Because we can't get too much of a good thing, here's the second installment of our quest for the city's most outstanding fries. This list (organized alphabetically) includes the pure, the gently garnished, and the heavily adorned in a world that's a vast, exciting terrain of Kennebec vs. Russet, peanut vs. canola oil, duck vs. beef fat. Please add your two cents in the comments, because as Michael Pollan advises, “if you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they're so much work.” So allow us to revise the lede; we've been eating too many fries out in order to assemble this follow-up guide to the first one. Now it's your turn.
Surprise! Thomas Keller makes a great French fry. While the opulent Beverly Hills Bouchon Bistro might take some of its oversized aesthetic cues from the Carmela Soprano decorating playbook, the French fries are an exercise in restraint. Which isn't to say they're not indulgent. Keller doesn't mess around or take any chances with the classic 1/4″ cut russet potatoes fried in peanut oil.
Bouchon: 235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9910.
Grilled Cheese Nights on Thursdays are a well-known Campanile tradition, but it's the fries that add the extra incentive to nab a table. Family-style bowls of always consistently firm spuds cooked with beef fat (sorry, grilled cheese loving vegetarians) and garnished with fresh thyme help generate that warm fuzzy — yet elegant! — vibe this L.A. mainstay does so well.
Campanile: 624 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-City; (323) 938-1447.
The Frysmith Truck speaks to many Angelenos' current preoccupations: fried foods, pan-ethnicism, the environment (the truck itself is powered by leftover cooking oil), convenience, and Twitter addictions, to name a few. Owner Erik Cho found that Kennebecs “are among the only ones that crisp up really easily” when fried in canola oil, and Frysmith's double-fried method “works really well for standing up to our toppings.” That way the roasted poblanos, tender steak and jack cheese, or kimchee with pork belly can equally shine along with the bed of fries that they're snugly resting upon.
Frysmith Truck: Various locations, follow on Twitter.
Good Girl Dinette is nestled into a cool historic Highland Park building, possesses a serious dose of edgy DIY design street cred, and serves fries with attitude. You can request a serving plain for say, picky toddlers who don't want any surprises, but the thin garlic, chiles and cilantro fries, much like the unconventionally spiced chicken potpie, is a tweaked idiosyncratic treat that reveals the soul of GGD. And for Angelenos who already know and love the papas fritas provenzal at Carlito's Gardel's, you gotta try these.
Good Girl Dinette: 110 North Ave. 56, Highland Park; (323) 257-8980.
Ilan Hall's mashup of Jewish, Scottish and Middle Eastern cuisines at The Gorbals tackles fries like a great-grandmother from the old country would: asymmetrical as a mofo, rough cut, and cooked within one sixteenth of a millimeter of its life. Fortunately they're rescued from the brink of being downright burnt and have a marvelously airy center. The divine fried dill that comes with them might set off a different discussion, though, given that two new Downtown restaurants happen to both use the same wispy herb.
The Gorbals: 501 S. Spring St., Downtown; (213) 488-3408.
Don't let Josef Centeno's extensive and many compelling menu items at the Lazy Ox Canteen distract you from the fries. Richly textured Kennebecs are tossed with finely chopped fresh dill, and the gallego sauce contains a heady mix of garlic confit, grated onion and smoked paprika. Yet given the aforementioned proximity of Lazy Ox to the Gorbals, we're curious to see if anyone accuses the other of a little culinary copycat-ism, or lets it all slide in the spirit of neighborliness.
Lazy Ox Canteen: 241 S. San Pedro, Downtown; (213) 626-5299.
Pollo a la Brasa on Western and 8th serves the Tom Waits of French fries: coarse, unelegant, yet beautifully characterized by exposure to smoke and funk. The essence of wood fired rotisserie chicken somehow transfers to the fries to give them a gorgeous patina and personality. That being said, a little coaxing often helps bring out the best of these russet Burbanks cooked in soy oil and eases the grease; we recommend bringing them home and crisping on a baking sheet at 425 for a few minutes before serving. Or just let the chicken juice soak into the fries, if that's your thing.
Pollo a la Brasa: 764 S Western Ave., Koreatown; (213) 382-4090.
Let images of Ozzy Osbourne help you get in the right frame of mind for chef Sebastien Archambault's crazy intense fries at the RH Andaz in WeHo. The Kennebec potatoes served in the re-envisioned former Riot Hyatt restaurant are fried once in canola, then with added duck fat, chilled, and then finally in canola oil immediately before serving. The fat helps keep them crisp as you gaze at that dreamy open kitchen. (And while Ozzy watches you.) It's a super place to get your fry fix anytime of day, thanks to continual service at the glam but comfortable hotel restaurant. Maybe someday we'll even see bat fat fries.
RH Andaz: 8401 W Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 785-6090.
When it came time to add fries to Rustic Canyon's menu, Chef Evan Funke did some Rube Goldberg-style tinkering. And here's where he landed: Funke starts with traditional Idaho Russets, triple washes to remove all excess starch, then double blanches in 275 degrees. Each serving is fried for three minutes after having been cooled to room temp and refrigerated, achieving a balance of carbo heft and lightness. The potato may or may not be local, but the parsley that coats the final result is most likely grown within 100 miles.
Rustic Canyon: 1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 393-7050.
Suzanne Goin gives a lovely spin on the traditional hand cut russet fry at Tavern that's deceptively simple yet rarely seen in this form. The deep fried herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) that accompany the potatoes outshine the main attraction, and might leave you picking out the green stuff instead of the fries. Your parents never would have predicted that one.
Tavern: 11648 West San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 806-6459.
Next page: The runners-up…
Like so many other staples on Neal Fraser's menu, BLD serves an utterly reliable ¼” skinny fry dusted with salt and parsley.
BLD: 7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 930-9744.
La Grande Orange's crisp potato product in Pasadena and Santa Monica might remind one of a heavily seasoned, skinny fast food fry. Not a bad thing at all. These are cut fresh and twice fried. And along with passing Gold Line trains and packs of Wikki Stix LGO so kindly provides in Pasadena, it's a slam-dunk for kids.
La Grande Orange: 260 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; 2000 N. Main St., Santa Monica.
The carb cubes served on the lomo saltado at Mo-Chica are to be admired both as a fry and as an approach to the Peruvian classic meat n' potatoes dish, since they're beautifully “stacked atop the beef like a Boy Scout might prepare a campfire,” as Squid Ink's Noah Galuten noted. The starches are great for filet and salsa criolla absorption, but hang on the palate quite heavily.
Mo-Chica: 3655 S. Grand Ave., Downtown; (213) 747-2141.
The special fry dish at My Taco comes topped with cheese and carne asada, that's then topped with guacamole…we can't even finish the list, let alone a serving. Essentially a standard cafeteria issue fry, this is a dish to be admired for its heart and daring, rather than its mastery of the potato.
My Taco: 6300 York Blvd., Highland Park; (323) 256-2698.
Umami Burger's fries have received accolades along with some harsh criticism, just like the burgers themselves. Such is the price of popularity when serving fiercely beloved foods. Chose from either thick or skinny — a result of Umami's recent geographic and menu expansions — and eat quickly, because these don't always retain firmness and like Mo-Chica, there's the starchy problem. But there's always the Umami housemade ketchup instead.
Umami Burger: 850 S. La Brea, Mid-City; 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; 1520 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood.