Monday, 09 May 2016 17:50

Totally Fried: Grand Rapids’ must-try french fries

Written by  Troy Reimink
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Crack Fries at HopCat Crack Fries at HopCat

We do, in fact, want fries with that.

Once upon a time, you would never be able to consume a plate of fries in public without leaving a bit of your dignity at the door. But we now live in the age of Fancy Versions of Ordinarily Inexpensive Things, so fries have gotten serious, becoming a canvas that allows chefs to play around with interesting flavor combinations and seasonings.

If done exceptionally well, the rewards are immense for restaurateur and consumer alike (we’ll call that the HopCat Effect). If done less-than-exceptionally-well, there’s no real loss: It’s hard to not meet expectations when it comes to fries. Whether served as an appetizer, a side to a sandwich or doused in chili or gravy, there’s something in Grand Rapids for every fry craving. We’ll begin with some of the usual suspects.

 

HopCat: Crack Fries

25 Ionia St. SW, Grand Rapids, hopcat.com

HopCat’s expansion has spread the famous Crack Fries across the Midwest, where they have generated intense interest (and sometimes controversy over the name) wherever a new location opens. With its blend of seasonings whose secrecy is guarded like the nuclear football, the Crack Fries have become as much a Grand Rapids ambassador as a Founders beer or an Amway sales pitch. ($4.95 alone, $7.50 “Loaded,” $8.50 “Vladimir Poutine”)

 

Stella’s Lounge: Chronic Fries

53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, stellasgr.com

This almost goes without saying, but Chronic Fries, crispy and dusted with a heavily spiced seasoning, absolutely live up to their billing. I’ve eaten thousands, and I’ll probably eat thousands more. ($4.95 alone, served alongside many sandwiches)

 

Winchester: Srirancha Fries

648 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, winchestergr.com

A server recently boasted that this Winchester offering outdid the Crack Fries — a claim whose boldness demanded to be tested. The Srirancha Fries make a respectable go at it, but the differences make it hard to do an apple-apple comparison, since Winchester offers a softer fry whose spicy ranch seasoning delivers a more immediate kick. ($3.50 for a half-pound)

 

Waldron House: Scalloped Waffle Fries

58 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, waldrongr.com

The newcomer within the BarFly restaurant group offers a fry that is more subtle (and, to my tongue, better) than its Crack/Chronic siblings. The Scalloped Waffle Fries are beer-battered, seasoned with garlic and Parmesan and served with a curry ranch sauce. ($4.95)

 

Electric Cheetah: Southern Raw Fries

1015 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, electriccheetah.com

Two solid options here, of which the Southern Raw Fries are the more straightforward. Lightly salted and topped with balsamic vinegar, they find the sweet spot on the crispy-soft spectrum. The Chub and Tuck Fries are fried mac-and-cheese (we’ll set aside any debate about what exactly constitutes a “fry”) served under a chipotle barbecue sauce. ($6 Southern Raw, $10 Chub and Tuck)

 

Reserve: Pork Fat Fries

201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, reservegr.com

There’s too much happening on Reserve’s menu of small plates and charcuterie for something as pedestrian as fries to be much of a standout, but its gluten-free pork-fat fries served with garlic mayo are effortlessly good. ($6)

 

Logan’s Alley: House Cut Michigan Fries

916 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, logansalley.com

The steady improvements to the menu at this Medical Mile mainstay in recent years have been a pleasant surprise. Start with the simple House Cut Michigan Fries, served with a roasted garlic aioli, or get ambitious and upgrade to the Poutine version, which smothers them in gravy, gorgonzola, bacon and a fried egg. ($4.25 basic, $10 Poutine)

 

Brewery Vivant: Belgian Frites

925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, breweryvivant.com

Save yourself the anxiety about whether the Belgian Frites are pronounced “freets” or “fritz,” just say “fries.” It’s OK, they’re not going to throw you out, and you probably won’t offend anybody in Belgium. Anyway, there are three options — truffle, garlic/parsley and the basic pomme frites — of which I slightly prefer the more boldly flavored truffle-oil variety. ($6 truffle and garlic/parsley, $5 pomme frites)

 

Cottage Bar: Cottage Fries

18 La Grave Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, cottagebar.biz

No need to fix what isn’t broken. This institution used to own the downtown burger-and-fry game, but even with stiff competition from every direction, Cottage still performs solidly. Its signature Cottage Fries are delicious skin-on, deep-fried potato wedges. The restaurant also offers waffle fries, basic French fries and sweet-potato fries. ($3.79 Cottage Fries, $3.99 French fries, $4.29 Brew City waffle fries, $4.99 sweet-potato fries)

 

Grand Coney: Chili Cheese Fries

809 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids; 401 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids; 6101 Lake Michigan Dr., Allendale, grandconeygr.com

Like a siren’s song piercing the late night, Grand Coney beckons. The chili cheese fries are smothered in Colby cheese and Detroit-style Coney chili. Do it. You’ve earned it. ($4.99 chili cheese fries, $5.99 smothered waffle fries) 

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