Review: New! Fish Bites from Checkers/Rally’s

Don’t look now, but the season of fried fish sandwiches is upon us. If you haven’t already noticed your local McDonald’s or Wendy’s sporting ads for their fish sandwiches then you probably will soon, as the traditional Christian holy season of Lent — beginning on February 22nd — marks the one time each year that Ronald goes searching for religion in hopes of finding a buck.

Despite being a practicing Catholic myself, fried fish has never been a huge part of my life. Sure, while growing up my family would go meatless on Friday’s during Lent, and I do still enjoy the novelty of the Filet-o-Fish, but I’d just as soon splurge on good sardines if I’m going to take meat out of my diet. Besides, I live in perpetual fear of eating one of SpongeBob SquarePants’ friends, and I could never forgive myself if I did that.

Which is why even I was surprised when I showed up at the ordering window at the Checkers Drive-In the other day. Nevermind that my last visit had yielded me pitifully inconsistent french fries, but my local Checkers doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation. Heck, I’m not sure any Checkers does. With brazen artwork that might have been edgy in the late 80s, the Checkers “box” my fish bites came in depicted what appeared to be an overweight, unshaven, perhaps even unemployed loudmouth of a man proclaiming “feast on.”

Lovely, I thought to myself as I stared at the small box. It’s as if they’re not even trying to anticipate reasonably attractive and well-to-do people eating here and just say, “to hell with fast food propaganda, bring us your gamers who want to get fat!”

My thoughts on this marketing misstep aside, I was curious enough to learn what exactly a fish “bite” was (outside of something from the movie Piranha, of course) to take a chance on the $3 box. What I got were five jalapeño poppers sized objects, coated in a layer of oil and dark breading similar to what I imagine the surface of the planet Mars to resemble. That is, if you took a lunar-sized black pepper shaker and ground up some of that on Mars. The amount of fries seemed slightly larger than what you’d get in a small order, and altogether my first thought was “damn, is that it?”

I would have been happy to have taken that thought away from the entire experience, but it gets worse. More crispy as opposed to crunchy, one of the bites reveal a decent amount of flaky white fish with a slightly sweet taste. But the exterior of the coating — tasting of cornmeal, salt, and garlic — oozed with oil, and didn’t give me any wow factor. Oddly enough, I didn’t even get a strong black pepper taste. For as decent as the actual white fish was in one or two of the bites, there were some slimy black spots amidst others, and the exteriors of all five of my bites peeled easily away to reveal that dreaded slimy buffer that sometimes develops around fried fish. A well executed fish stick on par with the Filet-O-Fish this is not, and neither is it matching the crisp coating and clean bite of Arby’s Fish Sandwich. But mostly, each bite just reveals a handful of burnt tasting oil followed by salt and cornmeal, which leaves you questioning what exactly you’re getting out of the roughly one-bite pieces.

I guess I could have tried a liberal application of tartar sauce. I guess. But you’ll have to forgive me if I wasn’t already feeling like this oil-infused salt fest might actually benefit from something that didn’t just add more fat into the equation. Unfortunately, cocktail sauce is a no-go at the window, although sweet and sour added a cloying and Americanized-Asian sweetness that in no way, shape, or form a match for the almost Cajun-infused spice profile.

The cynic out there might say Lent is a time to feel guilty about all the bad stuff you’ve done. If you’re one of those people you’ll feel in good company eating these. Of course, the optimist will say it’s a time of year to give up the things we think we need and really don’t. Like impulsive fast food purchases at known cesspools of flavorhood. In that case, you’ll feel quite at home passing on these, and once more, embracing the season for what it’s worth.

Pros: Meat free. Crispy breading. Interior is moist and flaky. The season of Lent.

Cons: No 'wow' factor in taste. disturbing about of garlic and cornmeal taste in the crust. Slimy buffer zone. Small. More oil than the Gulf Oil spill.

Taste: 4.00/10
Value: 5.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.00/10
Price: $3.00 with fries

Overall GrubGrade: 4.50/10

Nutrition Facts:
not available

35 comments on “Review: New! Fish Bites from Checkers/Rally’s

  1. Ray J. says:

    I could never go back to the filet-o-fish. They suck!

    I’ll to give the $3 box a try.

  2. Chefprotoss says:

    I was wondering how these were. Thanks for the review. You saved me 3 bucks.

    I never understood lent either. People only seem to give up meat. As a former catholic myself, I have struggled to see the difference between seafood and land meat. One breathes oxygen as a gas, and the other as a liquid. Other than a sense of longing, what does lent accomplish anyway? Moot point considering the filet-o-fish is cheaper I guess. =)

    • Adam says:

      I think you miss the point. I understand Lent just fine and get quite a lot out of it actually.

      • Chefprotoss says:

        Huh?

        • Adam says:

          You asked what Lent accomplishes, and I told you; many people, including myself, get quite a lot out of Lent from a spiritual perspective. As for why Catholics give up meat and not fish, there is a great explanation given here:

          http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-we-abstain-from-meat-but-not-from.html

          Among other doctrinal and tradition reasons, today giving up meat is seen as a tangible way to show solidarity with the poor around the world, and to bind ourselves closer to a global Christian and human community. It also is seen — and I’ve experienced this as well — as a way to build discipline into ones life. It reminds us that we “have to do something,” each Friday, and forces us, in one small way or another, to deal with going without, so that we can go with or towards.

          Not trying to convert anyone, but just trying to point out there is solid reasoning behind it — and not just for religouse people like me.

          All I said was that I didn’t get the whole fried fish thing growing up. There are other ways to go meatless and experience Lent besides generic white fish in fried form :)

          • Chefprotoss says:

            I didn’t ask anything. You shouldn’t feel the need to be so defensive there buddy…

          • Jade says:

            Well said. I’m Anglican (ie Episcopal) so I don’t give up meat (and I live with my non-religious parents who buy the groceries :D), but Lent is still significant. A lot of my friend give up chocolate or cake, I tend to give up magazines or Starbucks, but the idea of making self-sacrifice tangible and personal and not just an idea is important to me.

          • Billy says:

            Adam, you’re coming off as incredibly condescending. But given your tone, I think it’s intentional. Stick to food.

        • Manavee says:

          I don’t mean to get in the way of a pissing match, but I think the misunderstanding occurred when you said, “I don’t understand Lent either.”

          I think Adam interpreted that as you saying “Like you Adam, I dont understand Lent.” And I think he took offence at that and gave you kind of a caustic reply. But I think what you were saying when you used the word either was “In addition to what I said in my first paragraph, I don’t understand Lent.”

          Anyway, maybe this will smooth things over. If not, piss away!

    • SkippyMom says:

      “…what does lent accomplish anyway? ”

      So this was rhetorical?

      Great answer to the question I think. Eventhough you are a former Catholic, doesn’t mean everyone knows why fish is given up on Fridays during Lent [now].

    • Jade says:

      Not everyone who observes Lent is Catholic :) I have never given up meat for Lent – although one year I was a vegetarian at the time and gave up dairy for Lent. Meat was the most extravagant part of the average person’s diet at the time the practice started which is probably why it is traditionally given up. In Europe fat was traditionally gven up (hence Mardis Gras – Fat Tuesday – and the tradition of Pancake Day before Ash Wednesday in Britain). In these days of value menus and venti frappucinos, I feel no need to give up the former but not the latter :)

  3. Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

    I look forward to seeing you guys mentioned in the Arby’s commercial every year.

    I saw it a again last night.

  4. Josh says:

    Is it just the local McDonald’s around here, or do other people feel like the filet o’fish isn’t worth it unless it’s really fresh? Just about the only time it feels guaranteed is during this time of year (Lent). Arby’s fish seems better the majority of the year.

  5. Rob says:

    Ssriously, no one cares about your religious views. Go do that somewhere else Adam.

  6. Ryan says:

    I love my local Checkers, but their fish is not one of my favorites. I’m also not a fan of their fries and I know I’m in the minority. I like tht they sell hotdogs and chili dogs though.

  7. Justin ST says:

    These fish bites suck.

    As for Catholicism, I am a recovering Catholic and hate the religion. I give it a 1.00/10

  8. klee says:

    not sure what lent accomplishes, but it accumulates in my naval. zing..

  9. Sandy says:

    This made me laugh. Local Arby’s had wording on their sign saying “Surf and Turf, a RB sandwich and a fish sandwich for 5 bucks.” Too funny!

  10. Sascha says:

    These bite boxes are only $2 up here in Michigan. Just had the fish bites, they were quite good, but I’ve noticed that my local Rally’s tends to outshine most Checker’s/Rally’s in quality and preparation. I was quite impressed with how much fish goes into these bites, not bad at all, and the tartar sauce was a good match. I don’t like the fish bites quite as much as the chicken bites, but they are quite good, probably an 7.5 out of 10 from me.

  11. Jon says:

    Hating on Rally’s fish is understandable, but those fries are the gold standard of fast food fries. I’m too young to remember when McDonalds fried their fries in beef tallow so I can’t comment on those.

    • ljay says:

      They were amazing (McDonalds fries that is). We do double cooked fries at home (just did a nice batch yesterday) and they are quite good but McDonalds fries were special.

      When I was a lad, I can remember getting fried chicken at McDonalds. It was a little heavy on the pepper for me at that age but would probably be pretty tasty to me now.

  12. Obbop says:

    I gave up Lent for Lent.

    Gave up fried and breaded fish for various reasons.

    I still gulp down baked naked Eeeeeek! nonbreaded fish.

    Baked properly it is yummy.

    I suppose that baked nonbreaded “Sea Kittens” are inhospitable in the fast-food arena.

    Oh, Sea Kittens. What PETA uses as their terminology for fish.

    Do a Google for “Sea Kittens.”

    I guffawed and chortled while shaking my head in wonderment.

  13. Bubbsy says:

    I have the awfullest feeling that now their fries will be tainted with a fishy taste you often get when careless food joints fry everything in the same grease.

    You ever go to a restaurant and order fried chicken and *swear* there is some essence of fish? It’s not disgusting or anything, but it is a little irritating.

  14. ljay says:

    I love fish.

    Had an order of the Captain D’s thick cut cod a few days ago. Reminded me of the fish I use to get at Captain D’s 15-20 years ago before they started serving fish remnants.

    (I always found their Shoneys strategy strange.)

    • Chefprotoss says:

      You just reminded me to review Captain D’s. I meant to months ago but forgot. Thanks! Btw, Captain D’s is the Popeyes of fried fish. The blow LJS out of the water!

      …get it?

      • ljay says:

        As far as fast food goes, CD’s, imo, is better then LJS. AND, I always get a side order of clam strips at CD’s – probably the only place to get decent clam strips if you are land locked.

        Arthur Treachers was my first fond memory of fish and chips but one thing I love about the northeast is the availability of fresh fried cod and halibut at almost every restaurant and grocery store. Cooked to order..good stuff.

  15. chakrateeze says:

    Only thing really, really good at Ralley’s are their buffalo wings… Don’t laugh, they totally rock! As for fish, Wendy’s fish sticks beats all other fast food places by a mile.

  16. [...] next logical step would have to be fish right?  Checker’s did it too with a version known as Fish Bites.  Thanks to GrubGrade reader Chris for the pics.Free sample today through Thursday (at least at [...]

  17. adfsdfsdf says:

    were you seriously expecting something better from a fast food restaurant? chill out, dude.