Arby’s Has The Meats… Even Venison?
October 27, 2016
I’m no fan of fast food these days (with the notable exception of Bojangles chicken… it’s a weakness), but I’m not going to play the elitist snob who dismisses those who still eat that stuff. I get the convenience, and I grok the fact that a lot of people actually enjoy some of it. I know I used to. Hell, I still get nostalgic over the thought of a Hardee’s cheeseburger and fries, soaking through the paper bag. If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it… almost as if I’m back in the backseat of that old station wagon, counting the seconds until we get home, where I’ll devour the greasy treat. Those were the days.
I also developed a thing for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, back in “the day”. They were a “sophisticated” departure from burgers, and you could mix that “Horsey” (horseradish) sauce with their sweet, red barbecue sauce to make a runny, orange mess that invariably dripped all over your t-shirt on the way to the mall.
But I let fast food drop out of my diet over time, and now, when I do eat it, most of it literally nauseates me (except that damnable, fried chicken). That should be a sign of some sort, but I still catch myself out of necessity or nostalgia, stopping along the highway for a quick bite. I’m often left disappointed by the experience, and wishing for something a bit more toothsome. Apparently, I’m not alone. In response to declining sales, the fast food industry has stepped up their campaign to bolster both the quality of their food and the variety on their menus.
Arby’s joined the fray, and their current campaign is, “We have the meats!” In addition to beef, they serve chicken, turkey, and pork belly sandwiches. I stopped in the other day to meet up with my mom and some of her friends, for whom a trip up I-40 often includes a stop at Arby’s. It was my first time inside an Arby’s in years, and I was surprised at the variety of new offerings (but I still opted for the regular, roast beef sandwich).
Never, though, would I have anticipated their next move. Beginning next week, Arby’s is going to start selling venison sandwiches (in a limited, trial market area). It’s true, according to the press release that’s been making the rounds. It describes the new sandwich as:
The Venison Sandwich at Arby’s features a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and then cooked for three hours to juicy, tender perfection. The juniper berry sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with juniper berries, giving the already unique sandwich another signature twist.
For the more knee-jerk inclined, hold your water. Nobody is going to start market hunting North American deer again to supply this demand. The venison comes from farmed stock, not wild, free-ranging populations. Much of the commercially available venison in the U.S. comes from Argentina or New Zealand, but there are farms here in the States that also supply “game” meat.
There has been some other discussion, though, among a diverse range of opinions. Some people applaud Arby’s for putting venison out there in a very visible way that might help form positive attitudes toward eating game meat. Others seem to be concerned that a “fast food treatment” of game meat will cheapen the experience, and maybe even turn people off to eating venison. Some foodies are turning up their noses at the idea of farm-raised game altogether, but then, I wonder how many foodies eat at Arby’s in the first place.
For my own part, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy one of these new sandwiches (I couldn’t if I wanted to, since the nearest trial restaurant is Atlanta, GA), but I don’t know that I’d knock it. I’ve eaten farm-raised venison at fancy restaurants (it was amazing), and I’ve also had it at less fancy places where it would be polite to call it, “mediocre.” My guess is that Arby’s version will feature a largely flavorless piece of meat that will rely heavily on the sauce for crowd-pleasing flavor. But don’t be discouraged by my preconceptions. You’re welcome to form your own.
In the meantime, no matter how good or bad we may think the venison sandwich will be, I’ve been absolutely loving the supporting ad campaign! Check it out.