REVIEW: Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich

Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich

“Honey, what are these for?” she asked.

She picked up a warm, paper-wrapped disc out of a box full of them.

“Those?” he said. “Don’t touch those. Those are for Halloween. They’re for the neighborhood kids.”

“These are hamburgers,” she said.

“It’s actually roast beef,” he said. “From Arby’s. The Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich. But, yeah, I thought we’d do something different this year. Spice things up.”

“You can’t possibly be serious,” she said.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because,” she said, “these are sandwiches. Every year you try to switch things up and every year we get soap on our windows. Remember 2013? You gave out Dixie cups full of sweet tea.”

“Topped with Torani syrup,” he said. “Let me make an argument here. The Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich is sweet as hell.”

“Yes, I remember,” she said. “I had one too.”

Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich 3

“It’s so sweet, it’s pretty much just like eating candy,” he said. “Weird to think that, right? Because it’s got roast beef in it. It’s also got vegetables like tomatoes and lettuce. And cheese and a Dijon sauce. But you had one too. The sugar bacon is insanely sweet. You remember how everything spun out of control so quickly? I took a few bites and I immediately was looking for an Oompa Loompa to come stuff me into a sack.”

“The brown sugar bacon was good and thick but the sugary glaze is so strong that it’s the only quality that stands out. There is no smokiness or discernible meat flavor, just a chewy texture and sweetness. The texture of the entire sandwich is pretty good though, actually. The roast beef had a substantial feel and the whole thing is a pretty hefty gut bomb. The King’s Hawaiian bun has a pleasant softness that contrasts very nicely with the snap of the lettuce. The tomato is pretty limp though. You remember how sweet it was?”

“Yes,” she said. “And I am a fan of the normal roast beef sandwich. This really broke the orbit of flavor. The pile of roast beef was made dull, overshadowed by the sweetness of the bacon. It might as well have been paper mache. The sandwich just didn’t have the balance needed to pull it off.”

“There were a few bites of equal distribution of flavor in there and they were high points. But I would say there were only three or four instances of that. It’s hard to disregard the sweet tooth wet dream when even the bun has a sugary tinge to it. Although on the back half, I slathered on the Arby’s horseradish sauce and it made it a bit better.”

“I liked it with the horseradish sauce too,” he said.

“Did you plan to give out the sauce during Halloween too?” she asked.

“No. I didn’t know how to siphon it out of that little dispenser at Arby’s,” he said, sheepishly.

“You weren’t even going to add the stuff that made it halfway decent?” she asked.

He didn’t say anything.

Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich 2

“I know,” she said. “I know the sandwich tastes like candy. And it seems cool to do something for the sake of being different. But not everything has to be redefined to be on your terms. You’re part of this culture too, you know. Halloween is all of ours. It’s for everybody. You don’t have to change it to enjoy it. Just go with the flow. You’re not boring. You’re not predictable. You’re not a cliché. And even if you were, who cares?”

There was a pause. He stared out of the window.

“You’re right,” he said, his giant green fingers reflexively touched the bolts in his neck, then massaged his temples as he sighed. “You’re always right. Let’s just give away Twix this year. Full size.”

He paused again. “You know, for us, everyday is…”

“Yes, yes, honey,” she said, as she leaned on his shoulder, her lightning-struck hair brushed against his worn suit jacket. “For us, everyday is Halloween. I know. But seriously. It’s July. And you got a whole box of these!”

“I bought sixty of them,” he said.

She laughed. “What the heck are we going to do with all these sandwiches?”

“Let’s burn them,” he smiled.

They stacked them in the middle of the room and threw a lit matchbook into the pile. As it went up in flames, he suddenly remembered he feared fire and ran into the hills. She sighed.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 280 calories from fat, 32 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 170 grams of cholesterol, 1620 milligrams of sodium, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, 42 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon & Roast Beef Sandwich
Purchased Price: $5.79
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Hefty. Good texture. Soft bun, crisp lettuce. Use horseradish sauce to help it taste more rounded.
Cons: Roast beef is dulled by sweetness. Expensive.

REVIEW: Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips

There have been very few things fast food companies have done to make me upset in the nearly three decades I’ve been alive. Sure, there have been lots of occasions warranting mild annoyance, like when the price of the McDouble inevitably went above a buck or when the guy at Domino’s refused to bake a Twinkie inside of my pizza for scientific inquiry. But those times when I’ve had my heart broken over price fluctuations or menu discontinuations? Only a handful.

The debut of Arby’s delicious housemade chips in May 2013, followed by their cancellation only a few months later, was one of those times.

Like a teenage summer romance, those chips transfixed me that spring; enamoring me with their crunchy ridges and zesty seasoning, tempting my taste buds by showing a little skin, and holding my undivided attention from a myriad of suitors like Mozzarella Sticks and Onion Rings. And then, nothing.

Not even an “it’s not you, it’s me and the proliferation of limited time only menu items across the fast food marketplace” line. One day they were gone, and since then I’ve bounced around from side to side, never quite content amidst short-lived flings with pretzel bites and hushpuppies.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 2

I know I should have more self-control now that the chips have returned. I should have the perfect cover story about having moved on and fallen for a sweet potato fry or something. But I don’t, and even though the chips have changed their outward appearance-adopting a Garlic Parmesan seasoning and now coming pre-bagged—their taste is just like I remember.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 3

The potato flavor is deep and meaty, as if some chuck wagon Idaho cowboy (do they have cowboys in Idaho?) just pulled the potato from the ground and fried it. The exterior isn’t overly crunchy like store-bagged chips; instead it’s got a smooth and slightly oily mouthfeel, but in a good way which allows you to appreciate the subtle flavors developed during the frying process.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 4

I was worried at first when I didn’t see much in the way of seasoning powder on the chips, but each spud has a pronounced roasted garlic flavor. The parmesan might have been the only flavor lacking, although there’s a part of me which appreciates the subtleness of its taste. Too often anything with “parmesan” in the label is weighed down with buttermilk solids and a generic ranch flavor. But these chips deliver a more sophisticated parmesan flavor which accentuates and doesn’t stand in the way of the natural potato flavor.

If you are anything like me and were a fan of the first iteration of Arby’s Housemade Chips, then you’re going to love the new Garlic Parmesan look. The deep and rich potato flavor is just as I remember, and while the chips aren’t quite as crunchy and the whole size and bagging issues are going to make our relationship a bit more complicated, the roasted garlic flavor definitely makes up for the changes. Will I get burned again when Arby’s yanks them from stores? Of course. Is it going to stop me from loving these now? Hells no.

(Nutrition Facts – 290 calories, 14 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, 1 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 2 oz.
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Robust potato flavor puts French fries to shame. Enjoyable crunch but still enough give to make for an enjoyable texture. Deep and meaty roasted garlic flavor tastes fried into the chips. Far better than any bagged chip.
Cons: Less chips for the same price of the chips marketed in 2013. Pre-bagged chips begs the question of just how “fresh” they are. Subtle parmesan flavor might not be for everyone. Slightly undersalted. Inevitable heartbreak when discontinued.

REVIEW: Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich

I know few things about Hawaii. I do know the most famous celebrity is that Hawaiian Punch guy with that crazy hat. I also know that Hawaiian luxury resorts will kindly let you sleep for free when you go through a bad breakup (thanks Sarah Marshall). And I know that King’s Hawaiian bread is the best I’ve stuffed in my mouth since challah with its eggy pleasures.

Intrigued by the small four packs sitting harmlessly by the supermarket deli, they sat there engulfed in the smells of fried chicken and briny olives. The first time I picked them up was a lark but when the slightly sweet, rich taste seduced me, I was forever captive. I rarely leave the supermarket without buying a 4-pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls or sandwich buns.

I also have a strong penchant for fried fish sandwiches. While most gravitate towards Quarter Pounders or Big Macs, I go for the Filet-O-Fish. Even though it contains a lifeless fried rectangle with a flaky nondescript soylent green kind of protein, I love the Filet-O-Fish.

So imagine my fervor when I discovered the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe sandwich? Too many apostrophes aside, I was so excited that I immediately drove to the nearest Arby’s.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 2

The sandwich was almost four and a half inches in diameter and the bun was similar to the King’s Hawaiian sandwich rolls. There was no mistaking that the roll made an impact visually because that slight sheen demanded that I pay fucking attention. I sank my partially brushed teeth into the softly toasted bun and into the crispy and flaky “wild caught Alaskan Pollock.” I can hear you scoffing. I am too. Regardless, if the fish was wild, I was impressed because it was not greasy.

Also, the rolls did not disappoint. They were slightly sweet, soft, and rich. They delivered, but that, surprisingly, contributed to the problem.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 3

The sweet bread combined with the sweeter tartar sauce overwhelmed the sandwich. I couldn’t even taste the pickled chunks in the tartar sauce and it just killed the Alaskan pollock. There was too much tartar sauce on my tomato and lettuce.

The textures were pleasant enough but the slightly sweet bread on top of the sweeter sauce just shoved the fish aside like my Mom does when I try to hug her. Worse, the cheddar cheese was gloppy and lifeless. It wasn’t melted enough and it made no impression on the fish or the prized King’s Hawaiian roll.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 4

I was a bit sad the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe didn’t live up to my expectation. Additionally, the $4.25 price tag is a bit too pricey and makes the term “Deluxe” really seem like an overstatement. The sandwich doesn’t balance as well as McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. In fact, I’ve had government cafeteria fish sandwiches that tasted better. It’s a tolerable sandwich if you ignore that “deluxe” price, but otherwise I don’t think it’s really worth it.

(Nutrition Facts – 790 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1140 milligrams of sodium, 89 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.25
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Wild caught Alaskan Pollock was crispy and flaky. The King’s Hawaiian roll was sweet and rich.
Cons: Too much tartar sauce. The lifeless cheese slice. Deluxe price.

REVIEW: Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies

Deep inside an underground bunker somewhere near Pocatello, Idaho, the nation’s preeminent potato growers and their army of lobbyists recently gathered. The following is an unconfirmed transcript of the meeting that followed. Names have been modified to protect the innocent.

Derek J. Russet, Chairman of the Confederacy of Potato Advocates: Ladies and gentlemen. We gather today amidst news that threatens the very existence of our industry. Reports indicate one of our longtime allies in the fast food world has threatened to disown the humble spud as a side item.


Russet: Yes, it’s true, and I’m afraid it’s not the usual challenge from the Onion Ring Hegemony again. Thankfully Burger King continues to showcase the alliance of alliums in an objectionable light, but this new threat is much greater.

Timothy L. Fingerling, CFO: Sir, surely our market share can withstand a minor blip. Our research has long indicated customers sometimes go for so-called ‘healthier options,’ but once the New Year’s Resolution high subsides, they’ll return to their french fries and chips with renewed vigor.

Russet: I do not know, Fingerling. Reports are still vague, but apparently Arby’s has introduced Jalapeño Hushpuppies as part of their limited time only, pre-Lent menu. Hushpuppies…with fish! The nerve of these people. What would our English brethren and their fish and chips say? In any event, knowing how trendy Southern food is and how customers are always begging for something to set their mouth on fire, this is a threat we cannot overlook. Dare I say it, if these are successful, we could see multiple fast food companies ditching fries for balls of fried cornmeal in no time.


Amanda W. Yukon, Director of Nefarious Tuber Operations: Not so fast, sir. I have firsthand reports on the quality of these hushpuppies, straight from one of my freelance field operatives. In my hands is an intelligence estimate courtesy of Lawrence Sweet, who has just eaten at Arby’s.

Fingerling: By all means, Ms. Yukon. Major Sweet is one of most trusted and objective operatives. If it weren’t for his work on those Arby’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets during the spring, we would have never been able to sabotage them with laxative inducing cheese sauce. Please, read the report.

Yukon: He begins as follows: “I entered Arby’s with an open mind. My love of potatoes aside, I’ve traveled to the Gulf Coast in the past and have frequently eaten, and enjoyed, hushpuppies. There’s just something so perfect about them, so distinctly Southern in their crispy outside texture, moist interior, and tangy sweetness. Given how well Arby’s has done some other regional specialties like brisket, I expected these to be a worthy rendition.”

Silence permeates the room, broken only by a few nervous clicks of someone’s pen.

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Yukon: He continues: “I was pleased to find the hushpuppies crisp and non-too greasy, but an almost blackened color was cause for concern. A cornbread batter can be unforgiving for a fry cook, and the blistered craters, while perhaps making a fine 1:100,000,000 scale model for an asteroid, revealed they might’ve spent too much time in the fryer. Not surprisingly a burnt flavor was impossible to overcome on first bite, although a mild and moist cornbread filling did dissipate the burnt exterior somewhat.

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies 3

Still, there was something off about the flavor. The jalapeños were immediately noticeable, but instead of a spicy bite, the small chunks carried a bitter and vegetal flavor. They tasted old and canned, while the chunks of corn also had a dulled, diluted flavor which wouldn’t win a taste test with Del Monte.”

Russet: Interesting. So they’ve not only botched the execution, but used sub-par ingredients. But everyone knows even a limp French fry can be resuscitated with Heinz or Fry Sauce. I’m still unconvinced these aren’t a threat.

Yukon:/b> I think we’re safe on that front too, sir. Sweet reports there’s no natural pairing for hushpuppies. They should have enough balance in the buttermilk tang, the corn sweetness, and the heat of the seasoning to be eaten on their own. Even ketchup can’t save them, and Sweet thinks ketchup is good on everything. Besides, he claims they’re too small to leave customers happy. And obviously, they lack the appeal of a curly fry.

Fingerling: Dare I say we’ve dodged a bullet! Once again, fast food has outthought itself.

Russet: Indeed. Send our thanks to Sweet, Yukon. Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies won’t satisfy those longing for a homemade taste of the Gulf Coast, and pose little long-term threat to the supremacy of the spud.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 hushpuppies – 290 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 790 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Jalapeno Hushpuppies
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Mainstream fast food embracing a taste of the south. Crunchy exterior and moist cornbread-like interior. Real whole kernel corn and jalapeños in batter. Moderate and building back-heat. The survival of the potato industry.
Cons: Tiny and hard as a rock. Burnt flavor overpowers the cornmeal. Bitter, vegetal-like quality to the jalapeños. Corn kernels taste dull and canned. Lacks obvious condiment pairing. Freelance work for world potato cabals.

REVIEW: Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets

Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets

Since the dawn of creation, mankind has faced two fundamental questions when it comes to procuring food. The first, “How do I cook this?” is easily answered thanks to the advent of microwaves, grills, and fancy sous-vide machines I can’t afford. The second, and perhaps exponentially more important for our survival, is a question which is not so easily answered: “How can I stuff this with cheese?”

Thanks to the recent Pact of Saltiness agreed between Auntie Anne’s and Arby’s, this question just got a whole lot easier to answer. As if sent just in time for the dog days of summer baseball season, the new Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets combine cheddar cheese with the salty and yeasty greatness of a soft pretzel. What’s more, having them available hot and ready allows me to avoid awkwardly standing in the grocery store frozen foods section, all the while staring at a box of Nacho Super Pretzels while wondering, “Do I dare?”

I’ll be honest with you if you’re willing to be honest with yourself. As you’d expect, these are absolute salt bombs. But isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for in a fast food side item? Last I checked, we weren’t raving about the crispness of the lettuce in the McDonald’s side salad, or the bright sweetness of the grapes in a Chick-fil-A fruit cup. No, Arby’s Pretzel Bites are more primordial in their appeal, and despite leaving me feeling one skipped heartbeat away from a heart attack, I kind of liked them.

Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets Innards 2

No one is going to confuse these for a main course. The bites are definitely “nugget” sized, with a shiny buttery-spread coating and soft feel beneath coarse grains of pretzel salt. Mine were defiantly warm, fogging up the plastic container so much that I grew concerned they might steam themselves into a glutinous ball of cheese and pretzel salt.

Wasting no time in adverting such a disaster, I discovered the give of each bite to be gentle, with a malty and earthy sweetness balancing a savory butter taste and, of course, the crunchy salt granules. Likewise, I enjoyed the moist and chewy crumb, which avoided the dry and crumbling texture that prepackaged pretzel rolls sometimes have.

Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets Innards

I realize processed cheese is amongst the most polarizing topics in our world today, so I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying you’ll either love or hate the filling. I personally love it. Thick, but gooey in a way that would allow you to sculpt a Leaning Tower of Cheeza, the cheddar filling is plentiful while having that je ne sais quoi flavor of a melted then cooled slice of a good old Kraft Single. On its own it might pass for too much, but combined with the malty sweetness and buttery texture on the pretzel bites, it creates an addictive grilled cheese effect.

I admit the processed cheese makes the bites overly salty, but at the same time it creates a snack that’s good enough to eat without sauces. That said, I appreciate Arby’s open dispensers of Honey Mustard Sauce, which add a nice blend of sharpness and sweetness to the dipped bites.

While I liked the bites, I do think they are a little on the pricey side for their size, and freely admit their heavily salted flavor and overly chewy texture will definitely turn some off. Still, they solve an age old snacking question without me having to take any undue risks, and satisfy a need for a salty and cheesy indulgence.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 pieces or 83 grams – 210 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 1 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein..)

Item: Arby’s Auntie Anne’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Guilty pleasure salt-bomb appeal combines nicely with malty sweetness of the pretzel. Cheese is thick and gooey with some actual cheddar flavor. Buttery spread aftertaste. Pretzel portion tastes fresh baked and yeasty.
Cons: A little expensive for the serving size. An awesome source of sodium, and by awesome I mean capable of giving you a heart attack. Will completely turn some people off with saltiness and thick processed cheese texture. Getting yelled at in the grocery store for holding the freezer door open.