Can Perfect Fries Fix a Bad Burger?

·3 min read
Photo:  Josh Wussow
Photo: Josh Wussow

Somewhere in the middle of my teenage years, a Checkers popped up in town. It took up residence in the old Hot ’n Now building, which had leaned for years in greasy silence. With its neon lights and vaguely “racetrack” theme, Checkers became a popular spot between sessions of Halo. And if we had to scatter from a backyard after, say, hitting a basketball ball over the house and onto the neighbor’s car, the refuge of triple bacon cheeseburgers was only a few streets away.

But some things are best viewed through rose-colored taste buds. I’ve tried a few times to recapture the magic of those first visits to Checkers (also known as Rally’s in other parts of the country), only to be struck by a different sort of spell entirely. More recent menu items like the Bacon Brewhouse Mother Cruncher and Triple Smoky BBQ Bacon Buford have leaned into the pork front, to varying degrees of success. Only one product has remained consistently excellent: the Famous Seasoned Fries.

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Photo:  Josh Wussow
Photo: Josh Wussow

These fries are the reason to visit any Rally’s or Checkers. And much like the Potato Olés at Taco John’s, the Famous Seasoned Fries (or at least their breading) have migrated to the rest of the menu. Seasoned chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks are a start, but it was only a matter of time before the fries found themselves not just next to a burger, but smack dab in the middle of one.

Photo:  Josh Wussow
Photo: Josh Wussow

Behold, the Checkers Double Fry Lovers Burger

Now, I’ll come right out and admit that some form of this innovation has been kicking around the menu for roughly a decade—no one thought to send me a red carpet invite when Checkers slapped some fries on a sandwich. But now that I know the Double Fry Lovers Burger exists (and has since 2020), it’s never far from my mind. I’ve eaten not one, not two, but three of these things in as many weeks.

How do they taste? Well, that’s a complicated question. The beef itself themselves is only okay. The meat doesn’t have the flame-kissed taste of Burger King, and an examination of the burger patties’ surface was inconclusive. All I can say is that somewhere, at some point, heat was applied.

The flavor is along the lines of McDonald’s, only aged. But not in the expensive “dry aged” sense. It’s more like… You remember the episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force in which Meatwad (something of a burger person himself) ages his hot dogs on the windowsill? Kinda like that. Oh, and ignore the dumpster in the background. Totally unrelated.

Photo:  Josh Wussow
Photo: Josh Wussow

That being said, the rest of the toppings are decent. The pickles are crisp, the cheese is melty, and the mayo is a nice touch when not excessively applied. But the fries? They tie the whole thing together. Whatever spices Checkers has in that fry coating, its warm crunch helps offset the blandness that surrounds it.

Speaking of blandness, I’m perplexed about something: Why doesn’t Checkers sprinkle the seasoning on the patties themselves? This would provide a huge flavor boost, further elevating what is, to be fair, a double cheeseburger with a few strands of potato tucked inside.

Photo:  Josh Wussow
Photo: Josh Wussow

Why not put fries on a chicken sandwich?

There’s no reason to stop at burgers—the Classic Mother Cruncher presents another consideration. According to one source, many of the same “15 different herbs and spices” used in the fries are also present in the Squawk Sauce that tops Checkers’ flagship chicken sandwich. If the chain really wants to up its game, it should be slathering that stuff all over its burgers, not to mention its Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself with the occasional Fry Lovers Double. Is it a great option, as far as burgers go? No, not particularly. But as it sits squarely in the $3 range and comes with the fries that would otherwise cost nearly another $3 on the side, it’s a good excuse to build a meal around those wonderful sticks of peak potato.