Before springtime finally forces me to eat green things, and not complain about the weather, I decided to dive-bomb my figure and find NYC's best French fry. Whether curly, fat, skinny or crisp -- fries seem to be the one guilty pleasure everyone can agree on. So I went out, chose the best of the best and then tried them all.
Balthazar: If you like panic attacks and $8 beers, you will love Balthazar. All joking aside, the grandiose interior and the crisp waitstaff are definitely a sight to see. Since Martha Stewart is, purportedly, always raving about Balthazar's fries on her show, I thought I'd check them out.
The Fries: They're pencil thin, crisped to perfection on the outside and fluffy on the inside. From that perspective, I can see what Martha is raving about. But at the end of the day, they're just McDonald's fries done all fancy. You can't taste the potatoes for the salt and oil, and, yes, they're perfectly crisp, but they are so scrawny that they can't stand alone. They need a burger or a beer to lean on.
80 Spring St.; 212-965-1785
Pommes Frites: This Belgian fry den feels like it should be populated with chubby little hobbits and not East Villagers -- dark lighting, low ceilings, wood everything. There's not much seating, but there's a couple wooden booths with little holes in their tops for nestling your paper cone of fries into. That way, you can use both hands to chow down.
The Fries: The fries are done Belgian style: fried once for cooking and fried a second time to give them that perfect golden luster. Their cut is irregular, which is perfect for the "crunchy hogs" (you know who you are), but makes the other fries a little inconsistent. But let's be real, this place isn't about the fries, it's about the sauces. There are dozens of crazy and crazy-delicious sauces. A few examples: black-truffle mayo, peppercorn-Parmesan sauce and a gingery peanut satay with mayo called War Sauce. The fries rock, and the sauces blow the top off.
123 2nd Ave.; 212-674-1234
Five Guys: The interior of Five Guys is about as charming as a wet blanket. It's flooded in fluorescent lighting and under-enthused counter people. And there isn't so much wallpaper as a strip lining the walls comprised of every magazine write-up of the place, EVER. And whoever is picking the music got stuck in "Wayne's World" and never made it out.
The Fries: If you can get your fries to go, they are totally worth a trip. The fries here taste legit. The ones I tasted before I got here were all about the crispiness or the sauces, but these fries were about the spuds. Their fries actually taste like potatoes. Plus, they're fried in 100 percent peanut oil, which complements the potato taste instead of masking it. Oh, and did I mention that for $5 you get an alarming amount of fries? Alarming as in, "How can any one person eat this many fries in one sitting and not die?"
296 Bleecker St.; 212-367-9200
Bark Hot Dogs: This little gourmet hot dog shop in Brooklyn has got it goin' on. I was into every tiny detail in this place: the beautiful reclaimed pine walls and tables, the funky light fixtures, the wildly friendly people behind the counter, the lists on each table detailing the provenance of each and every ingredient (mostly local and organic), the compostable plastic cups, the growlers of craft beer. Holy hot dogs, Batman!
The Fries: The fries are decadently salty. They are also crispy and twiggy like Balthazar's, but with these, you can actually taste the tots. Fried in 100 percent canola oil and made with potatoes that are often from farm-to-chef programs, you can taste the quality. I also got the chili cheese fry, which comes with a sweet-smoky chili and a Vermont white cheddar cheese sauce. I hope it's acceptable to print "heart-gasm."
474 Bergen St., Brooklyn; 718-789-1939
Breslin: Fortunately, If you don't want to wait two hours to be seated in the tattooed sophistication of the Breslin, you can easily get their world-class fries brought to you at your armchair in the understated, soaring lobby of the Ace Hotel. It's no surprise the Ace lobby has become the new freelancer's heaven.
The Fries: They're not cheap -- $8 plus a forced 20 percent gratuity (?!), but it's so worth it. They are fried three times. Three. Times. So they are crisp on the outside and buttery fluff on the inside. They are neurotically perfect (every fry is a uniform beefy rectangle), but are scattered with crunchy bits of skin to make them seem effortless. It also comes with a simple, but totally unexpected, side of cumin mayo, which only adds to the circus. (Veggies beware: Fries are often fried in animal fat.)
16 W. 29th St.; 646-214-5788
And the winner is ... The Breslin! You'll know it when you try it. These fries are nuts. Plus, the Ace lobby and the Breslin are such elegant, relaxed places to enjoy your fries. But, I've gotta say, if the fries at The Breslin weren't so nuts, Bark would have taken the prize. I'm into everything they're about, and their fries are solid. If Bark were a person, I'd have a crush on them.
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