Fast Food Review: Seasoned French Fries from Checkers

Not as pretty as it looks

Is it just me, or is Checkers/Rally’s the ugly stepchild of fast food? I mean, in a world where McDonald’s texts me Twitter updates every 23 minutes of the day (dang, always getting my hopes up), Checkers is still living in the fast food trends of last decade. OK, so that might be a little extreme, but with nutrition information on their website that hasn’t been updated in a year, not to mention restaurants which seemingly lag months behind corporate promotions, Checker’s has always been the “sketchier” drive-thru in my old stomping grounds on the greater Baltimore area.

First look

All that being said, these guys have a cult-like following for their fries. As an unabashed fry aficionado, it dawned on me that I’ve been doing myself a disservice all these years by not even trying their fries, so I swung by recently to check them out.

Our fries  are famously seasoned and bursting with flavor. In fact some might argue that they’re the best fries on Earth, but that’s for you to decide.

Best on Earth? That’s a pretty big claim, especially considering the reputation of McDonald’s fries. At $1.19 for a small order, the fries are more expensive than most value menu items, and noticeably less, um, “artisan.” Forget natural sea salt or fresh potatoes: these fries are heavily seasoned with a black pepper spice blend, and bleed a brownish tint that screams having been in the oil too long. These fries are greasy, much greasier than any other fast food fry I’ve EVER had, save maybe the exception of Five Guys. The difference between the fries here and Five Guys is that these are much skinnier, and, to a certain degree, crunchier – as they appear to be coated in some sort of potato starch to aid in cooking. I say “to a certain degree” because these are, without a doubt, some of the least consistent fries I’ve ever experienced.

Do not attempt to adjust your monitor. That is indeed some crazy oil.

My fry philosophy maintains that a sign of a good fry will be maybe 1-5 ‘throw aways’ in a small order. You know what I mean – those fries that are either too gummy, too flabby, or too scorched to waste the calories. McDonald’s is the gold standard of this rule, but Checker’s does a horrible job. I didn’t keep count exactly, but a good 1/3rd of my fries were, by my standards, uneatable. They were flabby and drenched with oil, with almost no potato fluff on the inside, and instead just hollow or gummy interiors. Most, if not all, seemed to have “fish stick syndrome” - the kind of mushy and burnt-oil interior that comes from leaving a fish stick in the fryer too long. I was not impressed at all, and openly wondered whether the dude at the fryer wasn’t completely stoned out of his mind while on the job.

'Fish Stick' Syndrome - dummy interior with oil-saturated exterior

To be fair, the taste of the fries themselves was better. The black pepper seasoning isn’t quite as good as advertised, but it’s good, and it reminds me of one of my childhood favorites (TGI Friday’s Fries). There is an unmistakable ‘meatiness’ to the fries. I don’t know if they use a less “healthy” oil to fry in, or if these things are just loaded with glutamate, but I find myself rushing through the crispy fries that had passed textural accessibility. Still, the texture was a problem, and given the oily nature of the fries, these were far from my favorite of McDonald’s.

Gotta be covered in some kind of starch

I wasn’t impressed with the fries. The seasoning was good – but then again, I could put this seasoning on a rice cake (or a potato chip) and it would make it OK to good.  All things considered, even the small serving of fries seemed heavy, and with abysmal textural problems that left a third of the batch overcooked and a third of the batch undercooked, I can’t help but classify these in the bottom half of the fast food fry bracket.

Is this dude hurling these things up?

Pros: 'Meaty' and fatty flavor that carries strong taste of black pepper. May or may not be fried in something that may or may not have made a certain company's french fries once taste absolutely amazing.

Cons: Horrible consistency, with most fries representing a mutant version of something that may once have been a potato. Gummy, with zero fluff on the interior and way to much oil on the exterior. Vacillate between mushy and limp and hard as a nail. Higher in saturated fat and sodium than virtually every other chain's french fries. "Starting at $1" my butt.

Taste: 5.00/10
Value: 4.25/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.00/10
Price: 1.19 for small order

Overall GrubGrade: 4.75 (Poor)

More Info: Checkers.com
Nutrition Facts:
Checker's/Rally's Seasoned French Fries (small order - 74 grams)
Calories: 230
Total Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 610 mg
Total Carbs: 24 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 0 g
Protein: 3 g

40 comments on “Fast Food Review: Seasoned French Fries from Checkers

  1. Bubbs says:

    You had a bad experience with the consistency / crispness / texture of the fries that is not typical.
    And you are 100% right about the black pepperyness. Very peppery, only really enjoyed by people who like over-seasoned food… like me. Sweet ketchup is very complementary, but they can stand up to mustard really well.

  2. Bubbs says:

    I meant to include that I liked your review, you wrote it well.

  3. Dan says:

    I think you got a bad batch, I have been eating at Checker’s locations in Philly for 15 years and only once had a serving like you described. Usually they are awesome.

  4. Shannon says:

    Well, Adam, now you know what Checker’s fries are like. It took you a while to give them a try. As for the review, I agree with the seasoning part which is the main draw for most people. On the rare occasion when I order them as I try to eat healthier, mine usually don’t suffer from the same textural problems. They are hot and crisp, but I get a few grease bombs that spray grease all over my mouth when bitten into.

  5. home says:

    from the pic, i know exactly where that checkers is
    i’ve been to it a number of times
    it’s next to that korean karaoke bar

  6. ColinKSU says:

    You didn’t like Rally’s/Checker’s fries, Adam? Them’s fighting words, friend.

  7. J.A. says:

    I really like Checker’s fries…maybe that location had a crap fry cook?

  8. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    Nice review. I have always found checkers to be… crap. Their burgers blow. Harsh but that’s my two cents.

  9. As the writer of your linked review, I question your chops after this review for not liking Rally’s/Checkers fries. Ha, ha, just kidding.

    Anyway, you definitely got a bad batch. I’ve found that Rally’s (I’ll just call them that since that is what they are here in Indiana) is really hit or miss with consistent all of their food items, perhaps more so than most fast food joints. Based on the fact that the location you went to is in a rough area, I’m guessing that one misses more frequently than most.

    That said, I would urge you to give them another shot. If you have another location nearby, try that one. If not, roll the dice and try this one again. If you have another bad experience, then so be it. On the other hand, if they get the fries right, you will be in heaven.

  10. Francois says:

    It sounds like whoever was manning the deep-fryer may not have had the oil hot enough (which makes for very greasy and limp fries).

  11. Mike says:

    I believe you need another visit to solidify your stance. I found whenever I have an experience that you describe as being that bad, that I need to make sure it wasn’t an off-day: the cook new or missed the alarm to take them out the fryer, etc.

    I don’t eat Checkers much because there are none in my state. But I do know that I find their fries to be pretty good and the burgers to be passable. Most people I come across whenever we have fast food discussions (which tends to happen more than one would expect!) agree that McDonalds are at the top and most also have Bojangles fries up there. People seem to disagree with me regarding Wendys (horrible) and Burger King (different and I like). Sonic is just as bad as Wendy’s in my eyes. Checkers — the middle of those five. I have to admit, I don’t know what Hardees/Carls Jr fries taste like. Rarely go there

  12. I’ll have to say that those look just too greasy to even deal with. That being said, I’ll take the bojangles fries ANY day of the week.

    Yummmmy, so much seasoning, and so much flavor, though not as crispy as these look!

    • Adam says:

      I’ve never been to Bojangles, but they keep expanding, so sooner or later I’m sure I’ll hit ‘em up.

      • Raiders757 says:

        I love Bojangles fries, but they aren’t flawless. The seasoning they use, is awesome!!! I’m very addicted to it. Almost to the point of needing an intervention. Despite serving a great fast food breakfast, and some tasty chicken, I’ve been known to pass it all up and only feast on their fries. Like I mentioned, the fries do have some minor flaws, but I’ve never had a bad batch, no matter the location.

  13. Rodzilla says:

    big time fan base indeed.

  14. J.B. says:

    Rally’s fries are awesome.
    Their food can be hit or miss sometimes, but their prices are pretty good.
    I am not a fry eater, but their fries and McDonalds are really the only two that I care to eat.

  15. When I was a kid in NC, we had a Checker’s next door to a Char’s. I remember we used to get giant sacks full of fries from Checker’s and eat them next door with our hotdogs. They were pretty much the Best Fries Ever to me.

    Of course, now that Checker’s is a Taco Bell, and I have yet to find another one to see if I was just a dumb kid. I mean, it was around this same time that I thought Captain Crunch was delicious.

  16. Roger C. says:

    I’ve heard Checkers/Rally’s is where Sumo Wrestlers go to fatten up…

    All kidding aside, I really hate their fries. Unless you’re looking to make the Discovery Channel’s next television show as the most obese person in the world, I’d stay away from them!

  17. Roger C. says:

    Checkers fries are always pretty consistent for me. I wouldn’t say that was the problem. Adam was on the money here.

  18. Jesse says:

    Are they doing a promotion with Devo I don’t know about?

  19. Andy says:

    when we went on our school trip to Washington DC (im from canada) I had the opportunity to try checkers and I must say there fries were like sex in my mouth and the burgers were pretty tasty

  20. Clevegal42 says:

    I got a job in Rally’s in high school because I heard you got to eat all the fries you wanted while you were working. That was a true story and it was AWESOME! Granted this was years ago, but I’m thinking you got a bad batch (either in the cooking or sitting around). I don’t remember ever making the fries (I suppose I did at one point because I did everything else but that wasn’t really my “station”), but I remember eating them…little fried sticks of bliss. That being said, I don’t eat at Rally’s very often because 1) it isn’t convenient to where I live now and 2) once you’ve cooked it 7 days a week for a year and a half, you just don’t want any (and this was years ago. Years.)

    Give it another try – maybe a different location or a different time of day. If you don’t like them after that, then you just don’t like them, and that’s OK. I just hate for you to think this is what they are really like when your description doesn’t sound like any fries I’ve had from there.

  21. somesteve says:

    mcdonald’s fries are overrated. Checkers fries blow them out of the water with their fries.

  22. fah fah fah says:

    Checkers is the only fast food burger joint I eat at anymore, aside from five guys. I’d take Bojangles fries over these, but I’d take these over even wendy’s. Burger-wise they always have some $2/5 or $2/6 special going on decent burgers and chicken, and you get a big sandwich for your money. $2 for $2 spicy chicken is clutch. I was taking their Seasoned Opinion surveys but none of their coupons were accepted at my local spot so I dropped out.

  23. wibia says:

    I love their fries. Looks like you got a bad batch. However, they have more oil than MCD, so just a heads up fo you go back. I like the pepper in the seasoning and along with MCD, they are the best fast food fries out there. I would agree though Rally’s/Checkers is not totally with it on the internet and their brand right now. It is hard to beat a Big Buford and fries though….

  24. Kevin says:

    It’s a shame that there isn’t a way to rate your review or atleast a agree/disagree vote on your review.

  25. [...] 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 [...]

  26. Checkers is where I developed my hatred of coated fries. They should just sell fried coating for people who like this stuff.

  27. Jordan says:

    Adam, your credibility is falling fast.

    You gave In and Out’s fries a 9.25 but you gave Checkers a 4.75?

    Come on now.

  28. [...] for about a week now, but I just came across it today.  I’m sure there are a lot of fans of Checkers/Rally’s seasoned fries out there.  How about fries in your cheeseburger?  The Fry Lover’s Burger is now available [...]