8 Best Restaurant Sides from Our Taste Tests

Far be it from us to put a damper on date night, but eating out can break the bank these days. Even the chain restaurants where a full meal used to seem like a pretty decent value have gotten ridic in our post-pandemmy dystopia. What’s a budget-conscious babe who still needs some greasy goodness to do? Seek out the best restaurant sides at the grocery store, that’s what. We looked back through our many rankings to find tasty sides from some of your favorite chains, like Red Robin, P.F. Chang’s, and Red Lobster (sorry ‘bout the bankruptcy!). From onion rings to noodles, here are the best restaurant sides from our taste tests.

best frozen onion rings

Best Restaurant Onion Rings

Red Robin Crispy Onion Rings

Red Robin is famous for its steak fries (which you’ll find on this list, too), but they also make a bitchin’ onion ring tower. If you want to save some dough and replicate that experience at home (or you just don’t have a Red Robin nearby), try these onion rings. They’re made with whole rings of onion instead of diced onions like other frozen onion rings and they have a super crispy panko breading. Serve these with a burger and you’ll swear you’re nestled in the bosom of a beloved chain restaurant.

Read the full ranking of the best frozen onion rings

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Best Pasta Side

Rao’s Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Before Rao’s became famous for its delicious (albeit, pricey) jarred marinara sauce, it was a legendary NYC Italian restaurant. Recently, the brand’s at-home line launched a bunch of family-sized frozen meals, including this mac and cheese, which turned out to be the best Rao’s frozen offering we tried in a taste test. It’s made with al dente cavatappi and a cheesy, nutty sauce that’s so good it made Sporked editor-and-chief Justine Sterling use the F word. It’s one of the best restaurant sides to turn a weeknight dinner into something fancy.

Read the full ranking of the best Rao’s frozen meals

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best biscuit mix

Best Restaurant Biscuits

Red Lobster Rosemary Parmesan Biscuit Mix

Red Lobster recently filed for bankruptcy and announced the closure of a bunch of locations (damn you, endless shrimp eaters!), which seems like a good reason to stock up on this Red Lobster biscuit mix. If you love the restaurant’s Cheddar Bay biscuits and always leave with a few wrapped in a napkin in your purse, you’ll love this rosemary parmesan version even more—we did! 

Read the full ranking of the best store bought biscuits

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best frozen steak fries

Best Restaurant Steak Fries

Red Robin Seasoned Steak Fries

Frozen fries almost never live up to their fresh-from-the-deep-fryer restaurant counterparts, but Red Robin’s frozen steak fries come pretty damn close. They’re wonderfully creamy inside and have a zesty seasoning that reminded us of Lawry’s seasoning salt. They’re the best steak fries at the grocery store and they’re one of the best restaurant sides if you want something super potatoey and comforting to dunk in ketchup or ranch

Read the full ranking of the best steak fries

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best tgi fridays frozen food

Best Decadent Side

Popper Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños with Raspberry Habanero Dip

Do jalapeño poppers count as a side dish? If you’re a grownup who pays your taxes and does the decision making in your household, anything’s a side dish! Even if you’re skeptical, you should make an exception for these poppers from TGI Friday’s. The peppers are nice and spicy, but the heat is tempered by a healthy dose of cooling cream cheese. They come with a dipping sauce we love, too. Expand your restaurant sides horizons!

Read the full ranking of the best TGI Friday’s frozen foods

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

best mashed cauliflower

Best Vegetable Side

Bob Evans Roasted Garlic & Herb Mashed Cauliflower

We sort of doubt that Bob Evans restaurants actually serve mashed cauliflower (it’s not on the online menu), but it’s a side. It’s made by a brand that’s named after a restaurant. Therefore, restaurant side—and a good one, too. Even if you think you don’t like cauliflower, you’ll like this mash. It’s bold and savory and tastes a lot like garlic mashed potatoes. And with only 6 grams of carbs per serving, it’s one of the best restaurant sides for people who are trying to consume fewer carbs.

Read the full ranking of the best potato alternatives

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best bob evans mashed potatoes

Best Restaurant Mashed Potatoes

Bob Evans Original Mashed Potatoes

If you aren’t cutting carbs, you absolutely have to try Bob Evans’ mashed potatoes. They aren’t just restaurant-quality—they’re lovingly-made-by-grandma quality. They have so much potatoey flavor. Transfer these to a nice bowl and people will absolutely think they’re homemade. We’re all about deceiving the fam once in a while!

Read the full ranking of the best premade mashed potatoes

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

pf changs frozen meals pf changs chicken lo mein

Best Noodle Side

P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lo Mein

P.F. Chang’s has a full line of frozen meals, but this one makes the most sense on our list of the best restaurant sides at the grocery store. A lot of their grocery store fare is just so-so, but this is pretty damn good, especially if you’re into mall food court lo mein. With a main of orange chicken or and maybe a few frozen egg rolls, this is a restaurant side we can get behind.

Read the full ranking of the best P.F. Chang’s frozen food

Rating:

9/10

Sporks


About the Author

Sporked Staff

The Sporked Staff tastes everything and anything. They are obsessive about groceries and finding the best of any type of food or drink, from frozen fried shrimp to Dijon mustard to gummy candy. And they're always on a hunt for the best new products. When they aren't eating professionally, they're eating recreationally. And often they're browsing grocery store aisles, just for fun.