While we're not here to tell you what you should order the next time you're at Culver's, we can give you a good idea of which menu items you might want to skip. Culver's has some great menu items -- its Butterburgers and frozen custards are top-notch -- yet not everything on the menu is in the same tier.
Most of the items on our list of items to avoid are sides. Since getting bad sides can sometimes make or break a restaurant experience, you'll want to avoid the ones on our list or follow hacks to make them better. However, there are a few sandwiches and other main dishes on our list as well as one drink that might surprise long-time fans of the restaurant.
We surveyed a wide array of comments from both customers and Culver's employees about their favorite and least favorite Culver's menu items to give you a comprehensive list of which ones to avoid. We'll also explain our methodology in more detail at the end. We hope that this will help you make a more informed choice on your next trip to Culver's.
1. Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
If you're hoping for great mashed potatoes and gravy to go with your next fast food meal, then the sad truth is that you're probably going to be disappointed when ordering this particular menu item from Culver's. Some customers have found them to be surprisingly bad. They have the dubious honor of being the worst fast food mashed potatoes in our ranking.
The biggest problems are that they lack flavor and have a tendency to be lukewarm by the time they get to the table since they're plated first. Some customers have even noticed that their mashed potatoes are super hot on the outside and cold inside, almost as if they had been microwaved.
There is a hack you can use to make the mashed potatoes taste a little better. As an assistant manager at Culver's noted on Reddit, "Our mashed potatoes ARE pretty bland, but they're pretty good if you add a few tabs of butter and plenty of salt and pepper. They're only so bad because they're barely more than straight up mashed potato."
2. Crinkle Cut Fries
There's not a lot of love for Culver's Crinkle Cut Fries. You'd think that a place known for its burgers would have a stronger fry game, but if there's one menu item that nearly everyone agrees is the worst, it would be the fries. The Culver's menu claims that these will be served crispy and fresh to order, but customers note that they're often soggy.
To get around this, many customers say that you must ask for your fries to be "extra crispy," "well done," or "hard cooked." They report that you can tell if the fries have been cooked long enough if they're truly golden brown. However, if they're still not to your liking, we suggest choosing a better side item like onion rings next time.
If you've made the mistake of ordering the Crinkle Cut Fries without specifying that you want them extra crispy, there's still a way to redeem them. Ask for a side of Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce, as some report that these spuds are far more edible with this accompaniment. Cheese makes everything better, after all.
3. Steamed Broccoli
Even Culver's employees -- like this alleged worker writing on Reddit -- will tell you that the chain's take on broccoli isn't that great. After all, it's nothing but plain steamed broccoli. Even though Culver's is known for its Butterburgers, it's not putting any of that butter or seemingly anything else on its broccoli. What are you doing ordering Steamed Broccoli from your local Culver's anyway? When nearly everything else from the menu is buttered and fried, you might as well go all the way.
If you did make the mistake of ordering the broccoli, you can salvage it in much the same way you can salvage the chain's often limp fries. Simply ask the wait staff for some Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce to pour on top of the veggies. While some decry the sight of drowning your green stuff in sauce, sometimes you just have to add a bit of cheese sauce to make steamed broccoli better. Luckily, given that the restaurant originated in the dairy wonderland that is Wisconsin, the cheese sauce from Culver's is decent.
4. Wisconsin Cheese Curds
If you're going to Culver's expecting good cheese curds because it's a Wisconsin-based restaurant, you're probably going to be disappointed. The other dairy products on the menu are just fine, but a bevy of disappointed customers may urge you to skip the cheese curds. It's made all the more disappointing because, at one point, the cheese curds were slightly better. However, most customers find the latest version of this side to be downright terrible. The colder they get, the worse they seem to be, so you'll want to eat them the moment you get them if you insist on ordering this side. If you're doing carry-out, chow down on them during the drive home.
According to customers, the breading on the curds is thinner, seasoned, and more like crumbs than batter, while the cheese itself is now white and orange, indicating a different cheese than what the chain once used. According to one Redditor, "They used to taste like they weren't just frozen from a bag and now taste the same as what I can buy from Costco." Other people on the thread complained of overly small curds.
If you're looking for truly good cheese curds from a fast food chain, many say you'd be better off getting them from Freddy's or A&W. If you're in Wisconsin, Illinois, or Indiana, you also stand the chance of getting decent ones from Cousin's Subs. If you try them at Culver's anyway, don't say we didn't warn you.
While there was a time when the salads at Culver's were passable, reports indicate that they're not so good anymore. While a few burger places do salads well, most fast food restaurants that have good salads sell something else as their mainstay. At Culver's, you'd do better to choose anything but salad as your main course.
Part of the issue lies with the green. At the end of 2023, Culver's switched to a mixture of iceberg and romaine lettuce and added extra veggies like carrots and onions. Customers were soon unhappy. As an alleged Culver's employee said on Reddit, "In the 16ish hours ive worked since we got the new lettuce I've witnessed at least 4 people come in and ask for a refund on the salad. ... [T]hey honestly look so soggy with the new lettuce."
Compared to the old mix of green, the texture of iceberg and romaine doesn't work with many of the salads on the menu. This array clashes especially awkwardly with the Cranberry Bacon Bleu salad that features bleu cheese. Another employee who has also been dealing with unhappy salad customers pointed out on Reddit, this change was already unnecessary. "We could already substitute shredded lettuce for spring mix if someone really didn't want the OG salad lettuce," they wrote.
6. Root Beer (The New Version)
Culver's has been famous for having great root beer for a long time, but some people report that it's undergone a recent and unwanted change. The root beer labeled all these years as Culver's Root Beer is a special version of Rochester Root Beer, a brand that's been around since the 1880s when J. Hungerford Smith started making it for drug store soda fountains. Today, the company makes slightly different formulations for different restaurants. This means that, if you have root beer at another restaurant that uses this manufacturer, it won't taste quite like the version you get -- or once got -- at Culver's.
When Culver's changed from Pepsi products to Coke in January 2023, customers started to complain about a change in the root beer. Culver's still uses the syrup for Rochester Root Beer, but customers in some locations have noticed a difference, saying the root beer seems to taste stronger, more artificial, or closer to Barq's root beer. Some maintain that Coke machines use a different ratio of carbonated water to flavored syrup than the Pepsi machines did. So, whether you continue to like the root beer might be a matter of how the drink machines are set up in your local restaurant. If you're worried you might not like it, maybe get a Dr Pepper instead.
7. North Atlantic Cod Sandwich
Unlike many restaurants, Culver's keeps a fish sandwich on its menu for most of the year, in the form of its North Atlantic Cod Sandwich. Culver's also typically brings out a Northwoods Walleye Sandwich for Lent. The cod sandwich is fairly simple, featuring lettuce, cheddar cheese, and tartar sauce on a buttered bun. The tartar sauce is a little different, given that it contains not just pickle relish but also capers and olives. While it's not the worst fast food fish sandwich out there, it's also not among the best if you go by the array of customer reviews on the subject.
One common complaint about the sandwich is that the fish is rather bland and seriously lacking in seasoning. Some have also called it greasy or soggy. Others have complained about not getting much lettuce or tartar sauce either, but that's more likely to be an issue with a location and employees than a widespread franchise problem. However, when fish is so bland, you need all the other ingredients to step up and help it along.
With so few fast food spots offering fish sandwiches all year long, you'd hope that the ones that had them would be something special. What's more, given that this sandwich is one of the most expensive items on the Culver's menu, you'd it certainly should be better. While it's true that a small number of fish-loving customers like it a lot, more have found it to be infinitely skippable.
8. Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Whether or not you should skip the Buffalo Chicken Tenders from Culver's is up for debate. When they disappear off the menu, there are always some vocal fans of the tender who want them back. However, looking at input from a wider array of customers, the problem is that the quality isn't predictable. When they're good, people order them all the time. However, the reality is that quality is not always on point.
One big fan of the Buffalo Chicken Tenders was disappointed to find that quality to be subpar and took to Reddit to see if others had been experiencing the same. They said, "[D]uring my last few visits, the quality of the chicken seems, well, off. Sort of rubbery and flakey if that makes sense." Other fans of the tenders said that they'd experienced the same thing, with one customer even getting one that they described as slimy. One employee started to notice that the bags of Buffalo chicken they were getting at their restaurant weren't all the same quality, with some having smaller pieces of chicken with less meat than others. One customer who noticed a change tried ordering them extra crispy in the hopes that cooking it longer would make it better, but the plan seemed to backfire and produced unpleasant results.
While getting the Buffalo Chicken Tenders could be a good choice, we wouldn't chance it if you don't see recent positive reviews of this menu item from your local Culver's restaurant.
9. Harvest Veggie Burger
It's probably best to tamp down your excitement and expectations when it comes to Culver's Harvest Veggie Burger. While it's kind of exciting to find a veggie burger on the menu at a place that's so well known for its beef burgers, this one may not pass muster even for the vegetarians amongst us.
The burger has a roasted chickpea base, as well as peppers, mushrooms, and corn. It comes on a toasty, buttered bun with fresh tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, dill pickles, and mayo. You can add mustard, ketchup, or grilled onions for free, though if you'd like cheese or mushrooms, there's an upcharge. While it's not vegan, this seems like it should be great for vegetarians who don't like veggie burgers with a beef-like texture. Not so fast.
The flavor of the burger is fine but, unfortunately, the texture is offputting to quite a few reviewers. Even though the outside of the patty is browned from coming into contact with the grill, the inside is mushy with a texture that's more like a potato pancake than a burger. According to YouTuber theendorsement, "It's like if you took a Thanksgiving stuffing and you mixed a little bit of your corn in there and maybe some other vegetables and you put it on your fork or your spoon and you ate it." When we tried it, our reviewer said there was a possibility it could be improved if it were deep-fried.
10. Pork Loin Sandwich
If you look at photos of pork loin sandwiches from nearly any other restaurant, they look far more appetizing than the fried ones from Culver's. Granted, the toppings on its Pork Loin sandwich are up to you. You can choose an array of toppings that include pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo, raw or grilled onions, and lettuce, all of which come at no extra charge. You can even add tomatoes, mushrooms, or cheese if you're willing to pay a little more.
When grading menu items at Culver's, some customers give this one an F. One employee on Reddit that it's fairly awful as a sandwich right now, but thinks it could be a good menu item if the restaurant reworked it a bit. "Put in on a plate, smother with beef gravy and grilled onions and it is delicious," they urged. Add some mushrooms on top of that, and we'd be all over it.
However, we must admit that there are still plenty of people who order this sandwich. One employee who works in a Culver's restaurant located across the street from a retirement home says it's one of the most popular sandwiches among residents.
Coleslaw is one of those menu items that can be either great or awful. While few will admit that this side from Culver's is the absolute worst in the fast food world, it's still unlikely to be the best you've ever had. Culver's take on coleslaw isn't anything out of the ordinary, with cabbage, carrots, and a creamy sauce. It's also not a menu item you ever see anyone say they particularly love. So, we'll save you the bother -- skip it and try a better side like the Pretzel Bites.
When Redditors discussed which item they'd like to remove from the Culver's menu, several pointed to the coleslaw. For one employee, it was all about hating the smell of the mix when they prepared it. One connoisseur of coleslaw said that, if they were grading menu items at Culver's, it would get a disappointing C. While it's not failing, it's a score that says that it's just not worth bothering with this when you have other options.
To give you an idea of what you should skip during your next Culver's visit, we scrolled through hundreds of reviews on social media and review sites. We also considered inside information from people writing that they were or currently are employees at a Culver's location. We also paid close attention to items that had a consensus of bad or mediocre reviews to pinpoint the Culver's menu items you're better off leaving behind.
Read the original article on Mashed.