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.

REVIEW: Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips

Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips

There are a lot of overused terms in the food world. If buzz words, like “sustainable” or “artisan,” are moderately annoying when eating at restaurants which actually offer those things, then hearing them applied in a fast food setting borders on ridiculous.

I mean great, McDonald’s, I really appreciate the curiously addictive taste of the Filet-o-Fish, but who among us is really eating a square fish stick sandwich with a half slice of processed cheese product because we care about the feelings of Peter the Pollack?

Another term that gets thrown around too much is “House Made.” Take Arby’s new House Made Kettle Chips. Yes, I know the phrase designates a food made at the restaurant, but what the heck is that supposed to mean in Arby’s case? Does that mean some pimply faced high school kid who works at my local Arby’s is sitting out back with a potato peeler, a mandoline and a bag of fresh Idaho spuds, tossing potato slices into a kettle of hot oil that’s being manned by her or his grandmother?

Try as I might, I just couldn’t help but laugh at the idea and be skeptical. I’ve eaten a lot of chips in my life, some even in the thick-cut restaurant style Arby’s is touting, but not once do I ever remember any of those experiences involving a drive-through window or a $1.79 price tag.

A buck seventy-nine and a stop to chow down in the privacy of my own car later, and I have to say I’m not just pleasantly surprised, I’m stunned. Arby’s new chips don’t just win in the looks department, they also have a flavor and texture that makes me wonder why every fast food restaurant hasn’t considered potato chips. The crunch is far beyond anything you’ll get in a bag from the store, and that’s a good thing. Thick, hearty, and completely capable of breaking up an awkward silence, it’s the kind of crunch that no other fast food side can compete with.

Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips Super Closeup 2

Liberally coated in Arby’s “signature” seasoning, each taste has a wonderfully lickable tomato sweetness that’s also zesty. Yes, zesty. Not quite heat-packing, but more than just garlicky or onion-powdery, it’s the kind of sensation which would leave you in a ponderous state of “hmmm, what was that?” if it wasn’t for the unconquerable urge to quickly devour the next chip. The great thing about the chips though is that the seasoning powder eventually fades to the signature earthy meatiness of the potato.

If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself rushing through fries, but there’s something about these chips which almost forces you to chew and savor the potato flavor. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it’s the kind of taste and texture that seriously makes a guy or gal consider packing up the U-Haul and moving to Idaho.

Aside from going well with ketchup and not losing any textural integrity even when slathered with the scientific glory of Heinz, the chips also remain remarkably crunchy even hours after I bought them at my local Arby’s. In fact, nearly four hours after munching down on half the bag, I finished off the chips without noticing any diminished crunch or flavor.

Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips Super Closeup 3

While they lost some of their surface oil, they were no less addictive or finger licking. Considering how much I love the taste of fried potatoes, but get frustrated by cold and soggy fries that I don’t eat in the restaurant immediately, I found the chips to be the perfect answer to one of fast food’s most enduring dilemmas.

My complaints are minor. Seasoning itself is a bit salty and licking the seasoning ad nauseam can make the chips somewhat soggy. The chips should also lose points for coming in a single flavor, and not a various flavors like with store-bought chips. But like I said the complaints are minor, and given Arby’s reputation for offering a buttload of sauces – including the seriously underrated three-pepper sauce – even those who aren’t crazy about the standard seasoning can customize the flavor of the chips to some degree.

Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips Super Closeup

I have no idea how “house made” Arby’s House Made chips are, but after trying them out I’m hooked. They’ve got all the taste and addictiveness of Arby’s Curly Fry seasoning, yet none of the uneven cooking and inconsistent texture. Likewise, they pack a potato taste that would rival any actual house made potato chip from a sit-down restaurant, and have a crunch level beyond any store-bought chip I’ve ever eaten. Gimmicky name or not, this is one side item that deserves more than a roll of the eyes when it comes to its namesake, and it’s worth the extra charge to add it to any combo meal.

(Nutrition Facts – 450 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 530 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, 1 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.)

Other Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips reviews:
Grub Grade
Brand Eating

Item: Arby’s House Made Kettle Chips
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Amazing level of crunch beyond any store-bought chip. Really does taste ‘house-made’ from an upscale restaurant. Addictive and finger-licking seasoning without the textural inconsistency of curly fries. Just the right amount of surface oil. Kettle-blistered mouthfeel. Goes awesome with ketchup. Relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Awesome source of fat. Doesn’t come in multiple flavors, like Black Pepper or Sour Cream and Onion. Chips get soggy if you’re determined to lick the seasoning completely clean before crunching down.

REVIEW: Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Box

“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”

Well, maybe, not as much.

Beef prices have skyrocketed due to this year’s drought causing food companies to adjust their sizes and prices accordingly. For example, there’s Burger King who downsized to burger peasant with value menu attempts like the Bacon Burger. That, at least, is one way of trying to solve the problem of how to keep consumers interested in a changing supply landscape. The other is a lot more simple; just kill more turkeys.

I don’t mind too much. Not that I’ve ever seriously entertained the notion of hosting barnyard animals at social gatherings, but, if pressed as to which mammal I’d prefer to own should I ever come into possession of a working farm, I’d likely pick the gentle bovine over the gobbling Thanksgiving centerpiece. No offense to turkeys, but they’re just ugly to begin with.

They don’t taste that bad either, at least not in deli meat form. Given that fact, as well as their “healthy” reputation, we really should have seen Arby’s new Turkey Roasters coming sooner. No, not that kind of Roaster. More like this:

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club “Roaster” is one of three new turkey-centric sandwiches from the chain, pairing the usual suspects of Swiss cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise with thinly sliced oven roasted turkey.

According to Arby’s, it’s a sandwich so good, it actually “tastes like it’s more than a sandwich. We like to think of it as a savory, taste bud tingling masterpiece.”

It certainly passes the eye test, although the box language shows about as much humility as Terrell Owens in the prime of his career. The actual sandwich doesn’t exactly match up to the photo, but a heaping and hot (so hot, it’s even smokin’) portion of turkey shows up under a restrained glob of mayonnaise and thick, black-pepper bacon.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Mayo

There’s more than enough fresh leaf lettuce and juicy red tomatoes to let you know there was some effort put into making the sandwich, while another layer of mayo anchors the the insides to the Harvest Wheat bun. Only problem? That would be the Swiss Cheese. As in, where the heck is it?

After some poking around I noticed a not-really-melted slice of (unfortunately) hole-less Swiss was under the shaved Turkey breast. It’s an interesting construct that allows some of the cheese to melt (eventually) but the portion seemed rather skimpy to me. All can be forgiven with taste, however, and at nearly the price of a $5 footlong, you can bet it ought to be.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Bacon 2

The thing is, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about the sandwich. The bacon and Swiss cheese both contribute a mild smoke flavor, with the former adding a peppery kick and subtle crunch, while the latter contributing a milky taste and bit of needed fat. I really like Arby’s bacon, which contains the perfect ratio of meaty crunch and chewy fat to be the end-all, be-all of what you want from a pig.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Turkey Closeup

But the turkey, moist as it was, is singularly salty. How salty, exactly? Tough to say knowing we all perceive sodium differently, but I estimate it about halfway between raising your blood pressure and adding to the physical properties of the Dead Sea. I was hoping the Harvest Wheat roll would add a nice and wholesome sweet balance along with the tomatoes and lettuce, but they all seemed drowned out by the salty flavor. The mayo helps add a little tang to balance things out, but it too seems bland and just serves to tack on calories.
There are other missteps, as well. The roll has good flavor on its own, but it comes off as stale, while the subtle honey sweetness isn’t discernible when taking a complete bite. The toasting seems awkward in this application. While the cheese, unevenly melted, plays an odd and unwelcome second fiddle to the watery crunch of the lettuce.

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster Bun

Taking a look at Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Roaster is like taking a look at a masterpiece of taste but eating the watercolor portrait I painted of myself in second year high school art. Structurally, it’s more than sound, but it’s not going to make any one’s regular lunch rotation any more than that painting of smiling Adam will ever find its way out of my grandparents’ house. It’s just too salty and too bland to warrant the high price, failing to deliver a complete taste for what are individually tasty ingredients. Lacking that “X factor” so many of the best fast food sandwiches seem to have, it’s hardly the greatest thing since sliced beef, and no match for Arby’s much better Angus sandwiches.

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 1440 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster
Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: 233 grams
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Better than Buddig quality roast turkey.  Bacon is meaty, smoky, and black peppery. Swiss cheese and mild smoke flavor and milky richness. Harvest wheat bun has good flavor. Fresh vegetables. Getting your roaster fix on without burning out your eyeballs.
Cons: Salty and bland. Lacking an “X factor” of flavor. Bun was stale. Mayo just adds fat and calories. Unevenly melted Swiss cheese. Needs wider bacon coverage. A bit on the pricey side.

NEWS: Arby’s New Turkey Roasters Are Gobble Gobble Gobble (Good Mood Food in Turkey Speak)

Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich

Update: Click here to read our Arby’s Grand Turkey Club Turkey Roaster review

I remember when Arby’s was only known for roast beef and curly fries? I. Am. Old. Turkey has slowly become just as prominent as roast beef on the Arby’s menu board.

QSR Magazine:

Turkey Roasters are served hot and feature oven-roasted turkey that is thinly sliced each day in the restaurants.

There are three varieties to choose from:

Grand Turkey Club – Sliced roast turkey with melted Swiss cheese, pepper bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a toasted harvest wheat bun

Turkey ‘n Cheddar Classic – Thinly sliced oven-roasted turkey topped with cheddar cheese and zesty Red Ranch sauce on a toasted onion roll

Turkey Classic – Thinly sliced oven-roasted turkey on a toasted sesame seed bun

A Turkey Classic has 290 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 1020 milligrams of sodium, and 24 grams of protein. A Turkey ‘n Cheddar Classic has 450 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 1480 milligrams of sodium, and 27 grams of protein. A Grand Turkey Club has 490 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1440 milligrams of sodium, and 29 grams of protein.

WEEK IN REVIEWS – 11/12/2011

Water bottles

Here are a few product reviews posted this week from other blogs we follow.

Bottled water with caffeine isn’t very impressive. Bottled water with radioactive materials that could mess with my DNA and give me super powers would be impressive. (via Food Junk)

Worx may work, but there is something Worx needs to work on — spelling. (via Possessed by Caffeine)

What would I do for this Klondike bar? Probably nothing and just let it melt away. Unless I was starving to death, then I’d kill someone for it. (via Crazy Food Dude)

Jamie Oliver makes junk food? Am I in an alternate universe where the Top Gear guys mostly review reasonably priced cars and put stars in an expensive supercar? (via Gobble Monkey)

Arby’s Super Reuben does look super, and when I say “looks super” I mean it looks like it was killed with kryptonite. (via Would I Buy It Again)