Not Just a Side Dish
Fries get their moment in the heat lamp
"Write a guide to French fries,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.
That was all well and good, until we realized that there are hundreds – nay, certainly over a thousand – restaurants, bars, drive-thrus and rinky-dink holes in walls that serve French fries in Orleans Parish.
What I’m getting at here is that there’s no way we could compress the State of the Tater into a completely comprehensive list. We were able to give you as good a framework as possible while slogging through several frenzied days’ worth of tireless, tedious research. Honestly, a burden no journalist ought to bear, to be forced to avoid the office for hours on end, sitting in the sunshine (OK, mostly rain this month), sipping on a cockta – er, Barq’s and eating fries.
The Methodology. I ate French fries – approximately one hella of them. Sometimes I dipped them, sometimes not. Sometimes I used silverware. It really depended on how they were served. I adopted a policy of laissez-fry for this assignment.
The Burger Boys. When the hamburger renaissance (there, I said it) began last year, newcomers Juicy Lucy’s (133 North Carrollton Ave., 598-5044, facebook.com/JuicyLucys), which is now expanding to Metairie, and Tru Burger (8115 Oak St., 218-5416, TruBurgers.com) dished up well-seasoned, thin-cut fries alongside their mainstay sandwiches. Freret upstart Company Burger (4600 Freret St., 267-0320, TheCompanyBurger.com) bucked the trend with thicker-cut fries, equally delicious, rounding out the triumvirate of newcomers, each of which riffs on the burger-and-fries motif in its own way.
While Company Burger offers tater tots and sweet potato fries – younger brother and crazy cousin to the traditional fry – Tru Burger offers chili, cheese and gravy in which to drown its hand-cut fries, and Juicy Lucy’s also offers french-fried sweet potatoes (or chips, if that’s your thing, weirdo).
The Poor Boys. First and foremost, we have to give credit to Mid-City bigwigs Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047, ParkwayBakeryAndTavernNola.com) for standing strong against an onslaught of abbreviation and referring to their signature sandwiches with a distinct lack of apostrophes. Good on you, Parkway. They offer poor boys (not to be confused with po-boys) with French fries added, or you can skip the pretense altogether and order a French fry poor boy or sweet potato French fry poor boy. We humbly suggest you try them dressed, with gravy and extra gravy on the side.
And we have to give it up to the folks at Favori (7507 Maple St., 866-8140), which is to Uptown what Verdi Marte (1201 Royal St., 525-4767) is to downtown; not only do they have a killer French fry poor boy on offer (gravy optional – get the gravy), but they also serve up a breakfast monstrosity called the Sunshine Special, which is, as best we can describe it, on omelette sandwich on steroids, acid and ecstasy: Ham, peppers, tomato and cheese melt around crispy potato batons in a pillowy, made-to-order omelette. And they deliver, just in case you were wondering how much more perfect a recovery sandwich could be.
If you’re in the Irish Channel, stop by Tracey’s (2604 Magazine St., 899-2054, TraceysNola.com) or Parasol’s (2533 Constance St., 302-1543, ParasolsBarAndRestaurant.com), the Romulus and Remus of down-home dining in the vertex of the Crescent City – or head towards the river and visit Domilise’s. All three crank out old-school French fry poor boys on Leidenheimer loaves.
Healthy Options. Gotcha! To be clear, these options are your cardiologist’s dream come true. You are going to put their kids through college by eating these. Read on at your own peril.
Bruno’s Tavern (7538 Maple St., 861-7651, BrunosTavern.com), the cavernous scion of the former galley-shaped college pub at Maple and Hillary streets, servers dump-truck-sized portions of heavily garnished French fries. They are of the frozen variety, but you won’t care or know the difference when you dip into their Loaded Baked Potato Fries, which come swimming in cheese, bacon, sour cream and chives. Or, branch out to the Debris Fries, which are smothered in a sandwich-sized portion of roast beef debris with cheddar and a horseradish cream. Or try the Boudreaux Fries, French-fried sweet potatoes with blue cheese, spiced pecans and the same beef debris. Come early to avoid the undergrads.
Along Freret Street and also in their deputized food truck, Dat Dog (5030 Freret St., 899-6883, DatDogNola.com) and Dat Dog Express also crank out ridiculous riffs on fried potatoes. Using seasoned steak fries (unlike Brunos waffles), Dat Dog offers Poppy Tooker Pommes Frites named for the local gourmand, preservationist and food guru as well as other loaded versions. Skip the Chili Cheese Fries and go right for the Cheddar Bacon Ranch Fries, Crawfish Etoufée Fries (with sour cream and tomato) or White Trash Fries, which come with everything, including the kitchen sink.
Gourmet Gorging. If you don’t know by now – and you probably should – The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858, TheDelachaise.com) offers Pommes Frites fried in goose fat. The wedge-shaped bar opens nightly and serves their fowl-fat taters with malt vinegar aioli (a nod to fish and chips?) and spicy satay. (Their preoccupation with bird drippings also extends to their Cuban Twice-Cooked Pork, which gets a duck-fat treatment after stewing.)
Downtown and across Frenchmen Street, the Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen St., 945-4472, MarignyBrasserie.com) offers three incarnations of their thin, hand-cut fries; their plain version is satisfyingly seasoned, or you can get them piled high with garlic and Parmesan or seasoned with truffle oil and Parmesan.
In terms of sheer, towering mass, Boucherie (8115 Jeannette St., 862-5514, Boucherie-nola.com) takes the cake (ketchup? No, keep it away from these) with their mammoth serving of garlic Parmesan fries; crispy and unyielding – no drooping here, like tiny potato wands – the outer crunch gives way to earthy deliciousness. The helping is large enough to share between several people, but you’ll probably find yourself wanting a second bowl.
And you can see our related story, or you can take our word for it here, that La Boca’s (857 Fulton St., 525-8205, LaBocaSteaks.com) crisp, garlicky fries are a killer accompaniment to their Argentine-style steaks.
We were relieved to find that poutine is finally getting the attention it deserves. Our cousins in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada enjoy their fries with cheese curd and gravy and, while that might sound a little strange at first, just think of all the weird stuff we serve down here.
Capdeville (520 Capdeville St., 371-5161, CapdevilleNola.com) serves a righteous version of the Quebecois snack food, as well as knockout Chorizo and Manchego Fries; or you can “build your own” from a list of options. The dish has appeared on – and disappeared from – menus and specials boards around town, but hopefully it won’t go the way of the New Orleans Brass, may their skates rest in peace.
Sleeper Cell. There was one standout of all the excellent snack food on which we chowed down, and it took us rather by surprise. The uncommonly sophisticated fries at the Rendon Inn (4501 Eve St., 826-5605, facebook.com/RendonInn) were an absolute knockout, particularly the garlic-and-herb truffle fries with horseradish cream. The bar itself is tucked out of the way in an obscure corner of Broadmoor without very much else around it, but the food alone is worth the trip. Order to go if you don’t care for cigarette smoke, but belly up to the 360-degree bar if you want to suck in the full experience.
French Fries in History
President Thomas Jefferson gave a White House Dinner in 1802 at which “potatoes served in the French manner” were on offer – a year before he bought a largish parcel of land to the west of the original United States that, until then, had been governed in the French (and sometimes Spanish) manner.
Belgium and France hotly dispute the claim to being the first to dunk spuds in hot fat, but whether pommes frites or Vlaamse frieten came first, we don’t really care. Just don’t try to convince us to call them “freedom fries.”