If you ever find yourself sitting around your apartment bored with friends, pulling out the classic board game checkers is a great way to kill time. Now, if you ever find yourself sitting around your apartment trying to figure out where to grab a bite to eat, Checkers also makes for a great option. The chain stormed the fast-food market in the early 1990s, offering a simple and affordable menu that helped drive business away from competitors. The brains of the outfit, a successful real estate developer from Alabama named James E. Mattei, came up with the idea after realizing a massive chunk of the sales from two Wendy’s franchises he owned came from the drive-through windows, and the items that sold the most were burger combination meals. So, he ditched the expensive menu items, large parking lots, and unnecessary dining rooms to build Checkers. (You may also know it as Rally’s.)
Over the years, Checkers, like any restaurant, saw its fair share of both ups and downs, but they always stayed true to their plan to ensure the food was simple and affordable. However, this simplistic mindset doesn’t mean everything they serve is a grand slam. Sometimes you order a meal only to find it was a big swing-and-a-miss. If you find yourself standing in line at your nearest Checkers, here are seven things you should absolutely indulge in and seven you should keep at a safe distance from your stomach.
Best: Smoky BBQ Bacon Buford Burger
Sometimes you’re simply craving the taste of a basic burger, so you have no problem sticking to something simple and predictable. However, there are other times when you want something so meaty and stacked-to-the-brim with fixings you’ll need a forklift to hoist you out of your seat by the time you finish. That’s why people seeking the latter experience need to look no further than the Smoky BBQ Bacon Buford Burger. This bad boy is loaded with all sorts of flavor intensity, and it’s sure to put a quick end to that food-induced coma craving you have.
This behemoth doesn’t come with just one measly patty. One-patty burgers are for amateurs. This towering pile of deliciousness has two 100% beef patties hand-seasoned to perfection. Then, to kick your salivary glands up from 10 to 11, Checkers adds Swiss cheese, two crispy strips of smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and another layer of crispy bacon crumbles, because why the heck not? Of course, no burger is complete without an amazing condiment, and the good folks at Checkers put both sweet and smoky barbecue sauce and smoky mayo for a one-two punch of flavor that compliments the rest of the ingredients perfectly. Checkers’ website describes it as a "bigger, bolder, and better way to do burgers." They’re so not wrong.
Worst: Boneless Wings
Chicken wings and parties go together like presents and Christmas. Neither celebration would be the same without them. Bring a plate of sauced-up wings into a room and people flock to it like seagulls on a beach who just saw someone drop their lunch. But, when a batch of wings is less than satisfactory, you can almost feel the collective disappointment surging through everyone’s appetite in the room. That’s why if you plan on ordering up a tray of those suckers, avoid doing your whole gathering a huge disservice by choosing Checkers as the spot to snag them.
It’s unfortunate because Checkers does have great sounding flavors. You can order angry or medium buffalo (depending on your spice tolerance), garlic parmesan, or sweet and smoky barbecue. Now, while those flavors sound enticing, the end result isn’t. The boneless wings are small, which means not a lot of meat. Yes, they are boneless, so you don’t have to worry about bones occupying space inside, but the meat is also dry. Nearly the entire morsel is just the crisp outer breading, and no matter how much sauce you put on them, you’re left wishing you opted for something else.
Best: Baconzilla Burger
"Warning: there will be bacon." This is the first sentence of this burger’s description on Checkers’ website, so you can’t say you weren’t given a fair warning after choosing to take this bacon-filled plunge. Sometimes the only way to enhance a burger is to stack up more meat on it, and Checkers loves to play by this rule here. Oftentimes restaurants give you a measly couple slices of bacon on your patty, but when you’re in the mood for those crispy savory strips of hog, two pieces never does the job. That’s why Checkers doubles down and puts four super-thick slices on top of two 100% beef patties for your eating pleasure.
But, that’s only the beginning of why the Baconzilla Burger is a guaranteed slam dunk. Not only are there two kinds of meat, but there are two kinds of cheese, as well. Two slices of American join hands with melted cheddar to give you a cheesy kick in the mouth while you’re savoring all that delicious meat. A little ketchup and mayo finish the whole thing off and viola! You have yourself a burger that would easily reign terror on a city if it grew arms and legs.
Worst: Spicy Chicken Double Sandwich
A spicy chicken sandwich, much of the time, is a pretty safe bet when you go to a fast-food joint. The patties are simply dropped in a deep fryer, then plopped onto a moist bun and topped with fixings that pair well with the chicken. When you’re just not feeling that hankering for a beef burger, chicken is usually a winning second option. That is, unless you tempt fate and order the Spicy Double Chicken Sandwich from Checkers. Sadly, after a couple of bites you realize it’s not a top-tier fast food chicken sandwich.
The biggest problem with the sandwich is the chicken, which is a shame because it’s clearly supposed to be the focal point of the whole performance. The all-white meat is dry, and no amount of mayo Checkers adds can sufficiently fix the issue (plus, no one wants a mayo-drenched sandwich anyway). Sure, there’s iceberg lettuce and American cheese, but all that falls to the wayside when you take that frustrating bite into the patties. Plus, there are two patties, so it’s doubly dry. The description of the sandwich on Checkers’ website says, "Cluck the game up." Unfortunately, they go the opposite direction and cluck it way down.
Best: Bacon BBQ Mother Cruncher Chicken Sandwich
As great as burgers are, sometimes you find yourself feeling a bit … over-burgered. We’ve all been there at some point. You still crave something delicious nestled between two buns, but red meat just doesn’t seem too appealing. So, you direct your appetite to the next best thing: chicken, of course! Now, it might seem a little blasphemous to show up at a burger joint with chicken on the noggin, but when you’re faced with the Bacon BBQ Mother Cruncher Chicken Sandwich from Checkers, there’s something about opting for chicken over beef that just feels right.
This sandwich is perfect for someone who wants more cluck in their meal but still has a craving for a lovely barbecue flavor, as well. The all-white breast of chicken is coated in an extremely crispy breading so every bite you take has that amazing sound of teeth crunching through the golden exterior before sinking into the juicy meat.
Atop the breast is a healthy drizzle of sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, shredded iceberg lettuce, melted American cheese, two strips of bacon, and frizzled onions. The salty kick of the crispy onions adds a savory layer of flavor to an already fantastic combination. Plus, that’s one more vegetable on your sandwich — perhaps you can convince yourself it’s not so unhealthy.
Worst: Grilled Hot Dog
The greatest thing about hot dogs is the seemingly endless combinations of toppings you can throw on them. Sticking with just ketchup and mustard is an amateur move when you can add grilled onions, avocado, relish, chili, or even cream cheese in some cases. The mixing and matching is endless, so do yourself a favor the next time you’re out seeking a frankfurter and live a little! You only have one life here on Earth so don’t waste it with a boring dog! This is exactly why it’s a terrible move to order the plain Grilled Hot Dog from Checkers. You want way more flavors in your life than it offers, so give it a hard pass every time.
The hot dog itself isn’t bad. It’s meaty and plump and nestles nicely in the warm bun. However, it’s the lack of great fixings that takes it down so many notches. Ketchup and mustard are the only condiments on it, and that makes for a meal that leaves so much extra to be desired. Hey, maybe just some simple condiments are what you’re seeking, but if you’re dining out somewhere, you have to order up something you can’t easily throw together in your own kitchen. Checkers claims it’s "better than a ballpark," but they couldn’t lead you more astray.
Best: Deep-Sea Double Fish Sandwich
It might seem strange to feel the urge to kick the turf and head for the surf when pondering your culinary move in line at Checkers. Checkers is known for their burgers, after all. But, when that urge takes its vice-grip hold of your stomach, the only thing you can do is succumb to its power and navigate your way to an aquatic meal that’ll leave you forgetting Checkers even sold burgers in the first place. Ladies and gentlemen, we present you the Deep-Sea Double Fish Sandwich! By the time you’re finished tackling this thing, you’ll be singing sea shanties all the way home.
Now, this fast food fish sandwich is pretty straightforward. Checkers doesn’t throw any curveballs at you, but that’s totally okay. The best part is there are two super crispy filets stacked up, so you get a hefty amount of fish in every bite. The fish inside the fried breading is perfectly flaky, so it falls apart the way it should. The melted American cheese on the filets lends a creaminess to the crispiness, and the juxtaposing textures work perfectly together. Add a little iceberg lettuce for a fresh crunch of greens, and finally the tartar sauce swoops in and brings everything together under one bun. Sometimes you surf, and sometimes you turf. This time, you surf.
Worst: Monstrella Stix
Let’s be honest, if it was up to most of the world, they’d want the bottom layer of the food pyramid to exist of one word only: cheese. There are so many different amazing ways to incorporate cheese into a meal, and sometimes you even just want your entire meal to consist of one intricately displayed cheese board. A love of cheese is exactly why so many people order up mozzarella sticks as a savory appetizer when they go out to eat. It’s not just the outer breading, but that log of gooey cheese in the middle hits your palate like a delicious dart landing smack-dab in the middle of a bullseye. But, if you catch yourself eyeing the Monstrella Stix at Checkers, just know you won’t even come close to succumbing to that amazing feeling.
The gooey center that should exist in the middle of each deep-fried stick is nowhere to be found. Even though the crisp outer breading feels hot on your fingers, the log of queso that lives inside isn’t even close to the same temperature, so you’re basically biting into a piece of room-temperature string cheese with a deep fried coating. It’s exactly what you don’t want in a mozzarella stick. Sure, you could dunk them in the marinara sauce that comes on the side for a slightly warmer texture, but it’s best to turn and run the other way if an order of these hits your table.
Best: Chili Dog
Hot dogs are one of those foods you really shouldn’t eat often. They tend to hold a lot of salt and fat, and unfortunately, our bodies aren’t built to withstand huge sodium or saturated fat intake (in a perfect world, maybe). However, sometimes you have to look the food pyramid in the eye and tell it to scram for an afternoon while you treat yourself to all that stuff doctors urge you to avoid. That’s where Checkers comes into play with their Chili Dog. It’s the kind of occasional meal that smacks your cholesterol in its face and trudges through your arteries in the most delicious way possible.
On the Checkers website, they bet "you thought we couldn’t fit any more flavor between the bun." Well, they fully intended on proving you wrong, and they certainly did with this creation of savory proportions. The all-beef dog itself is so plump it barely even fits in the bun, but somehow the great people at Checkers figured out how to make it work. The handheld vessel of beef is then ladled with meaty chili before some ketchup, mustard, and diced red onions join the party. It’s one food item that mentally whisks you away to a sports game, and that’s a food feeling worth exploring.
Worst: Fully Loaded Fries
Anytime you see the word "loaded" in front of a menu item, you darn well expect it to live up to its name. "Loaded" is synonymous with the words, "heaping piles of extra fixings dumped on top that make it a sight to behold, and an even bigger sight to feast upon." So, it’s natural when you see the Fully Loaded Fries on the Checkers menu you prepare for a mega-load of toppings on their seasoned fries so extreme it’ll likely leave you forgetting you even ordered anything else. Not the case here, sadly. The fries come with cheese sauce, ranch, and bacon crumbles, but neither of those three can muster up the energy to make this item worth paying for.
The main issue with the fires — and this is a huge one — is the complete disregard for the distribution of toppings. The goal should always be to disperse them in such a way that every fry has a little bit of everything, so no matter where on the tray you grab one from, you get the full "loaded" experience. However, with these, the ranch, cheese, and bacon are all dumped right in the center, leaving the fries in the middle overly soggy and the ones on the outskirts completely devoid of anything. It’s so far from the fantasy you have in your head when you think of anything "loaded."
Best: Cheesecake Sunday
Nothing hits the spot more than a sweet treat after a savory meal. The balance of sweet and savory plays perfectly on your palate, and after a rich burger or fried chicken sandwich, your mouth craves an opposite flavor to cut through the fat and salt, leaving it feeling refreshed. That’s why at Checkers, make sure to leave room for dessert because they have some great offerings. One of the best options is the Cheesecake Sundae, and how could it not be? An entire cup full of cheesecake is the perfect ending to a splendid Checkers outing, and with three different flavors to choose from, you’d be silly not to grab a spoon and traverse the sugary terrain.
If you’re feeling like having a little bit of fruit after a heavy meal, the Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae is the move. Strawberries nestled in with the cheesecake make for a sweet fruity bite with each spoonful. But, if you’re feeling like getting your sugar rush on the proper way, opt for the Fudge Cheesecake Sundae or the Caramel Cheesecake Sundae. Whichever you end up choosing you certainly won’t regret it. In fact, order an extra one for later. Just don’t tell your dentist.
Worst: Chicken Bites and Fries Box
A combination meal is always an enticing way to go when you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck. So why not look towards the Chicken Bites and Fries Box when you find yourself scratching your head at Checkers over what to order? You get bite-sized all-white meat nuggets and a handful of seasoned fries. How could you go wrong? Well, as it turns out, you can go wrong in more ways than one, and it’s a double-whammy of pure disappointment.
Simplicity is the name of the game with this combo option, and unfortunately simplicity is also its downfall. The nuggets Checkers uses are the opposite of the "crispiest, juiciest, and most perfectly seasoned" like the claim on its website makes. The meat is dry and the breading is too overpowering. They do have a variety of dipping sauces to choose from like barbecue, ranch, honey mustard, and buffalo, but even giving them a bath in one of the sauces doesn’t make them worth the investment. Even with the addition of fries, it’s wise to shell out your cash on something else since many other great options are at your fingertips.
Best: Funnel Cake Fries
Ahh, the state fair. A place where you’d spend an afternoon with your friends trying to win those huge stuffed animals from carnival games (but never did), riding the tilt-a-whirl until your brain got so dizzy you couldn’t walk straight afterward, and indulging in some of the greatest deep-fried foods in the world. Yeah, the fair was always a great time. But, as everyone knows, your day just wasn’t complete without burying your face into a plate of funnel cake. Luckily, Checkers is well-aware of how important that moment was, so they added something to their menu to give us all the nostalgia of a lively state fair: funnel cake fries.
If you order up a serving of funnel cake at a fair (like you always should), it usually comes as a warm and fluffy powdered sugar-dusted disk on a paper plate. Checkers, however, wanted to make a more transportable version. Instead of plopping it on a plate, they roll each piece of dough into a fry shape and serve them all in an easy-to-carry fry container. You get 10 funnel cake fries complete with a hefty dusting of that powdered sugar to make you feel like an excited kid at a carnival all over again.
Worst: Cheese Champ Burger
The word "champ" should not be thrown around lightly. If you carry the title of champion, then you better be the best at what you do. So, if you’re daring enough to put the word in between "cheese" and "burger," one would only expect to take a bite into an award-winning handful of flavor and remember it long after they finish. However, Checkers throws that word around a little too loosely with their Cheese Champ Burger. It’s an accolade this menu item is utterly undeserving of in the most epic way possible.
So, here’s the deal: The burger isn’t bad. Let’s get that straight. It’s just nothing special, and with a word like "champ" in its name, that’s exactly what you need from it. The 100% beef patty is layered in American cheese, tomato, red onion, pickles, iceberg lettuce, ketchup, mayo, and mustard (the Holy Trinity of condiments). But, there’s nothing about that combination that offers any kind of "WOW" factor, and that’s why when Checkers states, "All hail the king," on their website, the last thing on your mind is giving it any kind of praise.