Is there a worse menu question than fries or salad? We all know that we should get the salad. But come on. We’re just powerless in the face of a perfect pile of piping-hot, salty wedges of potatoes. Even bad French fries are…well…pretty great (especially with a big dollop of ketchup). But good ones are truly transcendent. Here are 15 of our favorites.
Boise Fry Company: Idaho, ID
It really only stands to reason that the state best known for potatoes also knows how to fry them. At the Boise Fry Company, you get your choice of six different potatoes (russet, gold, red lady, sweet potato, yam and purple) and cuts (regular, homestyle, curly, shoestring and the Tater Tot-like po’balls), plus eight kinds of salt and eight dipping sauces. The burgers, as its motto says, come on the side.
Thrasher’s: Ocean City, MD
Nothing quite says summer like a giant bucket of these vinegary thick-cut French fries, which are best eaten right on the boardwalk--after the bumper cars, and before you break into the saltwater taffy.
Pommes Frites: New York, NY
After a night of East Village bar-hopping, there’s nothing better than a cone of these Belgian frites and a few signature dipping sauces (Vietnamese pineapple mayo, anyone? Parmesan peppercorn? Organic black truffle?). The city mourned when a freak explosion destroyed the original location, but--phew--the owners have rebuilt and are back in business.
Blue Duck Tavern: Washington, D.C.
The namesake fries at this elegant Washington restaurant are like little bricks of mashed potatoes, which are basted in duck fat before being fried to crisp perfection and served with spicy smoke pepper aioli.
The Spotted Pig: New York, NY
You’re going to want the burger, which is chargrilled with a pile of Roquefort cheese, at New York’s famous gastropub. But almost as alluring is the enormous haystack of rosemary-and-garlic-scented shoestring fries that come on the side.
Bourbon Steak: Miami, FL
The French fries at this hot Miami steakhouse come in a trio of cups with matching dipping sauces: rosemary-herb fries with spicy ketchup, onion-seasoned fries with chive-onion crème fraîche and smoked-paprika fries with homemade barbecue sauce. Every table gets a complimentary order, but we find it hard to stop at just one.
Father’s Office: Los Angeles, CA
Don’t bother asking for ketchup at this Los Angeles bistro, which takes its no-substitutions policy very seriously. The gourmet burger comes with blue cheese, arugula and bacon compote and the fries with aioli. We might object, except that our mouths are too full of potato-y goodness.
CHICKIE’S & PETE’S CRAB FRIES: PHILADELPHIA, PA
Most everyone comes to this Philly sports bar for the crab fries, which are crinkle cut, doused with crab seasoning and served with the mysteriously addictive, white creamy cheese sauce. Make no mistake: These are neither elegant nor healthy. But they sure do taste good.
Al’s French Fries: Burlington, VT
This old-timey lunch counter has been serving some of New England’s best fries since the 1940s. Crispy on the outside and soft and potato-y on the inside, these are textbook French fries.
HopCat: Grand Rapids, MI
The addictive “crack fries” at this Grand Rapids institution were so popular that they’re now franchised all over the Midwest. So what’s the secret to their success? Beer batter and an assertive, peppery seasoning.
SUSIE’S DRIVE-THRU: Chicago, IL
Ditch all diets at the door for this standing-room-only drive-through, where the specialties are fried, battered Polish sausages and gooey piles of cheese fries, which, amazingly, come in a giant, house-made fried taco shell. Because why use cardboard when there’s more opportunity for greasy goodness?
The Breslin: New York, NY
These absolutely perfect specimens of French fry-dom are fried not once, not twice, but three times, which gives them three times the crust and just a dollop of creamy potato in the center. Get them with a lamb burger and a cup of smoky cumin mayonnaise.
Mile End: Brooklyn, NY
With all due respect to the good old American fry….our neighbors to the North are really onto something with their gravy-and-cheese-covered poutine. We love the version at Brooklyn’s Mile End, which also incorporates the deli's famed pastrami-like smoked meat.
Luc: Seattle, WA
This Seattle bistro is putting the "French" back in French fry. Its soufflé potato crisps (or pommes soufflé, if you’re feeling fancy) are airy little pillows almost more reminiscent of fried dough than a normal fry.
The Varsity: Atlanta, GA
Atlanta’s famed drive-in--the world’s largest!--is like a time capsule. It opened in 1928 and hasn’t changed much since. Come here for a chili-cheese dog, a frosted orange shake and a side of steaming hot fries--all for under ten bucks.