Fast Food Review: Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket


When I think of Arby’s, if I think about it at all, it’s as the place that serves hot lunchmeat.

Now, you have to understand that rule #1 of eating out is that if I can make it myself, I don’t pay for it. Which is why I used to avoid Subway until they started toasting stuff and adding fancy sauces, and I will always pay for sushi because you have to train for five years before you can handle that stuff properly. Sliced processed meats are cheap, and the idea of paying for them on a bun seems like desperation.

Still, it was requested by reader James.k.Polk that I try this new brisket sandwich out, and since I happened to be near the one Hollywood location of Arby’s right after a press screening of Neighbors (a real misfire, incidentally, and in no way nerdy enough to justify a review here), I swung by.

Arby’s, I have discovered, is a chain for true salt-of-the-earth folk. By which I mean they put more salt on their shit than anybody else on earth. This sandwich is overwhelmed with it. Thirteen hours of smoking would give a human cancer, but they give the sandwich high blood pressure inducement. The meat is super tender, and greasy – it’s more like fast-food pastrami than barbecue – but the flavor is mainly one of salt, presumably extracted from the tears of minimum-wage workers.

What THE LITERAL FUCK is up with Arby’s sauces?

Opening the bun creates an overwhelming smell of barbecue sauce. That’s a good thing, but the sauce is distributed in a manner that neglects some areas. This leaves you to add your own “Arby’s sauce” (sour barbecue), “Horsey sauce” (horseradish mayo, essential) or “Bronco Berry Sauce” (designed for their jalapeno poppers, featuring absolutely ZERO ingredients derived from berries). I suggest the Horsey, if only because any date you may have with you – if my wife is anything to go by – will start screaming “Horsey!” in an excited manner that’s fucking adorable.

I like Gouda cheese, but it’s irrelevant here – the barbecue sauce cancels out its flavor, and the greasy meat dominates its fat content. I would actually add more barbecue sauce, but squirting some extra Horsey makes it all better. The onion ring segments on the thing are minor at best, and could probably be eliminated to save your waistline…except nobody wants to do that for real. The meat is at least tender, with no hard-to-chew parts. This is a sandwich that goes down easy, but so greasily that you feel bad even before you’re done.

As for the jalapeno poppers, I suppose I should share a brief word. They’re the cream cheese version, disproportionately pepper over cheese, and best enjoyed without the super sweet Bronco Berry Sauce. A “small” order is five, and I hate to think what a large is.

In conclusion, if I were peddling this sandwich, I’d throw more sauce on this mofo. It’s already salty to the max – add more sugary BBQ flavor and you hit every base.