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. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to track down the best French fries in America for the fourth 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.
Although the origin of the fry is somewhat of a sore spot for our European friends (the French and the Belgians still can't agree about which country invented them), they have become a fine example of quintessentially American food. They're deep-fried, they're the perfect vehicle for sauce, and they're made from one of the country's most bountiful crops, potatoes; what can be more American than that?
What exactly makes for a perfect fry? There's the crunchiness element, for sure — that crisp exterior texture that isn’t greasy or soggy, achieved through a perfectly-timed fry (or two, and sometimes even three) in fat that’s just the right temperature. Then, the soft, fluffy interior, filled with potato that's cooked through but not dried out or raw-tasting. The color also comes into play — the best fries have that mouthwatering golden-brown hue. When all of these elements come together, they create the perfect fry, no condiments necessary.
For this year’s ranking, we first set out to define exactly what we would be considering; loaded fry dishes weren’t included, as we already covered them with America’s Most Outrageous French Fries. Some of our selections are fried in duck fat or dusted with herbs or seasoning mix, but every honoree made the list because their fries are outstanding on their own, with no adulteration. Avocado, sweet potato, and yucca fries were also not considered, as those are completely different animals altogether. From an initial list of fries from several hundred restaurants from across the country (assembled by combing preexisting rankings and tapping into the knowledge of our staff editors, city editors, and contributors), we were able to whittle down the top 50.
Additional reporting by Kate Kolenda and Rosemary Pantaleo.