Best French Fries in the U.S.
French fries are one of the true crowd-pleasers—a food that friends agree upon, that turns up at both five-star steakhouses and roadside dives, and that is familiar but can also surprise you. They can be cut thick or curly, cooked with or without skins, served Belgian-style in paper cones or in a parchment-lined basket with malt vinegar on the side. No matter how you slice it, the deep-fried spud is king.
So, how do you know a good one? “The best fries are made from fresh-cut potatoes and double-fried, which adds crispness,” says Glenn Walker, who has been posting reviews at frenchfrydiary.blogspot.com since 2004. “I’ve also noticed that more and more restaurants are enhancing the flavor of their fries by frying them in duck fat, seasoning them with truffle oil, and serving them with numerous dipping sauces,” he says.
Miami’s Bourbon Steak is one leader in this trend, dishing out duck fat–coated fries in seasoning and sauce combos such as rosemary herb with a side of spicy ketchup. And at the aptly named Duckfat in Portland, ME, twice-fried fries are accompanied by a choice of eight dips, including enticing flavor combinations like truffle ketchup and Thai chili mayo.
As for the fry’s humble beginnings, some say that, in the U.S., Thomas Jefferson was an early adopter. He was known to entertain guests with “potatoes served in the French manner,” according to essayist Charles Ebeling, a member of the Chicago Literary Club. Drive-in restaurants and fast-food joints that began popping up in the 1940s popularized fries by pairing them with burgers. And it’s become almost impossible to think of one without the other.
Yet there are still purists who keep the focus on the traditional French fry. At Thrasher’s in Ocean City, MD, if you want ketchup, you’d better bring your own.
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, New York City
It’s no secret that French fries served crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, are the golden standard. But this Manhattan hipster favorite goes a step beyond others to assure the crunchiness of its spuds: introducing The Breslin’s thrice-cooked chips. These long, medium-thick slices of Idaho russet potatoes are first boiled, then fried twice in a sunflower and canola oil blend before receiving a dash of salt, and presented either as a stand-alone dish or alongside a feta-topped, chargrilled lamb burger. Only thing left to request: a side of cumin mayo for dipping.
Boise Fry Company, Idaho
With a slogan that reads “burgers on the side,” you know this is a place serious about its spuds. The potato reigns supreme in this state, and between the vast selection of sauces, seasonings, and spritzers, it’s possible to never try the same thing twice. The ordering goes like this: walk in, choose from six varieties of potato including purple, yam, and sweet, then decide how you’d like it cut. Next up, the dressing. Perhaps you’d like your curly Yukon gold fries topped with malt vinegar and served with a side of blueberry ketchup (that’s right: blueberry), or you might be craving a russet fry with rosemary garlic salt and Thai sour cream. Or why choose at all? Enlist some friends, and sample away.
The Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh, PA
At this family-run stalwart, the mountain of fries that comes in even a small order borders on the ridiculous—so no wonder the college kids keep coming back. Located on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, “The Dirty O” has a reputation for decadent spuds: hand-cut and peeled Idaho potatoes, twice fried in peanut oil, and served golden and crunchy on a cafeteria tray. The Original even has its own dedicated fry station, where you can order them with sides of gravy, cheese, or ketchup. 3901 Forbes Ave.; (412) 621-7388.
Duckfat, Portland, ME
When it comes to delivering the perfect fry, it’s all in the name at this Portland sandwich shop. The locally sourced potatoes are twice fried in a healthy coating of duck fat that results in a crunchy exterior but leaves each fry’s interior fresh and tender. They’re then served in paper cones with a handful of specially made dips like smoked mussel mayo and chopped egg and caper mayo. Being close to Canada, Duckfat also offers its own version of poutine, topping those same crispy fries with a heaping of local cheese curd and house-made duck gravy.
Jasper’s Corner Tap, San Francisco
Since its 2011 debut, Jasper’s has won a following for its bar offerings, including a menu devoted exclusively to fries. Seriously. You get to choose your fry (thin, thick, or sweet potato), your seasoning—options include smoked paprika and truffle, Parmesan, and herb—and, for an extra $3, add a cheese curd–based poutine. Word on the street is that the smoked cheese fondue is “to die for.” Jasper’s also obliges with a late-night menu ideal for entertaining the Tenderloin neighborhood’s after-hours crowd. The highlight? A helping of thick-cut fries, naturally, topped with buffalo mozzarella curds and hot brown gravy.
Pike Street Fish Fry, Seattle
Late-night crowds line up at the counter of this tiny Capitol Hill neighborhood eatery for some of Seattle’s best fish and chips; after all, the fries alone are worthy of the wait. They’re hand-sliced, fried to perfection, and served in paper cups with dipping sauce (the tangy chili mayo is a perennial favorite). And while it’s hard to beat a helping of these crispy gems after an evening out boozing, Pike Street Fish Fry outdoes itself every third Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. by serving its fries for free.
The Green Room, Greenville, SC
This go-to source for upscale comfort food also has a reputation for creativity (ever heard of a Philly Cheesesteak soup?), and its fries are no exception. Chef Patrick Long specializes in Parmesan truffle fries, shoestring cut and tossed in truffle oil immediately after he takes them out from the fryer. He then tops them with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Pair them with a plate of BBQ pork biscuit sliders, and you’ve got yourself a satisfying southern meal.
Bourbon Steak, Miami
Celebrity chef Michael Mina’s dinner-only restaurant offers up generous cuts of beef that are both organic and hormone-free—and its fries get the same attention to quality and detail. Mid-thick cuts of potato get dunked in duck fat to provide both their rich flavor and crispness, and an order covers three seasoning and sauce combos: rosemary herb accompanied by a side of spicy ketchup; onion-dusted with sour cream sauce; and smoked paprika with smoked barbecue sauce.
Jonesy’s EatBar, Denver
The fries at this Uptown neighborhood gastropub are consistently voted Denver’s best: they’re thick-cut, extra crispy, and simply put, phenomenal. They also come in four “World Famous” and original varieties, including Buffalo (doused in wing sauce and blue cheese crumbles with a side of dressing), and a Bacon Mac & Cheese that regular costumers swear by. Factor in a dash of nostalgia from the setting within a restored 1950s soda fountain.
Thrasher’s, Ocean City, MD
It may have something to do with the salty air, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi in a boardwalk fry that just can’t be found elsewhere—and Thrasher’s has been preserving and protecting that quality for the last 80-plus years. No wonder there’s always a wait. It’s hard to beat a bucket of hand-cut spuds that have been fried in peanut oil with skins on, especially when served with nothing more than a little salt and vinegar. Purists believe there’s no messing around with the fry’s intense potato flavor, so if you really want ketchup you’ll have to bring it yourself. And while you’re at it, invite a few friends to share: Thrasher’s smallest fry order is a 16-ounce bucket, and its largest is a whopping 53.
Chego, Los Angeles
Nothing says comfort food quite like the “Ooey Gooey” fries at this L.A. hangout (a brick-and-mortar offshoot of Kogi, a Korean barbecue food truck). Heaped onto a compostable carton, these beer-battered spuds are deep fried and topped with a generous mix of sour cream, sambal (a chili-based sauce), Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, cotija cheese, chiles, cilantro, and pickled garlic.
Al’s French Fry, Burlington, VT
As the name suggests, this old-time lunch counter knows a thing or two about fries (available by the cup, pint, or quart). Slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and served with a dusting of salt, they’ve been satisfying cravings since the 1940s. The burgers and shakes have done their part, too, in making Al’s an area institution.
Hot Doug’s, Chicago
Where to find Chi-town’s best fries? At its favorite sausage superstore, of course, where hefty portions of thin, freshly cut fries come in three distinct varieties: standard, smothered in cheese, and with duck fat—the last option so decadent that it’s available only Fridays and Saturdays. It’s worth battling the eatery’s strange hours and long lines for a sampling. And if you’ve got four wheels, detour over to Gene & Jude’s Red Hot Stand for a fries comparison. At this old-school roadside joint, the dogs come piled high with tons of crispy, fresh-cut fries—just the way your taste buds intended.
Pommes Frites, New York City
When a place specializes in one thing alone, it better be excellent—and this East Village specialty shop rises to that challenge. Pommes Frites fries its freshly cooked spuds twice while you wait—the first time to assure they’re cooked all the way through, the second to provide a golden exterior and extra crunch. They’re then delivered Belgian-style in paper cones with nearly 30 side sauces to choose from. Regular customers can’t get enough of the sweet mango sauce, and a new organic black truffle mayo has inspired lines out the door.
Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
This homey West End restaurant’s signature BDT Triple Fries are the anti-shoestrings—a potato-lover’s French fries. The thick, hand-cut wedges are cooked three times: first in water, then in oil, then on to duck fat for a hearty finish. The results are uniformly crisp on the outside, but thick underneath, with an ample amount of potato in every bite. Order them with a juicy blue cheese burger.
Violetta, Portland, OR
With more than 700 options, Portland’s famed food-cart scene offers no shortage of contenders for the PDX French fry crown. But the local consensus is that Violetta, which recently found a permanent home at the new Hillside Food Park in southwest Portland, is the champ. Its hand-cut, extra-crispy Yukon golds can be ordered with a variety of toppings, but are best when covered in Oregon white truffle oil and pepper, then dipped in Violetta’s creamy “burger sauce,” an aioli made fresh from local, organic farm eggs.
Coreanos, Austin, TX
French fries become an entire meal at this Korean-meets-Mexican-meets-American food truck in gastro-mad Austin. You have the option of ordering them plain, but why would you, when they serve Three Wise Fries? This over-the-top concoction smothers their salty spuds in grilled onions, marinated beef short rib, spicy marinated chicken, spicy twice-cooked pork belly, cheese, and a creamy, extra-hot house-made “el scorcho” sauce. It’s one of the few occasions when it is acceptable to eat French fries with a fork.
Faneuil Hall’s new late-night favorite serves Belgian-style potatoes, double-fried to order and cooked until a deep golden-brown. The paper cones of plain fries are good enough on their own, but most opt to dip them in intensely rich sauces like Duvel (a blend of sharp and mild cheddars mixed with Golden Belgian ale), Pindasaus (creamy peanut butter with chili paste and soy sauce) and Ole Chipotle (house-made mayo with fresh cilantro, chipotles and lime juice). Or just go for the gold—adding a runny fried egg on top.
Gilroy Garlic Fries at AT&T Park, San Francisco
Major League Baseball stadiums have been rolling out more upscale food offerings, with a nod to what’s local. At AT&T Park, home of the 2012 World Series champions, that means savory morsels like Gilroy Garlic Fries, which are several notches above your typical soggy ballpark fries. Forget garlic powder; these freshly fried potatoes are topped with mounds of the real stuff, brought in from nearby Gilroy, the country’s garlic-growing capital and site of the annual Garlic Festival.
Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta
Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais cooks his savory fries in tallow—rendered beef fat—and we say the results are worth the extra calories (or extra gym time). These spuds come out with a deep, meaty flavor that’s emphasized even more when dipped in the smoked mayo that comes on the side. Meat-averse diners can still share in the opulent eats by opting for vodka-battered onion rings or pan-roasted sweet potato tots with a blue cheese foam.
Amsterdam Bar & Hall, St. Paul, MN
Live music, craft beers, and house-made sausage are all selling points for this Dutch-influenced newcomer, yet the venue has attracted its most loyal following for the taters. The hearty skin-on fries are served Amsterdam-style: topped with chopped raw onions and an array of dipping sauces including curry mayo, peanut satay, and a honey-sambal sweet chile sauce.
Green Pig Bistro, Arlington, VA
The French-Canadian specialty of poutine—fries doused in cheese curds and gravy—is having a bit of a foodie moment here in the States. This northern Virginia farm-to-table spot, which focuses on using obscure cuts of local meat like pork shanks and pig ear, does an Americanized, double-duck take on poutine, topping its crispy French fries with chunks of Tillamook cheddar and an impossibly rich duck liver gravy. Try it with a pig ear taco and chopped liver toast.
Hubcap Grill, Houston
There’s nothing like old-fashioned southern cooking, and this Texas spot gets major points for giving fries a Dixie twist. Its twice-cooked “country fries” rethink biscuits and gravy, replacing the bread with spuds, which come bathed in a sea of rich white gravy, plus bacon bits to boot. Your doctor will not approve—especially if you pair it with a Sticky Monkey Burger (peanut butter, banana, American cheese and bacon on top)—but your taste buds most definitely will.
La Boca, New Orleans
Three days of prep go into securing the perfect consistency in the long, thin strands of golden-brown goodness served at this NOLA steakhouse. The potatoes travel between water bath, fryer, and fridge before hitting the table in a tantalizing cone-shaped pile. A coating of hot garlic butter and Parmesan add an extra sheen, and the final touch is a dunk in the tangy, Argentine-style chimichurri parsley sauce.