The talk surrounding our current Burger Era seems unending. But what about the side dish that plays a crucial supporting role? Here are ten of our favorite places to celebrate a silent hero that's overshadowed in the grind of this meat mania: French fries. Choices are listed alphabetically, but coincidentally, our favorite two are at the top.
Church & State: These vigorously crispy fries made in lard and peanut oil fits what chef Walter Manzke characterizes as the Church & State's "edgy" neighborhood. Beautifully golden and firmer than those made in only plant-derived fats, they retain their texture much longer after being fried at 375 degrees. (Others that don't get soggy quickly tend to be formulated in a lab.) Manzke does make one compromise, however; due to space constraints Manzke gets pre-cut, frozen skin-on ¼ inch Russets from his distributor. The walk-in would be overflowing with potatoes otherwise, he claims. We'll gladly pardon him this shortcut.
1850 Industrial St., Downtown; (213) 405-1434.
Comme Ça: David Myers's bistro's French fries aren't something you're likely to make at home either. They're hand cut to ¼ inch size, soaked overnight, and then prepared with a two-part Belgian fry process. The potatoes are essentially "poached" in peanut oil to treat the starch, then fried at a higher temperature. This method allows the exterior to crisp up but retain the soft interior. Regardless, they're long and stunning, and downright elegant served in those paper-lined silver cups.
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 782-1178.
Father's Office: The neo-burger movement pioneer's fries are thin as its famous patty is girthy. But the Culver City and Santa Monica establishments won't give up the, er, skinny on how they make their skins-on shoestrings. They're small enough to have an ideal crunch, but not so petite that it takes an unwieldy handful to constitute a satisfying bite.
3229 Helms Ave., Culver City; (310) 815-9820.
1018 Montana Ave.; Santa Monica; (310) 393-2337.
Golden State: Co-owner Jason Bernstein was surprised that "when we were doing our taste tests on fries, we found that frozen just tasted a lot better than fresh." At least the 3/8" fries are indeed golden and polished off with salt, pepper and parsley. We recommend, however, requesting them well done.
426 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District; (323) 782-8331.
Hungry Cat: The Hungry Cat believes more is more when it comes to fries. Halfway through the mountainous heap, it still looks like it could be a whole serving. David Lentz uses Russets or Kennebec potatoes, depending on the season, cut to ¼ inch, soaked for in water for 24 hours and then parboiled. The cooled pieces are then fried to order in peanut oil. These are a craggly sort, appealingly but not boringly uniform, and finished with the requisite dusting of salt and parsley. Plus you're given aioli and ketchup, eliminating any chances of shame should you accidentally ask for a banned sauce.
1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood; (323) 462-2155.
Musso & Frank Grill: These are most definitely your mother and father's, or likely even your grandparents' French fries. No newfangled, Euro influences here. Strictly old school, meaty, and best served with a martini, or alongside an unadorned hunk of protein.
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 467-7788.
Nook: West L.A.'s Nook Bistro achieves the impossible in the minds of many a fast food fan. The mound of mellow pale yellow fries is essentially the Platonic ideal of the In N' Out fry: fresh, soft, but much crispier and flavorful. The length of the fries vary based the potatoes themselves, which are usually shorter Russets that are hand cut and fried in canola oil. The only downside to the size is possibly dirtying your fingers in the wispy, tangy aioli.
1628 Santa Monica Blvd., No. 9, West L.A.; (310) 207-5160.
Oinkster: Eagle Rock's "slow fast food" spot has a lot going for it fries-wise. Fresh peeled and cut potatoes are first fried in rice oil, after which a round of beef shortening adds the final touch. Plus a basket is only $1 during 3-6 p.m. happy hour, and there's plenty of room for the whole family to go wild on the outdoor patio. Also available in all-veg version.
2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 255-6465.
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Skooby's: The Hollywood Boulevard hot dog shop combines its freshly cut, twice-cooked in peanut oil goods with their fried siblings: the holy potato chip. Best to go easy on the seasoned salt. Regardless, enjoy eating dogs and fries (plus red pepper aioli) on the Boulevard while fried food-phobic starlets try to finagle their way into the flash-in-the-pan nightclubs.
6654 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 458-3647.
Wurstküche: These chunky bad boys are the Owen Moss/Mayne/Rotondi school's answer to the near Bauhaus sleek purity of some others. The artfully rough-hewn edges even compliment the SCI-Arc adjacent room's architectural details. But it's the dipping sauces that truly distinguish Wurstküche's fries. A trio of Blue Cheese Walnut and Bacon, Chipotle Aioli, and Sweet and Sassy BBQ is a good place to start should deciding prove difficult. And always get a large serving just in case.
800 E. Third St.; Downtown; (213) 687-4444.