Time for another dossier, and what better to discuss than my favorite sandwich of all time, the Philly Cheesesteak?  The Philly Cheesesteak is a hot sandwich generally served on a sub roll.  The recipe varies, but it generally includes steak, shaved into small pieces and grilled, and cheese, which is usually Cheez Whiz, Provolone, or American.  It is apparently a serious faux pas to order one with Swiss, as well.  In addition to these core ingredients, cheesesteaks often include onions, mushrooms, or red or green peppers. 

An example.

An example.

Now, I have never ordered a cheesesteak from Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia.  I have had variations on the cheesesteak from all over the country, but unfortunately I’ve never gotten a cheesesteak from its birthplace.  However, I do know that they make it slightly differently there.  First of all, they almost always use Cheez Whiz as a default, presumably owing to how easy it is to melt and cook with consistently.  They also seem to put less effort into balancing ingredients in terms of presentation, presumably letting the taste speak for itself.  After all, Philadelphia invented the cheesesteak, they don’t really have anything to prove. 

An authentic Philly Cheesesteak.  Fresh Prince of Bel Air not included.

An "authentic" Philly Cheesesteak. Fresh Prince of Bel Air not included.

To me, the most interesting part of the Philly Cheesesteak is how marketed and monetized it’s become.  Around the country, restaurants and franchises has developed a recipe and instituted it.  Cheesesteaks are available at Subway, at most Coney Islands, even in the cafeteria of my college dormitory.  Not only that, but the basic formula for the Philly Cheesesteak has been adapted and used in other markets.  Hot Pockets has a Philly Cheesesteak, and as I type this Domino’s is marketing a Philly Cheesesteak pizza.  This worries me sometimes.  I love what I’ve come to know as a Philly Cheesesteak, but what if that’s grown too far from the original?  Would I even like an authentic Philly Cheesesteak, with Cheez Whiz on an Amoroso roll?



Wait, who am I kidding?  I’m the guy who started a blog about sandwiches, for god’s sake.  Of course I’ll enjoy it.  Sheesh.

One last Cheesesteak.  This one looks a little heavy on the green peppers, but whatevers your pleasure I guess.

One last Cheesesteak. This one looks a little heavy on the green peppers, but whatever's your pleasure I guess.

I’ve wanted to review a Subway sandwich for quite some time now, and I finally got my chance.  In case youdon’t own a television or have never been to a mall, Subway is (in America, at least) the most widely known sub sandwich franchise in the business.  They are quite popular on college campuses and the like because their sandwiches are comparatively healthy, and they are currently destroying the competition with their $5 footlong sub deal.  This deal is apparently so popular that chains as varied as KFC and Ceci’s Pizza feel the need to run ads slamming it.  In summation, Subway came, it saw, and it conquered the sandwich industry a while back and is still going pretty strong.

Personally, I’ve always had one major point of contention with Subway, which I call the “Subway Dilemma.”  When you order a sandwich from Jimmy John’s or Quiznos or pretty much anywhere else, it has a defined recipe.  You can add or subtract items until it’s barely recognizable, but if you ask for an Italian sub, they have a plan for making you an Italian sub.  At Subway, they have a number of different sandwiches, but these are really only defined by the type of meat on them.  You still need to choose between a half dozen types of bread, several cheeses, an assortment of vegetables, and a number of dressings, with generally no defaults.  The website has a list of standard “sandwich components,” but I’ve never seen this list in any restaurant location, nor would I expect the staff to be aware of it.  The Subway Dilemma causes you to put so much effort into deciding what goes into your sandwich, you may as well make it yourself at home.

Anyway, enough about that.  I’m now going to review the new Tuscan Chicken Melt, a Premium Sub currently being offered at Subway.  I would’ve liked to have a picture of the sandwich, and my sandwich artist (who I knew from high school) let me take a work-in-progress picture, but when the manager informed me that there were potential legal ramifications of me uploading the pic, I chickened out.

Instead, enjoy this cute picture of a puppy!!

Instead, enjoy this cute picture of a puppy!!

The Tuscan Chicken Melt was quite delicious.  I ordered it on Italian bread, with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and an olive oil vinagrette type dressing.  I deciphered most of this from the picture of the sub on the ad.  The chicken was seasoned with peppers presumably indigenous to Tuscany, and the sandwich, although, simple, was enjoyable.  The only problem is that as a Premium Sub, it costs $6 for a footlong as opposed to $5, not including a side or drink.  Overall, this seems a little expensive for my tastes, although it is much healthier than a comparable meal at a regular fast food restaurant.  I recommend Subway to anyone health-minded who has a vision for their sandwich before walking in the door.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I figure more voices should be heard.  How does everyone feel about mini/microburgers?  This seems to be a new trend in the fast food market (in addition to this summer’s fascination with barbecue sauce).  They’re being marketed a number of different ways, but the basic conceit is a meal which consists of three or four smaller burgers with fries and a drink, retailing around the same price as the usual burger/fries combo.  Often you can also order more burgers a la carte.  I’m split on this issue.  I am pretty strongly against variations like the BK Burger Shots at Burger King, where you receive six small, identical burgers with fries.  It runs cheaper than the usual BK burgers, but I personally would never choose six bland little burgers over some of their more inspired burgers, like the Mushroom and Swiss.  A better use of the theme occurs at Steak n Shake, where you order three sliders from a list of six, all of which feature their own sauces.  I like the idea of variety there.  However, I still prefer the idea of ordering one big specialty burger.  You may be trying more things and taking less of a risk trying many small burgers, but in my opinion the payoff is still smaller.  This concept was also tried a while back over at Quizno’s with their Sammies, miniature versions of a couple of their signature subs.  I see these little sandwiches as being potentially useful as samples, but never really satisfying. 

Of course, I have to note the great exception to my general rule, White Castle.  A true triumph of the American spirit, White Castle has made of business model out of the mantra “Quantity over Quality”.  Their sandwiches are all tiny, and generally served in meals of three or four.  I love White Castle primarily because of the variety and small size of their sandwiches.  I doubt they would be any good on the scale of an average burger.

But enough of my ramblings!!  Now to put the choice to you!!  As always, you can comment if you feel like justifying your opinion.

Hopefully most of you are familiar with Arby’s.  Arby’s is a fast food chain, specializing primarily in roast beef sandwiches.  Arby’s also serves chicken sandwiches and nuggets, various deli and sub sandwiches, and curly fries and other sides.  I love Arby’s, and their sandwiches are almost always satisfying and well-priced.  However, Arby’s recently launched a new line of sandwiches called “Roastburgers”.  Arby’s apparently defines a burger not as a sandwich made of hamburger meat, but a sandwich with little meat and lots of filler.  I’d tried a Roastburger previously and didn’t feel much drive to repeat it, but a new summer deal on them seemed like an invitation.

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!!

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!!

Let’s begin by looking at the press release.  The “official sandwich of summer,” the BBQ Bacon Cheddar Roastburger features “oven-roasted, thinly sliced roast beef topped with cheddar cheese, pepper bacon, crispy onions, pickle slices and smoky barbecue sauce” as well as shredded lettuce and sliced tomato.  The biggest differences between this and any other roast beef sandwich at Arby’s arethe beef and the bun.  The roast beef is seasoned with something extra (you can see it if you look closely in the picture) to make it taste more hamburgery.  It’s actually kind of gross.  The bun is different from a usual fast food bun.  It’s somewhat more bread-like, but also more bland, and the texture is sub-par as well.  Other than that, most of the sandwich is just filler, without much flavor.  The lettuce, tomato, and cheese were all average, and I couldn’t taste the pickles or onions, for better or for worse.  The bacon was good, but it’s easily available on other superior Arby’s sandwiches (the Chicken Bacon Swiss comes to mind).  The barbecue sauce was probably the best part, better than that on the stackticon but below that of the western bbq n bacon.  Overall, a substandard meal.  But were not done yet…

Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

The first time I had a Roastburger, I felt more bloated than I had in my entire life.  My stomach ached, and I felt nauseous.  This time my reaction wasn’t as severe, but it still upset my stomach.  I don’t really know why this happens.  I hope I’m allergic to something in the Roastburger, and that my reaction is unique to me, or at least uncommon.  If this isn’t the case, my second choice is that both times I’ve ordered the sandwich, it has been improperly prepared/cooked/something, causing my sickness.  However, it is entirely possible that Roastburgers contain ingredients which upset stomach and cause sickness in the general population.  I’m not making any claims that this is true, but is that a risk you really want to take?

In summation, the Roastburgersandwich is a substandard sandwich at best, and a potential health hazard at worst.  While this sandwich is an abomination, please don’t let it influence your overall opinion of Arby’s.  They have an amazing track record in terms of sandwiches as well as sides and milkshakes, so I for one believe they can be afforded one misstep.

P.S.  If you decide not to heed my warnings, let me at least offer you the deal I bought mine on.  Text your zipcode to 27297 and you’ll receive a coupon for a free BBQ Bacon Cheddar Roastburger with purchase of any size drink.  You may have to try a couple times, I did.  The texts can be sent through July 16th, and the coupon can be redeemed through July 19th.  Godspeed.

Open to Suggestions

July 3, 2009

I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you have for upcoming reviews.  It can be a specific sandwich, a sandwich from a given restaurant, or something as open-ended as “I’d like you to review a Philly Cheesesteak”.  Input from you guys lets me know that you enjoy my posts and tells me what you’d like to read about.  Please leave comments regarding your suggestions.  Thanks!!!

A while back I talked about the BBQ Double Stackticon, Burger King’s tie-in burger to the Transformers movie.  Today I tried it, and I was mostly on the money in my predictions.  The major difference is the barbecue sauce, which replaced the Stacker’s Stacker Sauce.  This removes a lot of what made the Stacker unique, which is too bad.  However, it’s still a burger with cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce, which is delicious in its own right.  It’s definitely worth trying while it’s available.

When I started Sandwichtalk, I had a couple different kinds of entries in mind.  Obviously, I would be reviewing sandwiches from restaurants and fast food chains.  I also planned on sharing various links, videos, and other sandwich-related content that I came across.  The third type of entry I envisioned is the Sandwich Dossier.  The Sandwich Dossier is kind of like a report on different kinds of sandwiches.  It’s not unlike a review, but rather than a specific sandwich offered by a specific restaurant, I’ll be discussing a general type of sandwich.  I hope to broaden everyone’s knowledge of the world of sandwiches, and hopefully include some recipes as well.  I think this will make a lot more sense once I shut up and actually write the damn thing, so here goes.

This was the first image I could find, Im not partial to any particular brand.

This was the first image I could find, I'm not partial to any particular brand.

Peanut Butter is an extremely important resource when creating sandwiches.  It goes well with many other ingredients, providing sweetness or salt depending on the context.  Let’s begin with the Fluffernutter.  A Fluffernutter is a sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow creme.  It is delicious, and especially popular in New England, going as far as to have been nominated as the official state sandwich of Massachusetts.  I would definitely recommend the Fluffernutter as a more dessert-type sandwich, but it also works as a midday snack.

The next noteworthy peanut butter sandwich is the Elvis.  Named for Elvis Presley, the Elvis is prepared in a couple different ways.  The constants are the inclusion of peanut butter, and pan-frying the sandwich.  The Elvis also generally includes bananas and/or bacon.  I personally have only ever had fried peanut butter and banana, so that’s what I’ll be discussing here.  Although the Elvis may sound strange, it is quite tasty.  The fact that it’s fried makes it seem much more like some kind of pastry than a conventional sandwich.  I would recommend this sandwich for breakfast.  It has a hardiness which would be a good way to begin one’s day.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.  PB & J is, as the name states, peanut butter and some kind of fruit spread, like a jelly or jam.  The beauty of this sandwich is that while it’s simple, there are myriad variations you can put on the different elements, such as using crunchy vs. creamy peanut butter, or using different jellies, jams, or preserves.  The PB & J is a classic standby, tasty, portable, and appropriate for any meal.