Fast Food Review: Seasoned French Fries from Checkers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.00/10
Price: 1.19 for small order
Overall GrubGrade: 4.75 (Poor)
More Info: Checkers.com
Checker's/Rally's Seasoned French Fries (small order - 74 grams)
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