Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > All New England Archive >
May 30, 2009 09:18 PM

Duckfat: a sign in the window, "best french fries on earth. Serious"

And they may be. This is agreat but casual restaurant in Portland, Maine serving much of the same food as the James Beard Award winning Hugo's nearby. Note that Hugo's won the Beard award this year beating out everyone else in Boston, Providence and elsewhere in New England. He also owns Duckfat which serves some of the exact same food but is more casual and less expensive.

Yesterday at 3:00PM on a Friday afternoon the 25 or so seats in the restaurant were all filled. Yes, filled! At 3:00PM. I can only imagine what the line looks like at lunch.

Superb french fries. The sign in the window may be accurate for many. I'm not sure that I like them more than Thrasher's on the lower end of the Boardwalk in Ocean City, MD (ONLY that location-no other) or Michel Richard's Central french fries in D. C. or Dick's in Spokane, WA which serves McDonald's original pre 1967 french fries which are fried in 70% animal fat. I might also consider Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City where they have fried their's in pure lard for almost a half century.

But Duckfat adds one or more of about seven housemade dipping mayos including truffled ketchup, garlic aioli, curry mayo and others. Also several of the absolute best paninis that I have ever tasted.

And the same soup as served in Hugo's. Incredible, virtually orgasmic tomato and fennel in a thick, rich creamy bisque. Outstanding salads: yesterday's feature included Cabrales and "red wine poached dates." I wanted to buy a pint of the wine soaked dates to take with me! A real, honest to God milkshake. Serious with scooped ice cream, pure syrups and/or fruit and all blended with a vintage Mixmaster.

Duckfat is a treasure. Unfortunately, it is known and hugely popular. Still, this really may have the best french fries in America-perhaps that may rival the best that I've had in Brussels. For me it was worth the drive from Boston-for lunch.

I stayed for dinner, too.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We went to Duckfat when they first opened. Really enjoyed the duck confit panini and loved the idea, use of space, the casualness. It has a really cool, neighborhood vibe. The fries had a nice presentation in the stand-up cone and a couple of nice sauces. The fries were soggy, however, and I prefer crisp fries. Now I know people will say yeah authentic Belgian fries are like, blah, blah, but I'll have to say. I didn't think Duckfat's fries were all that. I think the place decent, nice, cool/hip, whatever, but it is also VERY overrated.

    11 Replies
    1. re: bewley

      They were crisp on Friday. The restaurant being full @3:00PM speaks for itself.

      1. re: Joe H

        duckfat has a great beer selection too,the fries are awesome.the fries @ katz deli in nyc are in my top 5 list also.

        1. re: Joe H

          The place seats about 17, so your comment about the place "being packed" is irrelevant.

          If Duckfat were in Boston or NYC it would be just another nice place to go, but the fact that it's in Portland means it stands out as something more. Don't get me wrong, I do like it, but but it ain't all that.

            1. re: irwin

              Funniest thing I may have ever read on Chowhounds - "Duckfat is over-rated."
              "It ain't all that." "Fries were soggy" (I've only had them about 30 times, and they've never once been anything other than perfect)
              I'm curious where people who find Duckfat "over-rated" are finding fries that are better?

              1. re: sophie fox

                If this was the funniest thing you've ever read on Chowhound, you must have a quirky sense of humor.

                I don't know what to tell you. Quite possible my one soggy fries experience was a one-off, a fluke, whatever, but it is the truth. As I've said, I have nothing against Duckfat, I actually really like the concept, but given my experience I think it's over rated.

                1. re: bewley

                  Based on ONE experience, you think it's over-rated? I've been there more times than I can easily count, no less than twenty times, and EVERY time has been outstanding. The "funniest thing" part was really more aimed at the OP here.

                  1. re: sophie fox

                    Sophie, please note that "Bewley" did not name a place that they thought had better fries. Having literally eaten french fries/frites all over America and Europe for the last 30+ years I really would like to know where Bewley thinks there are better fries? Because I will go there. I've travelled heavily for this whole time and will readily go out of my way for true excellence. I may disagree with Bewley's opinion but still, I'll respect it. Just please name the place that you believe is better.

                    And, yes, I've been to Maison Antoine which is the Belgium frites stand thought of by most as the best in that country. I must note that it would be interesting to eat Duckfat's and Maison Antoine's side by side with their respective mayonnaises. Both are extraordinary in their own way.

                    Still, "bewley," if you have one better I would really like to try it.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      I understand that, it's why I said "people" and not "bewley." I'm just curious. For what it's worth, I very much enjoy "American style" handcut fries, too, but I prefer Duckfat's to any that I've had anywhere. I also strongly suspect that Duckfat has the best poutine in the USA.

              2. re: irwin

                To be fair, the last time I went there was over 2 ½ years ago. I had told my wife when this topic came up that I wanted to go back this week to retry the fries. (Plus I happen to like the confit panini and wanted to go to the cookbook store across the street.) I will be most happy to report back on my experience and if the fries are crisp as they should be I will be all the more content.

                I had some great fries last week at the Fisherman’s Catch in Wells, Maine. They were crisp, handcut and tasty. They were not served in paper cones or fried in duck fat, nor did they serve them with any fancy sauces, (though their aioli served with the crabcakes is very good and I’m sure you could request a side of that). But if I had to compare those fries to the ones I remember having eaten at Duckfat, I would say the fish shack’s were better.

                Yet, I must be honest, the matter of naming a “better” place seems sort of like an immature challenge. There’s always going to be a better place with regards to food.

          1. re: bewley

            I've never had soggy fries in Belgium.

          2. are the fries fried in duck fat?

            10 Replies
            1. re: biga290

              We went to Duckfat last Sunday. Luckily only one table had ordered before we did or maybe two. It took forever to get the food. I watched the cook walk around the kitchen and basically ignore tickets for a while. The place filled up and people were pretty pissed about the length of time for stuff, servers not taking orders, people walking up to the counter ordering because no one was waiting on them. Pretty abysmal service.

              The tomato fennel soup was excellent. The beet, goat cheese and mesclun salad was very good also. The fries were pretty good once we got them but they serve them with about enough dipping sauce for 1/3 of the cone and then want you to buy more. At least serve enough of the simple sauces(we got the garlic aioli) for all of the fries. We had a much better service experience and pretty damn good food at 555 later that night.

              1. re: Wursthof

                Ok, I have to preface this in that I haven't been to DuckFat since July, but just to come to their defense. I have never had table service there for ordering. You order at the counter and they bring it to your table. Whilst there last July with my wife and out of town foodie friend, we basically ordered one of everything on the menu. Yes I am serious.
                It was hands down some of the best casual, ducky food I have eaten and I eat around the world.
                The truffled ketchup is amazing.
                As far as being busy, we went early and had no trouble, I will have to return to compare.
                Don't be deterred!

                1. re: SaltPig

                  SaltPig, despite the several negatives to my post I am comfortable in my comments. I have travelled heavily around the U. S. and Europe for almost thirty years which includes literally eating my way through Belgium. I live in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. but have travelled to Portland several times a year since the early '80's. Whether Duckfat were in Portland, D. C., NYC or Brussels it would still be considered excellent. Frankly, it is a treasure-I wish it were here.

                2. re: Wursthof

                  they charge twice whats it worth
                  and skimp on the ketchup
                  need I say more...........,

                  1. re: irwin

                    They make the ketchup from scratch and flavor it with truffle oil. At fifty cents it is a bargain.

                    Frankly, Portland has become one of the most exciting cities in America for dining out. Fore Street, Street and Company, Hugo's, Duckfat and a half dozen others have this city clamoring for attention. With Fore Street nominated for the national Beard award this year as restaurant of the year in the U. S. (ten years to qualify) and Hugo's chef winning it there are a lot of people who are discovering Portland's restaurants. It is worth the trip. For its size I would compare it to Charleston in its excellence.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      I agree Portland is on the move. I recently went down for the week end just to eat. Stayed at the Eastland Park Hotel. Walking distance 2 every thing. Cheap room rates compared to Boston and if you were in a Boston hotel as close as Eastland to to the old port you would pay 300+++ a night. Plus Portland is so relaxing! Mainer's need not go "south of the border".

                      1. re: westernmaine

                        I agree completely. The food is wonderful and an overnight trip to Portland, dining at any of the great restaurants, getting out to the shore, walking around the Old Port is as good as it gets. We're very lucky!

                        1. re: westernmaine

                          Yes, Portland has been on the move. Not wanting to advertise eGullet, but on there New England Dining Board
                          "Portland" enjoys 54,228 postings with 486 replys

                      2. re: irwin

                        as a matter of fact yes. i don't think you quite grasp the expense of the ingredients. Yeah Mc'Ds can do fries for go there if thats what you are looking for. God bless them for doing something casual that is soooooo damn good. Looking for cheap? You can get all the ketchup packets you can carry at Burger King.

                    2. re: biga290

                      yes, they are. well, a combo of duck fat and canola oil. i had those with the duck confit panini and was a happy camper. my b/f had the poutine and thought he had died and gone to heaven.

                      we lucked out on a quiet night in the winter, and will definitely make another trip up.

                    3. I went last week and had the BGT (thick bacon, goat cheese and hothouse tomato panini) and small fries. Both were excellent, the fries were hot and crisp and the sandwich was delicious without being overly rich.

                      1. I too love Duckfat, and agree that it's a treasure. I do think, though, that it's a bit misleading to say that they serve "some of the exact same food" as Hugo's. The menus at the two places are very different.