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Lunch guys: Prime rib shouldn’t have to compete

POSTED: April 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Quiznos goes high-end yet again with the launch of yet another spin on its premium beef lineup. This time, it's the Prime Rib Ranchero, promising to merge "steakhouse taste" with the "flavors of the Southwest."

Since we Lunch Guys are high-end ourselves, we plunked down nearly nine bucks a piece to find out how prime - and how ranchero-y - this sandwich really is.

Chris: All through my Quiznos experience, what should have been an opulent dining experience had an undercurrent of, well, wrongness, for lack of a better word.

Fine - so I have to spend so much on this lunch that by the time I make it a meal, I feel obligated to include a tip on my credit card receipt. And I didn't even spring for the $10.99 large (that's the price of a pizza, Tom!).

Sure, I appreciate that this prime rib really is tender, flavorful and sliced fresh at the store. But what I didn't appreciate was how Quiznos buries that flavor in overpowering Poblano peppers, pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo. That's literally piling on, yet the meat itself wasn't piled up enough to fight it off.

Every bite for me was sadness. I'm one of those people who would never imagine putting anything on a good steak, not ketchup, not A1, nothing. So why ruin exceptional meat that I paid well for? My mouth started simmering with the first bite, then was engulfed in flames by the end. That poor prime rib never had a chance.

Tom: Normally I'd agree with you about not piling it on, but in this case, great meat with great condiments makes for an amazing, complex sandwich.

In fact, Chris, the Ranchero is quite possibly the meat-lover's perfect sandwich. Sure, it's less filling than the price might suggest, but my recommendation is to order the small size and pony up for a double order of meat. That combo will give you a creation unlike anything you can get in the fast-food world.

The Poblano peppers provide a tinge of spice but, more importantly, deepen the sandwich with slightly smoky, strange, sophisticated flavors so much more rich than the usual chemically Southwest stuff. It makes the sandwich special.

I don't want to downplay the meat, though. It's tender, moist and certainly tastes like prime rib should. I actually think Quiznos' prime is better than most midlevel restaurants.

But Chris, your comments are misleading. This sandwich is not spicy. We should warn our readers that your tolerance for spicy foods falls somewhere between white bread and mayonnaise. For anyone born south of the Mason-Dixon line, this sandwich will warm your heart more than burn your lips.

Chris: Tom, both you and Quiznos have it wrong here. Yes, spicing the hell out of a blah lunch like a dollar-menu chicken sandwich is totally acceptable. Even spicing up the Wendy's Baconator is fine because those quarter-pound patties can take it. But to do it to prime rib? That's like deep-frying a perfectly good lobster.

Tom: And fried lobster happens to be great. I hate to tell you but I also put some slices of banana peppers on my sandwich because it needed some tart crunchiness to finish the job. The meat and the sandwich is so good it can handle it. Our readers shouldn't be misled just because you couldn't.

Tom James and Chris Tauber are freelance writers. Their column on fast food appears on the second Wednesday of the month.



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