Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why Did I Eat This? Arby's Smoke Mountain Sandwich

It's sad and lonely at the top of Smoke Mountain
Before Philly Voice scoops me with their column that is, quite frankly, A DIRECT RIPOFF* of “Why Did I Eat This?” (I see you, Brian Bierman), I figured I’d file a recent trip to Arby’s, my first since a cousin’s wedding in Upstate NY over two years ago.

Unlike most of the garbage places where I poorly invest my daily calorie allotment, there isn’t a love/hate thing with Arby’s. Other than that one time me and Chris Kirsling smoked a bunch of weed (sorry, mom) and I single-handedly took down an entire 5 for $5 deal (that’s five regular roast beef sandwiches for five bucks), I’ve never walked out of there thinking, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

You know where I'm headed with this. One by one, my favorite fast food joints are starting to let me down. For Arby’s, the disappointment came in the form of their latest offering, the Smokehouse Sandwiches.

I hadn’t even seen the commercials for these. I just happened upon an Arby’s on the way home from a project meeting**. When I walked in, the cardboard cutouts and giant photos got the best of me. Color me curious (and stupid), but the polish on these turds was just too much. On offer was pork belly (yes, pork belly at Arby’s), shaved brisket, and smoked turkey, each served on a glistening roll with onion strings, smoked cheddar, and an oil slick combination of mayo and BBQ sauce. Worse yet (or perhaps better?), you could get something called a Smoke Mountain, which was a combination of all three “meats” on one sandwich.

The Smoke Mountain IRL
So, rather than go quietly into the day with a Beef ‘n’ Cheddar, I put my head into the marketing lion’s mouth and made my bid for the Smoke Mountain summit.

And the view from the top was terrible.

I probably should have just gotten the pork belly sandwich. The shaved brisket was dry and the turkey was an afterthought. I was really in it for the pork belly, but judging by the few overcooked chunks that were intermingled with the other meats, it would have been just as disappointing on its own. The “Smoky Q Sauce” had a chemical aftertaste, and the crispy onion strings were soggy at best.

As mountaineers will tell you, “Getting to the top is easy. Finding your way down is the hard part.” My descent down Smoke Mountain was all headaches and stomach pain. I found solace in the curly fries, but little else.

I’m not mad at Arby’s, however. When your research tells you that things like pork belly are cool and sales are flat because you’re getting crushed by an onslaught of new and improved fast casual joints owned by fancy chefs and their stockholders, finding the next big thing to ruin is all in a day’s work.

I shall return to Arby’s, but I’ll stick to their standard offerings from now on. Buen provecho.

*To their credit, I don't post all that often these days
**This is a damn lie. I actually drove past the Arby's and doubled back because I couldn't stop thinking about it like that Simpsons episode where Homer goes to Clown College.