13 March 2007

Lunch at Arby’s, Clear Lake, Iowa

I don’t eat at fast food restaurants very often, probably no more than five times a year. I usually find that it’s almost as easy and almost as quick to stop in at a café or casual restaurant and sit down to a quick meal as it is to swing through a fast food place. On the rare occasion when I do eat at a fast food place, it’s almost always when I’m traveling – like on a short layover at an airport.

When I do eat fast food, I have to admit, my decision where to eat and what to eat usually is driven by some kind of ad or promotion. Examples:

I ate at a Quiznos at the Denver airport because I wanted to see if a toasted sub really was better. I thought it was.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve eaten a fast food burger, maybe two or three years. The last time I remember eating one, Burger King had a promotion for three slices of natural cheese on the burger – cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. I always support serving natural cheese instead of processed cheese. But in this case, it didn’t really make much difference. Maybe this just goes to show that processed cheese really is the most appropriate addition to a fast food sandwich.

About a year ago, I stopped at an Arby’s while driving home from Wisconsin because they had their ‘two fish sandwiches for $4’ promotion. It was a pretty good bargain, but holy smokes; it was too much to eat.

In February, I was driving back from Des Moines and I stopped in Clear Lake, Iowa, to buy gasoline. While I was pumping the gas, I noticed an Arby’s across the road. I decided to get lunch there. Maybe you’ve seen the commercial that compelled me to eat there:

Three guys are in the cab of a pickup truck. They’re gazing out the window.

The driver says, “Are those real?”

The guy in the passenger seat says, “Oh, they’re real all right!”

The guy in the middle says, “They’re so big!!”

Of course, they’re at the Arby’s drive-up window, and they’re ogling the chicken tenders on the menu.

So I went in to try the chicken tenders. I ordered a value meal – three pieces of chicken tenders, a small serving of curly fries, and a beverage.

The chicken tenders were actually pretty good. The coating was not too heavy. More importantly, the seasoning was pretty well balanced – not too salty and not overwhelming. The chicken was moist and truly tender.

The curly fries, on the other hand, were awful. They were limp, not at all crisp. They were coated in a horrible, orange seasoning. Truly awful.

I don’t usually order soft drinks, and when I do, I prefer original Coca Cola. Fortunately, they had unsweetened iced tea! HOORAY! It cut the awful flavor of the curly fries.

All together (and taking them at their word that the tea truly was unsweetened), my lunch had 717 calories, half (347 calories) from fat – 39 total grams of fat, five grams of trans fat. It had 29 grams of protein, 67 grams of carbohydrates, and nearly 2000 milligrams of sodium. All for about $6.

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