NASHVILLE -- Apparently, Nashvillians love the idea of a deer steak on a bun.
The Arby's on Rosa Parks Blvd. sold out of venison sandwiches on the first day, effectively ending a promotion that was scheduled to continue through Nov. 3. The Nashville store was the first of 17 locations in the country to offer the venison sandwich special.
"We stuck a nerve, in a good way, with hunters," said Luke DeRouen of Arby's, confirming that the Nashville location went through more than 250 sandwiches in 5 hours. "Some people drove from an hour away to try it," he said.
The promotion now moves to Atlanta later in the week and then on to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The venison comes from farm-raised red deer in New Zealand because the USDA won't allow restaurants to sell wild-harvested animals.
"Everyone thought we we were going to serve shaved venison," said Luke DeRouen, Arby's senior director of brand communications, who was in town for the sandwich launch. Instead, the company chose 5.5-ounce cuts of top and bottom round steak.
According to DeRouen, the steaks are cooked sous vide (vacuum-sealed and slow-cooked in hot water baths) at 135 F for 3.5 hours, shipped to the restaurants for reheating and served with a Cabernet sauce seasoned with crushed juniper berries and crispy fried onions on top.
The sandwich is part of a promotion to meld Arby's "We have the meat" slogan with "It's meat season" to attract customers that hunt. The Nashville store is even wrapped in a camouflage motif.
Arby's limited the sale to two sandwiches per customer, and after only an hour and 15 minutes on Saturday, the MetroCenter store had already sold 100.
Corey Smith, a local lunch customer, thought he would plunk down five bucks for a sandwich and give it a try. "It has good flavor, but it's a little tough," said Smith, who's no stranger to venison with a family of hunters.
My verdict: To be fair, most steak sandwiches are a bit toothsome, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this one more tender than expected. The flavor was good, and the tangy sauce worked to balance the meat, which had just a hint of gaminess. My my biggest complaint was with the texture, which was too mealy for my taste. Rating: 5 antler points (out of 8).
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