Side Show: French Fries

Seven local places to find creative fries that eclipse beefy burgers and stacked sandwiches

by Robin Jones / 

Most french fry aficionadoes know there’s a world of difference between frozen potatoes flash-fried and kept warm under a heat lamp, and freshly cut ones fried to crispy perfection on the outside, with melt-in-your-mouth silkiness on the inside. But local chefs spin some remarkable variations on that theme, and creative dipping sauces abound, including herb-flavored aioli, sweet-and-sour sauce, and pesto. So go ahead, indulge. When they’re good, fries can be the best thing on the plate.

Waffles dominate the menu here—think waffle sandwiches and waffle sundaes—so of course, the fries are of the waffle variety, too. Cooked in peanut oil, they’re so well-seasoned with a light dusting of salt and pepper that you won’t even think about reaching for the ketchup. Wash them down with a pure cane-sugar vanilla cream soda or a root beer float. 292 N. Glassell St., Orange, 714-633-3900,

2. Fresh Fries
Customize your order at this food truck by picking the type of fries (natural cut, curly, or sweet potato) and a sauce (ranch, honey mustard, artichoke-basil mayo, and more). Or try one of the Fancy Fries options: the peanut buttercup—sweet potato fries with Nutella and peanut butter—or the sweet potato fries with hummus, smoked paprika, and sesame seeds. Various locations throughout Orange County, trackable on Twitter and Facebook,

3. Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine
Head for the lounge at this upscale eatery, settle into a cushy chair, and add the pomme frites to your drink order. The potatoes are thick-cut, golden brown, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, and served with cilantro pesto, which makes a surprisingly good dipping sauce. (There’s a ramekin of ketchup, too, for traditionalists.) The serving size is big enough to split with a friend over a couple of martinis. 2607 Main St., Irvine, 949-387-8887,

4. Native Foods
Some of the best chili cheese fries in Orange County are vegan. At this destination for vegetarians, chefs simmer tomatoes with veggie “chili meat” and white beans, and diners might never peg the result as meatless. Paired with seasoned thin-cut fries, vegan “cheese,” and chopped red onions, this side makes a hearty meal. The Camp, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-751-2151,

5. DG Burger
The “DG” in the name of this joint attached to Charlie Palmer stands for “damn good,” and even though it’s supposed to describe the burgers, it applies to the fries, too. They’re crisp on the outside, warm and tender on the inside, and seasoned with just enough salt. But you won’t want to eat them plain. What sets these fried potatoes apart are the dipping sauces, particularly the chipotle aioli, a perfect blend of creamy and spicy. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-361-4264,

6. Beachwood BBQ
Most diners order the fried green tomato appetizer at this popular spot for smoked ribs and pork. But read down the menu to find the terrific smothered steak fries: thick-cut potatoes covered in melted cheddar and blue cheese, bacon, green onions, and buffalo sauce. Or add sweet potato fries to your entrée; they match up well with the house-made barbecue sauces. 131½ Main St., Seal Beach, 562-493-4500,

7. Haven Gastropub
This pub takes Canadian poutine, a simple dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds, and gussies it up by topping pomme frites with wine-braised beef cheek and dollops of port salut, a mild, semisoft French cheese. The result isn’t necessarily pretty, but it is flavorful, aromatic, and unlike any fries you’ll find in Orange County, eh? 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, 714-221-0680,

photography by Carly Hebert

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Orange Coast magazine.

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