The Manhattan Mall Food Court… home to the only Arby’s in Manhattan

If you are a fan of the blog, you know I don’t write about generic fast food chains too often.  Nobody needs to read about Burger King or Wendy’s, and I have a special hatred in my heart for McDonalds (and Chipotle, which I know isn’t technically owned by McDonalds anymore, but can still be accurately referred to as a McBurrito).  But occasionally there is something interesting to write about, like the return of Popeyes to Midtown (the greatest fried chicken in the history of the universe), or Ranch 1/Chicken Bar- a fast food chain that I think really has something tasty and unique to offer.  I also reserve the right to write about Pollo Tropical, In N Out Burger, Panda Express, Baja Fresh, and Chick-Fil-A* if they ever get their acts together and open up Manhattan locations!  (* I am aware that Chick-Fil-A has a location in the NYU student center food court… but it technically isn’t open to the public.)

Arby’s is one of those places in the middle.  For many people, Arby’s is held in that special place in their heart (ironically, the same place you are doing damage to when you eat at places like Arby’s).  I’m on the fence.  There are no other cheap fast food places specializing in roast beef, but according to my wife, Arby’s is the bologna of Roast Beef- so it’s a toss up.  But here’s the thing.  Midtown is home to the only Arby’s in New York City (there are two in Queens).  And that makes it worthy of a Midtown Lunch write up.  It’s also housed in the food court of the Manhattan Mall… and I will use any excuse I can to visit a food court.

How we got there, what we ate and the food court fiasco- after the jump…

With all the rain at the end of last week, and beginning of this week I started looking for places I could go to, without actually leaving my building.  I work in one of the buildings that is part of the Rock Center complex, but I feel like I’ve exhausted all the options in the crappy councourse… so a new plan needed to be devised.  Enter, the Manhattan Mall.  Located on 34th St. btw. 7+8th Ave., the Manhattan Mall is accesible directly from the BDFVNRQ&W Trains (basically the Orange and Yellow and Shuttle), and is home to a food court, that contains an Arby’s.  Rain + Subway = Food Court Adventure!  I was ready.

12:42.  We left out offices and headed downstairs to the subway.  I’m not sure exactly what time we arrived at the Mall, because I forgot to look at my watch.  I was blinded by the excitement of the Food Court sign that greets you as you walk from the Subway station, right into the underground entrance of the Manhattan Mall.  Did I mention I love food courts?  That’s when the problems began.

Everybody who has ever been to a food court knows the best part of a food court is the free samples… and this one doesn’t disappoint.  General Tso’s from the Chinese Place, Bourbon Chicken from the “Cajun” place, and Teriyaki Chicken from the Japanese place.  Even the “Mexican” place was giving out Quesadilla slices, and the Sub place was giving out samples of cheesesteaks.  Very exciting.  First stop, sample each free item.  Sure I know what they all taste like- and I was there to eat at Arby’s, but who am I to turn down free food.

Then it happened.  I tried the bourbon chicken at the Cajun Cafe.  Now, for those of you who don’t know alot about food courts, every food court has a similar assortment of choices, and half of those choices usually will serve some sort of Asian chicken dish.  It might be a “latin” place, or in this case a “cajun” place, but chances are it is owned by Asian people, and despite the fancy name (like “fiesta” or “bourbon”)- it’s really just some type of teriyaki chicken.  I know about this trick.  I am aware of it.  I am wary of it.  I understand why they do it (chinese food is the most popular food court place, but you can’t have 7 chinese food places).  It doesn’t matter.  I’m addicted to mall food court chinese food.

So even though I was there for Arby’s, I was seduced by the free samples of bourbon chicken and caved to the pressure.  I’m not sure how the “noodles” were cajun (it was pretty much just lo mein), but that’s what I got at the Cajun Grill (along with some corn).  It was sickly sweet, and totally disgusting… but I loved every minute of it.  It’s part of being an addict (complete with the post-meal self loathing). 

The person I really felt bad for was the co-worker who went with me.  He’s from New Orleans, and was totally psyched there was a place called the Cajun Grill- not realizing that the food he was going to order would bear no resemblance to the food he grew up eating.  I said “Didn’t you notice that everyone working there was Asian?  What did you expect?”  He just hung his head in shame… and made me promise to refer to the terrible Red Beans and Rice as the Red BEAN and Rice.  MISSION: FAILED.  We got back on the train, and were back at our desks by 1:35.  Total time, 53 minutes.  This was definitely do-able.

Luckily it rained again on Monday, so we headed back to the Manhattan Mall Food Court to accomplish what we set out to do on Friday.  Eat at Arby’s.  It was tough.  I still ate all the free samples (My Name is Zach, and I’m a free sample addict), but purely because I’m fat.  Nothing was going to keep me from eating Arby’s this time. 

 

Here are my useless thoughts:

  • I don’t like cheese spread, so I went with the regular Roast Beef Combo.  They give you a choice of three sizes.  I went with the small and was stuffed by the end of my meal.  Is it possible to eat the large (with fries and a soda) and not be carried out on a stretcher?
  • My small without cheese comes on a seeded bun.  I think if you order a bigger sandwich, or one of the ones with cheese, you get an onion roll.  Not positive about this.
  • The curly fries are superior to the regular fries.  You can get regular fries anywhere.
  • The Arby’s Sauce Bar is Awesome!  I’m a big fan of multiple sauces, and they’re all available for the taking.
  • The Arby’s “Signature BBQ Sauce” is not BBQ Sauce.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s not BBQ sauce.  Stick with the honey mustard or the amazing Horseradish Sauce (you may say the secret ingredient is Mayo).

 

All in all I enjoyed Arby’s more than McD’s or BK, but it wasn’t so unlike the bologna my wife described.  Still worthy of both trips though… even if you don’t like Arby’s there are plenty of other options at the Manhattan Mall Food Court (Nathan’s, Ranch 1, Sbarro, Subway just to name a few).  Not being seduced by the free samples is tough, but the hardest part is the leaving.  Making it past the smell of Cinnabon (between the food court, and the entrance to the Subway) is the true test of strength.

 

22 Comments

  • Thanks for the info – I love Arby’s and didn’t know they were in Manhattan. Back in my college days when I had a much faster metabolism and was 30 pounds lighter I could put back a Big Montana with fries with no problem. Their curly fries are the best. Their meat is about Grade V but still tastes good, though you can’t have it too often – the rest of your day could be very uncomfortable.

  • Some more fun Arby’s facts.
    1. Beef and cheddars are the ones that come on an onion roll
    2. I like asking for half regular and half curly fries to get a little taste of everything
    3. Their carver sandwiches are actually better than any of the crap you get at generic Midtown delis.

  • I should point out that this is not the only Arby’s in NYC. I don’t know about others, but there is one in Fresh Meadows, Queens, right off the LIE at Utopia Parkway.

     

    You are right.  There are two, one in “Middle Village” and one in “Fresh Meadows”.  I didn’t realize those two towns were in Queens.  Thanks!  -zach

  • FYI, the S (Shuttle) does not go to Manhattan Mall.

     

    Yeah… not sure why they listed it on their site.  -zach

  • Arby’s Sauce (the BBQ kind) varies depending on the region. I grew up in Tennessee, and it’s far better there. Still a vinegary BBQ sauce, but much better than the sauce served in the Manhattan Mall location. I’ve had other variations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, some good, some bad.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten @ Arby’s.. but please tell me you got a Cinnabon! I can’t pass up a yummie overindulgent cinnamon roll… or TCBY Choc. White Mousse Froyo ;)

  • I can’t believe that I missed the sauce bar when I ate there a few months ago. The Horsey Sauce is the best.

    We should start a Midtown Lunch campaign to get Baja Fresh and Chick-Fil-A up here. That would rock my world.

  • I first had Arby’s on a family vacation about 10 years ago to NC. [pit stop and lunch!] That’s when my love of Arby’s began and prayed nearly every day and night that they’d open more up “north”. They finally opened and I’ve been in beef n cheddar heaven ever since!

  • I love how you took the subway and stayed indoors the entire time!! =)

    After your Arby’s meal, you should go to Pinkberry. It is amazing!!!

  • Interesting and different.
    Thanks.

  • Is Arby’s beef ‘pressed’ beef or cut from a real joint?

    You’ve gotta get a pic of a large one.(That statement could be misconstrued lol)

    Love this site.Working in London it reafirms my hatred to Mccy D’s.

  • i’ve never cared about arby’s. my mom was the only person in my family that appreciated their roast beef sandwich. but i did want to comment on your mention of food court bourbon chicken. that’s my all-time favorite mall food. looks like the manhattan mall has a cajun cafe. hmm.

  • Oh it’s pressed beef for sure. But for some reason that’s part of the appeal.

    Personally, I always thought Roy Rogers had a better roast beef sandwich. Again, it was fake roast beef, but it was great.

  • I like arby’s. Very tasty.
    A note on Chick-fil-a I actually called corporate hq in Atlanta last year to see if I could open up a location in the city. They told me that it was not part of their expansion plan yet.
    Also the one at NYU is fiendishly hard to find.

  • Surprised nobody has mentioned Arby’s best treat… Mocha Shakes!

  • thanks for the tip. i’ve been to that mall several times, but i had no idea there was an arby’s in there! i’ve actually trekked out to one of the queens locations just for some curly fries & the beef n’ cheddar. now i’ll never have to leave the island again (at least for my roast beef needs).

  • Arby’s used to be a lot better when they had the orignal “5 for 5″ deal when you could have either 5 roast beef or 5 beef n’ cheddars for $5. Back in college, the challenge was who could polish off all 5 by themselves…and scarily enough multiple pulled it off on more than one occasion. Now I think it is down to like 4 roast beefs for $5.95, beef n’ cheddars are no longer an option.

  • I keep reading about how fat Zach is – I cannot square this with “I went with the small and was stuffed by the end of my meal.” Any self respecting gourmet can put away 2 Large Beefs (aka Big Montanas at some Arby locations) with no problem. Zach – come on, are you really a 98lb weakling?? Otherwise, keep up the great work!!

  • Do you think you can get into the Chick fil A @ NYU… I wonder how tight security is ;)

  • Hey don’t forget to ask for your frequent combo diner club card. I don’t usually like to combo at the fast food joints, but at Arby’s, after 5 you get a free combo!!
    Yum. The Charlies Sub place in the Mall is quite good and they have super samples to entice you…if you make it past the boourban chicken sample that is.

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