Ever since I tried the Angus Snack Wrap at McDonald's I haven't been able to hear "Angus" without cringing. This past week, roast beef chain Arby's unveiled an Angus roast beef on a sandwich it calls the Angus Three Cheese and Bacon. I had high hopes it'd be able to wipe away all memory of the Snack Wrap in my mind.
At a press event in New York last week, Arby's corporate chef Brian Kolodziej unveiled the chain's new line of dry-aged Angus roast beef. According to executives, customers wanted a leaner roast beef, and are recognizing and requesting the Angus brand. This prompted Arby's to develop a new roast beef line, its first in ages. With peppered bacon, Swiss, cheddar, and a Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch Sauce all piled on an Italian hoagie roll, the Angus Three Cheese and Bacon is available now in stores.
Arby's even went as far to have Amoroso, a bakery in Philadelphia known for cheesesteak bread, to help design the bun. The Three Cheese and Bacon is only the first in a line of new Angus sandwiches that will roll out (pun intended) over the course of 2011.
But press events don't show you how the sandwiches fare in the field, so I found an Arby's in the wild to purchase one myself.
The new Angus sandwich has a lot going for it. The "Amoroso" bun really resembles an Italian hoagie roll: a thin outer crust, a squishy interior that gets wadded down by your teeth, light cornmeal on the underside. The Angus roast beef tastes delicious; it's juicy, full of flavor, well spiced with garlic and pepper.
It's fascinating to taste this sandwich next to their old roast beef—which looks bizarre in comparison, a "cold cut" taste and texture that could be mistaken for ham if you didn't know better. Arby's bacon is fairly thick, meaty, and crispy, far better than the limp, thin strips one finds at Subway. Though the Angus itself is less salty than the old roast beef, the peppered bacon and parmesan peppercorn sauce turned the sandwich into a pepper-fest. Consider getting the sandwich without the ranch sauce, or without the bacon if you don't like pepper.
As far as side dishes go, Arby's also introduced Steakhouse Onion Rings and Inside-Out Cinnamon Bites. The former are definitely the best fast-food onion ring I've ever had, almost like those at a Chili's or TGI Fridays. They're big, crispy onion rings, though some were a bit greasy and their onions are a bit too small (I'd prefer a higher ratio of onion to outer-fry). The Inside-Out Cinnamon Bites are a big winner as well: fried dough on the outside with cinnamon and cream cheese icing on the inside. They come 3 for $1, and are like a hot donut hole with a cinnamon bun inside. They're as sugary-sweet as a Cinnabon, but I think they're delicious.
Overall, the Angus is a winner. It's a step up for Arby's internally (better than their old roast beef) and in the broader field (much better than the Angus anything at McDonald's). Thanks to Arby's, I can now hear "Angus" and "fast food" in the same sentence and not cringe. If I weren't on my diet, I'd have eaten two.