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.
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.00/10
Price: $3.00 with fries
Overall GrubGrade: 4.50/10