“Intensely bizarre request,” I texted my boyfriend in the middle of the day on Monday. “Can we go to Wendy's tomorrow night for dinner? I have to taste test this wacky ghost pepper sandwich and fries they're currently offering for work.” I don't always taste test every weird fast food item I write or read about; however, I was intrigued enough by these two options — and so, apparently, were many of you, Gentle Readers — that I decided I had to go out and find out what Wendy's Ghost Pepper Fries taste like for myself. And hey, while I was at it, why not find out what Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich tastes like, too, right? In for a penny, in for a pound and all that.
Both my boyfriend and I love spicy food; additionally, we're also both usually game for trying new things. So, since A) both of Wendy's new ghost pepper offerings hit menus nationwide on April 20, and B) Tuesday night is usually “Let's go out so I don't have to cook” night at our house, last night seemed like the perfect time to hit up our nearest Wendy's and give these suckers a shot. Here's how it went:
On their own, the Ghost Pepper Fries cost $1.99 and the Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich cost $4.99. If you want to go nuts, though, you can get a combo; this is what I did, since I knew I was going to be testing both. The standard Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich combo just features the sandwich, an order of regular, non-ghost pepper fries, and a drink; for an extra 50 cents, though, you get both the ghost pepper sandwich and the ghost pepper fries along with a drink. All told, the combo cost me $7.99 plus tax.
Once the food arrived (remarkably quickly even for a fast food joint, I might add), it was time to get down to business. Since the selling point for both these is really the ghost pepper sauce, I tested it out on its own first by sticking a (clean, freshly washed) finger in the top of my fries and licking the sauce off. I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sure what to expect; given that one of its primary ingredients is buttermilk, I wondered vaguely whether it was going to taste like ghost pepper ranch dressing (whatever “ghost pepper ranch dressing” might be). Ultimately that's not quite what it is… and to be honest, it mostly just tastes spicy. Not like any particular type of spice; just spicy.
Although it does have a bit of a kick, it's far from unbearable — which, I would argue, is to be expected from a chain restaurant. No one wants to deal with a menu item so spicy that it becomes a health risk or a liability. My boyfriend described it as “kind of like the sauce they used on the Volcano Tacos,” an item formerly on the Taco Bell menu before being phased out in favor of the Doritos Locos Taco in 2013.
After trying to sauce solo, I went for the fries next. There's a lot of dairy on these things — cheddar cheese sauce, actual shredded cheddar, and the buttermilk-based ghost pepper sauce — so if you're lactose intolerant or otherwise sensitive to milk products, you might want to steer clear. They're visually pretty appealing, though; the fries are fresh, the dish is artfully arranged, and the bright green of the diced jalapenos stands out nicely from the orange shades of the cheese and sauces. Perhaps most extraordinarily, they actually look like the image of them currently posted on Wendy's Facebook page:
One thing to note, though: The fries are a lot less spicy than the sauce is on its own. This is to be expected; potatoes are starches, and starches soak up and dissolve capsaicin, the chemical that causes that burning sensation in your mouth when you eat spicy foods. Don't get me wrong; they're quite tasty—just don't expect them to be mind-blowingly hot. Also, like all loaded fries, they're messy, so I suggest eating them with a fork. Yes, I know eating fries with a fork is akin to eating pizza with a fork — but trust me. It's going to make the process a whole lot easier.
And now for the main event. Admittedly, the Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich doesn't like quite as much like the picture in real life; that's usually the case with fast food, though, so I can't really give it too hard a time about it. But guess what? I was pleasantly surprised! I don't typically order fast food chicken sandwiches; the meat often feels rubbery to me, which isn't exactly appetizing. Wendy's spicy chicken breast, however? It's good, man. It's nicely crispy on the outside, moist on the inside (apologies if you're one of the legions who can't stand the word “moist”), and — most importantly — it isn't at all rubbery. That's a major win in my book.
And as for everything on top of it? It all blends nicely together. Like the fries, there are a couple of types of cheeses — cheddar sauce and a slice of colby pepper jack, namely — along with some diced jalapenos and (of course) the ghost pepper sauce; additions the sandwich features that the fries do not include sliced red onion and a “cheddar jalapeno bun.” To be honest, the bun just tasted like a regular ol' bun to me; additionally, the bread definitely cut the heat considerably. But it does still make your mouth tingle, and the cheeses and the buttermilk-based sauce make the whole thing pleasingly tangy.
So: How Spicy Is It?
Another gem from my boyfriend: “Is it going to make me cry tears? Probably not.” If you're accustomed to spicy foods, you probably won't be terribly impressed by either of these options. Again, though, there's really only so much we can expect from a chain restaurant when it comes to spiciness; furthermore, I'm sure that for some —probably a lot of the folks who live in my suburban Southern New Jersey area — Wendy's ghost pepper fries and sandwich probably will register as quite spicym indeed. And you now what? Both items are pretty tasty. My bar for fast food meals isn't set very high, but the Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich in particular exceeded expectations. Well done!
I should probably note here that, while I polished off the sandwich with ease, I didn't quite manage to finish off the fries. This wasn't because of the spiciness of the meal, though; I was just really full by that point, because good gravy, that's a lot of food.
Would I order either of these things again? Well, I probably wouldn't actively seek it out, but that's just because I don't eat a whole lot of fast food on a regular basis. If I were in the middle of a road trip and Wendy's was the nearest place to stop for a bite, though? Heck yes, I would order them again (although likely just one or the other, rather than both). You could do a lot worse in a pinch.
Oh, and just for the record, a medium soda at Wendy's is huge. Seriously. Mine was big enough that I felt compelled to take a photo of it in order to capture its gargantuan nature (iPhone for scale):
Images: Lucia Peters (6); Wendy's/Facebook