I love French fries. I love them more than you think I love them. I think they are basically the best things ever. I have been known to order dinner based around whether the main course will taste good with French fries. I don’t love just any French fries, though; I’m extremely opinionated on this matter. (Raise your hand if you are surprised.) Good French fries are shoestring style, though I can make exceptions for crinkle-cut. They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They are never, ever greasy. They are, ideally, pre-salted – a good fry should be able to be eaten as-is with no additions of spicings or sauces. (Good dipping sauce can, however, put good fries over the top; house-made ketchup is some of my favorite shit, and I do not have any love for ketchup typically. I see it as a way to rescue mediocre fries. That said, shitty diner/bowling alley/bar fries covered in ketchup are a shitty food item I love with a passion typically only reserved for shitty diner coffee.)
Here, I present to you my top French fries in New York and its environs. This is in no particular order; the numbers are simply bullets and not rankings.
1) Chimichurri Fries at Calle Ocho (446 Columbus Ave. between 81st and 82nd)
Chimichurri is an Argentinean steak condiment made of parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and red pepper flakes. These fries are doused in it. They remain non-greasy and are incredibly flavorful. They are shoestring style and come in a giant pile of delicious. I don’t know if you can get them any time other than brunch, but I would say brunch is worth it for these alone. (There is also a free sangria bar if you are into that, and an endless basket of muffins and pan dulce. Honestly brunch here is pretty worth it whatever your feelings on chimichurri fries.) I have not yet had the pleasure of consuming a full order as I cannot quite deal with ordering a burger for brunch, but I intend to get over this particular hang-up (probably through having breakfast before going out) as soon as possible.
2) Northvale Diner (247 Livingston Street, Northvale, NJ)
This diner is one of my favorite spots because it serves tasty food beyond most diners’ limits of breakfast-and-burgers while still being diner-priced. This delights me, as the flip side of NY/NJ’s incredibly diverse availability of ethnic food is a real difficulty finding standard American fare that isn’t a) delicious but unaffordable, or b) gross. But what really delights me about Northvale Diner is their fries. They are pretty much perfect: crisp, perfectly salted, skin-on, shoestring, non-greasy. I drag my boyfriend here on the regular in order to consume their fries. While most people I know are based in NY these days, NJ-based people should take your next opportunity to fill your face with these. NY-based people, I will happily drive you up here to eat fries with you. Yes, eating French fries is my idea of a good time.
3) Shake Shack (Madison Square Park, 86th b/t Lex and 3rd, 8th and & 44th, seriously these things are cropping up everywhere)
The reason that every New York food blogger is creaming themselves over Shake Shack and acting like it’s the best thing since sliced bread is because it is, okay, this shit is what In-N-Out wishes it could be, I want to eat Shake Shack pretty much all the time, and the fries are at least 50% of the reason why. They are crinkle-cut, which departs from my normal rules for fries, but in this case it works. They are so crisp, and they are perfectly salted, and with the burgers they are fry-vana. My only complaint is that they are sometimes a bit on the salty side. But honestly who gives a shit, I’d eat these any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
4) 67 Burger (Lafayette & Fulton, Fort Greene, Brooklyn)
This was the place where I first realized that I was not rational when it comes to French fries. This was where I discovered the unmitigated joy of pre-salted fries. This is where I often debate getting my own enormous basket of fries because I would rather eat myself sick than share. I take people here whenever I can because the burgers and fries are little pieces of heaven that you put in your mouth. These fries meet every criterion laid out above. I don’t know what else to say. Put these in your mouth. Tell me you’re going to and I will put them in mine with you.
Honorable Mention: Garlic Fries at Black Bear Tavern (82 Main Street, Nyack, NY)
The only reason these are an honorable mention instead of top of the list is because they are really, really inconsistent. When they’re done right the garlic butter they are topped with is liquified, coating every fry, and the cheese is thoroughly melted and minimal. When they’re done right they are hands-down my favorite way to eat French fries in all my fry-eating experience. But I don’t know whether it’s the chain/franchise thing, or whether there’s multiple chefs with different interpretations of garlic fries, or if they just sometimes hate me, but I’ve gotten these where the garlic butter just makes everything greasy and the cheese is not Parmesan and not minimal and it’s just bad news. So, I dunno, these are either a home run or a strike-out.
Honorable Mention: Bareburger (31st Ave and 34th St, Astoria; Laguardia Place, Greenwich Village; 3rd & 35th)
Bareburger’s fries are good, but not spectacular. What is spectacular is their special sauce. But so let me back up – a side order of fries at Bareburger is easily enough to feed four. I was there with a friend who also has a healthy appetite and we barely got through half. This mountain of fries comes with four dipping sauces: house-made ketchup, curry ketchup, chipotle mayo and Bareburger special sauce. The housemade ketchup is really nice, as is the chipotle mayo. I am not a fan of curry, but I think if you are you would really enjoy the curry ketchup. But the special sauce, holy God. I have no idea what is going on with this shit. I think it’s sour cream based, as it didn’t get that glazed look about it that mayo does when it sits out for awhile, but it doesn’t taste like sour cream. It’s pretty spicy but doesn’t taste like any spice-adder I’m familiar with. It’s fucking perfect is what it is, and I found myself shoveling fries into my face long past the point of fullness just so I could consume more special sauce. I am honestly pretty impressed with myself that I did not just eat that shit with a spoon. I am going to Bareburger tomorrow night, and special sauce is happening in my mouth. Also probably elk burgers. No big.