Best french fries in Pittsburgh
Admit it: you want fries with that. Whether “that” is a burger or dog, or a steak in need of frites, French fries go a long way toward making a variety of dishes better. They can also fly solo, as chili-cheese fries or poutine, the Quebecoise fancy that marries potatoes with cheese curds and gravy. The 'burgh has hopped on the French fry bandwagon and, hey, if we haven't included your favorites in our roundup, we're happy to do Fries 2.0.
, a burger emporium with locations downtown and on the South Side, owner Zack Winghart and staff used Idaho russet potatoes for their fries and cut, soak, blanch and cool 'em down before dropping them into the deep fryer, where they're cooked in peanut oil. It's a 24-hour process that's worth every minute to this crew. “You've got to have good fries, especially in a burger restaurant!” laughs Winghart. He claims the result is “a secret blend of love and deliciousness,” and that's just another way of saying they're crispier than many and possessed of just a hint of sweetness. Winghart's also serves beer cheese fries and chili-cheese fries, and is looking to open additional outlets in the Monroeville Mall and Greensburg.
“They're the perfect mix of crispy-crunch with a bit of softness inside,” cooed my friend, Heather, on trying the fries at Meat and Potatoes
in the city's Cultural District. As we marveled at the mess o'potatoes placed before us in a shallow bowl, we were initially concerned that the fries were too thin but our concern quickly vanished as we ate a few and, then, ever greater handfuls of the tasty spuds. Executive Chef James Ciminello keeps watch over a production that sees Idaho potatoes blanched, cooled and fried in peanut oil at 350 degrees. The fries are sprinkled with parsley, chervil and chives and finished off with truffle oil, and served alongside a rich truffle aioli. “Not everyone orders fries,” at Meat and Potatoes, says Ciminello, “but they do sell well.”
Every day is a big production at Habitat,
the expansive second-floor dining room at the Fairmont Pittsburgh which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner while providing 24-hour room service to guests of the 185-room hotel. Consequently, the restaurant uses pre-cut potatoes for its French fries, blanching before frying in vegetable oil at a slightly higher temperature. The resulting fries are big and thick and not too crispy. This fine-dining table also knows how to have fun with its potatoes, recently adding a duck breast special to the menu served with garlic potato “coins” confited and fried in duck fat.
Over 150 pounds of tallow, or beef fat, is delivered to Legume
in Oakland every two weeks, and it's used for everything that goes into the restaurant's fryer, including the fries. Chef-Owner Trevett Hooper and Executive Chef Jamilka Borges are meticulous in their preparation, taking local potatoes from Clarion River Organics and soaking them in cold water before double blanching and then frying. The entire process takes 48 hours and the slender, slightly-crispy fries are served in a cone-shaped container. “Trevett believes that animal fats are better for you, in moderation,” notes Borges. “Personally, I don't like duck fat, I think it overpowers. Tallow tastes cleaner.” The fries are a big seller at Butterjoint, the restaurant's re-branded bar, either alone or alongside the signature burger. They're also a staple starter in the restaurant.
The red-and-white checkerboard décor at Five Guys Burgers and Fries
will soon be all over the 'burgh as the not-so-fast food chain expands aggressively across the U.S. The source of the day's spuds is posted on a whiteboard near the register and, on a recent visit, the potatoes were from KMC Farms in Sugar City, Idaho, with the board also trumpeting that they were “cooked in 100% peanut oil with no cholesterol or preservatives.” The fries at Five Guys are served in a white paper cup that's placed in a brown paper bag into which an additional cup full of fries is dumped for good measure. They're not too thick or thin and are salted just right and, if you think it's impossible to eat a bag full of fries, well, you'll be surprised (sur-fries'd?) at how easy it is at Five Guys.
The Original Hot Dog Shop
in Oakland is one of those iconic Pittsburgh institutions that's been given more nicknames than most 'burghers can remember. The one that sticks, however, is the simplest: The O. Opened in 1960, the restaurant caters to Pitt students in and out for a quick bite (and upperclassmen in search of six-packs to go). French fries are ordered at the back counter, and the restaurant peels, cuts, pre-blanches, and then fries them in peanut oil. “French fries are brutal!” exclaims owner Terry Campasano, a sprite of a woman whose family has owned the restaurant since day one. “We have to lift 50-pound bags of potatoes and then make sure they come out just right.” The resulting mound o'taters is more than right, seeing as how they've been hailed by The Food Network and countless local outlets. “The secret,” says Campasano, “is love.”
No Pittsburgh French fry roundup would be complete without a nod to Primanti's, which started the whole fries on sandwich craze, and the Potato Patch Fries served at Kennywood. These hulking spuds clearly benefit from a conglomeration of amusement park smells (no kidding) and the generally favorable disposition of park diners. Think about it, have you ever had a bad day at Kennywood? Spring is just around the corner, at which point we heartily recommend a ride on the Jackrabbit followed by Potato Patch Fries smothered in chili and cheese.
And finally, we should mention that Pop Filter editor Jennifer Baron swears by the garbanzo fries at Franktuary
and a loyal Pop City reader, Jeff Lonsinger, is mad about the gorgonzola fries at BRGR
and mentioned them as a favorite dish in last week's feature story on favorite dishes
Got a suggestion for your
favorite fries in town? Readers are speaking up about the fab fries at Point Brugge and we agree. Use the Facebook comments here or email Pop City
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen