REVIEW: Subway Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich

Subway Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich

I don’t care what the textbooks say. I don’t care about the debates over the Reuben sandwich’s origins: whether it originated from a Nebraskan grocer’s weekly poker ritual or from a New York delicatessen’s signature “Reuben Special.”

In my eyes—and taste buds—the Reuben was obviously invented by Ruben Studdard. I mean, what else could Ruben have been up to after winning American Idol Season 2, while the more famous runner-up Clay Aiken became a Christmas album mainstay in my grandma’s CD player for years?

And before you ask how Ruben could invent the Reuben when the sandwich first appeared in the 1920s, the answer’s time travel. Duh. Next question.

Okay, that explanation may be more impractical than a Reuben Goldberg machine, but I needed a slipshod introduction for a sandwich as slipshod as Subway’s new Corned Beef Reuben. Because as I soon found out, expecting a fast food joint to do justice to the Reuben’s nearly 100-year legacy was a bit unrealistic.

Subway Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich 2

But let’s start with the rye highs. The popularity of Subway’s Italian Herbs & Cheese and Honey Oat breads suggests that consumers like their bread studded with enough stuff to make a BeDazzler blush, and Subway’s new Rye bread fulfills that desire by baking lightly crunchy caraway seeds into every sub.

The bread itself is dense, earthy, and spiced, while the seeds pop with a sweet anise bite. The taste may be slightly too sour for Hawaiian roll or Wonder Bread veterans, but fans of aged, yeasty bread will appreciate its subtleties.

My only gripe is that the rye isn’t marbled, though that kind of doughy swirl might’ve looked too much like a rolled yoga mat for Subway’s liking.

Meat and cheese are this Reuben’s other strongest elements. While the corned beef isn’t particularly juicy, potently peppered, or too different from Subway roast beef, it’s still thick, tender, and salty enough to give the sandwich a savory, meaty twang.

By which I mean you’ll want to twang an acoustic guitar string after each bite.

The Swiss cheese is an underrated, binding force in Subway’s Reuben. It may have all the complexity of a melted Kraft Single, but it still brings creamy dairy balance to the bread and sauerkraut’s sourness.

Speaking of the sauerkraut: it’s bad, and that’s coming from someone who adores sauerkraut enough to give it an honorary seat at his wedding. Subway’s sauerkraut is far too wet, mushy, and flavorlessly acidic, lacking the light crispness and pickled intricacies of good sauerkraut. But I suppose if I were mashed into a cube and left under Subway’s sneeze guard all day, I’d feel sad and squishy, too.

And the Thousand Island Dressing? It’s barely there, providing a light, underlying fatty flavor with faint mayo and tomato notes. I’d say I only tasted three islands at most, and one of those was Rhode Island, whose authentic island status is questionable at best.

Subway Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich 3

Eating the sandwich together, I mostly taste a sour-sweet war between sauerkraut and bread, while the Reuben’s less flavorful, meaty and creamy children beg their parents to stop fighting. It’s far from authentic, and your limited Reuben enjoyment will hinge on your ingredient balance: I recommend going light on ‘kraut, doubling up on cheese, and getting dressing on the side to add at your discretion.

Better yet, take the $5.25 you could’ve spent on a 6” Subway Reuben to Walmart deli and buy enough loose ingredients to assemble a much tastier haphazard Reuben in the parking lot. Just don’t forget to play Clay Aiken’s Merry Christmas with Love in the car while you do it.

(Nutrition Facts – 6” sandwich, no vegetables – 450 calories, 15 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1770 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.25
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: BeDazzlingly good rye bread. Guitar strummingly decent corned beef. The complimentarily congealing properties of a Swiss Kraft Single. Parking lot deli sandwiches. Sending my warmest regards to Ruben Studdard, wherever he may be.
Cons: Not authentically Reuben-esque (Reubenic?) enough to justify the cost. Sauerkraut that leaves me sour. Thousand Island Dressing that’s 997 islands short. Not being able to make a “Why? Bread” joke because the bread was actually good.

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: Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

From the same folks who gave you sandwiches doused in bourbon and moonshine infused sauce comes Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.’s latest alco-hamburger, the All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger.

From the get-go, it’s a much less ambitious burger than we’re used to from the chain – lest we forget, this is the same brand that once sold us a sandwich topped with a split weenie and a handful of potato chips.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 2

The non-deluxe versions come with a charbroiled beef patty topped with a sliver of Swiss cheese and a hearty dollop of caramelized onions and thick coating of the eponymous Bud cheese, which I’d describe as a sweet nacho cheddar blend with a sugary hops and barley aftertaste (and before you ask, no, you can’t get loaded eating a small mountain of burgers). On top of that you’ve got your customary lettuce and tomato slices, with a cameo appearance by two fairly salty strips of bacon. The whole shebang is shoved into a brioche bun, which has a distinct honey-kissed flavor that gels incredibly well with the Cheese-weiser sauce.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 3

As you’d imagine, it’s a pretty messy meal. Just removing the top bun guarantees at least a splash of cheese sauce is going to spatter on the table, but the impromptu Gallagher performance is easily forgiven considering how filling the burger is. The solo patty version pretty much immobilized me for a good half hour, so I can only imagine the severity – and satisfaction – of the after-effects of the double patty permutation or the 1/3-pounder Black Angus Thickburger.

Your mileage will vary on the saccharine nature of the burger dressings, though. An hour after eating my burger I still had a pronounced honey wheat hangover in the back of my throat, and be forewarned, when the beer cheese fully congeals, it becomes almost as sweet as cake frosting.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the chain’s latest brew-burger. It strikes a very nice balance of savory, smoky and sugary without any one flavor becoming too dominant. As long as you can handle a little umami with your ale – and you’re not averse to a strong sucrose sensation from time to time – I’d say this Bud’s definitely for you.

(Nutrition Facts – Single Patty Burger – 710 calories, 340 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1430 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (single patty)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very filling. A nice medley of flavors that are surprisingly harmonious. Being able to literally chew Budweiser.
Cons: An unexpectedly prolonged sugar rush; being forced to eat it with a fork to keep cheese from glomping to your fingers. Still having to wait for a Heineken-flavored chicken sandwich.

REVIEW: Subway Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie Cookies

Subway Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie Cookies

Every fall I can count on two things: 1) Nick Saban and Alabama will absolutely obliterate every football team in the SEC. 2) Pumpkin spice food products will be thrusted in my face at every grocery store, restaurant, and fast food sandwich shop in America.

Yes, sandwich shop. Thanks to the ubiquitous up-sell of the 60-cent Subway cookie, the most popular flavor of the fall can help you forgot how mediocre your lunch was.

I like to think of pumpkin spice as the flavor version of Alabama’s football dynasty. The hype is everywhere and, for the most part, the hype is deserved. Sure, the Crimson Tide might trip up once a year, just like how we’ll get a dud like Pumpkin Spice M&M’s every once in awhile, but for the most part, pumpkin spice is unstoppable.

In a lot of ways, the rise of pumpkin spice has correlated with the decline of apple pie, autumn’s previously unstoppable flavor, that’s also a new Subway cookie flavor. You might think of apple pie as the Miami of flavors: Once a shoo-in to compete for a national title, but it’s now a run-of-the-mill ACC middleweight that loses to a depleted Notre Dame team.

It’s pretty much the same when it comes to Subway’s cookies.

Subway Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie Cookies 2

Like Alabama’s balanced offense and stifling defense, the Subway Pumpkin Spice Cookie was seemingly flawless. Textually, the edges were crunchy and the interior was chewy with strong notes of ginger and molasses dominating each bite. The cookie tasted like a ginger snap on steroids. The white confectionery chips added vanilla-flavored bursts of sweetness throughout the cookie, while the sweet taste of cinnamon lingered on my tongue even after I finished the cookie. If there’s one downside it’s that the cookie tastes more like a chewy ginger snap than a pumpkin cookie.

Subway Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie Cookies 3

The Apple Pie Cookie is not nearly as good as the pumpkin spice one. If we’re talking football, it loses by at least three touchdowns. The Apple Pie Cookie was much sweeter and, like Miami Hurricanes football during the early 2000s, it’s a sexy cookie on the outside. How can it not be with “naturally sweetened” apple chunks baked right into the dough? Yet like the Hurricanes dynasty coming undone, it’s got too many bells and whistles to work. The taste of clove and nutmeg is far too floral, while the sweetened apple chunks taste like someone freeze-dried applesauce. The texture of the chunks is off-putting and hyper sweet, and the entire cookie doesn’t really taste like pie.

Is pumpkin spice’s dominance over the seasonal flavor world annoying? Maybe, but like Alabama’s continued destruction of college football parity, it’s pretty incredible. Subway’s Pumpkin Spice Cookie only adds to that legacy, and is far and away a better end to a mediocre sub than the Apple Pie cookie.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: 60 cents (each)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Pumpkin Spice)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Apple Pie)
Pros: Pumpkin spice cookie has a wonderfully complex texture that’s crunchy on the edges and chewy in the center. Deep, warm sweetness of molasses mixed with ginger, butter, and vanilla.
Cons: Pumpkin Spice cookie lacks deep pumpkin flavor. Cream Cheese chunks would have been better than “confectionery chips”. Apple Spice cookies tastes like what I’d imagine an apple pie air freshener to taste like. Unnatural tasting natural apple chunks.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Brunchfast Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich

Jack in the Box Brunchfast Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich

It’s okay to admit Jack in the Box’s Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich looks tasty in the photo above. I won’t tell anyone. Okay, the cheese looks a bit plasticky, but so do the faces of many celebrities, but we still love them…Tom Cruise.

The sandwich features crispy all-white meat chicken topped with a fried egg, American cheese, hickory smoked bacon, and bacon mayo on a toasted English muffin. It’s part of Jack’s new Brunchfast menu that sounds like it’s available during a small window during the day, but is actually available all day.

While it looks good in the photo, I have to admit the sandwich doesn’t taste as good. My main issue with it is that it tasted too much like other chicken sandwiches I’ve had from Jack in the Box. The “breakfast” parts of the sandwich didn’t make it taste breakfast-y.

The fried egg added nothing to the flavor. It was pretty much the lettuce of the sandwich. The only way you’d know it’s there is if you had eyes to look at the sandwich or had eyes to see the milligrams of cholesterol it has by looking at its nutrition facts on Jack in the Box’s website. I thought the yolk would’ve made a difference, but it just blended in with the rest of the egg’s blandness. If the yolk was runny, then it might’ve added something, but that’s never going to happen due to food health concerns.

But the English muffin was worse. It had a spongy texture that’s more like a stale bun than what folks in London call a muffin. I don’t know if the FDA has rules regarding English muffins, but if I were to write them, I’d make sure that this wouldn’t be considered one.

Jack in the Box Brunchfast Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich 2

The hickory smoked bacon was fine. I’ve had it many times before. It added a nice smoky and chewy element to the sandwich. But the winner of Best Bacon Ingredient on the Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich goes to the bacon mayonnaise. It’s creamy and had a bacon flavor that was tastier than the actual bacon included. The breaded chicken had crispy edges, but was dry inside (not surprising). And the cheese kept the bacon from falling out and looked like something made by Fisher Price, but did nothing beyond that.

The Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich was not horrible, but there wasn’t anything about it that would make me want to get another, even the bacon mayo. Heck, I didn’t even feel like finishing it in one sitting. I ate half for Brunchfast and the other half for Linner.

(Nutrition Facts – 649 calories, 351 calories from fat, 39 grams of fat, 301 milligrams of cholesterol, 1629 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 37 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99*
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Bacon mayo was nice. Chicken was crispy on the edges. Available all day. Tom Cruise action movies. Cheese is the seat belt that’ll make sure the bacon never falls out.
Cons: Fried egg was the sandwich’s lettuce. Dry chicken. Tastes like other chicken sandwiches. “Breakfast” ingredients didn’t make it taste breakfast-y. Tom Cruise looking younger than most of us.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.