Tag Archives: Tour of America

Denny’s Tour of America: Midwestern Meat & Potatoes Sandwich

I recently found myself sitting alone in a booth at Denny’s. This is unusual for me; I can’t even remember the last time I was in a restaurant by myself. I wasn’t there for the food; I was there to meet the private investigator I hired to sleuth out what the next crazy fast food trends would be. I also had him researching the best way to sneak the Chilito back onto Taco Bell’s menu.

Okay, that’s obviously a lie. (Or is it? Some people will go to great lengths to find a Chilito.) I was there because my car was across the street at the mechanic’s, and I figured it would be more comfortable to wait somewhere where I could sit in a comfy booth and have some food and coffee, rather than sitting on a hard chair in the repair waiting room that smelled like rubber tires and man sweat.

Out of all these reasons, food was, of course, the deciding factor in regards to where I’d be passing my time. (Coffee and the lack of man sweat were close seconds.) Furthermore, it was fate that this Denny’s happened to be right across the street from the only mechanic in this city open on Sunday (protip: don’t break your car on a Sunday), because it just so happens that Denny’s is currently showcasing its Tour of America menu, which had several items in which I was interested.

At the top of the list was the Midwestern Meat & Potatoes Sandwich. Here’s how Denny’s describes it: “A Cheddar bun stuffed with grilled prime rib and French fries, smothered in brown gravy and topped with melted Swiss and American cheeses and mayo. A side of creamy mashed potatoes and yet more gravy completes this culinary masterpiece!”

Now, when I read that, it screamed “crazy go nuts marketing ploy food” to me. Even Denny’s acknowledged this in their press release, saying in reference to it, “Adventurous eaters, who tried Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt and the Maple Bacon Sundae, won’t want to miss out on Denny’s latest indulgence…”

However, the rabbit hole goes much deeper. Upon reading about the MM&PS, a friend of mine who lives in Minnesota commented that it sounded a lot like a regional dish served in diners and truck stops and the like. I pressed him for information like he was a clove of garlic that I needed finely minced, and he told me that this dish actually has a name: the hot beef commercial.

Hot beef commercial? What the hell? I went on a Google quest, but apparently the hot beef commercial is Minnesota’s best kept secret. I could find a few discussions, and learned that the commercial (it could also be pork or turkey) seems to only exist in Minnesota, but no real solid definitions. I had to go back to my friend for help. According to him, the hot beef commercial is assembled as follows (from the bottom up): piece of bread, meat, taters (maybe some gravy) piece of bread, more gravy.

That does bear some resemblance to Denny’s offering, and MN is definitely Midwestern. Notable differences: the commercial has no mayo or cheese, white bread instead of a cheddar bun, and the mashed potatoes go on or in the sandwich. Apparently you can ask for fries inside, but that’s non-standard. I find all this most interesting just because there seems to be more questions than answers on the Internet in regards to the commercial. Minnesota must be hiding a dark secret. And that secret is hot beef.

I don’t exactly have the means to travel to Minnesota, so I’ll just have to go off of my experience with the Midwestern Meat & Potatoes Sandwich, and leave the comparisons to someone else.

There are a lot of things going on with this sandwich that many people would find unusual or even off-putting. French fries inside a sandwich? Gravy on everything? Madness! Neither of these things really bothered me, though. I’m all for pouring gravy on pretty much everything. As for the french fries, I’ve seen The Big Fat Ugly, and after that, french fries are bush league.

My biggest concern was the mayo. I was totally down with all the other ingredients playing together, but it seemed that mayonnaise was playing dodgeball while the rest were trying to enjoy a nice game of four square. The idea of mingling mayo and gravy in particular made my stomach say “aw hell naw”. My stomach likes tired Internet memes involving Barack Obama.

When I ordered my food, the waitress said, “Oh, isn’t that sandwich just delicious!” I smiled and nodded, not sure why she would assume I’d had it before, and also ambivalent about whether the Denny’s waitress’s seal of approval was a good sign or not.

When my plate arrived, I was encouraged by the aesthetics. The cheddar bun looked delicious and the fries and steak were peaking out as if to say, “Hey baby. You look like you could use some saturated fat.”

I immediately opened the sandwich up and took inventory. Yep, everything was there – meat, cheese, fries, gravy, and…yes, there behind the cheese, the mayo. I appreciate that slice of cheese trying to hide it from me, but I couldn’t be fooled. I knew it was there.

Cutting the sandwich in half with the giant knife provided was a messy process. Messy was a common theme throughout my meal; when you’ve got gravy on a sandwich you’re eating with your hands, you’re going to blow through a lot of napkins. I had to ask my waitress for a whole stack.

The steak was surprisingly tender for a diner chain, and there was a hearty amount of it. The cheese was creamy and melty, which always works well with steak. You may not expect cheese to go well with gravy, but it did, and the gravy, while messy, pulled all the flavors together. There was also just the right amount of it. While the sandwich was messy, it wasn’t soggy, but it also wasn’t too dry.

The fries were tasty enough on their own, but in the sandwich, they seemed like nothing more than a starchy filler. I understand that this sandwich is supposed to be hearty, representing the spirit of the Midwest and/or adult-onset diabetes, but I really could have done without them. The bites I liked the best were the ones with just the meat, cheese, and gravy.

The cheddar bun didn’t offer much noticeable cheese flavor, but it was just the right size and density to stand up to all the ingredients without falling apart. As for the dreaded mayo? I don’t know if I got an unusually small amount, but it completely disappeared amongst all the other flavors. It’s like it wasn’t even on the sandwich, and that was just fine by me.

As for the mashed potatoes, they were, well…mashed potatoes. Nice and fluffy. I felt like I didn’t get enough gravy on them, however. I actually think the gravy worked better on the sandwich than the mashers. When tasted by itself, it had a weak brown gravy flavor, but in the sandwich, it melded with the steak and cheese, which made it seem more flavorful. The mashed potatoes seemed almost like an afterthought; an add-on designed to push the meal over the edge of excess. I would have liked the fries and the mashed potatoes to switch places, so the mashers were in the sandwich, like a real hot beef commercial.

So, it turns out Denny’s Midwestern Meat & Potatoes Sandwich isn’t so crazy after all, and it does actually represent the Midwest, in a roundabout way. As I said, I wish the fries had switched with the mashed potatoes, but the meat was tender and tasty, and, in combination with the cheese and gravy, it made for a hearty sandwich. I would order this sandwich in the future, but without the fries (and the mayo), thus ruining the theme of the meal. I don’t want to mess with Denny’s Tour of America like that, so maybe I’ll just get a California Club Salad instead.

  • Score: 3 out of 5 gravy-soaked napkins
  • Price: $6.99
  • Size: 1 sandwich; 1 pile of mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Purchased at: Denny’s #1970
  • Nutritional Quirks: No nutritional information available on Denny’s website, but an independent website clocks the meal as containing a rather staggering 2,826 milligrams of sodium. Minnesota!

News: Denny’s Wants to Take You on a Tour of America with TEN New Items; Tour Goes Slightly Off the Rails

Starting June 9th, Denny’s has introduced their new “Tour of America” menu. And by menu, I mean menu – there’s ten new items listed in their press release. That’s 20% of the United States!

I don’t normally cover sit-down restaurants, but there’s some…shall we say, interesting items on the Tour of America menu. Let’s get the more mundane out of the way before we get to the real meat and potatoes. You’ll groan at that pun later on. Just wait for it.


Pacific Northwest Iced Coffee

Pacific Northwest Iced Coffee – A “sweet and creamy iced coffee drink” that uses a blend of Sumatra and Arabica beans. Obviously a nod to Seattle and its coffee culture.


Hawaiian Tropical Smoothie

Hawaiian Tropical Smoothie – Made with coconut, pineapple and nonfat yogurt. Bring a flask of rum and ride the waves straight to Blackout Island!


California Club Salad

California Club Salad – “Featuring shaved turkey, diced bacon, grape tomatoes and avocado atop a fresh spring mix”. Solid but uninspired, if you ask me. Not sure how I feel about sandwich meat on top of a salad, though. Carl Buddig scarred me for life.

Florida Orange Milk Shake – Florida is known for three things: old people, being the penis of America, and oranges. This offering combines vanilla ice cream and orange juice, creating what I hope tastes just like a 50/50 bar. Otherwise known as a Creamsicle. Let’s not get bogged down in semantics; there’s a lot to cover, here.


Georgia Peach French Toast

Georgia Peach French Toast – French toast topped with glazed fire-roasted peaches. ‘Nuff said.


Philly Cheesesteak Omelette

Philly Cheesesteak Omelette – The name pretty much says it all: grilled prime rib, fire-roasted peppers and onions, sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. Denny’s claims that it “truly captures the spirit of Philadelphia”. Dangerous words, Denny’s. I’ve watched enough cheese Travel Channel shows to know that Philly residents take their cheesesteaks very seriously.

Here are the offerings that really intrigued me:


Southern Shrimp and Grits

Southern Shrimp and Grits – “Grilled shrimp served over creamy cheese grits and topped with a jalapeno lemon butter sauce and sprinkled with crisp crumbled bacon and fresh diced tomatoes.”

I’ve never had grits before; hailing from SoCal and currently living in Arizona, the chance has never really been put in front of my face. Denny’s had me at “jalapeno lemon butter sauce”. And bacon, of course.


Hawaiian Tropical Pancakes Breakfast

Hawaiian Tropical Pancakes Breakfast – “Two fluffy macadamia nut pancakes layered with coconut whipped topping. Topped off with lightly grilled pineapple chunks, more coconut whipped topping and sprinkled with toasted coconut.”

Macadamia nut coconut pineapple coconut coconut. I hope you like coconut, because Denny’s is going to shove it in your mouth three times on one plate.


Hawaiian Tropical Pancake Puppies

Hawaiian Tropical Pancake puppies – Haven’t had enough coconut? I bet you haven’t! Order these babies as an appetizer or a side to your Macadamia nut coconut pineapple coconut coconut pancakes. “Six bite-sized round pancakes packed with sweet pineapple and white chocolate chips, rolled in delicious toasted coconut.” Also comes with syrup for dipping. No word if the syrup is also made with coconut.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this long news post, I don’t usually cover sit-down restaurants. I’ve only done one sit-down restaurant review, and it just so happened to be at Denny’s. What would actually motivate me to get out of my car and see the face of the person I’m giving my order to? How about fried mozzarella sticks shoved inside a grilled cheese sandwich? Denny’s hopped on the Crazy Food Train, and I couldn’t miss that ride. Which brings us to…


Midwestern Meat and Potatoes Sandwich

Midwestern Meat and Potatoes Sandwich – Aaaand there’s your pun. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Well, when Denny’s prefaces the item description with the sentence, “Adventurous eaters, who tried Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt and the Maple Bacon Sundae, won’t want to miss out on Denny’s latest indulgence…”, you know you’re in for a treat.

“A Cheddar bun stuffed with grilled prime rib and French fries, smothered in brown gravy and topped with melted Swiss and American cheeses and mayo. A side of creamy mashed potatoes and yet more gravy completes this culinary masterpiece!”

Kiss my Southern Shrimp and Grits, Hawaiian Tropical Pancakes Breakfast! Two different kinds of potatoes, two cheeses, two instances of gravy and mayo all in one dish definitely trumps three coconuts. This is the Tour of America money shot, and Denny’s knows it.

You only have until August 29th to take this tour, so get down to your local Denny’s and spend all the money you were saving for an actual tour of America on these ten new items. I’m sure I won’t be trying all of these offerings, but I sense a date with some meat, potatoes and…ugh…mayo in my near future.