There is nothing quite like a trip to a pub with your parents and girlfriend on a rainy Spring evening. Noisy patrons at every table, waitresses in short skirts power walking to deliver food on time, and inebriated gentlefolk wobbling from bar stool to bar stool. One might think such a place would be too rambunctious for a self-described intellectual like myself. Well, you might be right, but did Indiana Jones give up on finding the Ark of the Covenant because he didn't like Nazis? In a word, no. So too does my taste for French dips take me into harms way, driving me into ever more dangerous situations with every passing sandwich. That and that fact that my parents were paying. When I received the menu, I looked in vain for the words "French dip" on the sandwiches page. I was distraught as I went down every entry, coming up short. But wait. What is that?! Aha! There it was, hidden, listed under the name "Prime Rib French Dip." Yes, mindless readers, this French dip was not a generic French dip (as if such a demeaning term could ever be applied to such an amazing invention!). No, this French dip strove to be something more, something better than its French dip brothers and sisters. How did it fare?
Bread: 9/10 pts
This was one of the strongest parts of this French dip. Upon my first bite, I noticed that it was warm in my mouth(!), pleasantly making the bread feel more hearty. The texture was absolutely perfect, being neither too crunchy nor too soft. With every bite my teeth penetrated the thin layer of hard bread ectoderm, and from there proceeded to plunge into the fleshy soft mesoderm, before finally entering the endoderm of the sandwich. My one gripe with the bread is that it appeared that they hollowed out a portion of it before putting the meat inside. This meant that the baguette touched itself on the sides, but in the middle was filled with meat, as if I was eating a Hot Pocket (note to Hot Pocket Research and Development Department: French Dip Hot Pockets). While there was nothing inherently wrong with this, I felt as though I had been cheated out of some bread, and I much prefer my sandwiches to have little bits of meat hanging out the side. The bread was also very good at absorbing the au jus, a plus for any French dip. Overall, the bread was the high point of an otherwise middle of the road French dip.
Roast Beef (Prime Rib?): 7/10 pts
I was torn while eating the meat presented on this sandwich. On the one hand, it was very thick and hearty, not packed on there too tight nor too loosely. It had a distinctive beef taste, something which one should always look for in their French dips. Without cheese, the beef had to do most of the flavor heavy lifting, and overall it did a pretty good job.
However, there were a few problems. One of them was that the meat was a little fatty for my delicate taste, especially considering it was supposed to be from the prime part of the cow (as opposed to the composite part?). Another issue was that, by the end of my sandwich, the meat was tasting a little "eh," and I'm not really sure if the prime rib (or the price tag that came with it) were all that worth it. Sure it was flavorful for the most part, but not necessarily anymore flavorful than a cheaper roast beef. A lesser quality of meat would have tasted just as good, could have been less fatty, and would have been easier on my parent's pocketbooks. Just looking out for you guys!
Cheese: 2/10 pts
How can one review what does not exist? This French dip did not come with the slightest hint of cheese, much to my bebafflement. My dad postulated that perhaps, just perhaps, because the meat was prime rib, the establishment opted to omit the Swiss cheese, as the two are not often found together. This would lead me to argue what the point of including a higher quality meat (see above) in a French dip would be if it precludes the elimination of an entire pillar of the sandwich. Would a house look better if it had a wall constructed made out of high quality lumber, but it meant that the house could only have three walls? Of course not. Such is the fate of this French dip. It gets two point only for having a plausible, if not deeply flawed justification for not including cheese, especially cheese is included if you "Make it a 'Philly'" (More on this later).
Au jus: 8/10 pts
The au jus which came with my sandwich was a pretty good one. It was warm and had a smokey flavor, but didn't overpower my palette like, say, I might overpower Justin Bieber in a contest to see who had the deepest voice. The portion of au jus was plentiful, and lasted me the entire French dip. It was a delicious edition to the encyclopedia of au jus stored in my memory right next to memorized 'That 70's Show' and 'Arrested Development' quotes.
The only problem I had with the au jus was how it seemed to separate after I had finished eating it. On the top there was a clear layer of grease, and on the bottom there were little brownish flakes. I'm not sure if these were remnants of my meat that had fallen in or what. When I stirred it up, they mixed together and it looked like a brown au jus, but then after a few minutes separated again. Makes me wonder...
Miscellaneous: 7/10 pts
- Appearance: 1/2 pt
Certainly not the best looking French dip ever, not the ugliest. The Michael Cera of French dips? I think its appearance was damaged by the pickle which was given to me. As Humphrey Bogart once said, "We don't need no stinkin' pickles!" Rock on, Humphrey, rock on. The fact that the meat was all packed inside the French dip and wasn't hanging a little over the roll, as I have become accustomed, was also cause for the one point deduction in this category.
- Price: 1/3 pt
The price on this beast was a little over the top, a little rich for my blood. For the French dip and fries or coleslaw, the cost was $10.95. This didn't include the extra $1.49 to substitute my fries for beer cheese soup. I realize the substitution was my own choice, but what red-blooded Midwesterner is going to pass up beer cheese soup? Even without the soup, the French dip was still more expensive than any other I have previously eaten. I guess the reason it was priced so much was the fact that it was "Prime Rib," but as I mentioned before, I'm not sure if this increase in price was really worth it, as it didn't add much to the taste.
- Restaurant: 2/2 pts
Whistle Binkies itself is a pretty enjoyable place, contrary to my facetious poo-pooing before. The atmosphere is nice, being far from the seediest bar I have ever been in, and the complementary popcorn is a plus. It's a nice place to sit down and have a bite, watch some March Madness, and rock your girlfriends socks at iPhone Scrabble.
- Extras: 3/3 pts
As mentioned before, French fries or coleslaw come included in the price of the French dip. In addition, you can choose to substitute a cup of soup, a side salad, or cottage cheese(?) for $1.49 more. This is a great selection of sides, and this isn't even including the complementary popcorn that was nice and salty. The beer cheese soup was delicious, being both beery and cheesy at the same time, and I sprinkled some of that popcorn on the top to make it taste even better.
Final Tally: 32/50 pts
This French dip was another good addition to the annals of French dip-dom. While it certainly didn't win any medals, it wasn't a bad French dip by any standards, and could be fixed by a altering a few simple things. One thing that I have not elaborated on until now was the ability to change your French dip and "Make it a 'Philly'".
As you can clearly see from exhibit A presented above, for an added price a patron may opt to disfigure their French dip by making it a "Philly." Now, why the hell would a restaurant put something so grotesque and disgusting on a menu? Why would anyone in their right minds take something as wonderful and beautiful as the French dip, and alter it in such a way that you are literally pooping on it. Mention of the Philly Cheesesteak must be stricken from the menu if this French dip is ever to reach its full potential.
The addition of cheese would also have bumped this sandwich up into the higher tiers of the rating system. If cheese can be included on the Poopy Cheesesteak version of this sandwich, why not on the tastier French dip? If I (my parents) are going to pay $11 for a French dip, I shouldn't have to pay more for cheese. Simple as that. And speaking of cost, if the meat was just some Walmart freezer-bought lunch meat beef, it probably wouldn't have tasted all that different, and would have been easier on the wallet, making the price less egregious. It was also a bit of a shame how small my sandwich was, as I was hoping for a large hoagie with large portions of meat, suitable for a large guy like myself. Nevertheless, it was a decent sandwich overall, and if you are at Whistle Binkies absolutely craving a French dip, it probably wouldn't be the worst bet to order one. Just make sure you bought your lottery ticket earlier in the day.
Notes taken during review:
No cheese. Au jus is good and smokey. Baguette absorbs aujus [sic] nicely. Kinda small. Meat is flavorful, maybe a little fatty. No cheese, what's up with that? Maybe because it's prime rib? Bread is just about perfect, but it looks like some was taken out of the middle to make the slices fit better. Soup was great with it. A little pricey overall I thought, not sure prime rib is worth it. Meat tasted a little eh at the end. AU just lasted me the whole sammy sweetheart. Screw pickles.
Well that wraps up the inaugural French dip review for Markaeology. I think I might take a few weeks off from reviewing French dips, as one review in the past four months has been quite taxing. I will probably take some time to expand the scope of this blog, maybe review a CD or game or somesuch thing. Maybe I'll take some time off to watch some crappy movies or something. Now I just need to find a place where I can get a list of the worst movies of all time...