French fries can be found on restaurant menus all across America, from the smallest takeout shack to the grand bastions of fine dining. But like all universal foods, quality can vary from mealy and soggy to super-crisp and perfectly golden.
As a service to our fellow Americans, we took it upon ourselves to track down the best french fries in America for the third year running, and we’re proud to present a lineup of 50 fries that can be awarded our highest level of french fry praise-- they’re so good, they don’t even need ketchup.
Although the origin of the fry is somewhat of a sore spot for our European friends (the French and the Belgians still can't agree about which country invented them), they have become a fine example of quintessentially American food. They're deep-fried, they're the perfect vehicle for sauce, and they're made from one of the country's most bountiful crops, potatoes; what can be more American than that?
What exactly makes for a perfect fry? There's the crunchiness element, for sure — that crisp exterior texture that isn’t greasy or soggy, achieved through a perfectly-timed fry (or two, and sometimes even three) in fat that’s just the right temperature. Then, the soft, fluffy interior, filled with potato that's cooked through but not dried out or raw-tasting. The color also comes into play — the best fries have that mouthwatering golden-brown hue. When all of these elements come together, they create the perfect fry, no condiments necessary.
For 2016’s ranking, we first set out to define exactly what we would be considering; loaded fry dishes weren’t included, as we already covered them with America’s Most Outrageous French Fries.
Some of our selections are fried in duck fat or dusted with herbs or seasoning mix, but every honoree made the list because their fries are outstanding on their own, with no adulteration. Avocado, sweet potato, and yucca fries were also not considered, as those are completely different animals altogether.
More from The Daily Meal
From an initial list of fries from several hundred restaurants from across the country (assembled by combing preexisting rankings and tapping into the knowledge of our staff editors, city editors, and contributors), we were able to whittle down the top 50 thanks to a survey taken by The Daily Meal’s readers. You answered the call, and when the dust settled, we had a clear winner.
1) Balthazar, New York City
A restaurant that maintains its status as a place to see and be seen despite having been around for nearly 20 years, Balthazar is known for serving French bistro classics. One of the signature items, on a menu filled with quite a few, is the steak frites, a perfectly-cooked steak served alongside a heaping tangle of supremely crisp fries. Thin-cut and fried to an otherworldly shade of golden brown, these are irresistible, not greasy at all, and are far easier to work your way through than you may think. The constant line of people waiting to score a table may appear to be due to the chic clientele, but really it’s all about the fries, which we’ve deemed the very best in America.
2) The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, New York City
This funky gastropub from chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman has perfected the classic British-style chip, and in the process has also perfected the French fry. The fries here, identified on the menu as “thrice-cooked chips,” are fried, well, three times, resulting not in an overcooked fry but one that has about twice the “crust” of other fries, encasing a perfectly cooked, creamy potato center. Thick-cut and addictive, they pair well with the cumin mayo that they’re served alongside, but they’re good enough to eat on their own. These fries are unlike any others: While still maintaining their basic DNA, they don’t need duck fat or truffles to stand out, and they keep the potato at the center of the action.
3) Dick’s Drive-In, Seattle
With six locations, Dick’s is a Seattle institution. Since 1954, it has served fries that are made with, as the website explains, “Real potatoes… That's what makes our fries irresistible!... Cut fresh daily by hand.” Diners can feel good about patronizing this family-owned business: It treats employees like family, offering full benefits, scholarships, childcare assistance, paid community service, and a starting hourly wage of $10.
4) Father’s Office, Los Angeles
There are a couple of fry options on the menu at Father’s Office, but the classic matchstick fries are the way to go. One of the cardinal rules at Father’s Office is that ketchup is not an option. Instead, its fries are accompanied by a small pot of homemade garlic aïoli for dipping.
5) Duckfat, Portland, Maine
When a restaurant is called Duckfat, you can get a hunch right off the bat that its fries are going to be pretty good. And at this 11-year-old Portland sandwich shop, the fries are hand-cut throughout the day from local Maine potatoes and fried in — yes — duck fat. Tossed in seasoning salt and served in a cone with your choice of eight homemade dipping sauces, these fries are what dreams are made of. If you’re wondering what sort of sorcery created these fries, it’s worth knowing that Duckfat is actually an offshoot of Portland’s legendary Hugo’s, and chef–owner Rob Evans has won the Food & Wine Award for Best New Chef and the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast.
6) Chickie’s and Pete’s, Philadelphia
In Philly, the Crabfries® are nothing short of legendary. Notice the capitalization and the trademark symbol? That’s how legendary they are. Sold at the various Chickie’s and Pete’s locations as well as out of a food truck, at the airport, and at just about every major sporting venue, these crinkle-cut fries are thinner than your standard Nathan’s-style crinkle-cuts, super-crispy, and dusted with a magical spice mixture that’s the icing on the cake.
7) Blue Duck Tavern, Washington
These are about the thickest fries you’re likely to ever see, but they’re no gimmick. Blue Duck’s hand-cut signature BDT Triple Fries are first boiled, then fried in oil, then finally fried one more time in duck fat before being tossed with salt and herbs and served upright in a measuring cup. A great fry lets the potato shine, and these do just that.
8) Village Whiskey, Philadelphia
We have three words for you: duck-fat fries. That’s right, at Village Whiskey in Philly, that’s the only kind of fries served, and they’re available on all three of the restaurant’s menus: All Day, Late Night, and Brunch. For an extra $2, you can get them topped with Sly Fox Cheddar sauce, and for an extra $7, you can add not only Cheddar but also short rib. We suggest you start with the ordinary version first, though, as you’ll most likely find there’s very little that’s ordinary about them.