Review No. 17: Arby’s
810 Elsinger Blvd.
10.9 percent finished with reviews of Conway restaurants
He Said: I hadn’t been to an Arby’s since moving to Conway 13 years ago. Not because I was deliberately avoiding it, but it just never seemed to be on my radar. Still, there are two Arby’s restaurants in Conway, so the self-regulating constraints of this “every restaurant in Conway” project require us to eat there. Twice. And so we decided to go first to the newer Arby’s at Conway Commons. Things do not seem to have changed a great deal in the decade and a half since I’d last eaten here.
She Said: Yes, this was a total, “We’ve got to review it” decision, but I was secretly excited. Those cherry turnovers are the danged greatest. But, like Ruud, I’d never been inside this restaurant (you can get the turnovers at the drive-thru, you know) since they built it, so I was curious.
He Said: This Arby’s is bright and clean. It looks like, well, like any other Arby’s, or pretty much any other fast-food place, with booths and tables made of fairly cheap materials and neutral colors. If there’s a difference, it’s that the place is quite clean and not at all unpleasant to sit in for a while.
She Said: Yes, there are a lot of windows, so there is natural light, and the place was clean and bright. When we were walking in, I felt like I do anytime we stop for fast-food on a road-trip and luck into a pleasant place for a mild repast.
He Said: Pepsi products. That meant Mountain Dew, my soft drink of choice when I can get it and don’t mind being hopped up on caffeine for a while.
She Said: Unsweet tea for me, of course. It was very tasty, and I got a refill to go, which means it wasn’t too strong.
He Said: Arby’s is known for having the meats. With my need for a low-fat diet, that doesn’t help me much, since I need to avoid red meat if possible. I was glad, therefore, to see a number of turkey sandwich possibilities on the menu. I ordered the Roast Turkey and Swiss sandwich, and was really struck by how delicious the turkey was. It didn’t taste like some deli meat, full of preservatives, but like it was freshly cut from a newly roasted bird. It came on honey-wheat bread, which was the perfect complement for the turkey. The sandwich typically comes with lettuce, red onion, tomato, spicy brown mustard, mayonnaise, and that slice of Swiss cheese. I had not really considered Arby’s as a sandwich shop before, but for taste I’d put the roast turkey and Swiss up against anything from Subway, Quiznos, or such eateries.
That’s the good news. After I got home, I did what I should have done before I went to the restaurant: I looked up Arby’s nutrition guide online. Turns out there are actually 710 calories and 28 grams of fat in the Roasted Turkey and Swiss sandwich. Yes, those are not typos. Typically, someone looking for a low-fat option in a sandwich will opt for turkey because it has less fat than chicken or any red meat. But this sandwich turns out to be sneaky fat: the mayonnaise, of course, had a lot of fat in it. I did know enough to ask for the sandwich without mayonnaise, and so spared myself a good chunk of fat there. I could have left off the cheese as well, though one slice of Swiss cheese doesn’t have a significant amount of fat. But the rest must be in the bread and the honey mustard, which usually don’t have to be a worry but in this case seemed to contain a good deal of something.
That the honey mustard was the chief offender became clear when I also had a side salad. As far as the salad goes, it was pretty plain—just lettuce, a few scraps of tomatoes, and some shredded cheddar cheese, which for low-fat purposes I could have skipped, but they were about the only thing that was giving the salad any flavor. I counted on the dressing to help, and ordered—what else?—the honey mustard dressing. Honey doesn’t really have any fat. Neither does mustard. So that’s usually a safe bet. But Arby’s gives you the dressing in a plastic packet, which has nutritional ingredients on the outside. Just before opening the dressing, I noticed that in fact there were 16 grams of fat just in that dollop of dressing! “Contains egg,” the Arby’s Website tells me. So I traded the dressing in for a light Italian dressing with one gram of fat and breathed a sigh of relief. For the moment—until I realized, after looking at the online nutritional chart, that I had gotten a good portion of the honey mustard with egg concoction on my sandwich.
The upshot of the matter is this: Don’t be fooled at Arby’s. Check the nutritional content of the food before you go there to order. The sandwich will doubtless taste good (I won’t make any predictions about the salad), but even if you think you are eating healthy, you very well may not be. Make what adjustments you can. I actually would have been better off ordering the Roast Beef Classic, which had half the calories (360) and half the fat (14 grams) of my turkey sandwich (the far healthier meat choice).
She Said: Yeah, Ruud, this eatery is a “meatery” and I guess they feel compelled, as many fast-food places do, to fatten up the lean options—I mean, that sandwich was nearly half the calories you eat all day! I wasn’t tempted by any of the beef offerings—I’m a hamburger devotee, but I am not a fan of roast beef, which is why I’ve never been devoted to Arby’s for anything but the turnovers. I didn’t look up the calories before we went, but I did check out the menu, just to give me an idea of what to expect. Armed with this knowledge, I chose the green salad with roast turkey for my entrée. It’s a pretty good helping, and has a healthy amount of turkey along with lots of cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. I, too, chose the honey mustard dressing. I used about ¼ of the packet. I could not eat all of the salad, partly because I got full of the roughage and just a little tired of the taste of it after the turkey was all picked out (I’m not a huge fan of cheddar cheese—or tomatoes). It turns out you should have had the salad, Ruud, as it was fewer than 300 calories total.
I did notice a slight allergic reaction—swollen glands—to the salad within an hour. It’s a reaction I sometimes get to restaurant greens, not always from chain or fast-food places. I suspect it’s a preservative for the lettuce that is getting to me (the worst reaction I ever had was to a New Jersey Blimpy’s sub with tons of lettuce).
The turnover was slightly squished by the time it came to me, but it was warm and delicious, and it took me back to when I first discovered their gooey deliciousness as a young professional in South Dakota. They’re almost 400 calories, so they’re a splurge. But they deliver on the caloric promise they make!
He Said: The service here is very friendly—we had a cheerful young woman who was patient and helpful with the person my wife calls “the world’s slowest orderer,” and the two people at the counter when I went back to exchange my honey mustard dressing for something else were understanding, cooperative, and helpful in finding the lowest fat option. So service here is a plus.
She Said: I agree: The woman who first waited on us was one of the friendliest people I’ve come in contact with at fast food places in ages. She’s going places!
What We Got and What We Paid: Roast Turkey and Swiss sandwich meal, with a side salad and Mountain Dew, roast turkey farmhouse salad, cherry turnover and medium iced tea for $17.87.
He Said: Good food, at a reasonable price and nice service, but somewhat deceptive in terms of your healthy options!
She Said: The actually healthy option was boring, but the turnovers still got it!
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a light and airy break from work, but do your homework first if you’re trying to eat healthy.