I’ve always liked that Wendy’s generally takes a different approach than most fast-food chains, and I think that’s why their sales have continued to grow for a handful of years now. When they say they care more about quality, I truly believe that. For the most part, I find their offerings to have more of a ‘real food’ flavor than the competition. Of course, raising the quality of the product has an adverse effect on the price, and that has drawn the ire of some. But the proof is in the pudding. Despite the fact that they have higher prices than most, more people are choosing Wendy’s than ever before.
Innovation is key in the fast-food business. If you’re happy with where you are, the competition is going to run right by you. Case in point: Wendy’s changed their shit up and Burger King stood pat, now Wendy’s is #2. The lesson: to stay relevant and grow your brand, ya gotta come up with new ideas.
So Wendy’s newest way to change their shit up is by offering three new side dishes, which they call Signature Sides. They already had a couple of unique side options, chili and baked potatoes. Now you’ve got three more choices: Chili Cheese Fries, Macaroni and Cheese, and Baked Sweet Potatoes.
For the record, these new sides will not be helping you in the swimsuit department. The main culprit is obviously the Chili Cheese Fries, which check in at a whopping 570 calories. Wow! That’s kind of a lot for a side dish. The Mac & Cheese will set you back 370 calories, while the Baked Sweet Potato has a relatively modest 307. Each of the Signature Sides costs $2.49 à la carte in my area. You can also add one of these bad boys to your combo instead of fries in exchange for one picture of George Washington.
Before I tell you whether these new sides are delicious, I must tell you that I did not try the Baked Sweet Potato. That sort of thing just ain’t my bag, baby. If that sort of thing is your bag, you should know that they “fresh bake them for an hour in their kitchen,” and it comes with an “all-natural buttery cinnamon spread.” Although, if it really was all-natural, wouldn’t they just call it a cinnamon butter spread? One can only surmise from their omission of the word butter that it does not actually contain butter. Moving on.
First up is the Chili Cheese Fries. I’m not sure why they’ve never had these before; the ingredients have been there since Wendy’s inception. Truth be told, I don’t like Wendy’s fries. I didn’t like them before sea salt, and I don’t like them after. They’re just…I don’t know. I don’t like them, alright?! I also don’t care for their chili. I prefer a thick chili, mainly consisting of beef and beans, with any vegetables being a small accent. Wendy’s chili, on the other hand, is more of a soup with equal parts veggies, beef, and beans. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much. Then again, it’s kind of hard to screw up Chili Cheese Fries. They’re like pizza; even when it’s bad, it’s still Chili Cheese Fries.
Wendy’s describes their Chili Cheese Fries as such:
Wendy’s natural cut fries with sea salt that are covered in a sauce made with Cheddar cheese and real milk, Wendy’s famous rich and meaty chili and then topped with real shredded Cheddar cheese.
Right off the bat I was impressed by the size of this side. I think these Chili Cheese Fries could be an entire meal for someone with a smaller-than-average appetite. It would be a solid value even at $3.49, let alone $2.49. I also noticed that mine were not topped with shredded Cheddar cheese as promised. So it goes.
I have to say that in the case of these Chili Cheese Fries, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Mediocre fries topped with mediocre chili somehow equals decent Chili Cheese Fries. The star of the dish is, without question, the chili. I mentioned that I’m not a fan of Wendy’s chili, but if nothing else, it is flavorful. My main gripe with it is that it’s soupy, but the fries give it some necessary substance. The cheese sauce was meh; I hardly noticed it. The fries in the middle and at the bottom were very soggy, but I didn’t really mind. Their fries aren’t all that crunchy anyway. I found these Chili Cheese Fries to be much too salty, but that didn’t ruin the dish. On the Charles Barkley scale, I give these a “not turrible,” a.k.a. 6.5/10.
Next up: Mac & Cheese.
Large spiral noodles smothered with a cheese sauce made with fresh milk, fresh cream and real white Vermont Cheddar and American cheeses — all topped with real shredded Cheddar.
I have to tell you one of my deepest, darkest secrets: I fucking love cafeteria Mac & Cheese. You know, that kind where the noodles are somewhat overcooked, and they’re so soft you hardly notice them inside those gobs of gooey processed cheese sauce that if you consumed it regularly, your dog would probably have high cholesterol just by association. Any other kind of mac just can’t compare. Bacon bits? Whatever. Bread crumbs? Pass. I just want the kind that tastes like pure saturated fat.
That being said, this Mac & Cheese was spot on. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but it’s basically exactly what I just described and then some. It’s that perfect cheesy goop that probably goes straight into your arteries without being digested. The icing on the cake (or macaroni) was the shredded cheddar cheese on top. It was melted to perfection, and broke the monotony of the cheese sauce, giving the dish an extra bite. My only gripe with this Mac was the portion size. It paled in comparison to the relatively mammoth Chili Cheese Fries, but at the same price. I’m thinking $1.49 would be a decent value. In spite of that, I give this masterpiece a “call 911, I can’t feel my left arm” and a 9/10.
As with all unhealthy foods, your enjoyment of these new sides from Wendy’s hinges upon your food philosophy. You can eat gross things that come from the ground and possibly add years to your life, or you can eat delicious things that walk on the ground and take years off of it. But life is so fickle. It can be gone in an instant. If you die tomorrow, you’ll be pissed you didn’t eat those Chili Cheese Fries. Any meal could be your last. Do you want your last meal to be tofu, or Macaroni & Cheese?