Shoestring, Curly, Crinkle-cut: Ranking the Summer Fries

Shoestring, Curly, Crinkle-cut: Ranking the Summer Fries

7. Curly Fries

Long before spiralizers, there was the curly fry, or Suzi-Q, a fry that goes on way too long. Fries should be eaten in bites, not lowered into the mouth like a drone payload. Once upon a time, they were cut fresh and cooked plain, but now they usually sport an orange dust of paprika, cayenne, onion and garlic powders. The only reasons to eat them: Either you eat regular French fries often enough to get sick of them (in which case, be careful), or you’re under 12.

6. Waffle Fries

The lattice pattern makes them both crisp and clingy, with just the right balance of potato and crunch for breakfast. (I like them as a base for sunny-side-up eggs.) And because you can eat them with a fork, waffle fries are prime real estate for add-ons like pulled pork and melted cheese, or cheese curds and gravy, or minced herbs and grated Parmesan if you are into that sort of thing. (Sprinkling garnishes on regular French fries is a fool’s errand; they slide right off.)

5. Crinkle-Cut Fries

The Pringles of French fries, these are proudly unnatural, from the machine-cutting system that makes the crinkles to the fact that every fry is exactly the same shape and size — an early example of superfluous American culinary technology. The angles of the crinkles theoretically make them crunchier than other fries. I’m not buying it, but they do hold onto ketchup well. A summer exception: The ones at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island are fat in the middle and thin on the edges, preventing them from being too uniform.

4. Cottage Fries

They’re a throwback, but what perfect summer treat is not? These are the thick coins you find in family restaurants in farm country, like Stroud’s around Kansas City and Yours Truly in northeast Ohio, and in old-school steak joints like Gene & Georgetti in Chicago and J.G. Melon in Manhattan. Sometimes they are ridged, but this is a mere decoration and not a structural element.

3. Boardwalk/County Fair Fries

Long, square-cut fries, they are served in a thick, floppy tangle, like a lifeguard’s bangs. Purveyors of these — like Thrasher’s on the Maryland coast and the Wee Chippy in Venice Beach, Calif. — tend to be specialists who make nothing else, and when they’re good, they’re very, very good. When they’re not, it’s because the frying oil was not quite as hot as it should be, making them sodden and pale at the bottom of the bucket. The good ones might have bits of peel left on, and are served in stroll-worthy cardboard cups — or buckets, because you have to have fries as a meal at least once a summer.

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