Sidekicks are never given enough credit. Tonto had to sit back and let the Lone Ranger take the spotlight; Ron Weasley faithfully followed Harry Potter to all ends of the wizarding world; and Robin always had Batman's back, no matter how sticky the situation. It's quite possible that our most beloved heroes would never have been as successful without their trusty partners by their sides. The same applies to food: Where would spaghetti be without meatballs, peanut butter without jelly or a burger without french fries?
French fries hold supporting roles on menus across the globe. The Dutch and the Belgians prefer them served in a paper cone with a side of mayonnaise, while the Brits like them sprinkled with just enough salt and vinegar to clear the sinuses. On the other side of the Atlantic, fries provide the foundation for many a quirky creation. In Canada, a saucy concoction known as "poutine" features french fries drenched in brown gravy and cheese curds. Here, in the United States, these crispy, golden spuds are often customizable: steak, shoestring, crinkle-cut, curly and waffle-cut fries are just a few variations to try. A disappointing french fry is hard to come by, but which eateries make the cut as America's finest potato-handlers?
Using tips from culinary experts and hungry diners, U.S. News Travel has tracked down 11 places where spuds get the respect they deserve. Whether you're a flavor innovator or a french fry purist, these eateries are consistently recognized by food critics and foodies alike for their mouthwatering portions of tantalizing taters.
Boise Fry Company
This list wouldn't be complete without calling out classic and unconventional varieties found in the Potato State. And one Boise, Idaho, eatery pays tribute to the state's choice crop with a menu devoted to french fries. Boise Fry Company serves up more than 100,000 dippin'-ready combinations. Choose from six different types of potatoes, five varieties of cuts and a long list of signature sauces and seasonings. All ingredients used are organic and locally sourced, while every potato is put through a 30-minute-long prepping process before being dropped in peanut oil, which does not contain any preservatives or trans fats. Dunk a crispy sweet potato shoestring into blueberry ketchup, or dip a homestyle purple fry in zesty chipotle aioli. (If you're extra hungry, pair your potatoes with a well-crafted burger.)
With a name like Duckfat, you know you're in for fried potatoes packed with rich flavor. This intimate sandwich shop in Portland, Maine, serves up Belgian-style french fries in a paper cone. These indulgent, locally sourced potatoes are fried twice in -- you guessed it -- duck fat. The outcome of Duckfat's double-dip preparation process is crispy exteriors and soft, fluffy innards, with duck fat creating an intense taste. You can sample these fries layered in one of eight signature sauces like truffle ketchup and Thai chili mayo. Or, you can turn this savory side into a full meal by ordering the poutine: delicious fries covered in cheese curd, house-made duck gravy, chives and a duck egg.
Amsterdam Bar & Hall
St. Paul, Minn.
The Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul, Minn., is the place to go for live music and a late-night snack -- especially if you're looking to nosh on french fries. This laid-back performance space devotes the top section of its menu to hand-cut spuds. Following suit with Amsterdam-style fries, the skins here are served beneath a layer of chopped onions with your choice of dipping sauce. You have your pick of eight different toppers, including standard ketchup. But for an atypical mouthful, dip your fries in signature sauces like curry mayo or honey sambaal. If the crispy fries just won't do, try one of Amsterdam Bar & Hall's "boats of fries." The "oorlog" option comes smothered with onions, peanut satay, mayonnaise and honey sambaal, while the "pataje jus" features a hearty dose of onions and gravy.
[See: America's Best Ice Cream]
Helmed by celebrity chef Michael Mina, BOURBON STEAK (located in northern Miami's Turnberry Isle hotel) features a varied menu of contemporary American dishes, all of which are created from organic, locally sourced ingredients. While you'll find everything from sizzling sirloin to steamed Maine lobster gracing tables in the main dining room, we recommend you head to the bar and place an order for duck fat fries. The thickly cut (but not too thick) potatoes are sliced and then fried in duck fat for a crispy, bold taste. Once cooked to perfection, the fries are coated with three different seasonings and served with three signature sauces -- the selected fry and sauce duos change seasonally. The pairings pictured above are the rosemary-herb fries with spicy ketchup, the onion-flavored fries with chive crème fraîche and the smoked paprika fries with signature barbecue sauce.
At this beloved Houston food truck, Eastern flavors meet south-of-the-border zest. Roaming the streets of Houston, Coreanos serves up what it describes as "Mexican cuisine with Korean in-between." But Coreanos' wacky fry toppings earn it a place on this roundup. If you're not super hungry, keep it simple with an order of seasoned fries, which are served with a side of signature "el scorcho" dipping sauce made from spicy ketchup and Korean barbecue sauce. You can also turn your spuds into a full meal with one of two loaded options. The Kim Cheese fries come layered with spicy pork belly, caramelized kimchi, cheese and el scorcho sauce, while the Three Wise fries come with spicy beef short rib, spicy chicken, spicy pork belly, grilled onions, cheese and, of course, el scorcho sauce.
Fresh Fries Truck
You'd be amazed by the types of toppings foodies dress their fries with -- anything from hummus to mango chutney can be found layered on crispy spuds. But before you chide these seemingly odd flavor combos, try them and other out-of-the-ordinary concoctions for yourself at the Fresh Fries Truck in Los Angeles. Pick between natural-cut, curly or sweet potato fries paired with 12 unique "awesome sauces," including chipotle mayo and sweet and sour. Or, if you're feeling a little more adventurous, try an order of "fancy fries," which come topped with unconventional sauces like green chili guacamole or hoisin sauce and crunchy noodles. Perhaps the most intriguing menu items are the sweeter varieties: The "Sweet Tooth" features sweet potato fries topped with sweet cream sauce, while the goat cheese fries are coupled with a raspberry sauce.
[See: America's Best Doughnuts}
Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen
In the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin district sits a trendy tavern with an unyielding love for french fries. Named for Jasper O'Farrell, the Irish immigrant who designed many of the city's major streets, Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen features a menu devoted to quality fries. First, pick your preferred style: thin-cut, thick-cut or sweet potato spuds. Then, sprinkle these crispy bites with your choice of seasoning. You can keep it simple with a light dusting of sea salt or enjoy a more decadent truffle, parmesan and herb seasoning. The kitchen also serves up hearty plates of poutine; Jasper's staff recommends using thick-cut fries as a base to dive into hearty helpings of gravy, mushrooms or smoked cheese fondue.
Buffalo wings and nachos are likely offerings you would expect to find on a bar menu ... not layered on top of french fries. But Jonesy's EatBar, a gastropub in Denver's Uptown neighborhood, pairs its crispy potatoes with these flavorful specialty combinations. Jonesy's unique toppings have been recognized by many local media outlets like Westword and CBS Denver for the tasty additions to its delicious spuds. Only thick-cut potatoes can accommodate Jonesy's signature toppings: You can load your fries with one of five "World Famous" flavor combos. For an inventive take on the classic comfort food, sample the Bacon Mac & Cheese fries, or get your appetizer fix with the nacho or wing-styled wedges. If you're craving even more specialty flavors, try the Thai Ginger fries, which come doused with ginger, lemongrass, scallions and Thai chili sauce.
New York City
This New York City fry shop may be small, but the flavors found inside are mind-blowing. Located on Second Avenue in the East Village, Pommes Frites specializes in traditional Belgian fries, known as pommes frites. The thick-cut potatoes are fried twice to ensure both a soft inside and a crispy exterior and then piled high in paper cones. By themselves, the fries are delicious (albeit simple), but pair them with one of the 28 specialty sauces and you'll have trouble reverting back to plain ol' ketchup. Some of the restaurant's more unique dips include Vietnamese pineapple mayo, peanut satay and Bordeaux wine, fig and sage mayo. Not sure which sauce to choose? Pommes Frites will let you try each and every one (free of charge) until you find your favorite.
[See: America's Best BBQ Cities]
Thrasher's French Fries
Ocean City, Md.
Thrasher's has been catering to french fry purists since 1929 when J.T. Thrasher opened a small concession stand along the Ocean City, Md., boardwalk. Thrasher's can now be found in three separate locations in Ocean City and a fourth in Bethany Beach, Del. And to traditionalists' delight, the tried-and-true recipe hasn't changed -- the potatoes are still hand-cut and fried in peanut oil with the skins. But if you prefer to dip your chips in ketchup, you're out of luck. In terms of condiments, Thrasher's only provides a slight sprinkling of salt and vinegar so as not to detract from the rich taste of its signature spuds. You'll want to savor the flavor with a friend or two; Thrasher's smallest serving comes in a 16-ounce bucket, though if you came hungry, you can order a hefty 53-ounce portion.
Perched on a quiet street corner near Independence Park in Philadelphia, Varga Bar provides a lively atmosphere -- complete with posters of 1940s pin-up girls originally drawn for Esquire magazine by artist Alberto Vargas -- for an evening drink or weekend brunch. While this local institution may not specialize in fry-making or sauce selection like other eateries found on this list, Varga Bar earns recognition for its unique twist on the spud. Appearing on both the brunch and dinner menu are Varga Bar's much-admired crab-cheese fries. The shoestring spuds are fried until golden and tossed with truffle oil. Then, the creatively crafted fries are paired with large chunks of jumbo lump crab meat, smothered with a creamy white cheddar sauce and sprinkled with parmesan.
-- Miriam B. Weiner
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