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November 13, 2008

French fries, part deux

frenchfriesagain.jpgWell, boys and girls, it's that time again: Top 10 Tuesday topic time again.

One possibility is french fries. I know we've discussed them before, but we've never done a Top 10. However, I just got this e-mail from a colleague:

I was just thinking that for dinner I wanted a big plate of french fries. JUST french fries. But then I remembered that I still haven't found a place that really satisfies on that score. Thought it might be a good idea for your top 10 list! (Since I did score with the fish & chips at Ryan's Daughter, but the fish was much much better than the chips!)

Another colleague is anxious for me to do a list of rotisserie chicken places. Obviously this isn't an either/or -- those Tuesdays keep rolling round -- but it might be a little close to when another bird takes precedence. 

Or maybe we need to veer off into a completely different kind of Top 10 list, like Top 10 Best Restaurants for a Winter Meal. Top 10 Places With Fireplaces. Or whatever.


(Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:18 PM | | Comments (83)


The best fries I have eaten lately were at Famous Dave's in Owings Mills.

PLEASE do a Top 10 french fries list. I moved to Baltimore last year from Ohio and I have yet to find a good place to get french fries.

I would love to find some good cheese fries in the city. Preferably that are served with ranch, even though Baltamour Maryann will disagree with me.

Fireplaces = Red Maple.

My heart belongs to Checkers Chili Cheese fries. They totally rock!

I'm also partial to the original Boardwalk Fries in OC. I don't know what it is that is different but somehow they are always better than any of the franchise stores. I like my boardwalk fries with vinegar and Old Bay.

Brewers Art!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

I like the idea of a Top 10 for restaurants with fireplaces for cosy winter dining. The Ambassador and the Carlyle Club immediately come to mind. Are there 8 more?

It's so easy -- Brewer's Art has the best fries hands down.

Rosemary garlic fires at Brewer's Art

Duck fat fries at Salt

I love the fries at Brewer's Art. I could definitely eat a plate of them for dinner.

My favorite french fries are the Blue Cheese French Fries at Morton's. Whomever came up with the idea to put blue cheese on french fries deserves an award! And, the best part is that they are on Morton's Bar Bites menu and cost $5 during Morton's "Power Hour."

I am not a huge rotisserie chicken fan, but I bought a really good rotisserie chicken at Wegman's on Saturday night for $4.99.

5. Kisslings Cheese Fries
4. Five Guys
3. Salt's Duck Fat Fries
2. Brewer's Art Rosemary Garlic Fries
1. McD's -"'cause they put an addictive chemical in them that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartarse"

The sweet potato fries at Annabel Lee Tavern and the pommes frites at Petite Louis.

Rosemary, garlic fries at Brewer's Art. No contest.

I love the idea of best fries, but don't have anything to contribute. 5 Guys are the best I've found in Baltimore, and they are good, not great.

Rotisserie chicken? Take away or Peruvian?

Since next week is Truffle Week (which I'm taking to be like Crab Week) wouldn't the Top Ten Places to get truffle dishes (or truffle confections) be in order?

It would, but it would get exactly four page views. EL

Big surprise at lunch last week...killer curly fries at the Swallow at the Hollow where the new owners have their act together. My wife's vote...the fries at Sanders Corners.

Since next week is Truffle Week (which I'm taking to be like Crab Week) wouldn't the Top Ten Places to get truffle dishes (or truffle confections) be in order?

Well if it helps, and to add to my previous post, the duck fat fries at Salt come with a killer white truffle aioli.

The poutine fries at Jack's Bistro. Delectable. Add a ground bacon slider and it's a little bit of heaven.

I'm surprised we haven't heard that Jack's Bistro has the best fries. Oh wait, that was world peace...

Top ten truffle places would get more than 4 page views if you mentioned fois gras. Or chocolate. But fois gras would work better.

I really like Sorrento's fries. I am pretty sure they are just McCain crinkle cuts, but I just loooooove them.

I think the top ten list should be limited to pure fries. No rosemary, no secret spices, no beer batter, etc. Three ingredients only. Potatoes, oil, and salt.

Well, on the topic of truffles and fries, I had the truffle fries at the Capital Grille yesterday. Very good. Nice texture of crispy and creamy with flavors of parmesan, parsley and truffles.

Definitely Brewer's Art Rosemary-Garlic Fries. The quality sometimes dips between superb and just good, but, wow, they sure are terrific.

However, I think the best fries in Baltimore are now the Sweet Potato Fries at The Annabel Lee Tavern - just the perfect blend of sweet and spices. Don't even need ketchup.

it would get exactly four page views ... The Sandbox would do better than that. With luck some PETA nut job would post about the oppression of the pigs used to hunt truffles, and away we go.

[Two small side notes. I'm not finding the new, local server to be any faster. Each of my posts this evening is taking 10 or 20 seconds to cycle through.

And, Hi to Ms Laura Lee. She's becoming quite the little blog tart. And you can never have too many tarts.]

I had lunch at Ryan's Daughter yesterday, and both fireplaces were lit. SO lovely and comforting on a chilly day.

I enjoyed their French Fries appetizer -- fries sprinkled lightly with Old Bay and covered with bacon bits and cheese (and maybe chopped scallions?), and served with housemade ranch-ish dressing. Pretty yummy.

Lissa wrote: Top ten truffle places would get more than 4 page views if you mentioned fois gras. Or chocolate. But fois gras would work better.

Especially if the headline was "Sarah Palin's Top Ten Place to Get Foie Gras and Fries."

(I don't know why, anymore, but Zzzzz on TV is still milking her name for all it's worth.)

I'll echo the other posters' nod to Brewers Art's Rosemary-Garlic Fries.

Please, EL, don't sleep on the fries at Waterfront Hotel in Fells: Old Bay & a chipotle dipping sauce. The fries stand on their own, without the sauce or Old Bay. Perfect texture and taste. The the pairing of sauce and spice compliments beautifully.

Also, for just basic, consistently good fries, Koopers.

Bucky -- the reason for Zzzzz on TV milking Palin's name for all it's worth is clear: page views and comments! Look at his two posts from November 11:

Palin scores in softball chats with Lauer, Van Susteren -- 199 comments (as of this writing)

"60 Minutes" -- the "dinosaur" that still rules TV -- 0 comments

Poor "60 Minutes"! And EL was worried about getting comments on Truffle Week ...

Rosemary garlic fires at Mahaffey's Pub
Annabel Lee's Duck Fat Fries

Yeah, Bucky, I do not understand why we are still talking about Palin. She lost, she gets to go home with her marbles.

There are many things that do not belong on fries. Ketchup is one. Old Bay is another. I'd also argue that sweet potato fries are a completely different (and very delicious) animal.

The Corner Stable in Cockeysville - home to Baltimore's Best Ribs and some of the best Fries around.

Also, the Charcoal Deli just down the street from Corner Stable has THE best fries in all of the county.

True story.

Especially if the headline was "Sarah Palin's Top Ten Place to Get Foie Gras and Fries."

No, that would get plenty of hits. It would be a null set as a list though.

(I don't know why, anymore, but Zzzzz on TV is still milking her name for all it's worth.)

Uh, because he has no imagination. Zzzzz on TV, funny. God that guy is tedious. Just looking at the topics is sleep inducing. I'm sure EL must feel like the topics are recurring and running together in her mind after all these months. SnooZy just went with repetetive off the bat. His last three posts are about Palin. I wonder how long he can keep it going?

It's a landslide for Brewer's Art. Their fries are definitely dope.

Anabel Lee also makes very good duck fat fries.

I'd vote for all of the above, especially fireplaces soon. But fries are clearly a pressing issue.

Looks like french fries are carrying the week this time. But for next week, maybe Top Ten Places to Eat Before or After Thanksgiving. This isn't for the Thanksgiving meal, but for counter-programming, so to speak. A friend and I have theatre tickets that week, and we're debating, is Thai a good meal to have - nice and spicy - the night before Thanksgiving richness? Or . . . ???

Looks like I need to try Brewer's Art.

I never order fries intentionally or by themselves, except at Red Star. Their garlic fries are awesome.

I've had the duck fat fries at Salt and I really hate to say this but I wasn't impressed. I thought they were boring. But I have vowed to return with Bourbon Girl and try them again, because everything tastes better with Bourbon (Girl). The whole aoili dipping sauce thing seems like bulls**t. A good fry tastes good on it's own.

I have a theory that people have favorite fries based upon something other than the food itself. Don't you think that some of the places mentioned here are dumping the same Sysco frozen fries into the same Sysco oil? I don't know; it's just a suspicion.

Weren't we all told that French fries aren't French and that someone ordering them in Paris is an ugly Americain? I read an article in the Wine Spectator six months to a year ago about how the top chefs in Paris cook their fries. This was serious business. I think Alain Ducasse was one of the chefs featured. As I recall he (and others) had a two stage process. They cook the fries in duck fat to cook them at certain temperature.and then finish them off in a second duck fat fryer at a higher temperature to make them crispy. Now that seems like real technique. Has anybody else heard of this?

Doh! I forgot about the fries at Red Star, Carey. You are so right. They are great., also they're developed by the chef who created the scrumptious Waterfront fries.

I spoke with him over a beer on the subject once, and he was keen to stress the import of french fries. He was of the belief that if a place had good fries, the odds were that the rest of their food was good, too.

I thought *real* chefs cooked their frites in horse kidney fat, or smething like that.

Owl Meat -- the two-stage cooking technique for cooking fries is fairly common (at least in places outside of Mickey D's).

Many years ago when the Food Network actually taught you how to cook David Rosengarten had a show called Taste. On the episode about fries he concluded the only way to get really crispy fries was to fry them twice. Once at about 300 and then at around 360 to finish them. Honestly I thought all restaurants using fresh potatoes cooked them this way. By the way David used peanut oil not duck fat.

I don't know much about fries, but I was trying to get to why some would legitimately be better than others. No one ever explains that. Fresh potatoes versus frozen? With skin or without? What kind of potato is used? The double fryer technique? What kinds of fat/oil used? I can't really learn anything if people just say this place is the best. I'm not willing to accept your subjectivity. So hmpstd who uses that technique?

Yeah...French Fries! I agree with Joyce, those Boardwalk fries are awesome (just had some last night from the Charcoal Grill at Old Harford and Putty Hill). Being that I am such a freak when it comes to fries, I definately have to get around to trying the "fancy" fries, to see how they hold up to good old "regular" fries. The Charred Rib in Lutherville has really good fries also.

Owl, all of those things you mention factor in to the results. But we don't generally know how a given restaurant does it, so we can only judge by the results.

When I make fries (which isn't too often 'cause I hate having all that oil to dispose of), I use russet potatoes, peeled, cut not too thin. I rinse them in cold water to get excess starch off of them, then soak them for a bit in ice water. I fry them once for a few minutes at a slightly lower temperature, then let them cool. At serving time, I fry them at the higher temperature until they're nicely browned and crisp on the outside. I salt them as soon as they come out of the oil so that the salt will stick.

First off, there are about 2.8 bazillion kinds of potatoes, most never seen outside of Peru (presumably, they couldn't get visas). Then frying is a very temperature sensitive procedure. Then there are the 1.493 mazillion kinds of oil and/or fat you could fry them in.

It is really quite amazing that more fries aren't bad, when you think of it.

Me, I just slice whatever potatoes I have on hand, skin on, and toss them in the pile in the toaster oven after coating them with some oil (veggie, olive, whatever) and kosher salt. Not strictly fries, but I can't bear to heat up that much oil for only one person. Seems a horrible, expensive waste.

Owl Meat asked: who uses that technique?

Hal Laurent, VoR, for one. ;-)

As for others, I can't point to any specific local restaurants off the top of my head, but it's in the nature of I-know-it-when-I-eat-it -- if fries have a thicker than usual crunchy outside layer with a fairly soft inside, it's a good indication (albeit not foolproof) that the two-step frying process could have been used.

If you use peanut oil you can strain it and reuse it.

For my taste fries have to be crisp and hot. They should taste like potatoes and not the oil used to cook them. So many places bring out cool limp fries. No thanks.

Thanks Hal and Lissa

I have to say that I really like the fries that i get with my monday night burger at Mick O'Sheas. They're just well seasoned.

and the aforementioned duck fat fries at salt

I can tell you one double frying technique that people use that totally blows. Lazy chefs cook a batch of fries ahead of time to save time and then put them back in the fryer to reheat them. I won't mention the name of the place that I know used to do that even though they are out of business. Other things that I have seen a lazy chef do: deep fry bacon and reheat mixed vegetables in the fryer. And this was not a diner. He actually cooked asparagus in the fryer. Really. Imagine getting a pricey salmon dish with deep fried asparagus.

Lissa, that's probably my favorite way to have potatoes. I never make fries at home. It always seems too messy and wasteful.

Boardwalk fries uses the fry times two technique.

Joyce - I obviously did not read your comment clearly, but you are right, the fries in OC are the best. That being said, the boardwalk fries at certain pit beef places are pretty good.

Last week I made sandwiches with potatoes fried using the double-fry process.

I used crusty baguettes, merguez from Springfield Farms, Polish Mustard, spicy ketchup (Heinz mixed with horseradish and habanero sauce), fried onions and fried potatoes. I had the remainder of the potatoes on the side. It was a wonderful lunch.

Does anyone remember the great french fries with gravy at the Champs that used be in Westview? Asking for that combo outside of Bmore usually results in strange looks.

Why are they called "boardwalk fries", isn't Thrasher's there anymore?

If you're ever down my way, Firefly in Dupont Circle, DC has excellent truffle fries as well. (Though I can never manage to finish them since I always wind up stuffed on entree.)

Man, frying bacon in a fryolator really messes up your grease.

LEC - don't remember fries with gravy from Champs but we used to get them all the time at Caplans in Randallstown. Champs had that great red sauce on their cheeseburgers - do you remember that?

Yes, in OC they are Thrashers - forgot.

Trixie, I agree, there are some good pit beef places fries.

Owl, I've seen something worse than bacon or veggies in the deep fat fryer. I've seen (on tv) a guy in NYC who batters and fries candy bars. ew!

Anonymous this time was me. Don't know how or why....

Anonymous this time was me.

Careful there, Joyce. You'll have the Scientology lawyers after you.

You almost brought a tear to my eye descriibing the fries you got at the Charcoal Grill by Old Harford and Putty Hill....I lived in the apts just behind them for awhile before I moved to Annapolis and then way down here.

The Charcoal Grill does put out some mean fries as well as some great pit turkey and pit beef.

Just was watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and they did a segment on a place (forget the name) that does steamed crabs and crab cakes. I miss that so much!

Well, Lissa, I already apparently have LDS after me and they don't even KNOW me!

PCB Rob:
Stoney Creek Inn is the place you are thinking of.
I got hungry for crabs too!

Cosmo Girl,

Yes! That's the place. Those crab cakes looked so good.

I was watching that eppy of D,D,D too and Stoney Creek Inn looked like they have good crab cakes. My husband and I would like to try them sometime.

I posted this in another blog entry, but I guess it belongs here.

Speaking of french fries, how many of us like sweet potato fries? I do, for sure. Where are some places to get good sweet potato fries? Perhaps a future Top Ten maybe?

PCB Rob - The night I got the fries, I also got a Pit Turkey, plain, for the cat, a Pit Beef, medium rare/onions/mayo (sorry), for me. Well I get home to find the cat sick (hyperthyroid issues). I throw the food in the fridge, rush the cat to pet ER.

A few hours later and a few hundred $$ poorer (Do not get me started on how scandalous it is that they charge so much. $100 cover charge just to walk in the door. I mean thank god for them and I respect anyone who works in that field, but come on! Sorry I digress). I heat up the sandwich, put the fries under the broiler for awhile, and it tasted almost as good. That's a sign of good food Oh, and the cat ate some of her turkey.

I love sweet potato fries. The best I've had so far are at the Biglerville Apple Festival in spring and fall (in southern PA). I guess 'cause they come right out of the fryer and to me, where I can put anything on them I wish. The choices they have (that I remember) are Old Bay, salt, brown sugar & cinnamon. Where's the best you've ever had, Fl Rob?

One very important thing about fries is that they have to be hot. When I get fries as a side in a restaurant I spend the early part of the meal concentrating on the fries while they're still hot. Unless they're lousy fries, in which case I don't eat many of them.

Possibly the best place I've ever gotten fries is Bistro D'Oc, in D.C. (across the street from Ford's Theater). They're obviously cooked to order, as they come out so hot that you don't have to eat them all right away. I love Bistro D'Oc for a lot of other reasons (including duck, confit, and cassoulet), but I'll often go out of my way to order something there that comes with frites.


I've only had the sweet potato fries a couple of times, but the most recent and tastiest ones were at a beachfront bar/restaurant down here, in Rosemary Beach. This beach town is VERY upscale but still laid back (about 30 minutes drive west of PCB).

My fiancee and I were walking up the beach around sunset and decided to visit this open air bar/restaurant right on the beach. I'm sorry, the name escapes me.
To get to the place from the beach, you have to climb stairs, its so steep it might be 2-3 storeys. Anyway, we go up there for a couple of mojitos. After our second round, the bartender/waiter asks if we'd like some fries.
"Why Not?" we replied, and he gave us a plate of sweet potato fries. I guess they were cooked in error for a couple of other diners there. They were quite good and we went back a couple more times while she was down for a visit. For the mojitos mostly, but we had the fries again too.

I'll say that munching on sweet potato fries and sipping a mojito while watching the sun set over the Gulf is quite a nice way to end a day.

In Baltimore, the old Lauraville House had great sweet potato fries. Not sure if the new place has them or not.

Joyce, the LDS probably just wants your ancestors.

One of my friends, when given a _Book of Mormon_ by some missionaries gave them a copy of the Havamal in return.

EEL mentioned "Many years ago when the Food Network actually taught you how to cook David Rosengarten had a show called Taste."

I tried this first right after seeing that episode. I have not cooked fries any other way since then.

I miss that so much!

Come home, PCB Rob!

Fl Rob, I'm with Rosebud! I think you're homesick for our odd little city that borders the north pole!

Lissa - too funny and wonderful! I'm going to have to stock up on the Havamal.

Lissa, I believe Joyce was referring to the recent unpleasantness in California.

Cafe Hon does the two-step fry, and their fries are pretty good. Gravy available.

I miss the "Kudra's Fries" at Bandaloops...

Hal, you are probably right. I forgot about the recent unpleasantness in CA, since I think there is more than enough blame to spread around, and that the Mormon Church (despite having probably violated its tax free status) is being scapegoated so all those San Francisco liberal voters who stayed home don't feel guilty.

Dang politics. I need fries....

Yes, Hal, I was alluding to the CA unpleasantness. And, yes, Lissa, I agree that there is more than enough blame to spread around. And I also agree fries would be great!

Rosebud and Lissa,

Perhaps I am a little homesick for Charm City. And I am kinda working on getting back up there, just have to find a job up there first.

By the way, its pretty chilly down here too, nights are in the mid 30s.

I miss the "Kudra's Fries" at Bandaloops... (HON)

They were the BEST - Drifters (the replacement restaurant) does have similar fries on their menu -but I've never tried them to see if they come close.

best standard fries -- Thrasher's (with vinegar!)
best sweet potato fries -- Paper Moon Diner
best pub chips/fries -- Washington Street Pub in Easton, MD

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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