March 28, 2009

The Roastburger

Today I stopped by Arby's to try out their Bacon & Bleu "Roastburger." It's good, by the way. Tasty roast beef melded well with the usually handicapping soft bacon to make a four out of five spork main course. It's one of the few fast food meals that's actually worth more than five bucks.

My meal, which included curly fries and a drink, cost $5.93, keeping with my impression that Arby's is a little pricey. Still, it was worth the cost.

But there are two more important things I noticed while at the giant red hat.

The first is their drink selection. Every fast food chain has a bunch of soda, but soda isn't my scene. Its carbonation leaves me burping for the rest of the afternoon at inopportune times and it also makes my teeth feel positively grimy. Unfortunately most chains only offer non-soda drinkers the choice between iced tea or sugar-free lemonade.

That's a ridiculous choice. The tea is fine, but only offering sugar-free lemonade is uncalled for. Wendy's is the big offender here. They always offer sugar free but no regular lemonade, as if the only people who could possibly not want soda are watching their waistlines. Note to beverage engineers at fast food joints: Some of us choose lemonade because it's better than soda, not because we're on a diet. Relegating the non-soda society to the terrible aftertaste of artificial sweeteners is unnecessary, insulting and inexcusable.

The only lemonade at Arby's drink fountain was sugar free, so they deserve a little wrath on this front too. But they offered me a choice outside the terrible nuclear option of blue PowerAid you sometimes find at McDonald's -- SoBe Energy.

Now, the Energy flavor is by far not my favorite variation of SoBe. It's a little citrusy for my palette. But compared to my typical fast food soda fountain options, it was a Godsend. If I handed out Golden Straw Awards for best drink innovation, Arby's would be a good candidate for this drink.

The second great thing to come out of my visit to Arby's was their Spicy Three Pepper Sauce. I can't say how long they've had it -- I must admit to not frequenting the big red hat over the last three or four years -- but it's a great addition to the already wonderful option of Horsey Sauce.

Spicy Three Pepper Sauce isn't exactly scorching. Think Taco Bell Fire Sauce Hot -- enough to give good flavor but not nearly enough to call in the fire hose. It also has a nice buried sweetness to it that's surprisingly complex for a fast food condiment.

A better drink selection and great sauce-age can really put you over the top as a fast food joint. They make it okay that Arby's is a bit expensive. The devil is in the details. So is the dollar.

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