Side dishes are often the real star of mealtime. Take Thanksgiving, for example. Many people prefer side dishes such as mashed potatoes and stuffing over the main event, turkey. That sometimes rings true when dining out, as well. While some people flock to their favorite steakhouse for the beef, others can't get enough of the mac and cheese or creamed spinach that accompany the main course.
When it comes to sides, potato dishes rank supreme. And given the multitude of potato presentations—from baked to fried to mashed—it's no wonder that the masses find appeal in the humble spuds. The starchy crop has been around for centuries, so it's a bit surprising that baked potatoes weren't served in the United States until the early 20th century. Indeed, it wasn't until the head of the Northern Pacific Railway began serving baked potatoes to travelers in 1908 that the dish really took off. Luckily, we get to reap the benefits.
Baked potatoes give you that much-needed dose of carbs, and they present endless possibilities. Once your tater is smothered in warm butter and sprinkled with a little salt, the sky's the limit. While loaded potatoes often seem to outshine their simpler brethren, baked potatoes serve as the perfect canvas for your favorite flavors.
Whether you prefer to keep it plain or top your potato with a handful of chives or cheddar, this dish can go as healthy or as gluttonous as you desire. So, where to go when that comfort craving hits?
From national steakhouses to fast-food kingpins, here are five of the most iconic chain restaurant baked potatoes your money can buy.
Wendy's is known as one of the only fast food chains that dishes out baked potatoes. This side has been a staple on its menu since the 1980s when it was first introduced as a healthier alternative to french fries. Nowadays, Wendy's sells approximately one million baked potatoes every week, so it must be doing something right.
Wendy's told Thrillist in 2017 that it bakes its potatoes the old-fashioned way—by wrapping its spuds in tinfoil and cooking them in the oven.
Diners can order up a plain baked potato, or add extras such as butter, sea salt, chives, and sour cream at no additional charge. Besides plain, options include sour cream and chive baked potatoes, cheese baked potatoes, chili and cheese baked potatoes, and bacon cheese baked potatoes.
When the restaurant that became the first Applebee's launched in Atlanta in 1980, who would've thought it would grow to have almost 2,000 U.S. and worldwide locations? As Applebee's is known for its classic American fare, it's no surprise that it offers an American staple: a side of baked potato topped with butter and sour cream. For those who want a traditional, creamy potato, this is your move. However, if you want to take things up a notch, the chain also offers a loaded baked potato that comes with melty cheese and crispy bacon.
Touted as "a brewhouse born from the best hand-crafted pizza joint around," BJ's Restaurant serves up more than just its famous deep-dish pizzas. Here, you can pair your glass of ice-cold beer with a healthy helping of baked potato, served with a side of butter, sour cream, and green onions. It doesn't get more classic than that. To sweeten the deal, you can end your meal with BJ's acclaimed Pizookie—the restaurant's fresh take on a skillet cookie that comes in tons of flavors.
This one-time family-owned restaurant now boasts more than 700 locations around the world. While the star of the show is undoubtedly the lobster, no entrée is complete without sides. After being in business for more than 50 years, Red Lobster is no stranger to keeping its customers happy with sides everyone loves. For example, there's the restaurant's baked potato, which comes with a heap of butter and sour cream. Plus, there is a creamy lobster baked potato option that comes with both Maine lobster and langostino meat, as well as a creamy lobster beurre blanc sauce atop it.
Southwestern cuisine reigns supreme at Texas Roadhouse, one of America's fastest-growing restaurant chains. Since the '90s, Texas Roadhouse has enticed customers with its hand-cut steaks, country dinners, and slabs of ribs—plus, of course, its hunger-busting side dishes. The Texas Roadhouse baked potato—which you can order plain or loaded up with butter and sour cream, as well as additional toppings such as bacon bits, Texas red chili, and cheddar cheese—is a fan favorite. In fact, one fan on Reddit wrote that the chain's baked potato is "a culinary masterpiece that perfectly balances simplicity and indulgence." How's that for an endorsement?