Fast food is a guilty pleasure for many, something people buy on the go while trying to bury the notion that it’s not exactly the healthiest lunch or dinner they will eat all week.
But at Tom Clarke’s two Arby’s locations — one at 175-15 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows and this one at 69-16 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village — you don’t have to suppress any kind of guilty feeling as you walk in.
“The food is real food,” Clarke said. “If people taste the food and I’m selling it cheaper than Burger King or McDonald’s, they will actually like it. But the idea is how do you get the person who’s used to going to McDonald’s to say, ‘Let me try something new?’
“But once people try the food,” he continued, “they’re like OK! It’s like real Italian!”
While other fast-food chains specialize in burgers, Clarke’s Arby’s focuses more on serving a variety of sandwiches and wraps, like the popular roast beef gyro and the smokehouse brisket.
“This brisket is actually smoked for 14 hours,” he said,” 14 hours at 200 degrees.”
The fire-roasted Philly, Arby’s take on a cheesesteak, is also a hit, as one bite of the angus, provolone, peppers and roasted garlic aioli will make you think you were ordering from famous Philadelphia locations like Geno’s or Pat’s.
Of course, Arby’s has some options you would find at other fast-food chains, such as chicken fingers and fries. But they don’t taste like the ones you’ll find elsewhere
The chicken is “all muscle meat,” Clarke said.
The restaurant also serves a variety of sauces besides your usual ketchup and mustard, with three-pepper and berry-flavored condiments being popular with the students attending next-door Christ the King High School.
Surprisingly, Clarke said his restaurant isn’t normally packed with teenagers at the end of the school day. But he gets more than enough business from the surrounding hard working residential neighborhood.
Speaking of work, relaxing — for a limited time — with a frosty mint chocolate swirl shake topped with whipped cream and a warm apple crisp after a long day on the job isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
The Middle Village Arby’s location is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The Fresh Meadows restaurant is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.