Well, not me, for one.
I’ve got fond memories of Arby’s restaurants. When I was a kid, their roast beef sandwich was (arguably) the healthiest fast food main dish going.
And, in the era Before Spices–yes, youngsters, this was in the days before mainstream America had even heard of Thai food–their Horsey Sauce was an amazing alternative to ketchup and mustard.
To this day, horseradish is my preferred condiment on roast beef sandwiches, and I have to wonder how much Arby’s influenced my tastes.
But it’s been at least twenty years since I last ate at Arby’s. It’s not a matter of changing tastes or disdain. Fast food is all about convenience, and when the closest outlet is more than twenty minutes away even without traffic, well, you explore other convenience options.
Lately, though, the chain has started advertising more heavily–I’ve been seeing at least a couple of commercials during each MLB playoff game, for example–and pushing the heretical idea that they sell other things than roast beef sandwiches.
What I completely missed is that they’ve been intermittently wildly experimental. According to Thrillist, in recent years they’ve tried limited runs of deep-fried turkey, lamb, elk, and venison.
Not at all what I’d have expected from any fast food restaurant, much less one so iconically linked to cow meat.
And Arby’s latest experiment–aimed, as many of their limited runs have been, at their fanbase in parts of the country where hunting is popular–is a seared duck breast sandwich. With smoked cherry sauce. Arby’s.
I’d love to try it. Admittedly, not enough to drive to the nearest of the sixteen stores that will carry it*, but enough that I did go so far as to look up directions.
* Chico, California, a mere 144 miles away, according to Google.
It bothers me a bit that they’re partnering with Ducks Unlimited on this promotion. Given Arby’s primary markets, it’s a reasonable pairing, but personally, I’d prefer not to support DU.
So, yeah, another argument against popping up the road to Chico on Saturday.
I’ll note here that despite its Midwest, red state core constituency, the chain’s political contributions are moderately balanced: per Ethical Purchasing, Arby’s falls into the “yellow” category. Other yellows include McDonald’s, Jet Blue, Whole Foods, and Dow Chemical. Make of that what you will.
No great insight to close out this post, I’m afraid. Just a reminder that things change, even fast food restaurants.
I’ve been a vegetarian for something like 25 years, but I remember those roast beef sandwiches. They were lean, and you could *taste* them. And the horseradish. If I still ate meat, and was stuck with fast food or nothing for an unacceptable length of time, I’d get one.
Duck? Cherry sauce? Is quotidian America growing a palate?
From what I gather, they still make the old school sandwiches right along with the modern, fancy ones. Good to know they haven’t lost touch with their roots.
I wouldn’t bet on palate growth. I gather Arby’s experiment with pancetta failed. And, given that the duck is being marketed toward hunters, you have to figure at least some of them know what to do with duck.
That said, I might change my bet if they bring duck back in wider distribution or for a longer period after they see the results of Saturday’s promotion.