Arby's New Sliders Just Don't Feel Very Arby's

Arby’s has some hits on the menu, but these new sliders have only one exciting feature.

When I think about Arby's, a thought bubble appears above my head featuring piles of salty roast beef, perfectly seasoned curly fries, and smooth Horsey Sauce. But did you know Arby's also sells sliders? I didn't until I saw the brand's latest promotion, a 2 for $4 deal on Bourbon BBQ Sliders (available nationwide while supplies last). To kick things off, I'll say what we're all thinking: Sliders? Why the hell does Arby's sell sliders? 

I mean, this is the same company that sells the Meat Mountain Sandwich. It's the same chain that uses Ving Rhames' deep, authoritative voice to announce "We have the meats" like some kind of horny threat. You can't blame me for wondering how something as dainty as a slider fits Arby's brand. Arby's is all about comically large piles of ribboned meats loaded in between two barely perceivable buns. A slider? Has Arby's gone soft sensible?

But perhaps the slider makes good sense in that it offers customers some variety. Arby's has seven different sliders available (not counting these new three), which allows for diverse ordering options. Instead of taking on an entire mountain of roast beef, customers can mix things up with a small taste of something new. One can order a buffalo chicken slider, a roast beef and cheese slider, and a ham & cheese slider for under 10 bucks, which is far less of a commitment than a double Montreal or whatever clumpy protein pyramid you planned on taking down for lunch. The sliders comprise a value menu in disguise.

So maybe these limited-edition Bourbon BBQ Sliders will find a permanent home within the Arby's slider library; that'll depend on if they can manage to taste any good. I tasted all three, and just for fun, I ranked them worst to best.

Arby’s Bourbon BBQ Roast Beef Slider

This is a miniaturized Arby's roast beef sandwich, and it's nothing to get excited about. It's flat, smooshed, and stupidly salty, just like many Arby's roast beef products. All of these sliders feature a garlic dill pickle, though, which packs great flavor; unfortunately, that flavor gets lost underneath the pile of meat, the bourbon BBQ sauce virtually nonexistent. This slider is underwhelming, but nothing that a boatload of Horsey Sauce can't fix. Arby's is at its best when its sandwiches feature melty cheddar cheese. This is not that.

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Arby’s Bourbon BBQ Country Style Rib Slider

This is a step in the right direction, though the pork rib leaves a lot to be desired. The meat is dry and squeaky; it's processed to hell, as fugazi as fast food meat gets. That said, the smoky flavor, even though its artificial, is quite nice. And again, the garlic dill pickle offers a pungent tang that's more easily accessed without a thick pile of cheap roast beef. Smoky, garlicky, savory, and aromatic—getting four distinct flavors out of any one item from Arby's is kind of surprising. It almost works.

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Arby’s Bourbon BBQ Chicken Slider

The most caloric bourbon BBQ slider of the bunch, the chicken slider also costs about 30 cents more than the other two. This is slathered in actual bourbon BBQ sauce, whereas the others don't feel like they have much sauce at all. It's sweet and tangy, and the chicken feels closer to its most natural form than the roast beef and pork ribs. Arby's tenders have a pretty decent crunch to them. Still, this mild slider could use more spice, and Horsey Sauce is needed to bring it up to par. What I feel all of these sliders are missing is either some melty cheese or better BBQ sauce. Despite Arby's slogan, the brand can't stand on meat alone, because the quality of those meats just isn't that good.

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The circumstances that would need to arise in order for me to eat Arby’s sliders again

If I were high, or a little drunk, or with my dad, or in any other circumstance that might bring me to an Arby's, I'm going to get a Classic Beef 'n Cheddar, a large Curly Fry, and nothing else. That doesn't mean the sliders bring nothing to the table, however. I might ask for some of those crispy fried onions and garlic pickles on the side during my next order. Adding them to any sandwich is an immediate improvement, and the largest benefit of this Bourbon BBQ promotion.

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Sliders are a concept that can work, but Arby's should probably stick to what it does best: Mountains of meat and melty cheese. Let White Castle handle the sliders.

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