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Aug 28, 2012 11:39 AM

Poorly Engineered French Fries

I'm not a big fan of fries. I have them occasionally and I've had some good ones and some so-so ones. I used to think McDonald's did a good fry, but stopped eating there (and felt better for it) a few years ago. Maybe I should do some research. Most of the time I like 5 Guys fries, but it varies, even in the shop that I've consistently had a good batch. I rarely order them, though, because you get enough for 3 people in an order and I hate to waste them. I've taken them home and had fair luck reheating them, but unless I'm going directly home, if they stay in my car very long the car smells like a fast food restaurant for a few days.

Yesterday, I ate at the Elevation Burger which I do about once a year. I never got excited about them when they opened, and never really cared for their hand cut daily cooked in olive oil fries, but there was a coupon for a free order of fries in the current Falls Church News Press, so I thought I'd give them another try.

These are small, probably qualify as 'shoestring," about 3/16" square. Short, too, most 1" or less long, an occasional one about 2" long. Cooked until crisp and brown outside, which is usually a good sign, but because they have a large surface area for a small amount of "meat," they cool down very quickly. By the time I was half way through my burger, they were cool.

I figured that the cross section was determined by their slicer, so that would always be the same, but I asked the counterman if they were always that short. He hmmmmmed a bit and made the lame excuse that sometimes they're longer, sometimes they're shorter, depends on the size of the potato. Well, these must have come from a too short potato because they were hard to handle and just not very satisfying to eat. At least they were free.

Anything really outstanding out there, particularly offered in one-person-friendly portions? What's the deal with duck fat?

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    1. "what's the deal with duck fat?"

      kidding? right?

      hit one of the Belgian-Franco-ish places in the District that boast of this, I believe Beck's, Belga among others and some not in that exact genre use it.

      but it will spoil you for other types.

      of the single serving non duck fat, fast-food variety I still love Ollie's Trolley downtown (12th and E NW)

      1 Reply
      1. re: hill food

        I agree with the duck fat fries intrigue--what is the big deal? Had them at Victoria Gastro Pub and other restaurants--they were mushy--I was totally disappointed and thought that I missed out on something.

        I've had truffle fries at Stoney River and they were amazing and crispy and softly flavored with the truffle essence.

        At the Olive Grove Restaurant in the Baltimore area--they twice fry the potatoes--and that really makes a difference in texture and taste--just like Belgian fries. FoiGras

      2. Had the duck fat fries at Victoria Gastropub in Columbia a few weeks ago. They were incredible. Charcuterie plate was fine, lobster grilled cheese was ok, but the fries were worth going back for.

        My other favorites in the area are from Beefalo Bobs. Boardwalk style, and refried when ordered. I sat in the truck eating them, and tried to figure out what was so special about them, and it mainly was the fact that they weren't completely coated with salt.

        7 Replies
        1. re: laststandchili

          Seriously, I'm not going that far out of my way to get a $7 order of fries. I only brought up the duck fat part because that seems to be something that people rave over and I was curious why.

          My issue with the Elevation Burger fries was not with what they were cooked in, but rather their form factor. I want a piece of potato big enough so that I don't need to take a bite out of a bundle of six or so in order to taste the potato. I guess I just don't like "shoestring" fries. I'm guessing that about 3/8" x 1/2" should be about the right cross section, with minimum length of about 2-1.2" to make me happy. It's why I said "engineered" and not "fabulous" fries. But they should taste good, too, of course, not oily, not too salty, and particularly drenched in "seasoned salt."

          I've had some decent fries with a burger at Glory Days when I've remembered to ask the server to grab an order fresh out of the fryer before they get seasoned in the kitchen.

          1. re: MikeR

            So you like fries with more heft. Some people like shoestring fries, some people like boardwalk fries, some people like steak fries. Some people like all types of fries.

            1. re: reiflame

              I guess I'm not that much of a student of french fries. I'm not sure what boardwalk fries are, never have eaten fries on a boardwalk. If I have the concept right, when it comes to form factor, steak fries and shoestring fries are on opposite ends of the scale. Is that correct? If that's the case, then my preference tends toward steak fries, though they don't need to be quite that big.

              I simply can't find anything appealing about shoestring fries unless you have a dietary restriction that makes them the closest you can get to eating french fries. For those who like this style, what's the appeal? Maybe I'm missing something and I need to adjust my attitude or expectations to try to find the good in them.

              1. re: MikeR

                With shoestrings, I think people like them because they grew up on McDonalds and they have fond memories of that style of frenchfry. I remember when they were fried in beef tallow and were indeed very good. Now, if I don't eat them fresh within 3 minutes of purchase, they're pretty much inedible to me. Part of the appeal is the crisp-to-steamy ratio: there's more surface area to get crispy and less potato inside to get steamy. It's the french fry style for people who don't like potatoes? Anyway, a lot of people seem to hate Shake Shack fries for some reason; maybe they just associate crinkle cut with bad frozen fries they had growing up. I think they're delicious; the raised ridge on the crinkle gives it just the right potato chip crispiness. Then again, maybe I'm biased because I love the frozen crinkle cut fries that Chinese carryouts fry the hell out of.

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  A little credit where a little is due. I gave Elevation another try today (another free fries coupon) and this batch, though still skinny, was better than the ones from my original comment. Maybe the guy cutting the potatoes last time just put the potato in crosswise instead of lengthwise, but this batch had most of the shoestrings in the 3 to 4 inch range so they were easier to handle (because of the longer handle). They were a little crisper, but still I wasn't half way through the batch when they got too cool to be interesting. It's easier to throw away half an order when they're free. <g>

                  I don't think there's anything special about olive oil other than that it might not be as bad for us as other frying oils, but I still prefer fries with more potato than a shoestring form factor.

                  And for the record, I too think of frozen heated-in-the-oven when I see crinkle-cuts, and curly fries??? What are their purpose in life?

              2. re: reiflame

                This is the truth here. It's really a personal thing. Of course, there are "bad" fries, but it's really one person's opinion vs. another.

              3. re: MikeR

                I wasn't seriously suggesting that you do.

            2. I really like the fries at Eammons (Alexandria), Dogs Bite (Bethesda), and Shake Shack (Dupont)...

              11 Replies
              1. re: maypo

                Why? What do you like in fries that make these special?

                1. re: MikeR

                  Shake Shack has crinkle-cut, Yukon Gold fries that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Yukon Golds have a strong potato flavor that holds up well as fries. They are very good.

                  Roy Rogers fries taste like a less-greasy McDonald's clone but in a 3x thicker package. They are probably my favorite fast food fries.

                  1. re: CDouglas

                    Hmmm . . . I'll have to look around to see if there's a Roy Rogers around here. I used to like Double-R burgers in my wider and heavier days. ;)

                    1. re: MikeR

                      I hate all fast food fries. Well, I dislike most fast food, period. However, the fries at Checkers are the best you can get in the fast food category. They are larger than most, longer and are always served hot.

                      They appear to be cut from actual potatoes, and don't taste as if they're regurgitated Pringles.

                      Best of all, they do offer a small size.

                      1. re: Transplanted Texan

                        Matter of taste, but I find the Checkers fries inedible. They're coated with that "batter" which to me just gets in the way of the potato. I've always felt that they should serve fried batter without the potato for folks who love that batter.

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          Gaaak! What a terrible thing to do to a potato. Whenever I'm served those I apologize for not realizing how they made their fries, send them back, and order something else. Probably can't do that at Checkers, though.

                          1. re: MikeR

                            That's why I always steer clear of "seasoned fries" in restaurants. Inevitably, they're frozen coated fries or the seasoning skews salt or parsley or some weird spice that has no business being on fries. It's getting so's "hand-cut fries" means "pushed through a wire fry cutter then dumped in cold oil and left hanging for an hour until someone orders fries then they're dumped in slightly less colder oil and thrown under a heat lamp to warm up the sheen of grease and tossed with some weird spice that has no business being on fries then we stick you with a bill for the month's rent."

                      2. re: MikeR

                        There's a Roy Rogers in Gaithersburg on the corner of Lost Knife and Odenhal.

                      3. re: CDouglas

                        Second Shake Shack and Roy's, two examples of a consistent product cooked at the right temperature by people who know WTF they are doing and aren't afraid to throw out a batch if they've been out too long or not fried proper.

                        1. re: CDouglas

                          My favorite crinkle-cut ffries are from Dukes on Route 1 in Elkridge. They'd pretty damn good with a little Old Bay.

                      4. re: maypo

                        Do you mean Bold Bite in Bethesda-- the hot dog place? Not trying to be annoying, just curious because I've never tried that place (or heard of a place called Dogs Bite).

                      5. I have not seen them around for a while (but I don't go out every day) but I thought the poutine frome the Eat Wonky truck was great.

                        Frankley I like my fries thin and very . . . very crispy. If they are not going to be crispy . . . then dress them up with gravy and cheese curds . . . .

                        It has been a while, but as I remember them the fries at Central were awesome . . .

                        I love the burgers at Five Guys, but the fries . . . .yuck! Never crispy. Always too greasy.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: drewpbalzac

                          You'd probably like these fries from Elevation Burger. Maybe I've been lucky with 5 Guys fries but they're almost big enough, not crunchy like those canned potato sticks but with a good bite to the outer surface. Occasionally I'll get a tired batch, so I just take it back to the counter and ask them to get me some fresh ones. That always works.

                          My only problem with 5 Guys fries is that there are too many of them in an order that costs nearly $3. I'd order them every time I get a burger there if I could get one cup (which is usually three times overfilled with the "regular" order) for a buck or a buck and a half. I've e-mailed them, spoken to store managers, and basically been told that they won't do that, that they like giving lots value for the price (which they truly do). If I was just a little more outgoing, I'd turn around to the person standing behind me in line and ask if he or she would split an order of fries with me.

                          1. re: MikeR

                            I like the Fries at Elevation Burger until they get cold. Something about the olive oil .. . .once they hit room temp . . they are over.

                            1. re: drewpbalzac

                              Thats one of the "engineering" aspects. Because of the relatively large surface area relative to the bulk, they cool off very quickly.

                              What I don't know is whether this is something that's necessary because they cook them in olive oil? Perhaps due to the temperature range over which olive oil can be held?

                            2. re: MikeR

                              i know Five Guys is successful at what they do.....but I NEVER get fries there unless I'm with someone else.....their order of fries can feed a family of 4.

                              Too bad because I do think they are usually really good

                            3. re: drewpbalzac

                              drewp, the EatWonky truck has been retired. I liked their poutine too.

                              I normally prefer a thin, crispy fry, but there's something about the fries at Five Guys.