For all its talk about having “the meats,” it’s weird that Arby’s hasn’t ever had a burger on the menu. It’s not that Arby’s needs a burger, but the chain does roasted turkey sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, corned beef sandwiches, and roast beef sandwiches, so not having a burger on the menu feels like a miss. Especially when you consider that Arby’s has two different salads on the menu. A salad before a burger? That goes against Arby’s whole meathead ethos!
Well, carnivores, get ready. Because on Monday the chain finally unveiled its first cheeseburger and in typical Arby’s fashion they went big. This isn’t a simple quarter-pound cheeseburger, it’s a 6.4 oz (slightly more than 1/3 pound) meat bomb of Wagyu and ground beef.
The Wagyu Steakhouse Burger features a single patty made from 52% American Wagyu and 42% ground beef (more on this later!) topped with thick crinkle cut pickles, red onion, American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, and a double dose of special sauce served on a brioche bun. Arby’s is calling it the “highest quality burger the market has seen.” To which we say: we’ll be the judge of that!
Quality aside, dropping a Wagyu burger suggests some big flavors — so we’re excited to find out if Arby’s can actually deliver. Let’s eat.
Arby’s Wagyu Steakhouse Burger
One of the first things that jumps out when you unwrap this burger is the smell — it’s noticeably beefy with an intoxicating and mouthwatering aroma that excites the taste buds before you even take your first bite. And goddamn does that first bite deliver! It’s tender and juicy with that melt-in-your-mouth buttery finish that Wagyu is famous for.
The Wagyu in question is not the ultra-marbled high-fat Japanese Wagyu (if it were, this burger would not be $5.99), it’s instead made with what is known as American Wagyu, which is made from Japanese Wagyu crossed with high-quality cattle breeds from North America. American Wagyu is… still pretty good. It’s definitely more elevated than your typical ground beef blend, but having said that, it’s not really even in the ballpark of Japanese Wagyu, flavor-wise, and it doesn’t have that same luxurious marbling and sumptuous fat-infused tenderness that makes Japanese Wagyu so special.
Proper Wagyu goes through a strict and official rating process conducted by the Japanese Meat Grading Association that assigns a score for factors that include the meat’s marbling, color, fat content, firmness, texture, and yield, with the highest score being A5. It’s a fascinating practice and one that is entirely absent from Arby’s press info about this burger because. It’s. Not. Actually. Wagyu.
But we digress.
Also, as I mentioned before, this is only 52% American Wagyu, so calling this burger a “Wagyu burger” comes with a big f*cking asterisk. That might seem overly harsh towards Arby’s, but I’m not the one who decided to call this thing the “Wagyu Steakhouse Burger.” But we’re probably never going to get proper Wagyu in a fast food burger (it’s a waste of Wagyu anyway), ever, so we’ll take this, because naming aside, it’s pretty solid.
Arby’s claims that they cook this beef Sous Vide to better lock in juices, and while it is noticeably juicer than burgers from other chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s, that slightly pink center we expect from Sous Vide isn’t quite there. Our cross-section cut shows some slight pinkness but, as is common with fast food burgers, this is still a bit overdone and drier than I want it to be. Aside from that small gripe, it does pack a lot of tender buttery flavor, serving up rich and savory umami notes with a slight lingering sweetness to the aftertaste.
Those flavors are intensified by the special sauce, which provides a slightly spicy tang to the beefy notes and pairs well with the earthy pickles and sharp, bitingly fresh red onion. Arby’s also gives you the option to swap the sauce with its famous peppercorn ranch sauce, as well as add bacon. I haven’t tried that version yet, but I’ll take any excuse to eat this thing again!
Arby’s first stab at a burger is, by all measures, a success. It’s delicious, juicy, and beefier than the competition, while still offering something that tastes unique and uniquely Arby’s. It’ll be interesting to see where this burger lands on our comprehensive fast food burger ranking. As it stands though this is one of the best new fast food menu items we’ve tasted all year.
The Bottom Line:
It doesn’t taste like a typical fast food burger, it has an elevated quality to it, putting it more in line with a $16 restaurant burger than other great fast food burgers, like the Wendy’s Dave Single.
Find your nearest Arby’s here.