America’s 50 Best French Fries 2016
April 12, 2016
These fries are the best — crispy, golden-brown, and addictively delicious
America’s 50 Best French Fries
French fries can be found on restaurant menus all across America, from the smallest takeout shack to the grand bastions of fine dining. But like all universal foods, quality can vary from mealy and soggy to super-crisp and perfectly golden. As a service to our fellow Americans, we took it upon ourselves to track down the best French fries in America for the third year running, and we’re proud to present a lineup of 50 fries that can be awarded our highest level of French fry praise: They’re so good, they don’t even need ketchup.
#50 Django, Des Moines, Iowa
There’s a whole lot to love about the fries at Django. They’re cut to just the right thickness to be super-crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside, and an expert fry in duck fat leaves them all but greaseless. And to top it all off, the multiple dipping sauces they’re served with — including béarnaise, curry ketchup, and harissa aïoli — elevate them to new heights.
#48 db Bistro Moderne, New York City
Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne serves skinny, shoestring-style fries. They are well salted and piled high in a silver cone, and are accompanied by a trio of sauces: mayonnaise with horseradish, spicy Dijon mustard, and ketchup.
#47 Anchor Bar, Superior, Wis.
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured this Wisconsin eatery, which serves only burgers and fries. That’s it. No chicken, no fish, no problems. Its fries are straightforwardly awesome, and are described on the bar’s website as “Fresh potatoes just minutes ago,” which we’re pretty sure is the best description in the history of French fries.
#45 Tasty Burger, Boston
Obviously, the location of the “Official Burger of the Red Sox” is going to offer up some tasty fries. Described as “thin crispy fries,” they are shockingly addictive: The more you have, the more you’ll want. There is a location right next to Fenway Park where you can get your beer, burger, and fry fix before or after the game.
#44 Meritage, St. Paul. Minn.
One of the finest French restaurants in the Twin Cities also happens to serve some of the best fries you’ll ever eat. Served slightly well-done for maximum crispiness, these are still fluffy on the inside and benefit from an ample sprinkling of salt as well as a side of béarnaise sauce for dipping. If you’ve never dipped fries into buttery béarnaise before, we apologize in advance for the extra calories.
#43 Love Shack, Fort Worth, Texas
Celebrity chef Tim Love owns this Fort Worth burger spot. The Top Chef Masters contestant has raised the bar for fries, cranking out flat crispy ones with the very best accompaniments: music and beer. Customers love the flat shape of the fries because they are crispy without being dry, and serve as great vehicles for any condiment they may desire.
#41 Au Cheval, Chicago
#40 Republic, Detroit
This swanky gastropub opened inside Detroit’s historic G.A.R building almost exactly one year ago, and chef Kate Williams’ creations are already causing a clamor (don’t miss the bone marrow fritters). But in-the-know locals already know a must-order: the fries. They’re hand-cut and fried in beef tallow before being dusted with parsley and coarse salt, and after trying the red pepper aïoli you just might never go back to ketchup.
#39 Bernie's Burger Bus, Houston
Bernie’s Burger Bus serves its gourmet burgers and fries from a restaurant location as well as its actual bus. Both venues create hand-cut fries with house-made ketchup. The portions are what grab a lot of people’s attention here, as one serving can serve a family of three or four — or one very hungry fry-lover.
#38 Pike Street Fish Fry, Seattle
Pike Street Fish Fry is like a cross between a Pacific surf shack and an authentic British fish and chips shop. The French fries are extra-crispy and medium-cut, and the golden-brown hue is so pronounced that it rivals the color of the expertly fried fish they’re often paired with. Plus, every Friday is free fry night.
#36 Melt Bar and Grilled, Cleveland
Melt Bar and Grilled specializes in two things — grilled cheese and fries — and it does them both so well! It serves plain, hand-cut fries that are described as well-seasoned by regulars and are served hot, crunchy, and just salty enough.
#35 Tattooed Moose, Charleston, S.C.
This laidback Charleston dive bar is one funky joint (so much so that it inspired a visit from Guy Fieri for an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), and sandwiches like the duck club and Lowcountry Cuban keep locals coming back for more. But no visit is complete without a big, overflowing basket of the signature duck-fat fries. Thin-cut for maximum crispiness and fried in a bubbling cauldron of duck fat, these really are a thing of beauty.
#34 Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
The title of owner Michael Schwartz’s cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat, is a pretty great description of the food he serves at his restaurant. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink sticks to this comfort food theme with homemade fries, and we’re very glad about that, as they are thin, crisp, and nicely golden.
#33 The Hungry Cat, Los Angeles
This is ostensibly a seafood restaurant, but hiding on the menu are an outstanding burger and even better fries. Kennebec potatoes are soaked overnight and twice-fried, then tossed with salt and chopped parsley. They're full of flavor and super-crispy, and you’ll devour the whole serving without even realizing it.
#32 White Manna, Hackensack, N.J.
This Hackensack, New Jersey, diner, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, satisfies the munchies with its fresh fries, served with or without cheese. The restaurant’s quirky process requires you to order your burgers first from the cook, while fries and drinks are ordered separately at the counter.
#31 Wild Willy's, York, Maine
Wild Willy’s "country fair" fries are lightly salted, hand-cut Maine potatoes fried in vegetable oil with the skins left on. You can add chili, cheese, or jalapeños, or any combination of the three, but we think they’re good enough to enjoy all by themselves.
#30 Kill Devil’s Frozen Custard and Beach Fries, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are famous for a lot of things — the views, the beach, the scene of the first airplane flight — but they’re increasingly becoming famous for the frozen custard and “beach fries” at Kill Devil’s. Both are made fresh throughout the day from the highest quality ingredients, and the fries are thick-cut, golden brown, and delicious, with not a trace of grease or sog. You should probably just go ahead and get your fries in a bucket, because you’ll never want to stop eating these.
#28 The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia
This Northeast Philly beer bar makes all of its food from scratch, on-premises (except the chicken fingers: “We examined numerous chickens, but we couldn't find fingers on any of them,” the website explains), and its French fries are fresh-cut by hand every morning and fried in canola oil. Rated Philly’s best by Philadelphia Magazine, the fries are available “red and yellow” (a combination of sweet potato and russet) or tossed with Cajun spice or truffle salt, but the care put into slicing and frying these bad boys does away with the need for any accompaniment, even ketchup.
#26 Tilt, Portland, Ore.
Order any of Tilt’s huge sandwiches or well-crafted burgers and you’ll also get a massive portion of its signature fries. They’re super-crispy thanks to a pre-fryer coating of beer batter, and the end result is crispy, crunchy, perfectly golden brown, and astoundingly delicious.
#25 Thrasher’s French Fries, Ocean City, Md.
In a city known for its beachside fries, the ones at Thrasher’s stand head and shoulders above the rest. If you’re visiting Ocean City in the height of the season, expect to wait quite a while for your fries, and don’t be concerned when you notice a sign telling you that they don’t serve ketchup (just go with it — the apple cider vinegar they offer instead will work wonders). Order up a bucket of freshly fried potatoes, sprinkle with salt and vinegar, and then chow down while you make your way down the boardwalk.
#24 The Grind, Phoenix
The Grind is known for its signature coal-fired ovens and all the delicious food that comes out of them. Its fries, while not cooked in these super cool ovens, are also unique. The Grind serves delicious herbed fries, accented with basil, tarragon, salt, and pepper. We can see why these are a perennial favorite for locals, who recommend getting a half order of herbed and half of sweet potato and eating them together.
#23 Peter Luger, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Peter Luger is a New York institution. Its classically simple menu includes aged steaks, creamed spinach, German potatoes, and, of course, French fries. Jody Storch, proprietor, explains that the fries are cooked in steak fat, served piping hot, and salted generously. Storch says this preparation “gives it an extra kick.”
#22 Ishkabibble’s, Philadelphia
Solidly basic in a good way, the fries at Ishkabibble’s serve as the ideal backdrop to the restaurant’s famous cheesesteaks. The place is also well-known for fries topped with every cheese imaginable, just in case you decide to get crazy.
#20 Al’s French Frys, Burlington, Vt.
If you live in Burlington, you’ve heard of Al’s French Frys. The sprawling burger joint, located just south of downtown, started as a French fry stand run by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz in the late 1940s, and over the years it just kept growing. The latest incarnation still has a distinctly 1950s vibe, and a menu that appears to not have changed (in either offerings or price) in years. Burgers are still just $1.60, and fries (or frys) cost even less than that. The potatoes are scrubbed and hand-cut on a daily basis and double-fried — and the result is the Platonic ideal of the French fry. They’re crispy on the outside, the inside is pillowy soft, and no ketchup is necessary — but if you choose to pour some nacho cheese and chili on top, you certainly won’t regret it.
#19 Burger Bar, Las Vegas
Hubert Keller’s Vegas Burger Bar serves two different cuts of plain fries — skinny and fat — and both are a huge hit with fry connoisseurs. They carry just the right amount of grease (in the way that all fries should). The crispy skinny fries, in particular, earn rave reviews.
#18 The Apple Pan, Los Angeles
This lively little diner has been serving up classic fare like burgers, fries, and pie since 1947. Their heaping portions of fries are prepared fat-cut and served extra hot, and if you want ketchup, it is served on a separate plate. Classically plain with salt, they’re crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and a great accompaniment to your meal or delicious all by themselves.
#17 Burger Joint, New York City
#16 The Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh
If your vision of the perfect order of fries involves a giant mound of them spilling out of the sides of a paper boat, surrounded by cups of gravy, cheese sauce, and ketchup, all served on a cafeteria-style tray, than The Original Hot Dog Shop, located on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, is for you. These would still get fry-lovers’ mouths watering even if they were premade and frozen, but the fact that these fries are hand-cut fresh daily and twice-fried in peanut oil really puts them over the top.
#15 Santa Fe Bite, Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Fe Bite combines the best of Tex-Mex with burgers and fries. Its wedge fries are stellar, and if you’re feeling adventurous, ask for the green chile cheese fries. They’re a secret menu item that locals rave about.
#14 Hubcap Grill, Houston
Fresh-cut fries: check. Crispy on the outside: check. Soft on the inside: check. Hubcap Grill’s specialty burgers and fries have been raved about by customers online and by the press (think Travel + Leisure Magazine, Zagat, and Lonely Planet). They have cheese fries and chili cheese fries, too, but the classics are always the best.
#13 P.J. Clarke's, New York City
One of the oldest joints on our list, P.J. Clarke’s opened in 1887 and has been delighting diners ever since. This celebrity haunt (the “owner” of table No. 20 was Frank Sinatra, and his picture still hangs there) serves shoestring-style, fresh-cut French fries that are cooked to golden perfection and simply seasoned with salt.
#12 Pie ‘n Burger, Pasadena, Calif.
Pasadena’s Pie ‘n Burger cranks out thick-cut fries like nobody’s business. Its huge portions take up at least half the plate when they’re paired with a burger, which is the ideal ratio as far as we’re concerned. They are classically basic, seasoned with salt, and hit the spot every time. Well done, guys.
#11 The Varsity, Atlanta
The Varsity has eight locations in and around Atlanta, and the one downtown serves an average of 2,500 pounds of fries daily. Its potatoes are grown just for the chain by Eagle Eye Produce in Idaho, cut fresh every morning, and soaked for a short time in water before being fried in rice bran oil and lightly salted. As one reviewer on Foursquare puts it, The Varsity is the go-to place in A-Town for crispy golden straws of potato-y goodness.
#10 Minetta Tavern, New York City
The folks at New York’s Minetta Tavern don’t mess around when it comes to French fries (or really, for that matter, anything else). These deceptively simple spuds are put through quite a regimen: First they’re cut the day before and soaked in water overnight to extract a good deal of starch, which in turn decreases the likelihood that they’ll become glued together in the cooking process. Next, the raw fries are dried and blanched in peanut oil over low heat until they’re fully cooked but not yet golden brown. After resting, right before they leave the kitchen, they’re fried for just a few moments in screaming hot oil to achieve that lovely and familiar golden hue before being generously salted and served to a lucky guest.
#9 Kuma’s Corner, Chicago
Kuma’s Corner has already brought culinary prestige to the Windy City, as its namesake burger topped our list of the 101 Best in America in 2014. Now, since it has placed in the top 10 on this list of our country’s best fries, the restaurant has won even more of our respect. Word on the street (let’s be real, we mean the Internet) is that they’re dressed with a fair amount of salt — all the better to pair with one of the 16 specialty burgers. Or, better yet: Order the Kuma burger with a side of fries and enjoy the best combo platter in the whole U. S. of A.
#8 Village Whiskey, Philadelphia
We have three words for you: duck-fat fries. That’s right, at Village Whiskey in Philly, that’s the only kind of fries served, and they’re available on all three of the restaurant’s menus: All Day, Late Night, and Brunch. For an extra $2, you can get them topped with Sly Fox Cheddar sauce, and for an extra $7, you can add not only Cheddar but also short rib. We suggest you start with the ordinary version first, though, as you’ll most likely find there’s very little that’s ordinary about them.
#7 Blue Duck Tavern, Washington
This year, the restaurant will celebrate its tenth anniversary. The BDT Fries have been a staple on the menu since we opened, and with the new year we thought it was time for a change. We wanted a more “unique” texture for a fry. It might not be what you expect when you order a fry but it is what you want. We steam, dry, and put the russet potatoes in the mixer to season. We then form the mixture into a sheet pan and cut them by hand. It’s a great texture when they are fried crispy and soft on the inside. They are completely vegetarian so everyone can enjoy them.
#6 Chickie’s and Pete’s, Philadelphia
In Philly, the Crabfries® are nothing short of legendary. Notice the capitalization and the trademark symbol? That’s how legendary they are. Sold at the various Chickie’s and Pete’s locations as well as out of a food truck, at the airport, and at just about every major sporting venue, these crinkle-cut fries are thinner than your standard Nathan’s-style crinkle-cuts, super-crispy, and dusted with a magical spice mixture that’s the icing on the cake.
#5 Duckfat, Portland, Maine
When a restaurant is called Duckfat, you can get a hunch right off the bat that its fries are going to be pretty good. And at this 11-year-old Portland sandwich shop, the fries are hand-cut throughout the day from local Maine potatoes and fried in — yes — duck fat. Tossed in seasoning salt and served in a cone with your choice of eight homemade dipping sauces, these fries are what dreams are made of. If you’re wondering what sort of sorcery created these fries, it’s worth knowing that Duckfat is actually an offshoot of Portland’s legendary Hugo’s, and chef–owner Rob Evans has won the Food & Wine Award for Best New Chef and the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast.
#4 Father’s Office, Los Angeles
There are a couple of fry options on the menu at Father’s Office, but the classic matchstick fries are the way to go. One of the cardinal rules at Father’s Office is that ketchup is not an option. Instead, its fries are accompanied by a small pot of homemade garlic aïoli for dipping.
#3 Dick’s Drive-In, Seattle
With six locations, Dick’s is a Seattle institution. Since 1954, it has served fries that are made with, as the website explains, “Real potatoes… That's what makes our fries irresistible!... Cut fresh daily by hand.” Diners can feel good about patronizing this family-owned business: It treats employees like family, offering full benefits, scholarships, childcare assistance, paid community service, and a starting hourly wage of $10.
#2 The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, New York City
This funky gastropub from chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman has perfected the classic British-style chip, and in the process has also perfected the French fry. The fries here, identified on the menu as “thrice-cooked chips,” are fried, well, three times, resulting not in an overcooked fry but one that has about twice the “crust” of other fries, encasing a perfectly cooked, creamy potato center. Thick-cut and addictive, they pair well with the cumin mayo that they’re served alongside, but they’re good enough to eat on their own. These fries are unlike any others: While still maintaining their basic DNA, they don’t need duck fat or truffles to stand out, and they keep the potato at the center of the action.
#1 Balthazar, New York City
A restaurant that maintains its status as a place to see and be seen despite having been around for nearly 20 years, Balthazar is known for serving French bistro classics. One of the signature items, on a menu filled with quite a few, is the steak frites, a perfectly-cooked steak served alongside a heaping tangle of supremely crisp fries. Thin-cut and fried to an otherworldly shade of golden brown, these are irresistible, not greasy at all, and are far easier to work your way through than you may think. The constant line of people waiting to score a table may appear to be due to the chic clientele, but really it’s all about the fries, which we’ve deemed the very best in America.