Monday, January 12, 2015


12693 Lamplighter Square
St. Louis, Mo.

Yeah, I know, I said I was going to stop eating at and reviewing fast food chains. But there's a story here, granted not much of one, but if I didn't report on this meal there wouldn't be anything this week, because . . . work.
I had to go in to work Saturday afternoon for what was predicted to be an all-nighter and extended to a seventeen hour shift. I try to get ahead of these events when I can, so my Saturday morning would involve sleeping as late as possible, running out to take care of a couple of chores, try to sneak in a nap, then head to work. Sure there's something a little odd about setting an alarm for 3:00 P.M. but that's just the way it is. If you want a career in IT support, you just better be prepared for occasional to frequent weekends, holidays and all-nighters.
All went to plan, I slept until I just couldn't anymore, about 8:30, had some breakfast, checked my social media and email, lounged around for a bit, showered and headed to the Post Office, etc. When I got home I hung around for a bit then went in for my nap. I was up by 2:30.
It was then I realized something was not on my checklist. Work would start at 4:30. The heaviest lifting would be the first few hours. Better get something to eat.
Well, I was headed into the burbs anyhow, I had time to stop somewhere and get something.
I wasn't really hungry for anything specific. I didn't have time for a full, sit down affair, so I just replayed my route in my head and thought about what was on the way.
Heading in, at the first suburb, there are some traffic lights. One, if not all the others, is usually red when I get to it. I recalled the outdoor blinking LED sign, 'Two Fish Sandwiches, $5.' it has been flashing that for several weeks or months now.
I like fish sandwiches. I didn't need two, but I was pretty sure I'd never had a fish sandwich from Arby's before.
The Place:
It's a fast food franchise, they all pretty much look and smell the same. Plastic, pre-fab, nothing original, everything 'safe'. There was hardly anyone else in the joint at 3:30 P.M. on a Saturday. No line, straight to the counter. They took my order, one fish sandwich, curly fries and a medium drink and told me they were a couple of minutes away from having curly fries ready.
So I filled up my cup with tea and a little ice, pumped some ketchup into little paper cups, ripped out a couple of napkins and found a seat where the late afternoon sun wouldn't be on my face or neck. I waited for the order, only a couple of minutes, as promised. It was then I noticed the music. Odd choice, all 70's and 80's top ten. America's 'You can do Magic', Feetwood Mac's 'Everywhere', there was even a little ELO action. (look it up for yourself youngsters). This is the music that was the background noise for my coming of age, teen's through twenties. The problem with that is, and the youngsters won't know this, is that there weren't a lot of music options back then, before cable TV and the interwebs. You pretty much discovered a new song or group over the radio. Most towns had at least one radio station that played popular music at least occasionally, and when they did it was usually Top Ten. At night when the local stations went quiet, the big city flame throwers, like WLS in Chicago, jacked up the voltage and blasted doped up DJ's for hundreds of miles into the wilderness.
Of course, they too played pretty much the same top ten. If you were lucky enough to live in a big city or had a progressive university station nearby, you could sometimes hear more obscure stuff, but otherwise it was the same few songs, day after day.
So by the end of my coming of age period, I was already sick of all these songs.
Being as I was pretty much the only customer, there was no din to help mask the sound. At least it wasn't country. I don't know, maybe this is considered elevator music these days. At least they didn't whip out 'Afternoon Delight' (Starland Vocal Band) or 'Honey' (Bobby Goldsboro). There's a couple of ear worms for you.
The Food:
I like a good fish sandwich. I used to prefer those at Burger King, but they changed the formula a couple of
years back and I haven't had one since. I don't care for the crap at McDonald's at all. If you ever see my car parked at or queued up in the drive through at a McDonald's, go ahead and call the cops. It's either stolen or I've been abducted am am probably in the trunk..
So why not give Arby's a try?
A few years back we ran a comparison review between Arby's and a local chain 'Lion's Choice'.  It is to date, our most read and most controversial review, ever. Mostly because it infuriated the locals that we preferred the national chain over the local favorite for objective and well reasoned criteria. Still, local pride got vicious.
The curly fries were a last minute, impulse decision. They offer waffle fries too, but I recalled that the consistency of done-ness of waffle fries at fast food places is sometimes a bit iffy.
The fish looked good, golden brown and crispy. I hoped they didn't try to season it too much.
The curly fries looked well cooked, also a dark, golden brown. There were a few all tangled up and stuck together, one of the things I don't like about curly fries. That and the fact that they sometimes don't dip-fit into those tiny ketchup cups, make them, for me, more trouble than they are worth. They tasted pretty good though, not too salty.
The fish sammich was on a toasted sesame seed bun, topped with tartar sauce and a pointless, limp leaf of iceberg lettuce. At least they don't put cheese on it like McD's. 
I grew up loving fish sandwiches made at home, with fish sticks (five sticks, four side by side, the fifth one laid perpendicular along the tips of the first four), white bread and ketchup. Mmmmm. . . yummy.  Nobody seems to make them that way anymore. I like tartar sauce better than ketchup on fish, but back in the day it was simply not something we kept on hand at home. Nowadays, I can make a reasonable tartar sauce substitute  with mayo and sweet relish, things we do have on hand for some reason. My arrangement of five fish sticks fit the white bread perfectly, side to side, end to end. This big filet was more triangular in shape so the sides didn't reach the edge and the ends stuck out a little. I bit off some of the exposed fish first. Not bad. 
The breading was a little heavier than it needed to be. The fish was fresh, moist and flaky, the breading crisp, about all you can ask for. The curly fries tasted okay as well, despite having to pause and untangle or break apart a few of them.
The tea was about what I come to expect at most chains, a bit old and unremarkable.
As far as fast food fish sandwiches go, it was pretty good. One national review site lists the Arby's offering as the best among its competitors. I tend to agree. It wasn't great, but certainly noticeably better than any other franchise fish sandwich I've had recently.
The service was fine, I liked the fact that they told me at purchase time that the fries would be a little while, that's a nice touch. The place was respectably clean, no litter or noticeable crumbs on or around the many empty tables. At least once during my short visit one of the crew was out on the floor with a broom. The crew didn't make a lot of noise as young crews tend to do at some fast food places. They did hoot it up a little when one of the young counter lady's husband (assumption) stopped in with their two young kids. She got to take a break and hug them for a few minutes. Sometimes I wish I had young kids stop into the workplace to grab some midday hugs.
I don't go to fast food places much anymore since they all tend to make me a bit queasy afterward. This was no exception. My tummy noisily complained most of the evening in the quiet office. So much so that I felt it necessary to tell the other two guys about it, apologetically. 
A quick meal for six bucks is pretty decent. Sure it sours the stomach later, but it certainly was filling. Around seven, the other guys said they were making up an order for some takeout, I declined. I was seriously not hungry, even though, uncharacteristically, someone else was picking up the tab. I ate nothing the rest of the night.
If I ever do yearn for a franchise fish sandwich, Arby's will be the top choice, though that only happens about once or twice a year, tops.
My only other complaint about this Arby's, or all of them, I don't know which, did not have Wifi. . . I thought all the chains had Wifi. Most of the time I do go to one of these places I'll order a coffee and maybe an apple pie, just to be able to do some downloads. 
So, not bad, better than others, but the whole fast food bar is pretty low.

Arby's on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I might try one of those fish sandwiches sometime. I mean, that is a pretty solid review. It would be cool to bring this to just about any neighborhood. Everyone should have a piece of the action! Haha!

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match