We hold this truth to be self-evident: not all fries are created equal.
Fortunately, you might never have to bite into a disappointing, bland or flakey fry again because this week, The Chronicle's Tommy Pratt and Rishi Dasgupta embarked on a journey across two campuses and six eateries to find out exactly which are the freshest frenchies and which fries fall flat.
Fries were rated using a multi-factor rating system with four categories: flavor, freshness (their temperature and how fresh they tasted), potatoey-ness (i.e., the quality of the white, fluffy stuff inside) and their bite-back (you bite the fry and the fry bites back—if you know, you know).
JB's Roasts and Chops
JB’s adds some fine dining to the Duke fry experience, offering gourmet garlic parsley fries. Long and stringy, these fries were shoestring style and Shake n’ Steak-esque in form and figure. Their outsides were crisp, but not crunchy; their insides were soft but not soggy. Flavor-wise, JB’s fries were scarily well-balanced; they were seasoned pretty much perfectly with just the right amount of salt, a robust sprig of garlic here and there and vividly green parsley flakes speckled throughout. The one downside to these fries was that they were served relatively cold, which was disappointing considering how well-developed their flavor was.
Recommended sauce pairing: JB’s steak sauce.
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Back on East Campus, Marketplace is certainly trying, but it doesn’t seem like they’re frying. Marketplace fries taste unmistakably institutional, like they’ve been heated up from a pre-made bag of frozen taters, not fried fresh in Durham. Both Marketplace’s crinkle-cut fries and curly fries taste exactly like how they look like they taste.
The crinkle-cut fries were obviously cut crinkly by an unnatural force. The strict regularity and consistency of their shapes from fry to fry is a little unsettling. Accordingly, Marketplace’s crinkle-cut fries are a little fake-tasting. They have a decent amount of salt, but most of it seems to come off on your hands instead of in your mouth, suggesting that they’ve been seasoned too late in the frying process. But the fry’s fatal flaw is its profound blandness. Its goldilocks thickness isn’t helping either.
Recommended sauce pairing: ketchup.
How could we forget good old McDonald's? Its familiar golden arches are as comforting as the fries we’ve come to know and love. McDonald’s fries, in addition to being blessed by the flavor and texture gods, offers an X-factor in their nostalgic reliability. There is something ephemerally satisfying about reaching into your McDonald’s bag and finding those few stray tidbits that fell out of the fry container. Flavor-wise, sometimes simple reigns supreme. McDonald’s plays it low-key with just a smattering of salt (a little bit goes a long way).
There is no false step in the consistently satisfying eating experience these fries provide, which leave fry-lovers everywhere feeling warm and satiated inside. McDonald’s fries have a half-life of, like, 200 years, ensuring generations to come will be able to savor these fries as well.
Recommended sauce pairing: ketchup.
Pitchforks, the restaurant whose name and location have mystified first-years for generations, is home to some of the most disappointing fries on campus. We’re not sure how Pitchforks got their tater tots so right but their fries so wrong. Pitchforks tater tots are the overachieving cousin of Pitchforks fries. These fries really could have applied themselves more.
It’s difficult to decide from taste-testing whether or not Pitchforks makes their fries in-house but they certainly taste fresh and come out hot. This is about where the positives end, though.
The parsley flakes sprinkled on the fries suggests that they’re well-seasoned but really they taste like they haven’t been near a pinch of salt since they were dug up from the ground.
Even worse, the outside “wall” of the fry, the crispy section, has a tendency to fall off the main fry body, causing it to get stuck in your teeth. The crispy part of the fry and the inside of it taste like two different foods.
Recommended sauce pairing: ketchup, BBQ sauce—anything would make this fry better.
Krafthouse has clearly had some of its top minds working 24/7 to craft a well above-average fry recipe for Duke’s campus.
Krafthouse fries inexplicably taste smoky somehow—less like they’ve been fried in bacon grease and more like they are the bacon themselves. The fries are thin-cut, but stouter than usual and served in large batches for their price point.
Although their texture is a little gummy, they make up for this with great-tasting and fluffy potato filling on the inside. They’re a little too warm and garlicky to be crispy but they flaunt that warmth and garlic so much that it’s hard to notice they aren’t really biting back. Krafthouse fries come out fresh and are clearly made in-house.
The seasoning is the crown jewel of Krafthouse’s aggressively better-than-average french fries. In every fry, you can taste the salt, parsley and whatever grease they’re fried in. They look appetizing and they taste better. Overall, it's a solid fry, and would possibly be the winner of this competition if not for the tried-and-true recipes of McDonald’s.
Recommended sauce pairing: none, or possibly steak sauce.
The Loop Pizza Grill
The Chronicle ended its fry-hunting journey at The Loop, which has thickly cut, avant-garde fries that reminded us of human tongues in shape. The Loop seems like they have a good thing going with their fries, but any fry can be improved.
The Loop seems to have gone with quantity over quality of seasoning, as each of the Loop’s long spuds is practically breaded with a somewhat over-salty cajun seasoning that’s even saltier on the aftertaste.
The Loop has decently crispy fries on the surface, but they have the same problem that Pitchforks did—the potato part of the fry is liable to fall out of the crispy part like a banana falling out of its peel. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that there’s so much potato in The Loop’s fries, and although that potato tastes pretty good, it never really got to shine because of the overuse of seasoning and the banana issue.
Recommended sauce pairing: mayonnaise—it’s the only sauce that isn’t salty, so it keeps the fries from feeling like a heart attack.
The winner: McDonald’s.
Try as they might, our specially-made Duke diners could not surmount the most successful burger chain in history. There’s a lot to be said for the variety in fries we have on campus, but when you just want a good, classic fry, nothing beats the restaurant that made America potato dependent.