Few questions in American society are met with a resounding "yes" more often than, "Would you like fries with that?" -- partly because we have serious self-control issues, but also because fries are delicious. So, yes. Fries. Obviously.
But which fast food fries are the best? We all need to know.
A few ground rules. This is a discussion of potatoes, not condiments. A place might do some amazing chili cheese fries but that's for another day that involves more Tums. Also, to be considered, a chain has to have either a national reach, or have developed a robust enough regional following to merit discussion. And for me to have eaten them. On with the rankings!
10. Wendy's made a bold move to "natural cut" fries with "sea salt" in recent years in an effort to convince patrons they were at a farmer's market rather than a massive chain restaurant. My experience has been the opposite. Wendy's former fries were nothing to write home about (and believe me, I have had plenty of French fry-related correspondence with my parents over the years), but they were perfectly pleasant and paired delightfully with being shoved into a frosty. These new characters have this odd, barely-present-but-definitely-there chemical taste that seems off, visible flecks of potato skin notwithstanding. Am I crazy? (Does some quick research.) It appears I am not. Honestly, just get a Junior Bacon or two instead of fries. Or another Baconator! Those are really good.
9. Much like the whole thing with Hardee's & Carl's Jr. being sort of the same restaurant but not really kinda confuses me, their fry situation does as well. They have solid-but-unspectacular curlies and some pretty decent regular fries, but, what's this... Carl's Jr. apparently has sweet potato fries instead of the curly? Does this have something to do with regional preference? I think the whole operation needs to form a clearer fry-dentity (note to self: trademark "fry-dentity"). However, they should absolutely keep having Kate Upton eat burgers in cars all sexily.
8. I remember a few years back when Burger King made a big commotion about their fries beating those of a certain golden-arched competitor in a nationwide taste test. Teenage me was highly suspicious then, and remains so. If French fries were subject to rigorous sabermetric analysis (stay with me), BK's would be the replacement fries used in VORF (value over replacement fries), able to do the job (kind of) but, ultimately, nothing too exciting.
7. Oh, what to do with you, Sonic. Your run-of-the-mill fries leave me cold and disinterested. But your tater tots? Oh, your tater tots are pure potato magic, crunchy and soft and salty and WHY DO I STILL HAVE TO DRIVE LIKE 40 MILES TO THE NEAREST SONIC WHEN YOU'VE BEEN SHOWING ADS HERE NON-STOP FOR LIKE A DECADE?! Sorry for yelling. Anyway, while I appreciate their tot mastery, tater tots are just a little bit too far outside the framework of what can properly be considered a French fry to be any higher on the list.
6. Steak 'N Shake has the thinnest cut fries of any major chain I've encountered, which means they're excellent at throwing off that "oh, you can totally eat just a few more of me" vibe, even if you're foolishly tackling a seven-patty burger. I'm subtracting a few points because I often find them just a touch underdone.