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We tried Thanksgiving sandwiches from Arby's, Denny's, GetGo and Starbucks. And the best is …

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logoPittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/19/2018 By Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
a sandwich sitting on top of a table © Provided by PG Publishing Co., Inc.

You don’t have to wait for the day after Turkey Day to feast on a Thanksgiving mashup sandwich made with leftovers.

National chain restaurants are packing the feast even before the holiday arrives into one handful by offering their take on that intoxicating mix of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce between two pieces of bread. But which holiday sandwich is worth the money (and calories)?

We taste-tested four holiday sandwiches available in the area. To keep it fair, we ordered closed-faced sandwiches exactly as pictured on the menu, without adding or subtracting any ingredients. Here’s how they stacked up on a scale of 1 to 5 turkeys:

a sandwich cut in half © Provided by PG Publishing Co., Inc.


Arby’s: The Gobbler

This two-hander features fried turkey breast, Swiss cheese, pepper bacon, cranberries, lettuce and tomatoes on honey wheat bread. Available at select Arby’s locations through Dec. 23. Price: $6.99.

Pros: Make no mistake, this is a serious, substantial sandwich. The ads are right, they have the meats. The turkey is first roasted, then fried, and there’s bacon — so much bacon. If you finish it in one sitting, you probably are going to need to loosen the belt a notch or two, just like at a real Turkey Day sit-down.

Cons: Not really a con, but it tastes like any other sandwich at Arby’s — substantial. It’s warm, gooey, but not soggy.

Flavor: It’s good, in a fast-foodish way. Arby’s has a whole line of big ol’ sandwiches that rise just above what you’d think you’d get from a drive-thru window. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃

Thanksgiving-ness: Not a lot of holiday spirit going on with the Gobbler. The lettuce and tomato are a nice touch, and there’s no such thing as too much bacon. But it’s not going to make you think of the Macy’s parade and the neighborhood turkey bowl. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃

a piece of food © Provided by PG Publishing Co., Inc.


Denny’s: Holiday Turkey Melt

Served on grilled potato bread, this crispy, golden-brown sammie features carved turkey breast topped with savory stuffing, Swiss cheese and its new cranberry-honey mustard sauce. Available through Jan. 8. Price: $9.49.

Pros: There’s a lot of turkey in this sandwich, and, boy, is it good. It’s also layered properly, with melted Swiss cheese beneath the meat and savory stuffing above it. The honey-mustard sauce is a nice touch that adds some unexpected zing.

Cons: You probably don’t expect Swiss cheese on a Thanksgiving sandwich. Also, the cranberry flavor in the honey-mustard sauce is so subtle, you might not even notice it. The melt is the most expensive sandwich of the four, but then again, it’s the only one that comes with a side of fries.

Flavor scale: This is a really good hot sandwich you’d want to eat all year long — it’s a cut above fast food, and the winner in the flavor category. Feels like you’re eating in a restaurant. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

Thanksgiving-ness: You won’t necessarily think Thanksgiving when you take a bite, but you will think, “mmm … turkey!” For a moment, we forgot the theme of this piece and just enjoyed the moment. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃

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GetGo Cafe: Market Pilgrim Sandwich

This warm, MTO submarine sandwich starts with a stuffing-flavored hoagie bun. It includes thin slices of deli-style turkey, melted white cheddar, gravy and cranberry sauce. Sooo much cranberry sauce. Available through Nov. 29. Price: $5.79.

Pros: This is GetGo’s best-selling sandwich of all time, and it’s easy to see why. It includes all the expected ingredients, and it’s fairly inexpensive. The stuffing bun is a particularly nice touch because you get the flavor without the mess or mushiness.

Cons: This is one sloppy sandwich. Mine had so much cranberry sauce heaped on the meat that it squirted out the sides. The gravy, meanwhile, pooled up in a puddle on the ends.  Also, there’s not a whole lot of meat.

Flavor scale: It’s made to order, and it’s a real sandwich. But it also comes from a gas station, so manage your expectations, folks! Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃

Thanksgiving-ness: It’s all in there, the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, and especially the cranberry sauce. All the familiar tastes, but kind of too obvious. It’s just like Thanksgiving dinner served in the school cafeteria. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃

a sandwich sitting on top of a table © Provided by PG Publishing Co., Inc.

Starbucks: Holiday Turkey & Stuffing Panini

The pre-assembled sandwich features sliced turkey breast, cranberry-herb stuffing and savory turkey gravy. You’ll find it shrink-wrapped in the cooler case, next to the yogurt and juices. Available through the end of the year, while supplies last. Price: $6.75.

Pros: The turkey comes in thick slices, and the stuffing actually tastes homemade. The gravy is pretty good, too, and it’s ladled on judiciously — more than enough to moisten the meat, but not so much that it oozes out the ends when you take a bite. It could use a little more cranberry (they’re in the stuffing instead of cooked into a sauce), but overall, it offers a really nice balance of Thanksgiving flavors.

Cons: It’s not fresh. The sandwich has to be heated up and crisped in a combination microwave-convection oven.

Flavor scale: Cafe-style bite to eat. You won't feel stuffed, but then again, you went to Starbucks for lunch. What did you expect? Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃

Thanksgiving-ness: For our money, this sammi hit the sweet spot. It’s a nice, well-made sandwich, and one bite in you’ll be visited by the ghosts of Thanksgivings past. Just the right balance of taste and nostalgia. Plus, because you didn’t fill up on the meal, for dessert, there’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. Rating: 🦃🦃🦃🦃

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.

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