Have you ever eaten at a Checkers? Or have you ever eaten at a Rally’s? What if I told you that these are the same restaurant??? Madness, you’d tell me, those are two different names they must be two different places! But no. They are the same restaurant. With different names depending on where you are.
Wait, you’re telling me now. Isn’t that the same thing that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr has too? Yes… that’s right. It’s the same gimmick. It’s also the same gimmick as restaurants Green Burrito and Red Burrito, a pair of places that we didn’t really know about until we started investigating this. And you want to know the real kicker? All of these restaurants are owned by the SAME PARENT COMPANY!!! What kind of gimmick is that? You get six properties for the price of three, I guess.
Where we live, we’ve got Checkers, Hardee’s, and neither Green or Red Burrito. We’ve been interested in eating at Checkers for a long time because the people who eat there seem to really like eating there. The fries are pointed out repeatedly as a high point of the menu, and there’s nothing we like more than hot starch. A trip was inevitable.
The thing was, the nearest Checkers to us was over half an hour of driving away. That’s fine, we like to drive, we love driving long distances, but this is something that you still don’t just do for fast food. We kept putting it off, and off, and off, but one day we were just so hungry and so bored we decided driving so long for some burgers would be worth it.
Then we kept going back. We couldn’t seem to stop. It was a waste of gas and time but it was… well, was it worth it? Let’s find out.
So, Checkers is your regular burger joint with hamburgers and chicken tenders and milkshakes and stuff like that. Their claim to fame are their french fries, specially seasoned in a similar manner to Arby’s fries, but they’re not curly or anything. These fries are supposed to be very good. Few fast food places broker their fame on french fries instead of their entrees. We love a good french fry, though, and the idea of a fast food place that put more emphasis on a side than the main menu interested us. What does it say about the quality of their fries – or their burgers?
The Checkers we went to was a tiny place in the corner of a little strip mall, surprisingly with its own drive-thru. It was kind of awkward driving around the backside of the strip, because that’s not really designed for anything to go through in quantity, but that wasn’t our greatest concern anyway. We ordered two “Roadhouse” burger combos and an extra order of bacon cheese fries.
Now, the Roadhouse is an interesting burger because we didn’t see it on their website. We were going in expecting to get the Baconzilla and Big Buford burgers, but the sight of a bacon burger with fried onion strings on it was a must-buy. We love bacon burgers, and we love fried onions on burgers. What else could we do? The cheese fries were another obvious buy. Good cheese fries are hard to get. The only place near us that does acceptable cheese fries is Outback Steakhouse, and we’re not going to fucking Outback just for fries. This was a big deal for us, to have a fast food place that would give us even the chance for a decent cheese fry.
Of course, no fast food restaurant can float on the strength of its french fries alone. The Roadhouse burger was actually very good – the meat was juicy, the cheese melty, and the bacon crisp. The fried onions were extremely crispy and flavorful, and the addition of barbecue sauce added sweetness that balanced out all that salt. There was only one odd spot, and it was the ranch sauce on the burger. It was bitter. Not in a bad way – in fact, we liked it – but it was still bitter and it was kind of weird. With most fast food we expect sweet on sweet, so having a commonplace sauce be given that layer of complexity was…. Unexpected? We don’t want to make it sound like it was bad or that we were upset. It was just different.
The fries were as good as they said they would be. Crisp, fluffy, and seasoned with your typical French Fry Seasoning which is a huge amount of garlic salt and miscellaneous seasonings. We prefer, in all honesty, softer fries, but we are well aware that a fry should be crisp. If you’re a serious fry fan, these are all for you. But the real draw, the real draw for us, was the cheese fries.
These were some of the best cheese fries we’d ever had. Slathered with rich, plasticky cheese sauce, along with tons of the same ranch dressing as was on the burger and plenty of bacon, it had an addictive quality. The special seasoning on the fries was what was missing from all other cheese fries we’d ever had – instead of overwhelming “cheese” flavor, there was an underlying layer of actual spice. Seriously, they were VERY good. Well worth a half-hour drive in itself.
And so we left Checkers, feeling pleasantly sated, though the price of this meal was certainly not pleasing. That’s what gets you with smaller places like this, they can’t cut their own prices in the way a Big Three hamburger restaurant can, but they always make it up with quality. We thought that would be the last time we went there, but the idea of Checkers stuck in our mind. Twisted us up. We craved it again. We knew better, we knew it would be a huge amount of time and money to waste on fast food… but we needed it.
So we went back. This time we got spicy chicken sandwiches and another order of cheese fries, just to keep things interesting. The sandwiches were pretty good, but definitely not worth the price. They weren’t whole filet chicken like any “premium” chicken sandwich, they were the mashed chicken mush that every dollar menu sandwich has. And these sandwiches were more than two dollars a sandwich!
And this still wasn’t the last time we ended up visiting Checkers. After this visit, we got astoundingly confused if we had ordered mozzarella sticks here or not. We puzzled over it for what felt like ages until we realized we had confused Checkers with White Castle. It was frankly humiliating… but right then and there, we knew we had to go back to Checkers for those sticks.
We also decided to get their popcorn chicken because mozzarella sticks are not a meal.
Friends, fast food mozzarella sticks are not very good. This is a fact. The mozzarella is always stringy, too cold, and does not adhere to the crumb coating very well leaving you with a nasty looking hollow stick. In frankness, the whole concept of a “mozzarella stick” is a bit overrated. Yes, melty cheese, crisp coating, and marinara sauce are a winning combination, but who really does want to eat a half-dozen string cheeses in a single sitting?
These “Monsterella Sticks” were some of the best fast food mozzarella sticks we’d ever had. They were coated in the same spice blend as their french fries, adding a LOT of flavor to otherwise plain mozzarella and Red Gold brand marinara sauce. Red Gold is easily the worst kind of ketchup to get. Have you ever seen Red Gold brand anything outside of terrible restaurants? Even Hunts is better. We digress. The sticks were gooey and rich, the right non-newtonian texture where a firm bite would cleave the cheese cleanly off while giving you plenty of room for oozy stretching if that’s your game.
Their popcorn chicken was fine. Really, just fine. We got it with a standalone cup of their ranch to dip it in, and it was the same weird bitter ranch as before. There’s honestly not a lot to say here. It was very generic, very regular popcorn chicken. The texture was a bit tough, and they were formed nuggets, not whole meat. These came with more fries, which we were grateful for, because the chicken itself was only passable.
And hey, this place charges you for dipping sauce! That’s tacky even at the best of times, but can you guess how much we were charged for a dipping cup of ranch? Oh, twenty five cents? Fifty cents? It was a dollar. We had to pay a dollar, just for dipping sauce for our chicken. That comes free at literally every other burger place in the world. Why? WHY?
That was the last time we had gone to Checkers, and we don’t know when we’re going to go back. We think we’ve finally gotten our fill of the place. There’s assuredly more of the menu to explore – we hadn’t touched the fish options or tried any of the other burgers. They have a premium chicken sandwich called the “Mother Cruncher” that looks pretty good, as well as wings and soft serve ice cream. Who knows when the next calling to Checkers will come to us? It might even be soon…