Slummin’ It: Arby’s Classic Roast Beef


Arby’s was founded in 1964 with the desire to tempt consumers with something other than Hamburgers. It’s a window into what was available at the time that roast beef sandwiches were both a novel change and enough to propel a restaurant to moderate, then substantial success. I sincerely wish that I could consider this sandwich in that context, because by current standards it’s abysmal. Maybe that’s my fault, for selecting Arby’s classic offering instead of something new. I suspect, though, that the addition of three cheeses and bacon wouldn’t fix the underlying problem. The beef, which is apparently roasted in store and freshly sliced, tastes like it came out of a large can, with a white label reading “BEEF” in big block letters. I tried both the BBQ sauce and the “Horsey” sauce, a sauce ostensibly built around horseradish. I like horseradish and I think it’s underrepresented in American sandwich cuisine and so I had anticipating this sauce providing at least a few positive marks for the sandwich, no matter what else developed. Alas, readers, the Horsey sauce is…well, here’s how I picture it: Someone took a jar of mayonnaise and set it next to a jar of horseradish. They stared at both of them for a minute, maybe taking the jar of horseradish and pointing it at the mayo. Then they take the mayo and start doling it out as Horsey sauce. You could dunk your sandwich in the sauce and you wouldn’t approach a significant level of flavor, which is unfortunate. Horseradish is built around attacking the sinuses and if you dilute it to the level where you no longer have to be careful in its application you might as well not use it at all. The BBQ sauce I found a bit watery but basically inoffensive.

I ended the first Slummin’ It post with a hope that I would fine a really good sandwich where I was not expecting one. That is still my hope, but I now fear it may take much longer than I might have expected.

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6 thoughts on “Slummin’ It: Arby’s Classic Roast Beef

  1. Arbys has a slightly better line-up of cold-cut based sandwiches. Or possibly some chicken sandwiches. It’s been a while. That would be the place to start at Arbys if you ever bother going back.

    If you’re going specifically for the “classic” or most well known sandwiches at restaurants, you probably never will find a good one. They’re usually the standard because they’re cheap and possibly nostalgic, but never good.

    • I don’t intend to go for the classic every time. Last time, after all, was one of Jack in the Box’s newest. I have no real set plan, so we’ll see what develops!

  2. SPOODMEISTER knows what’s good. I would highly recommend trying the turkey reuben sandwich there (don’t bother asking for a Rachel, though). I rarely eat fast food, but when I do, I go for that sandwich. There’s something about the softness of the rye that gets me every time, and the quality of the turkey actually resembles that of what you’d buy at the supermarket deli. I’d love to see your opinion on it, as it’s a fast food sandwich I’ve heralded as one of the best ever since they put it on their menu!

    • I don’t know if I’ll be revisiting Arby’s anytime soon but when I do I’ll take your advice. That said, saying something approaches the quality of a supermarket deli seems to me to be damning with faint praise.

      • To clarify – the turkey is above the quality you’d expect from a fast food chain, but definitely isn’t top notch.

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