values when they have them.
The Bad: Expensive, Like most fast food places, not overly nutritious, Comparatively limited number of locations.
The Basics: A national chain serving mostly hot meat sandwiches, Arby’s may be a little pricier, but the consistent quality of their food makes it a place worth stopping.
Lately, I decided to make a slight veer away from just foods and actually focus on a few restaurants for the next year. I’ve only written a few Restaurant reviews and I think I was probably a bit more harsh on some of them before than I would be now. After all, I seldom order the crispanis (do they even still make them?!) at Panera Bread, so as a hot sandwich and soup place, it might well be one of my favorite places to eat anywhere in the country. But, objectively, when I consider most chain restaurants, their quality does work toward the mean and there are very few places I return to feeling good about what I am getting.
In the case of Arby’s, the hot roast beef sandwich shop is a welcome sight for me constantly whenever I cross the country. Amid long interstates packed with McDonald’s and Burger Kings, with an ever growing number of Taco Bells, Arby’s remains one of the options I still get excited about whenever I find them. Despite being a little pricier than the more famous fast food places, Arby’s has some real taste treats that I would consider guilty pleasures, if only I felt guilty about them!
Arby’s is a chain restaurant and I’ve found them all throughout the Northeast United States and across the northern Midwest. They do not seem to have penetrated the Southeast with any success that I can find, but the company does seem to be growing and I know that I saw a few of them in the Southwest on my last trip across the United States.
Arby’s used to be known for its giant logo of a cowboy hat, but as the chain has gone for a more contemporary look, most newer locations have a simple red and white color scheme and their logo has become a talking oven mitt. As well, Arby’s seems content to avoid traditional marketing like the logo in favor of substance, billing itself as a more “adult” fast food chain. As a result, Arby’s tends to focus on bulk meals and new, meatier products, as opposed to appealing to a sense of fun with their advertising and product development.
Like most fast food chain restaurants, Arby’s does not have traditional waitstaff. Instead, one places an order at a main counter, above which hangs the menu and their order is assembled by a team and the customer picks their food up further down the counter. Arby’s tends to have an older staff in many of their non-mall locations, I have found. The more mature workforce tends to deliver a more consistent level of quality customer service and I know my local Arby’s had very low turnover for years.
I have never had a bad customer service experience at Arby’s.
Here is where Arby’s truly shines for me. Arby’s is a chain restaurant geared toward people who love meat. The prime sandwich type is roast beef and the sandwiches tend to have a very pure presentation: it’s a roll, meat and a sauce. One of the things I absolutely love about Arby’s is that it follows this formula pretty religiously and as a result, I never have to request things without their vegetables.
So, for example, a standard Arby’s roast beef sandwich is an onion roll with about three oz. of cooked roast beef and a splash of Arby Sauce (it’s somewhere between ketchup and barbeque sauce). That’s it; there are no pesky tomatoes or lettuce to pick off or dilute the taste of meat. Instead, the sandwiches are just pure, delicious roast beef.
Similarly, a Beef And Cheddar sandwich is just roast beef, the bun and a melted cheese sauce that is honestly hard to consider cheese, but is still pretty yummy in its own right.
My favorite sandwich tends to be the roast beef, bacon and cheddar, which is truly a meatlovers delight. That sandwich is a blend of about four ounces of roast beef, three crispy strips of bacon and the same cheese sauce the company plops on everything that ends with “and cheddar.” This is a salty, cheesy, meaty sandwich that is just delightful, despite the fact that the one sandwich is in the five dollar range.
This is the problem with much of Arby’s food. It is expensive. Even sides, like mozzarella sticks and curly fries tend to be in the $2.00 range, as opposed to having a consistent dollar menu. Most of the food is deep fried or microwaved meat and as a result, it is a little pricier than the more anemic burgers at other fast food places. The way around the expense of Arby’s food is that the chain frequently publishes coupons, which allow patrons to get multiples of some of their more popular sandwiches for a bulk price. The Arby-Q sandwich is one for which there are frequent coupons, allowing consumers to get the little roast beef sandwich for just $.99/ea. As well, the company does meal deals, like five items off a select menu for $5.95. Their current promotion, $5.01 sandwiches is actually one of their worst promotions in years.
If you’re not a fan of the quantity and variety of meat that Arby’s offers as their primary fare, the restaurant has started to feature salads, which I have never, in truth, partaken of. As well, they have baked potatoes, sides like potato cakes and their drink selection is more diverse than most places.
The baked potato selection at Arby’s is a good one and some of my earliest memories of traveling with my mother include picking up broccoli and cheddar potatoes or bacon and cheddar potatoes. The baked potatoes tend to include remarkably fresh broccoli or bacon bits, smothered in the cheese sauce. This might not be the most nutritious way to eat a baked potato, but they are quite yummy.
One of the other sides I have come to enjoy in recent years are the potato cakes. The potato cakes are a processed, fried potato wedge (much like fast food hash browns or tater tots at other places) filled with cheese and bacon. These are salty, cheesy and they complement the meat and cheese sandwiches quite well.
Like most fast food restaurants, Arby’s makes a lot of money on its soft drink sales. I, however, cannot recall the last time I had a soda at Arby’s. Instead, I tend to have their jamocha shakes. Unlike most fast food places which offer chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milkshakes exclusively, Arby’s has the jamocha shake, a coffee and chocolate flavored mocha milkshake that is absolutely wonderful. The jamocha shakes, like much of the Arby’s menu, has been around for over twenty years and Arby’s offers a decent, consistent option where the food tends not to be trading on the current dietary fad. This makes it a wonderful place to eat at while traveling.
Arby’s may be a little more expensive than other fast food chains and the fact that most of the food is deep fried or microwaved means it is not the most nutritious food in the world, but for years, I have relied upon Arby’s while traveling to provide me with comfort food and a good, hot, meaty meal and they have never let me down.
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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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