The 7 Best Places for French Fries
We’ll take your soggy McDonald’s fries and raise you some crispy, hand-cut, velvety golden frites.
Meat & Potatoes photo by Heather Mull
All hail the great gastronomic equalizer! With the gamut of American food ideologies growing to comic proportions, there is but one food that will quell all dissent: French fries! Saying you hate French fries is like saying you like to kick kittens and bunnies. You might as well banish yourself to your isolated shack in the woods.
French fries, after all, are the food equivalent of The Universal Truth. The basic tenet that everyone agrees on, no matter what food religion you observe — vegan, gluten-free, omnivore (and I bet the paleo people partake and just do penance for redemption). Carb celibacy does not stand a chance with these cheap and salty beauties.
We have many options in our fair city — hey, we are famous for putting them in our sandwiches and on top of our salads — but not all golden batons are created equal. Here is the definitive French Fry Magnificent 7. Get ready to try them all.
Point Brugge/Park Bruges
We all know French fries originated in Belgium, and that’s why they’re called . . . oh, never mind. Point Brugge Cafe, the Belgian-inspired restaurant in Point Breeze, and sister restaurant Park Bruges in Highland Park serve the best frites in town. Why? You know that thin line between a crisp fry and a burnt one? They always get it in the sweet spot. Every. Single. Time. That’s because the fries are made true to frite tradition, starting with the right potatoes. The Yukon Golds are meticulously hand-cut, fried once, cooled and then fried again. The resulting fry is perfection. So perfect, it’s hard to share. Crisp on the outside, just the right velvety goodness on the inside and never greasy. I can’t say it more eloquently than this Yelp reviewer (caps are hers): “THE FRIES WILL ELEVATE YOUR SPIRIT TO A WORLD OF PURE FATTY BLISS.”
On the other side of the pond are classic American style fries (can we post-ironically call them Freedom Fries?). You know the kind: those thick-cut fries that remind you of golden days of childhood, amusement parks, carousels or just days spent carefree. That’s exactly what Station Street owner Kevin Sousa is aiming for — memories of his own summers slinging fries at Thrasher’s French Fries in Ocean City, Md. Station Street hand-cuts Idaho potatoes throughout the day, blanches and then fries them in peanut oil. They’re the perfect accompaniment to all the spot’s street-food options, including the Devil and Kimchi dogs pictured above, or enjoyed just by themselves.
Legume serves fries for omnivores who won’t touch anything that can even remotely be called vegetarian. These babies are fried in beef tallow. That’s beef fat. Sit on that for a moment. But that’s only part of the story. Try to eat the fries slowly because they took two days to make. I say “try” because eating them slowly will be hard to do. Legume’s fries start with local white potatoes from Blue Goose Farm in the fall, winter and early spring; during the off-season, the kitchen staff uses Kennebec potatoes. The unpeeled potatoes are cut then rinsed three times and soaked overnight. Potatoes are pre-blanched once right before the restaurant opens so they never see the refrigerator. Legume only serves fries on the day they are blanched. Once you place your order (or two), cooks fry them in beef tallow from a local supplier (if there’s not enough, they use GMO-free canola oil from Susquehanna Mills). That’s a lot of thought and work, and the result is definitely one of tastiest things on the planet.
Meat & Potatoes
An order of fried taters at Meat & Potatoes comes topped with herbs, salt and a drizzle of truffle oil flanked by a dip of truffle mayo. Double truffle. Which almost puts the crisp-on-the-outside, soft-and-pillowy-on-the-inside fries over the edge. But the umami hit is just the right note to keep you chain-frying: eating fries one after the other until the bowl is empty. Pair them with one of Meat & Potatoes’ beer cocktails, such as the Pimm’s Blue Ribbon, and these decadent truffle fries are unstoppable.
P.S. Want to get really wild? Try the delicious poutine pictured at the top of the page. Looks good, eh?
Winghart’s Burger & Whiskey Bar
There are French-fry purists and there are those who like some variety beyond the standard ketchup/mayo/malt vinegar options. Winghart’s Burger & Whiskey Bar is a place for the adventurous. At Winghart’s, the russet fries are hand-cut, soaked, blanched and cooled before they’re fried. The process takes 24 hours, and the love is evident in the basket seasoned and topped with everything from Cajun spice to chili — or if you can’t decide . . . the works. Order the Garbage fries to top them with everything — onions, chili, cheese, seasonings and whatever you desire! Magically, at Winghart’s, it all goes together perfectly.
Log Cabin Inn
Are you one of those ’Burghers who never leaves the city? Here are four words for you: Cayenne-Crusted French fries. Served with ranch dressing. Boom. Silence from you purists because the 40-minute (or so) drive from city center to the Log Cabin Inn is worth it. Called "fire fries," these babies are a feat of engineering with an actual cayenne hot crust. They are spicy and crunchy on the outside and perfectly steaming hot on the inside. The seasoning and salt beg for a pairing of super ice-cold beer. If you’ve never been to Harmony, Pa., start planning your route. Some crunchy hot fries are waiting for you.
Original Hotdog Shop
If a Pitt freshman was ever in doubt about his or her college choice, everything changes after taking a bite of the hand-cut, blanched and twice-fried golden fries from The Original Hot Dog Shop. A small order is served in the comedic token “small” basket that holds about one-15th of the fries; that’s because a small is about TWO pounds of potatoes. Overflow alert. It can easily (and should be) shared by four people and definitely eaten on the spot. Take note: There’s an endless supply of salt and malt vinegar, but extra ketchup is, well, extra. But you’ll easily forgive that because you’re ready to eat some of the country’s best fries — even Travel+Leisure, The Huffington Post and CNN say so!