Arby's is arguably the king of the limited-time offering—it sure knows how to release items that cause a stir. Last year, it debuted its first-ever burger that leans into the Kobe/Wagyu beef trend, while this year it kicked things off by raising the stakes with the Steakhouse Garlic Ribeye Sandwich.
The new sandwich has a lot to live up to. It features thinly-sliced ribeye steak, which is one of the darling cuts of the steakhouse set for chefs and patrons alike. It also features crispy onions, Swiss cheese, and a slathering of garlic aioli, all nestled on a toasted garlic roll. It definitely sounds intriguing, but would it measure up to the hype?
I went to the nearest Arby's restaurant with one other taster to try the new sandwich. Here's what we loved about it and what the chain could do better.
This sandwich was a bit of a mess at first glance. It was served in a white sleeve that was not appealing at all. I was a little worried. When I slid the sandwich out of its inauspicious sleeve I did not feel any better about it. It looked squashed and the steak was sliding out the slide with what looked like cheesy goo.
The good part was that we could see the filling, and while the sandwich looked flat, there was a decent amount of steak for the relatively low price of $7. Also, all of Arby's other items were attractively packaged and looked great. The famous curly fries were so perfectly dark gold I almost forgave the sandwich for looking a little sad.
The construction of the sandwich needed some work. It looked like the meat was once piled high until the slippery aioli and gooey cheese made everything a mess. The sleeve probably didn't help as it provided no structure at the sides. The quick answer would be to use a cardboard box—like McDonald's does, so that everything wouldn't squish out the sides–but that might cost more. The crispy onions were also covered in the cheesy aioli goo, so I wondered if they would stay crispy.
The Steak and the Flavor
The taste is obviously the most important part, after all, we are at Arby's, not a 5-star steakhouse, and it delivered. While this sandwich was a hot mess visually, the flavor was really good. The bun was soft, but overall held up to the steak and kept the elements inside.
The sliced ribeye steak was the star of the show. While it wasn't sliced as thinly as the steak in the ads, it was thin enough to bite through easily, and perfectly rare throughout to remain juicy. Plus, it was plentiful for the cost of the sandwich.
The steak had a nice chew but we were still able to take bites without it pulling out of the sandwich. Some bites were a little tough, which happens with steak, making the sandwich a bit tough to eat at points. You don't want to have to spit out gristle from your fast-food sandwiches into your napkin.
Swiss cheese was a perfect choice because its nuttiness complemented the meat without competing, and it pulled nicely out of the sandwich, adding another dimension. And, those aioli-drenched onions thankfully still retained some of their crunch. Speaking of the aioli, I almost think it wasn't necessary, it added a heaviness to the sandwich that it didn't need with fatty steak, swiss cheese, and fried onions already dominating. It did, however, have a good garlic flavor.
However, I would have loved more onions, maybe pickled red onions, or something fresh to perk up the sandwich. I know asking for arugula is unlikely in a fast-food joint but the pepperiness would have added the perfect fresh element without adding too much weight. Maybe it's just a good takeout hack to keep in mind.
Arby's needs to treat its premium items with more respect. I don't want to pull a steak sandwich out of a sleeve, and no one else does either. That being said, the sandwich delivered steakhouse flavor for a fraction of the price, and I almost bought one more to take home for further "research." Everything about the sandwich was delicious, the chain just needed to execute it better and perhaps consider adding a fresh element to perk it up a bit. And, in case you're wondering, the curly fries were the perfect crunchy complement to the last crispy bite.