Great Leap Forward for Fast-Food French Fries

Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt

Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt

I Paid: $1.79 for a medium order of fries (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

The McDonald's restaurant chain conceived of a marketing masterstroke in 2006 when it started serving—drumroll here—decent coffee. A new move by Wendy's echoes the McDonald's plan: Take an unsexy linchpin product with big profit margins, shrink those margins a bit to offer a premium product, and see what it does for the brand overall.

Wendy's stab at this is the recent introduction of its Natural-Cut Fries. They're sliced up, skin-on russet potatoes that are cooked in non-trans-fat oil and sprinkled with sea salt, and they're a welcome change from the typical fast-food fry. These thinner, smaller fries are legitimately crispier, the potato flavor has real depth, and despite containing more salt than normal Wendy's fries (probably because the smaller fries actually have more collective surface area per ounce), they taste less aggressively salty than most of the competing products on the market.

It's not clear if consumers are necessarily searching these fries out, but here's hoping the new Natural-Cuts catch on—they're a breath of class and quality in a business sometimes dominated by a race to the bottom of the supply chain.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.