The French Fry Problem

On June 2, 2008, in Food and Drink, by psu

Back when I was a college student, french fries were easy. You got four or five of your friends together and walked to the O, where you could pick up a few pounds of deep fried potatoes for around $5. What the fries lacked in quality they made up for in quantity and cheese whiz. Life was good.

Now life is more complicated. The O is still down in Oakland, but three pounds of fries are not such a pleasing proposition. Other classic sources of french fried pleasure have also fallen by the wayside. McDonald’s doesn’t use beef fat anymore, so even that last ditch outlet is gone.

I have now come to realize that there is something of a French Fry crisis in Pittsburgh. I hadn’t really thought about it until we had a new guy, let’s call him “Joe”, move from CA to Pittsburgh to start work in our office. “Why can’t I get decent fries”, he would ask from time to time. We took him to all the best local places: D’s have pretty good fries with their dogs, but they are not french. Point Brugge makes fries from scratch, but they only really get it right 75% of the time. Five Guys have gotten a lot better after a slow start, and might be the most consistently decent fries I’ve had in a while. After all this time after college, the O is really more of a mass of onion-ring like material in the shape of a mound of potatoes.

Today we were discussing the problem again at lunch and Joe presetned his new measure of fries quality, and I realized he was totally right. Here is what he wants:

He wants a place that does fries that are better than Ore-Ida frozen french fries that he bakes in the oven at home.

I actually have a similar measure, only with Whole Foods tater tots.

So this is your challenge tonight: find me a place where I can get fries better than either one of these two mass produced products every single time I order them. I’ve eaten all over the city and have never found a joint that could pull this off.

Five Guys in Oakland almost manages this. But it’s a chain, and that’s no fun.

Surely there is a local place that can do better.


10 Responses to “The French Fry Problem”

  1. peterb says:

    I have an answer for you that is not an answer: the french fries at Eleven are consistently awesome. Since you did not specify “not insanely expensive” as a criteria, this technically satisfies your question. But it’s not really a practical solution.

  2. Eeyore says:

    Club Cafe? I haven’t had their fries since I discovered their fried olives, but I vaguely remember them being good.

  3. Mike Collins says:

    it is fascinating for a town that uses them as a condiment, the fries are so consistently mediocre. I don’t have anything to add to this, Point Brugge is probably the best, although I have a soft spot for Uncle Sam’s fries. At this point, if I get the battered abominations with something, i refuse to eat them and exchange it for a fruit salad. Better for my cholesterol and my soul.

  4. Adam says:

    I’m with Mike, I always liked the Uncle Sam’s fries — but only the Oakland location. The ones in Squirrel Hill or Water Works were always either overcooked or undercooked.

    The secret with Five Guys (at least here in DC) is to always get them takeout. They always serve them much too hot. But if it takes me 15-20 minutes to get them home, they’ve cooled off to the perfect temperature and texture. The foil-wrapped burger will still be nice and hot, but the fries are no longer scalding.

  5. Christina says:

    I quite like the fries at the Elbow Room. (But I usually order a baked sweet potato instead, because: mmmm, sweet potato.)

  6. Jeff says:

    The fries at Lucci’s in Squirrel Hill are a personal favorite.

  7. Honestly, I haven’t had great fries since I moved back to Pgh. from New Orleans. However the sweet potato fries at The Sharp Edge are pretty consistently tasty.

  8. Benoit Hudson says:

    One thing I miss about Pittsburgh is the sweet potato fries — they don’t make those in Chicago. The potato fries in Pittsburgh were inedible everywhere I had them, but I guess sweet potatoes are more resilient to mistreatment because the plant is tasty in its own right.

  9. Lisa says:

    I also like the Uncle Sam’s/Fuel and Fuddle fries and sweet potato fries. Sometimes i’ll just order a bag of sweet potato fries to go.

  10. dug says:

    we used to have a bitchin’ fry place here in seattle on capitol hill. you could buy frys there. and soda. and that was it. needless to say, it rocked like hell.

    almost as cool was the closing, involving pain, strife, and accusations of a nebulous character.