Food Review: McAllister's Deli - Horseradish Roast Beef & Cheddar Panini

Let me start by saying this about McAllister's: I've never received nor expected greatness from the chain, save for the sweet tea, which I heart; we are good friends, the tea and I. Most of the time, I order a superfluously large, 2-pound potato which is "covered/stuffed/loaded" with HALF A FREAKING OUNCE of cheese, olives, turkey or what-have-you. Making me pay $8 for something called a "SpudMaxx" and using a single thumb-pinky pinch of toppings to adorn it makes you a common thief, probably-15-year-old-McAllister's-potato-topper! Even so scantily topped, these potatoes are not objectionable to the palate. Occasionally though, I get a little daring and, seeing that McAllister's is a DELI, try one of their many sandwiches. And every... single...time, I regret it. I don't know if it's laziness or complacency at the management or preparation stage or if the higher-ups make all their franchises buy the same crappy pre-prepped food from the same supplier but every sandwich I've had has been bland in the fullest sense of word. This is still the only 'deli' I've ever been to where I've needed to open up a cold cut sandwich and salt it for it to even remotely taste like (*sigh*) a coldcut sandwich and not like muti-textured cardboard. 
So after a mmmm-six month hiatus from McAllister's, my wife and I returned, hankering for medicore giant potatoes, vegetarian chili (which is usually quite good) and a reunion with my BFF, sweet tea. What do I see upon our arrival? A 'TRY OUR NEW PANINIS' sign featuring beautiful pictures of what appear to be delicious, hot, melty sandwiches. Favoring the pretty colors of the sign over experience,  I thought "OK, sign. Will do." Being a fan of all the words in its annoyingly long name, I settled on one of the (I think) 3 multi-textured cardboard stacks (now with newly added heat!) they like to call the "Horseradish Roast Beef & Cheddar Panini" for the meh price of $5.99 including chips, no drink.
As you've probably figured out by now, I was not a huge fan of the sandwich. However, I did not dislike it either. It is a very safe, neutral tasting sandwich - nothing special. I was a little disappointed in its neutrality because when something has horseradish in it (especially enough to warrant putting it in the name of its parent dish) I expect the abrasive, nose-clearing burn to overwhelm my face the second I taste it. I like it that way. Makes me feel super manly. There was no super-manliness to be felt here though because the horseradish sauce in this 'nini is as much horseradishy as Velveeta is cheese. An elevator-muzak version at best. I did, however, really like the the bread. Crispy outside, tender inside and oh-so buttery - delish. The roast beef and cheddar were...exactly what you would expect from a fast food deli or even store-brand packaged cheese and meats: meh. Brown paper bag, sack lunch food.
Overall, there's not a lot to be said for the panini other than middle-of-road words like: mediocre, alright, OK, meh, etc. If for the same price I could make a much better version of this sandwich at home at 4 or 5 times the quantity, there's a problem. Not that I would do anything about it, of course.

Final Grade: C

So it goes,

Picture from here 


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