Wendy's New Signature Side Items Reviewed

By: Cooking Channel Staff
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Spring: It's usually a time that reminds us that bathing suit season is just around the corner. Wendy's is taking a different approach. They recently introduced three new signature sides made with "premium ingredients" that go against the grain: Macaroni & Cheese, Baked Sweet Potatoes and Chili Cheese Fries. We can admit that comfort food is a year-round craving for most people, and to be fair, Wendy's does offer several side salads, as well as apple slices on their menu.

But it was the calling for an extreme amount of melted cheese and a craving for brown sugar that had us take a field trip to a local Wendy's to try these new items. Indulging in fast food isn't something we'd recommend, but if you're on the road and have to partake in a drive-through outing, we're going to recommend you order certain items over others. Here's how everything rated:

The press release stated: 
  • Wendy’s Macaroni & Cheese features 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. (370 calories)
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes are U.S.-grown, handpicked and freshly baked in-store throughout the day. They’re served with a Buttery Cinnamon Spread on the side. (307 calories)
  • Chili Cheese Fries start with 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. (570 calories)

The Price: $2.79 each. (Manhattan, N.Y.; prices may vary.)

Macaroni & Cheese: three and a half stars

Large spiral noodles? Check. Smothered in cheese sauce? Check. Topped with cold, shredded cheddar cheese? We wish it wasn't. Macaroni and cheese just might be the ultimate comfort food. While we detected a slight chemical-like aftertaste, it was something we would have gotten at most pubs. The pasta was too mushy, and with the cheese sauce it was hard to distinguish that we were eating something solid. We did find ourselves going back for more. We'd give this side dish its other half of a star back if they skipped the shredded cheese, cooked the pasta al dente and added toasted bread crumbs on top for a texture balance.

Baked Sweet Potato: 0 stars

It's truly difficult to mess up a sweet potato, yet Wendy's pulled it off. If you take away the brown-sugar butter spread that comes with it, we would have awarded the dish three stars, but since Wendy's intended the two to go together, we have to be fair. Imagine this: Cinnabon sugar mixed with butter and something slightly sour. Technically, the combo should be heavenly, but two bites were the max for us. Whatever happened to plain brown sugar? Skip the spread and you'll be safe.

Chili Cheese Fries:

Honestly, we wondered why it took Wendy's so long to come out with a side dish that is essentially a combination of existing menu items. At its core, the flavor combinations work. If you're a fan of Wendy's chili, then these are a perfect late-night snack. Here's our biggest issue and why it didn't get four stars: The fries tasted old. It was almost as if the fries used in this dish were the "leftovers" under the heat lamp and not the fresh ones coming straight from the fryer. When you put something saucy on something already soft, it will inevitably get soggy, whether you're at a fast-food establishment, bar or restaurant. But it shouldn't be soggy from the very start.

Admittedly, if we had to eat any of these items again, the fries would be our pick — for just under $3, this side could easily feed two.

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