There’s no denying that a meal from one of your favorite fast food restaurants just hits the spot every once in a while. Juicy burgers, nuggets, and chicken sandwiches are all staple menu items at quick-service eateries across the country, and you can almost guarantee it’s best accompanied by a delicious side order of fries.
Even if you love french fries, it sometimes only seems like you have a 10-minute window to indulge in the traditional fast food side dish before it starts getting soggy, cold, and ultimately, inedible. Fortunately, there’s one fast food chain that offers you a tasty alternative to french fries when you’re looking to get your potato fix and make it last — Wendy’s. According to Taste of Home, this restaurant chain keeps baked potatoes firmly on the menu, as they have for close to 40 years. With such an iconic offering, don’t wait to try this unique side.
When did Wendy’s start serving baked potatoes?
Square-shaped burgers and Frostys were at the helm of Wendy’s menu when its premier location opened up in 1969, but it wasn’t long before the chain started offering food that would appeal to those looking for a healthier meal (via Wendy’s). The fast food eatery installed salad bars in 1979 to allow customers the option of going green, and a few years later in 1983, the chain’s famous baked potato came along to give patrons another lighter option that could accompany their chili, or even be made into a meal of its own.
The restaurant eventually phased out the salad bar, but the loaded spud and its myriad of toppings stayed put. As of 2017, Thrillist reported that the restaurant was selling a whopping one million potatoes every week, but, despite the impressive sales, the chain might still be looking to do away with its most underrated menu item. In February 2019, Redditor u/AbideMan said they received an email survey inquiring about how they’d react to the discontinuation of the side item (via Reddit). In September 2020, another Redditor shared that their Wendy’s location in West Virginia was actually phasing baked potatoes out. If you love this one-of-a-kind side, make sure to get them while they’re hot and still on menus.
Where can you find Wendy’s baked potatoes?
If Wendy’s does decide to do away with their baked potatoes, it would truly be a disservice to spud fans across the country. Aside from a select 250 Arby’s locations scattered around the U.S. and Canada that serve baked potatoes, the chain remains to be the sole fast food eatery to dish out this side at almost every freestanding Wendy’s (via Thrillist). While you can grab this item across multiple countries, Taste of Home reports that these items are not on the menu at the chain’s locations in Mexico.
Foodbeast estimates that the brand has been able to turn its spuds into a menu item that brings in around $2 million a week. Logistics plays a key role, according to Wendy’s VP of Culinary Innovation Lori Estrada, who explained to Thrillist that the chain’s baked potatoes have to cook for an hour in convection ovens that were installed into every restaurant location at a pretty hefty cost. "It’s a challenge, operationally, to be able to serve them, and have them ready for every customer who comes through our doors," Estrada said. "I can only guess that aspect has made it hard for other places to be willing to put something like this into production."
What do Wendy’s baked potatoes taste like?
You may be wondering if a Wendy’s baked potato is a worthy replacement for an order of the chain’s delicious fries. Considering that the chain sells nearly 52 million of these side items a year the numbers certainly point to yes (via Thrillist). Reviews posted to the internet are largely mixed, with some complaining of getting spuds that taste far from fresh, but there are plenty of people singing praises for the cult-favorite side dish as well. "Wendy’s baked potato has a special place in my heart," Twitter user @jessieavalos wrote, while another admitted, "I worked at Wendy’s for 5 years and I had my first Wendy’s baked potato today and I gotta say…I understand the hype," @joekemprowski tweeted.
News of the chain’s rumored plan to scrap their spuds had many fans showing their support for it as well, with one Redditor going as far as saying that they "might act up" if the side is removed. With so much love behind the item, you can guarantee some fans will not take the disappearance of this beloved side easily.
Are there different varieties of Wendy’s baked potato?
Part of what makes Wendy’s baked potato a great side dish is all of the customization options you have when ordering it. Thrillist reports that the base of each version is an 11.5-ounce potato, which is one of 10 priority food categories that the chain plans to collectively source responsibly by 2030 (via Wendy’s). They can, of course, be ordered completely plain so you can enjoy the deliciousness of the almighty spud in an unaltered fashion, though the chain also has four alternative varieties of the side item on its menu to treat your tastebuds to a next-level fast food meal. The Cheese Baked Potato comes topped with both a creamy cheese sauce and shredded cheddar, while the Bacon Cheese version adds Applewood smoked bacon into the mix as well, per Wendy’s menu. There is also the Sour Cream & Chive Baked Potato, and finally, the Chili & Cheese for when you crave a cup of their famous chili.
Options may differ depending on where you’re located when visiting a Wendy’s drive-thru as well. Canada, for example, doesn’t have as many baked potato variations, while Puerto Rico has a few toppings that are exclusive to the territory. You also have the ability to go off-menu with your spud order and the restaurant will top off their potatoes with anything typically found on any other menu item.
How much does a Wendy’s baked potato cost?
While cost does vary slightly depending on location, Price Listo reports that the average cost of a plain potato comes in around $2.24 before tax. The addition of toppings also has an effect on the price, with the Sour Cream & Chive baked potato being the cheapest variation that goes for around $2.29, while the heartier Chili & Cheese spud is the most expensive at an average price of $3.89. Considering that the brand’s VP of Culinary Innovation Lori Estrada tells Thrillist that the starchy side dish can easily be made into a "self-contained meal," it’s safe to say that this iconic side is one heck of a deal.
You also have the option of swapping out your french fries in your combo meal for any one of Wendy’s baked potatoes, which comes at the price of a small upcharge that varies depending on what type of spud you choose. Taking Estrada’s words again into consideration, this could be a way to transform one combo order into two separate meals for just a small cost, proving yet again that you can’t go wrong with this menu item.
Are Wendy’s baked potatoes nutritious?
Wendy’s budget-friendly baked potato is a fairly nutritious fast food meal — they were initially introduced to the menu as a healthier option for customers, after all. A plain Wendy’s potato without any of the trimmings contains 270 calories and 7 grams of both protein and fiber. "And you’ll be spared 10 times the amount of sodium and fat found in the junior-sized fries," registered dietician Kathy Siegel tells Eat This, Not That!. For those that crave more than just the taste of potato, registered dietician Sarah Hortman says the 320 calorie-filled Sour Cream & Chive flavor is a decent option as well. "This option contains complex carbohydrates, fiber (especially if you eat the potato skin), vitamins A and C, plus potassium, which naturally counterbalances sodium intake," she explained to Women’s Health.
According to Wendy’s, both the chain’s Cheese and Bacon baked potatoes fall in the under-500 calorie category, though the Chili & Cheese variety contains 500 calories exactly, as well as 840 milligrams of sodium and 14 grams of fat, per wendys.com. While it may be okay to enjoy one on its own for lunch or dinner every once in a while, Siegel warns against eating it in addition to one of the brand’s hamburgers or chicken sandwiches.