REVIEW: Arby’s Liger Shake

Arby s Liger Shake

Heading into this limited-time-only product, I knew three things about ligers:

  • It’s the technical name for the offspring of a male lion and female tiger (the inverse, in case you were wondering, is called a tigon.)
  • There’s a famous Japanese wrestler named Jushin “Thunder” Liger, who was inspired by a short-lived anime of the same name (why he has a head shaped like a demonic pinata, though, I can’t explain.)
  • It’s Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal.

It’s an unorthodox name for a novelty milkshake, but after you’ve tried Arby’s newfangled beverage it all makes sense. The Liger Shake isn’t called that just because it looks like a pair of Cincinnati Bengals Zubaz workout pants in drinkable form – it truly is the harmonious synthesis of two distinct flavors that you’d never expect to merge together so well.

Arby s Liger Shake

The Liger Shake’s hook is pretty straightforward. It’s half orange cream – think, a ritzier version of that sherbet stuff we all ate in elementary school – and half Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream, with several rings of sludgier, in-house chocolate syrup tying everything together. Naturally, there’s also a hearty dollop of whipped cream to top things off, which makes comparisons to the beverages sold at a certain ubiquitous coffee chain all but unavoidable.

Unlike the Unicorn Frappuccino, however, this competing, swirl-centric offering from Arby’s is a classic milkshake through and through. While I’ve never been particularly fond of orange or chocolate-flavored shakes, combining the two makes for an unexpectedly satisfying combination. I guess the best thing to liken the Liger Shake to are Terry’s Chocolate Orange products – you know, those aluminum foil wrapped delicacies on store shelves every Christmas – mixed with the traditional Wendy’s Frosty.

Arby s Liger Shake 3

The shake has a very nice congealed consistency and the flavors mingle together quite well without either becoming too dominant. Somehow, someway, the fast food wizards at Arby’s managed to keep the orange-to-chocolate flavor ratio at an even-keel, and the end product is certain to please chocoholics and citrus-holics alike.

If I had to be a nitpicker, I’d take a few points off for the whipped cream (it has a nice aesthetic, but it gets milky fast and muddles with the flavor a bit) and the perhaps too sludgy chocolate swirls, which have a texture and overall mouthfeel that just doesn’t gel with the rest of the ingredients. That said, those minor flaws can easily be overlooked seeing how yummy the product taken as a whole is, and for less than three bucks, you simply can’t complain about the volume you’re getting here.

And as a nice bonus, this is one of the few fast food shakes that seems impervious to freezer burn. My leftover Liger Shake tasted just as flavorful and filling after two nights in the freezer as it did fresh out of the drive-thru lane – an attribute we can only pin on the product’s sturdy, crossbred genetics, perhaps?

(Nutrition Facts – Large – 680 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of total fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 116 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 104 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Large
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The drink has a nice, creamy consistency. The orange and chocolate flavors mix together surprisingly well. Even the smaller version will fill you up.
Cons: The whipped cream doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. The chocolate “rings” don’t complement the rest of the shake as well as they could. Wondering how long it’ll be before Arby’s rolls out their Zebroid, Wholphin and Beefalo follow-up shakes.

REVIEW: Arby’s Meat Mountain

Arby's Meat Mountain

Not since the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s Most American Thickburger – or maybe that one Pizza Hut variation that had pigs-in-a-blanket as the crust – has there been a fast food offering as audacious as Arby’s Meat Mountain.

So monstrous this tribute to American ingenuity/gluttony that the cashier actually ASKED me if I was serious when I ordered it. In fact, I had to tell her “yes” no less than three times before she rang up the purchase.

You remember those old episodes of Scooby Doo when Shaggy would get the munchies and come marching out of the kitchen with a towering sandwich filled with who-knows-what all the way to the ceiling? Well, that’s pretty much what Meat Mountain is. Underneath one greasy star-cut bun, you get all of the following ingredients: angus beef, cheddar cheese, chicken tenders, corned beef, pepper bacon, pit-smoked ham, roast beef, roast turkey, smoked brisket, and Swiss cheese.

So basically, it’s like eating Noah’s Ark in sandwich form. It’s a 1,000-calories plus behemoth that doesn’t even fit in the company’s stock wrappers – my order came in a wadded up ball of wax paper that, folded out on the table, came out to nearly two feet in length.

In that, I suppose Meat Mountain is more of a limited-time-challenge than a limited-time-offering. You don’t eat it for the pleasurable gustatory sensation, you eat it because it’s a direct threat to your manhood (or womanhood.) One does not simply review Meat Mountain; rather, one seeks to survive it.

Not that it’s a surprise to anybody, but the sandwich is definitely a hassle to eat. It’s so big you really can’t fit your mouth around it without taking out a layer or two of meat first, so you may find yourself tearing chunks of Meat Mountain apart instead of shoveling it down your throat (let’s call that one the velociraptor technique.)

Does the medley of meats come together harmoniously? Not really, but it’s still pretty awesome. It’s not so much the divergent tastes of the product that’s weird as it is the alternating textures. One bite it’s crunchy and a little spicy, the next it’s sinewy and chewy and just a wee bit soggy. That said, getting a mouthful of cow, chicken, pig and turkey all at once does make you feel like a khakis-clad T-Rex, and ultimately, that’s the feeling you’re paying $10 for.

One look at this thing and you’ll know right away whether or not you can handle it. Just one word of caution for all you iron-stomached adventurers out there, who think you’re ready to go napkin to napkin with this mammoth burger: while the sandwich isn’t as oily as you’d expect, it is unbelievably salty, packing a whopping 3,000-plus milligrams of sodium. So be sure you have a cola nearby before tackling this beastly creation – or at the very least, a sizable armada of Arby’s sauces.

(Nutrition Facts – 1,030 calories, 460 calories from fat, 51 grams of total fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 225 milligrams of cholesterol, 3,640 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, 87 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $10
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Being able to eat an entire barnyard in one sitting. The feeling of savory, crispy bacon dancing next to corned beef on your tongue. Dipping your turkey-chicken-beef-ham-bacon sammich into a pool of horseradish-pepper-ketchup-and-honey-mustard sauce and realizing what it’s like to be the king of all existence for a few fleeting seconds.
Cons: EVERYTHING is super-duper-extra-salty. Some of the meats don’t gel together well at all. The look on the cashier’s face when you ask if it comes in a vegan-friendly version.

REVIEW: Arby’s Venison Sandwich

Arby’s Venison Sandwich

Note: This guest review was written by our internet buddy Russ Shelly from What’s Good at Trader Joe’s.

Tension and anticipation filled the cool early morning, day after Thanksgiving air. The nervous glances and small talk only added to the edge. The crowd was gathering, just moments before opening, and we all knew what we there for. The only question was, who would be first, and who would be left empty-handed. There were just limited quantities, after all. We all knew it.

Slowly, the manager approached. The door was going to be unlocked. This was the moment. We all pressed in, just waiting for that click…

The kindly manager opened the door, nervously smiled and cheerfully said, ”Welcome to Arby’s!”

What, you thought we were lining up at Macy’s on Black Friday for $50 off an at-home hair removal kit? Don’t be ridiculous, this was all about the Arby’s Venison Sandwich being testmarketed at select stores only.

Gotta say it: For this sandwich, Bambi’s mom has got it going on. It’s a very simple construct: A 5.5-ounce slab of marinated deer steak, a semi-generous splash of juniper sauce, and onion straws all held by the typical Arby’s star cut bun used in their other specialty sandwiches.

Arby’s Venison Sandwich 3

Let’s break it down, starting with the obvious star: the venison. Apparently from farm-raised deer in New Zealand, the meat is marinated in a simple spice blend of garlic, salt and pepper, with the pepper being the strongest element. The steak is slow cooked, sous-vide style, for several hours resulting in a tender, medium-well cooked steak that is lean without any elements of stringiness or chewiness. If you’re not familiar with venison as an edible meat, think high quality beef, and that’s a decent enough approximation for the uninitiated. There’s not a lot of inherent gamey flavor, which some will see as a plus.

Arby’s Venison Sandwich 2

The sauce and straw sidekicks really add to the overall appeal. It’s a sweet-style barbecue flavor for the sauce, with juniper berries adding a unique, slightly sweet yet tart tinge. Maybe the berries were my deer’s last meal. That’s…perhaps morbid. But it’s a good thing, as the berry flavor adds a “wild” dimension that a typical BBQ sauce wouldn’t. The onion straws put in a clean, crispy bite, with a little grease, with the onion flavor helping bridge the gap between the garlic and pepper of the deer and the sweetness of the sauce. In a lot of ways, the onion straws are like Lebowski’s rug: easy to overlook, but they really tie it all together. No cheese or lettuce or tomato here, and none are needed.

If there’s a weak spot for the sandwich, it’s the bun. Not that it’s bad bread – it isn’t. But it’s much bigger than the deer steak, and while it’s up to the task of holding it all together without getting overwhelmed, the overall feel of the sandwich is that it’s a tad too bready. Where the steak was a little thinner, or there wasn’t as much onions or sauce, the bread really took over and dampened the much more flavorful elements.

The Arby’s Venison Sandwich was rolled out in a testing phase in only 17 Arby’s locations nationwide, most of them in popular hunting areas. Gathering by the amount of camo in the crowd, and the fact that I had only about the fourth most impressive beard (male division), it’s a hit. Within twenty minutes, the store I was at (Bellevue, PA) had sold out of at least 75 percent of its allocated inventory…and that is slow sales compared to other restaurant sites. But then, again, it was 10:20 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, so much of the nation was either a) shopping for $5 off electronic toothbrushes or b) recovering from riding the turkey-and-gravy train from the day before.

I’ll admit I wasn’t even hungry when I sat down to eat the sandwich, but when my first was polished off, it was good enough for me to consider having my second right then and there. I settled for taking it home and reheating for dinner, which worked better than one would expect.

Gauging by the enthusiasm of the rest of the dining room as well as the friendly Arby’s managers roving around asking for input, there seems to be a good shot of the venison sandwich catching on as a much wider release. It’s superb meatcraft, and I already can’t wait for the commercials with that deep gravelly booming voice.

Here’s to hoping that in 2017 the venison will be coming to an Arby’s near you.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: $5 (test market price)
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Expertly made venison. Awesome sauce. Being lucky enough to eat not one but two of these before any of you even had a chance.
Cons: A bit too bready at points. Reliving the death of Bambi’s mom.

REVIEW: Arby’s Buttermilk Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich

Arby's Buttermilk Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich

Conceptually, I love the idea of a chicken cordon bleu sandwich. I love chicken breast filet, I love the hell out of some ham, and Swiss —- while not the best cheese, necessarily — is still a fine cheese in most circumstances. But the strange thing is, I’m not entirely certain I’ve ever had a chicken cordon bleu sandwich that I actually loved. I guess you could even say that I’ve never had one that chicken cordon bleu my mind. (Ugh. Trust me. I’m as disappointed in myself as you are.)

Anyway, I’d had the original Arby’s iteration more than once in the past, mostly because it’s not something you see often on fast food menus, and I’m a sucker for uncommon menu items. (This is the same reason I can’t wait for Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuft Lobster Burrito, which isn’t a thing, but should be.) Arby’s original CCB was mostly a harmless proposition, but decidedly unspectacular each time. I guess I kept hoping it would get better, which I think is the definition of insanity or something.

Really, it was the chicken’s fault. Crunchy and dull, the quality paled in comparison to the restaurant’s other meats. Large chunks of “breading” hard enough to crack a molar; stringy ropes of flavorless chicken low on flavor but rich in disappointment.

That’s why I was excited to hear that BUTTERMILK entered the equation. Because really, aren’t all the best chickens buttermilked at some point?

Well, it still didn’t work.

Arby's Buttermilk Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich 2

It’s not that it was bad, really, it was just that it wasn’t good. The filet itself was bigger, juicier, and meatier than its heavily breaded predecessor, but there was a distinct lack of flavor. It was void of almost any discernible seasoning or spice. It simply existed as a big, hot chunk of meat, content to take up space between the “star top bun” which is, you know, a bun with a star shape cut into the top.

Not that the bun was bad. It also just…existed. It tasted fresh, though, and it was warm, so that was good. (I’ve often found buns to be a problem at my nearest Arby’s.)

The closest thing to a true star on this sandwich was actually what they refer to as “thinly sliced pit-smoked ham.” It was plentiful and, when removed from the totality of the sandwich, a decent balance of smoky and sweet.

Arby's Buttermilk Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich 3

There was a nice slice of Swiss cheese — real Swiss cheese, not the White American that fast food barons typically try to sell you — but it sorta got lost in the mix. The mayonnaise was appropriately applied and provided a bit of needed tang, trying in vain to make up for the tasteless chicken breast.

Sadly, it just wasn’t enough.

Overall, it doesn’t seem that buttermilk is bringing enough to the party on Arby’s new chicken sandwiches. And that’s a shame. I was really hoping I’d found the chicken cordon bleu of my dreams, but it’s pretty clear that my quest must continue. (Or I can, you know, just go to Chick-fil-A and get a consistently tasty chicken sandwich without the bells and whistles.)

(Nutrition Facts – 690 calories, 310 calories from fat, 35 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 2000 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 41 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.69 (sandwich only)
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Ham was inoffensive. It was served super-hot, but I mean, there’s no guarantee that yours will be.
Cons: Bland, flavorless buttermilk chicken. Uninspired. The whole thing felt a little like they were going through the motions. Oh, one of the least healthy options on the Arby’s menu in terms of calories from fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

REVIEW: Arby’s Steakhouse Sub

Arby's Steakhouse Sub

Arby’s is like the middle child of the fast food industry. You’ve got the oldest child, represented by places like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell. They’ve been around, they’re reliable and you know you can trust them to be there when you need them. Then there’s the baby of the family, that local place that you dote upon – that one little burger joint on Center Street or the musty taqueria that is probably violating at least a half dozen health codes. You tell your friends about them, even show them some pictures, not realizing that they honestly don’t care.

Then there’s Arby’s.

Sure, it’s always hanging around, but its cries for attention go largely ignored. It shuffles its feet, wondering when someone will notice the uniqueness, the ingenuity of its shaved beef sandwiches. It’s even tried other tactics to gain your attention, like its line of Market Fresh sandwiches, which got put on the fridge but was promptly covered up by Wendy’s B+ on her calculus test.

Badly-constructed analogies and sweeping generalizations about a whole nation’s opinion on Arby’s aside, their latest arm-waving “look at me!” creation goes even further, with the limited-edition Steakhouse Sub.

The commercial itself is a sad thing to see: a man is parked literally a few feet away from an actual steakhouse, and then decides to go to Arby’s instead. He is already at a steakhouse that serves real steak. I believe he describes Arby’s new sandwich as a “steakhouse dream,” but by then my brain had already exited my skull, carrying a bindle and sticking its thumb out in a desperate attempt to get as far away from my television as possible, so don’t quote me on that.

What exactly makes this sandwich such a “dream?” According to Arby’s, “When you’re craving that big Steakhouse taste, this sub delivers. We piled our classic, thinly sliced roast beef with melted Swiss cheese and crispy onions on a toasted ciabatta roll and topped it all off with our zesty cracked peppercorn sauce.”

If you’ve never had an Arby’s roast beef sandwich before, imagine the roast beef being a notch or two above the packet of Carl Buddig “Beef” that your mom used to pack in your lunch for school. Or was that just my mom?

Great, yet another childhood trauma I’ll have to bring up with my therapist at our next appointment. Anyway, Arby’s roast beef is thinly sliced, quite salty, and if you try really hard, you can even detect a vague taste of beef. But that’s about all you’re going to get out of it.

The onions added zero flavor or texture to the sandwich. Arby’s claims they are “crispy onions.” Mine were anything but. I ate some of the stragglers on my plate that had escaped from the Steakhouse Sub, and they were soggy, tough and chewy. It’s like they took a can of French’s French Fried Onions and let them sit in a deep frier for half an hour.

The sauce was actually quite nice on its own; I would even venture to agree with Arby’s claims of it being “zesty.” Much like the onions, it seemed to get swallowed up by the rest of the sandwich and I couldn’t really taste it unless my tongue was in direct contact with the sauced bun. I went to check out the ingredient list and there must have been 50 of them in the sauce alone, but I think the inclusion of steak sauce was probably what gave it a little zing. Or it could have been the disodium inosinate. Who can tell?

Part of the reason I couldn’t feel the chewy texture of the onions was that the ciabatta roll itself was overly chewy. Taking a bite of the Steakhouse Sub felt a bit like I was a puppy wrestling with a rope toy; to tear through the bread, I had to whip my head back and forth with my teeth firmly dug into the bun. I may have even growled once or twice, I’m not entirely sure.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but I do think that the bread-to-fillings ratio was tipped too heavily in the former’s favor, especially when it came to the sauce and the onions. I got a few bites where I could taste a little zip from the sauce, but the onions added nothing, and most bites were just a mouthful of bread and some mildly beefy-tasting slices of meat.

If Arby’s thinks their Steakhouse Sub is something that’s going to lure someone already at a steakhouse to their nearest Arby’s drive-thru, they need to head out to a Black Angus Steakhouse and do a little R&D. The fact that I’m using Black Angus as my example of a steakhouse taste they should emulate should speak volumes in and of itself.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich (268 grams) – 750 calories, 360 calories from fat, 40 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,970 milligrams of sodium, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, 30 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 15% calcium and 20% iron.)

Item: Arby’s Steakhouse Sub

Price: $2.99

Size: 1 sandwich

Purchased at: Arby’s

Rating: 3 out of 10

Pros: Cracked peppercorn sauce was zesty, if you licked the bun. Actual steakhouses. Fair-sized sandwich for the price. Hobo bindles. Making sweeping generalizations about other people’s opinions.

Cons: Too much chewy ciabatta drowning out other flavors. Tough, un-crisp onions. Being the middle child. Arby’s roast beef in general. Playing tug-of-war with my lunch. Carl Buddig.