For as long as it’s been a thing, fast food has never really been anyone’s cuisine of choice, bought instead by the time-strapped or the cash-strapped, or the road-tripping family who can’t agree on a better option. However as the national public has become increasingly health-conscious and younger generations are turning against pre-packaged meals in favor of freshly prepared fare, many fast food restaurants have begun to turn a different tide.
Arby’s, perhaps most well-known for their roast-beef sandwiches, has in many ways spearheaded this revolution, re-vamping their menu to include delicious, healthful sandwiches made to order with farm-fresh produce, artisanal breads and freshly-prepared meats. We were skeptical at first to, and so Tom Clarke, a native son of Queens Village who owns two Arby’s in the area, invited us in to his Middle Village location for a look at how the sandwiches are made (and a taste test, we hoped).
He said he knows all too well millennials’ suspicions when it comes to fast food. “People are growing up,” he said with a laugh. “My son’s 28 and my daughter’s 30. They grew up with happy meals, but they don’t want to talk about it now.”
What is happening in Clarke’s kitchen, however, is nothing like what we envisioned for a fast food restaurant. In many ways, his menu, which includes classic Reuben’s, stacked high with freshly-sliced corned beef and crisp sauerkraut, or the pecan chicken salad sandwich, prepared with crisp fresh grapes, crunchy pecans and chunks of tender white-meat chicken, has much more in common with a mom-n-pop sandwich shop.
In the back, succulent corned beef, smokehouse turkey and their famous roast beef is sliced fresh for every order. Cooks then put together sandwiches with an array of colorful, fresh ingredients, including bright-green bib lettuce, ripe tomatoes, fresh cheeses and gourmet dressings, all assembled on freshly-toasted artisanal breads.
Paired with a bag of artisanal potato chips, sliced, seasoned and roasted fresh in-house, and a bottle of Boylan black cherry soda, our meal looked and tasted like something out of a legendary neighborhood sandwich joint. It didn’t cost us legendary prices, however—a complete lunch will cost you less than $8.