Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arby's at 333 Apache Mall Rochester, MN 55902
31/50 - Standard, run-of-the-mill

One of the most commonly asked questions I field concerning my blog is "When are you going to review Arby's French dip sandwich?" The interest in this sandwich probably stems from the fact that it has such high visibility compared to other French dips, featuring prominently in Arby's commercials throughout the great US of A. Ever looking to make my readers happy, I have been trying to find a time to review the Arby's rendition of the French dip since this blogs induction, one of the major hurdles preventing me from doing so being the fact that Decorah, IA has not one Arby's. Luckily, while visiting home this weekend, my girlfriend offered to go to Arby's with me for lunch, along with her mom and her mom's boyfriend. We decided to go to the food court at the local mall so that everyone could have what they wanted and I wouldn't have to force Arby's down their throats.

Bread: 8/10 pts

The one things I noticed about the bread right away is that it looked like sub. This makes sense, as the sandwich is marketed as "Arby's French Dip and Swiss Toasted Sub", or AFDSTS for short. Now, I consider myself a connoisseur of French dips, but not necessarily a puritan. I am willing to try new takes on the French dip, and will accept them if they exceed my current paradigms. I understand that sandwiches evolve just like anything else, as, in the words of Darwin, "survival of the tastiest" prevails. and the French dip is no exception. For evidence of this evolution, one needs to look no further than the Swiss cheese commonly put on modern French dips, but absent in the originals. But I digress. Because sandwiches evolve, it is not necessarily a bad thing if they tried to go in a different direction with this sandwich (even if all they did was put it on a toasted sub bun).

And for the most part, it worked. The bread was warm, moist even before the au jus, and had the slight taste of what I think was sourdough. It was toasted almost perfectly, being slightly crispy, but not crunchy, with a soft interior. All in all I think that, for what they were trying to go for, this was a pretty good attempt and better than I would have thought Arby's capable. Nonetheless, I do not think this sub take on the bread tasted better than a French baguette or hoagie roll, and thus, sadly, points must be deducted. But I really appreciate them trying. A for effort.

Roast Beef: 4/10 pts
While the bread might have been the strong point of this sandwich, the meat was one of the weak points. The meat included in this sandwich was sliced super thin, but packed super tight, so much so that I would get mouthfuls of only meat. This would be fine, if the meat wasn't the same exact meat that Arby's used on every single other sandwich it has made ever. If you have eaten at Arby's before, you know what I am talking about; The sickly looking, somewhat fatty beef that is fine for the first few bites, but at the end of your sandwich you find yourself gagging down. This wasn't really an issue with this particular sandwich or this particular location. All Arby's everywhere seem to use this beef. I can appreciate that higher quality meat would cost more, but this meat is one of the reasons I have not eaten at Arby's in almost a year. The beef is just plain... bland. There is no other way to describe it. It is the Ann "Egg" Veal of meats.

Cheese: 8/10 pts
Arby's did just about everything right with the cheese in this sandwich, earning their cheese score high marks. The cheese had just the right amount of flavor, having just a small tang of taste on my tongue with each bite. I also appreciated the fact that the cheese was included in the price, and that I was not extorted into paying extra for it.

My only complaints were that the cheese was a little oozy, sometimes squirting off the side of the sandwich, and that there could have been a little more of it. Some bites I struggled to taste the cheese at all, but this could have also been due to the fact that some bites consisted only of bland meat.

Au Jus: 3/10 pts
The au jus was probably the most disappointing part about this French dip. While I knew their roast beef would be bland, I had no idea the au jus would be also. When I opened up the container, I was hit by a warm blast of... bland vapor. It smelled like watered-down coffee. I was told by my contact inside Arby's that they make the juice by mixing powder and water. Unfortunately they seemed to have added too much water and not enough powder. The diluted nature of this au jus could even been seen, the color being somewhere between tan and light brown, and not the dark chocolate brown we have all come to expect with a well made French dip.

And is that a disappointing way to make au jus or what? Au jus is supposed to be the juice of the meat taken from its time cooking. Now, I realize some restaurants might cut corners and make the au jus some other way, but I have never had dipping juice that was so obviously artificially manufactured and so bland. This au jus was so tasteless that I enjoyed the sandwich a lot more without it, and without au jus, "French dip" becomes a French... something else. The one good thing I have to say about is that the au jus was plentiful, and I could have used it for the entire sandwich and still had enough to spare. Every cloud has a silver lining I guess.

Miscellaneous: 8/10pts

  • Appearance: 1/2 pts
    The main problem that this French dip suffered from is that it was trying really hard to be a toasted sub and not a French dip, which is fine, but it was not recognizable for what it was. I had no way to tell it was actually a French dip until sinking my teeth into it. It just looked like a plain sub sandwich, the basic, standard look you can see in a million other sub joints. It really was not that appetizing to look at, and did not do justice to the French dip name. Yet another French dip that I am better looking than (although it's going to get close by the end of "No-shave November").

  • Price: 3/3 pts
    For only $5.01 (plus tax), I was able to get my French dip, a large bowl of au jus, a drink, and a small curly fries. For the quantity of food I was given, it was quite a steal. After I finished eating my French dip, I noticed a coupon on my tray liner for 1 cent off my next French dip purchase, thus making this cheap sandwich even cheaper. Nice token of goodwill, Arby's. Don't break the bank.

  • Restaurant: 2/2 pts
    This wasn't really a restaurant, more of a branch set up in a food court. It was a clean place, service was surprisingly swift, and the person who helped me, Meaghan the Shift Manager, was calm and cheerful for how busy it was on a Saturday during lunch time. The place had just as good a selection of drinks as any other fast food place, and overall I was fairly impressed, but then again Arby's has always been one of the better looking fast-food establishments.

  • Extras 2/3 pts
    I think that the curly fries are amazing, I'm just going to throw that out there. I was given a drink and some fries with my meal, they were enough to last me the entire process, and they were tasty. My only gripe is that I wish there were more options to select from other than curly fries. If someone came and didn't like curly fries, they would be up the river without a paddle. Sure, you might be able to substitute potato cakes, but that's just more potatoes. Wouldn't it be nice to have more options? I think so.

Final Tally: 31/50 pts

Why does it always seem that all the French dips I have reviewed have had at least one major downfall? The AFDSTS is no exception. While the cheese and the bread shone bright, the meat and au jus dragged it down into the abyss. This could have been a really great rendition of the French dip sandwich, and I am just left wondering what could have been. A little adjusting here and there and I feel as though the toasted sub approach to French dips could be the next big thing, as I really appreciated the fact that this sandwich, unlike the ones before, was not super greasy and oily. But regardless of how "meh" this sandwich was, it was still better than the two French dips I have reviewed prior, and it managed to claw its way up into the mediocre "run-of-the-mill" rating. Way to go Arby's, as of now you have the highest rated French dip on The French Dip Review.



Notes taken during review:

Arby's. Au jus smells like coffee. Watery. Meat is sickly looking. Bread is sub bread, marketed as sub. Meat is bland, thin, pale, fatty. Bread is ok. Cheese is right amount, a little oozy. No taste. The whole sandwich was bland. Price is right. Not greasy at all.

I will post soon updating everyone about my Perkins gift card situation and about the French dip sandwich I ate a Tbocks in Decorah last weekend. Stay frosty, keep eating French dips, and always remember, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, "A man will fight harder for his French dip than for his rights."

8 comments:

  1. If you don't like curly fries you can sub in potato cakes for no extra cost. Just saying.

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  2. Weak. They should offer something a little different, not just more potatoes.

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  3. Another fine review, I await your further offerings, 5 stars for the AD reference as well!

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  4. I find your whimsical use of language shallow and pedantic.

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  5. As a fellow lover of French Dip (my husband calls it a Jacques Cousteau) your blog is fun to follow. I"m surprised that Arby's is the current leader though.

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  6. I honestly enjoy this sandwich. It's one of the best things they have at Arby's. Sure, it's not as good as a Dip one would find at a good mom & pop joint, but from a fast food perspective, it meets my expectations. I normally add a little salt and pepper to mine to perk up the flavor a little.

    It's sad to hear the Au Jus is made that way. I, at the very least, thought it would have been made with beef bouillon cubes and water.

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  7. I am curious whether the Arby's there (there are a couple different big franchises of Arby's that dominate different parts of the country) have just not switched to the "new" au jus. Arby's au jus used to be pretty terrible and like you described but after a promotion they had a couple years ago w/ french dips on real french bread (MAN I miss that bread) and better (although still not sit down restaurant quality by any means) au jus while they dropped the bread they kept the improved au jus. At least in the chain around here (St. Louis). (I discovered this chain thing after moving here and being looked at like I was insane when I would try and order a beef and cheddar w/ no red ranch, that doesn't automatically come on it here whereas in Detroit it did.)

    You can substitute side kickers for fries if you pay the difference. The mozzarella sticks are the best fast food mozzarella sticks ever. They're better than diner mozzarella sticks and even some bar and grill type places, Applebees has nothing on Arby's there.

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