Review: A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich from Arby’s

My vote for best fast food restaurant of 2015 so far probably goes to Arby’s.  If they’re not #1, they’re definitely in my top 3.  Arby’s has been on an impressive roll of quality and consistency.  Just as recently as September, the Spicy Jalapeno Brisket Sandwich made a positive impression with me, but the list of stellar sandwiches this year also includes the Brown Sugar Bacon & Pit Smoked Ham and the Smokehouse Turkey.  These sandwiches have freshened up the Arby’s menu by introducing new ingredients that really complement the stacks of meat that Arby’s is now getting recognition for.  The latest Arby’s sandwich to get the LTO treatment is the A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich and it keeps their streak of above average fast food sandwiches alive and well.

A1 Steak Sandwich Arbys Arby’s describes their new A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich like this:

When you become best friends with a steak sauce like Arby’s did with A.1. Special Reserve sauce, you do best friend things like make a sandwich together. Not just any old sandwich but one made with best friend things like sliced Angus steak, melted natural cheddar cheese and a crispy thick-cut Steakhouse onion ring. And then, because we’re Arby’s, we put that beautiful, sandwich on our menu. So we can all be best friends. ​

With new fast food sandwiches, you can usually get away with being worthy of being labeled as “new” if you introduce just one new ingredient.  A lot of times, the label “new” is thrown around so casually when there isn’t much new going on besides a new combination of ingredients.

A1 Special Reserve The A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich introduces one new ingredient and it’s an important one… the sauce.  Sauce is crucial and can make or break a sandwich.  On the Arby’s drive-thru menu board there’s a promo poster of this new sandwich with these words right above it, “An Angus steak sandwich so MONUMENTAL A.1. reserved a sauce just for it.”  So the standout ingredient is obviously this A.1. Special Reserve sauce which really wants you to know how important it thinks it is.  Without buying into its own build-in hype, the sauce is actually quite good.  The sandwich isn’t swimming in sauce (definite plus) and I found it to still have the appropriate impact I’m looking for in a sandwich sauce.  It’s thick, with a pleasing combination of black pepper, smoke, tang and a hint of sweet.  I’d call this sauce a cross between smoky BBQ sauce and A.1. steak sauce.

A1 Steak ArbysThere’s a hearty, thick-cut Steakhouse Onion Ring in the middle of the sandwich which provided some added depth and weight.  The crisp, crunch of the battered onion ring didn’t take much of a hit from the moisture and heat of the sauce and meat.  I found the onion ring to work a lot better in a sandwich, than it works alone as a side item.

IMG_5966Getting to the meat of the sandwich (intentional pun), the marinated Black Angus steak is USDA Choice top round beef that is seasoned with a black pepper rub on the outside.  It’s a thick cut of meat which is cooked to medium-rare and has an excellent texture I look for in a good steak sandwich.  The application of the meat was pretty uneven as you can see from the picture above.  That lean beef spilling out of the sandwich gave me a perfect opportunity to just sample it by itself.  Tasty morsels of meat with a mix of garlic, onion and black pepper.  The sharp slice of Cheddar cheese had minimal impact while the star cut bun once again proves to be a strong and worthy bun to hold up meaty sandwiches.Arbys A1 Special ReserveThere’s only five components to this sandwich and that was enough to keep it simple and effective.  The only real casualty is the cheese which didn’t have a strong impact.  At a price of $5.29, the A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich isn’t cheap, but lately there’s minimal sticker shock at Arby’s.  I’ve come to expect these big sandwiches to fall between $5-$5.50 for the sandwich alone and between $7-$8 for the combo.  When I think about how the quality towers over some other fast food sandwiches that are just a dollar cheaper, the value seems to stand out a lot stronger.  This sandwich is another check mark in the win column for Arby’s in 2015.

Pros: Quality. Filling, beefy sandwich. Smoky black pepper sauce. Thick onion ring maintained its crunch.

Cons: Cheddar cheese slice didn't stand out to me.

Taste: 8.50/10
Value: 5.75/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.50/10
Price: $5.29

Overall GrubGrade: 8.00/10

More Info: arbys.com
Nutrition Facts:
Calories - 470
Total Fat - 16 grams
Saturated Fat - 7 grams
Cholesterol - 65 milligrams
Sodium - 1660 milligrams
Carbs - 51 grams
Sugars - 9 grams
Fiber - 2 grams
Protein - 32 grams

9 comments on “Review: A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich from Arby’s

  1. Kevin K. says:

    I usually get coupons from Arby’s every month, but usually it’s just for their established menu items, not these new limited time premium sandwiches. Finally they’ve included this in their coupons, and you can get the small meal for $5. I’m looking forward to trying this after seeing this review.

  2. Raiders757 says:

    I’m going to have to give one of these a try. It’s a bit pricey, but I imagine once you add fries and a drink it will be no more than the a large roast beef combo.

  3. JJJ says:

    I thought this was ok. It’s somewhat similar to the brisket sandwich though.

  4. James says:

    Gave this a try and it’s not bad. Can’t say I’d rush back to get another. They didn’t put a thick cut onion ring on mine, just the usual onion straws. Kind of disappointing, I wanted the thick onion ring but guess that’s how they roll at my Arby’s.

  5. Bubbs says:

    Cooked medium rare? I’m not really sure our blogger knows what medium-rare is…. obviously a fast food restaurant is not going to cook any protein just to medium-rare for food safety reasons among other reasons.
    The beef is cooked to well-done, it is kept moist with a broth solution, and coloring is added to make it appear a little more familiar.

  6. Manavee says:

    You really ought to give out “Grubbies” at the end of the year (best LTO of the year, best chain of the year, worst LTO of the year, etc)

  7. Jonathan Wayne says:

    Arby’s has been doing a great job lately, especially with the brisket sandwiches. They really need to bring back the Brown Sugar sandwiches though, those were the bomb.

  8. AlexG says:

    A1 is such a worthless little sauce so i’ll pass… I would have tried if it came with any other BBQ type of sauce.

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