Small Fry, Well Done

~By Sarah Pascarella

I’d like to admit, right here and for all to read, my deep love for the french fry.

Not just any old french fry, though. (Although, admittedly, those are quite fine.) I’m talking about my favorite type of french fry–crisp on the outside, dense on the inside, piping hot and just salted enough to make one reach for a beverage. Even better, I like a french fry that is nearly burnt, or at least burnt on its ends, so that the taster gets a mix of the crispness of a potato chip and the sturdy fry together in one perfect bite.

When I was very young, before my sisters came along, my mother was a waitress at a popular local Italian restaurant. She usually worked one weeknight and either Friday or Saturday night every week, as that one weekend night usually provided enough income in tips to help support our small family. On the weekend night she waitressed, my dad and I had a standing dinner date at McDonald’s.

I can still remember my three-year-old self getting worked up with excitement over going to McDonald’s. (Those genius marketers really worked their charms with me, I’ll tell you that much.) I liked the salty food and the creamy-sweet milkshakes, and that I could usually run around for a little in the play area. And most of all, I liked that I got to hang out with my dad. Since my mom was my primary caretaker most of the week while my dad was at work, this weekly dinner was a special occurrence. The presence of junk food was simply an added bonus.

Our “dates” went like this: Dad would open up the restaurant’s glass door and I’d run up to the counter, where he would order us two hamburgers, two small orders of fries, hot coffee, and a kid-sized chocolate milkshake. We’d then go to our regular table, where I’d spin around on the rotating bright plastic seats and play with the easy-to-grip plastic salt-and-pepper shakers while Dad unwrapped our burgers and popped the straw in my milkshake. It was all build up, however, to the most important part of the meal: comparing french fries.

We’d each take our packet of fries, hot in our hands, and dump them onto our respective trays. Then would come time for inspection. We’d survey our lot, each trying to determine who had the crispiest fry. The ones with little brown edges were reserved on a special side pile, those with dark golden sides got added to this winners’ stash. These were to be consumed last, the best of the lot, and from this group it would be determined which fry was to be deemed the crispiest of all.

Dinner then became a stealth operation, as we both attempted to steal the choicest fries from the other’s tray. I think my stealing method was just to reach over and grab some fries and hope this would make Dad laugh. (It did.) My father’s technique was to slowly slide a fry away from my tray until I noticed and protested. This would continue until there was just one fry left, the crispiest by default, which my dad usually relinquished to me. I can still picture him handing it over, or leaving it on my tray, depending on who won out, saying “Ok-ayyyyy” with fake chagrin.

This preference for crispy, burnt, or almost-burnt fries has endured throughout my thirty-plus years, through cafeteria lunches, college dining halls, pubs, and now office-park cafeterias. And even though I rarely eat at McDonald’s anymore, every so often I get a craving for their fries that no other fries can sate.

As an adult, however, I don’t have to steal fries from my dining companions anymore. My partner, Andy, willingly relinquishes all of the burnt ones, as he takes no joy for the well-done set. Some might find this a character deficiency. I simply consider it a winning lottery ticket–to me go all the crispy spoils.

***

Some of my favorite places to get fries:

  • In N Out Burger, various locations (be sure to order the well-done fries)
  • The Independent, 75 Union Square, Somerville MA
  • Petit Robert Bistro, 468 Commonwealth Ave., Boston
  • Nanny O’Brien’s Pub, 3319 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington D.C.
  • Old Magoun’s Saloon, 518 Medford St., Somerville MA
  • City Slicker Cafe, 588 Somerville Ave., Somerville MA

Do you have a favorite spot for fries? Please let us know where to find them below!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Farah says:

    Sarah, I can tell you that right now you are one of my favorite people because I feel like you understand me. I too have a deep love and appreciate for crispy, burned, salty fries. In two words– perfect fries!

  2. Jay says:

    I *insist* you try the frites with rosemary at Sel de la Terre (both the Boston and, ahem, Natick sites have them). Big points for presentation (served in a paper cone in a rather stylish wire stand), much bigger points for taste. Crisp on outside, moist on inside, and you’ve never loved rosemary in quite this way. Superb.

  3. Katie says:

    The Publick House in Brookline … so good, with tons of dipping sauces to go with!

  4. Mike Johnson says:

    Pier Fries at the Old Orchard Beach pier. They just opened for the season a couple of weekends ago and my dad, my younger brother, his girlfriend, Mo, and I went over for “brunch” in the chill Maine air (my parents live 10 minutes from Old Orchard).

    They come right out of the fryer to you and the self-serve salt and vinegar are perfect. Almost worth the drive themselves.

    It’s been a thing for my brothers and my dad for as long as I can remember and, as a result, I’m ashamed to say that this was actually my first taste of them. I love fries as much as anyone, but for some reason I was just never interested or never around for the trips to go over there. Of course, I’ve also perennially though that vinegar on fries was a horrid idea, so that may have something to do with it. Just a little bit makes the experience, though.

    They also have hot dogs, but who would order a hot dog at a fry shack?

  5. Mike Johnson says:

    I just remembered another one, and I’m only six months late. The Amherst Brewing Company in Amherst, MA has (had?) a simple dish of homemade fries smothered with brown gravy and cheese, baked in a casserole dish. The best I’ve had.

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