In elementary school, I had the brilliant idea* to do pizza comparison for a science fair project. My family got five frozen pepperoni pizzas of different brands, and to my nine-year-old eyes this was the most heavenly manna imaginable. I learned a valuable lesson that year: tasting and rating food that you already know you like is awesome, especially when someone else is paying.
My recent french fry comparison was not as premeditated, scientific or thrilling. It occurred because I spent a lot of time on Ohio highways this Thanksgiving, and I didn’t pack snacks. At a Wendy’s somewhere outside Toledo, a big billboard advertised that Wendy’s fries were now both new AND improved, owing the recent addition of sea salt in the recipe. It was as I stared at the billboard that I knew I would have to have a french fry face-off.
So here are the fries we tried over break! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!
McDonalds: Ok, did these fries change or did I grow up? When I was little, I remember the fries being more exciting than the main course. Now, a McDonald french fry looks like the peter of some wretched, malnourished gnome: gray, droopy, and shriveled. There’s not quite bad enough to NOT eat, but one mostly finishes these fries to put them out of their misery. Their only useful function is as a ketchup delivery device, but any good restaurant critic knows there is no shame in using one’s finger for this.
Wendy’s: Sea salt! Sea salt! Oh boy! Actually, I’m still unconvinced that “sea salt” is any different from regular salt, other than one sounds pretentious. At any rate, these fries were basically the same as McDonald’s fries. I thought perhaps they seemed a bit more golden crispy and bit less wet-Kleenex-droopy, but maybe that was the advertisement influencing my mind.
Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes: Delicious! Also, not French Fries.
The Church Brew Works: The sweet potatoes fries with chipotle ketchup are still my number one reason to go to the Church Brew Works. Crispy, and delectable, their sugars of the sweet potato all melding with the spicy tang of the dip, these fries are the good kind of filling. You feel warm and pampered. Your stomach says “You just ate all these fries and that’s ok, because you deserve it, because you are an OK guy. I’m gonna let you have this one without gastro-intestinal retribution.” Brew Works fries get an A in my book any day, but for the purposes of this competition, it really isn’t fair to compare sit-down restaurant fries with fast food ones.
Grade: Disqualified (but victors in my heart)
Hardee’s: Not bad, Hardee’s. Out of all of the fries, these are the puffiest, thick with a crispy shell surrounding a soft middle. Because of their girth, they seemed to stay warm longer than those of the other two fast food places, which quickly lose their body heat and turn green. (Man, all of the descriptions in the paragraph so far sound like turtles.) Hardee’s fries still aren’t too many evolutionary steps beyond ketchup spoons, but at least they don’t fill a soul with despair.
So, on the recommendation of “not soul-crushing,” Hardee’s fries win the first ever face-off! Way to go Hardee’s! I’ll be back soon, provided I’m on the Ohio turnpike and forgot to bring a snack and there isn’t, like, a Panera’s nearby.
WINNER: Hardee’s French Fries
*At least I think it was my idea. It could have been a parent who was tired of cooking.