Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gott's Roadside, San Francisco, CA

Gott's (for some reason Blogger won't let me make this a link, but it's: in case you're interested) used to be Taylor's Automatic Refresher in the Ferry Building. At Taylor's I used to be able to get a grilled cheese, but not anymore. Supposedly the Taylor family was not amused at the Gotts' family name-changing decision. More importantly: For the non-burger lover--why get rid of the simple (yet overpriced) grilled cheese? And, hi!, on the day I'm craving fish 'n chips, I discover that Gott's got rid of that too. Like the Taylors, so not amused.

In any event, the fries were pretty good. I was sort of disappointed sitting up at the counter and watching someone pour out frozen fries from a giant brown bag, but I guess not every fry can be freshly hand-cut.

The fries themselves were pretty hot, but I don't think they were the freshest. Like everything else, they were sitting on the counter for a long time, and then quickly re-heated in the heat-blaster (which is fine, I mean, I use a microwave. But all that food sitting up there was pretty yukky to watch in person). Pretty good crispiness on the outside, decent chew and softness on the inside.

And PS: Whoever ordered those salads that sat on the counter for literally 45 minutes or more--when the fry team left, they were still there--I feel sorry for you.


Price: $2.89
Portion Size: Medium
Texture: Slightly crispy on outside, soft in the mid-section.

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (standard grease level)
Seasoning: Okay
Fried In: Some sort of 100 percent vegetable oil

Condiments: salt, pepper, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: 6.75 out of 10

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Portal in Oakland, CA, Part Two

 As promised, I returned to Portal.

This time I tried the Sweet Potato fries. They arrived nice and hot, but my fellow fry taster immediately noted, "They didn't give us very much!" Unfortunately, the Sweet Potato frites suffered the same problems that the Smoked Chili fries did (previous post). They look pretty crispy on the outside, but again they were undercooked on the inside. Fellow fry taster hypothesized that perhaps they are not double-fried like most fries are. This sounds like a very likely possibility, but I can't be sure.

(Gross photo taken in dim light. Apologies.)

They were probably not as well seasoned as the Smoked Chili fries, but still the frites were pretty tasty, just undercooked. It's a shame.

(Side note. On the menu it reads: "Sweet Potato, garlic, ginger aioli," which is a bit confusing.
The garlic and ginger are actually in the aioli; the garlic is not mixed in with the fries.)


Price: $6.00
Portion Size: Small!
Texture: Slightly crispy on outside, quite undercooked on the inside. Sad face.

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Oh man. Perfect.
Fried in: Rice Oil

Condiments: garlic and ginger aioli, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: 6 out of 10.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Portal in Oakland, CA

Don't be afraid of Portal. It shares its facade with a tattoo parlor, and unfortunately the graffiti on the side of the building gives it a sort of this-restaurant-must-be-gross-and-vile vibe.

However, once inside you will notice how cozy and warm it is, and the best part? The back patio is awesome! Sure, the weird netting from the tennis courts across the street doesn't exactly scream paradise, but it's something (that's all I ask for around here), and you can even see some of Lake Merritt if you're facing in the right direction.

Anyway, one look at Portal's menu says it all. Smoked Chili fries? Herbed Garlic fries? Sweet Potato? Cereally, this menu will kill a die-hard fry lover. I decided not to go insane on my first visit to Portal, and shared an order of the Smoked Chili fries with my fry partner. As the menu implies, the fries are topped with Himalayan (or so they say! I did not actually fact-check and/or bring my lab equipment to make sure this was true) salt and lime.

Oh, man, these fries were so well seasoned. So it's a shame that they were a bit undercooked--they just weren't soft enough on the inside and were a tad on the hard side. However, I must once again emphasize how darn good the seasoning was, the salt and lime really shined (shone?) through and made them terribly addicting in spite of not frying in the oil quite long enough.

I'll be back to try the other flavors soon!


Price: $5.00
Portion Size: Medium
Texture: Slightly crispy on outside, a bit hard and undercooked on the inside

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Oh man. Perfect.
Fried in: Rice Oil

Condiments: ketchup Overall Quality of French Fries: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, August 27, 2012


(PS: I just noticed I spelled "Buffet" with three "T''s" in the title.  It's like an onomatopoeia! BuFFFFFet, as in endddddddlesssssss....)

I will say it again. These french fries are the best french fries ever to appear at a wedding buffet. B & T's wedding at the Portland Art Museum was absolutely lovely, from the ceremony itself, to the table settings to the wedding cake topper created by T herself. And yes, there was a wedding buffet that was full of delights, plus assorted doughnuts in addition to the gorgeous wedding cake. And pizza was even delivered in the wee hours while the dancing was winding down!

It's sort of unfair to judge fries at a wedding buffet. I mean, how often do you see unlimited potatoes prepared in the french manner offered on a day of matrimonial celebration? Let's just say that I initially got what was on the bottom of the pan…And then my companion saw that a fresh tray was coming out and heaped a pile of those on my plate.
Cell phone photo does not do justice to the amazing meal, I promise.

Delicious. The hot-fresh fries were amazing. Please do not be mad at me, gentle readers--I mean, reader, meaning myself--but the middle could of been cooked just a wee bit more. I'm going to leave it at that. Because they were still awesome.

B & T, you are an awesome couple. Here's to a lifetime of love and happiness together! Thank you for allowing me to partake on your special day and be the freak who had an obscene pile of fries on her plate, surrounded by various toppings (some stolen from the Roast Beef Station) smeared everywhere.


Portion Size: XXXXX Large.
Texture: Crispy on outside, maybe a bit undercooked in the middle (at least the batch I got. But still, I must emphasize, AWESOME).

Greasiness Level: 2 out of 5 (actually not that greasy)
Seasoning: A bit underseasoned, but I took care of that with the condiments.
Fried in: presumably a vegetable oil?

Condiments: "Borrowed" from Roast Beef Station: horseradish, soft red onions, mustard

ketchup and ranch dressing (ranch dressing at a wedding, people!)

Overall Quality of French Fries: 7.25 out of 10

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A word I hope to never use

...In a description of french fries:


Thank you, Rachael Ray, for corrupting the English language with your crazy abbreviations! (Actually, I don't really mind her, but DELISH is something I do not ever want to acquire in my vocabulary).

Fine. You've probably heard me use the word, "Yumsters." But I think I made that up on my own time, even if you've probably heard it elsewhere. And I probably use the word "amazing" too much. Still, neither of those words is as bad as DELISH. The word is delicious. There's an ending to it!

Barney's Gourmet Hamburger in Oakland, CA

Barney's has locations in a bunch of different locations. This review is for the fries at the Oakland location.

You can order a side of fries in three sizes: Full, half, and single. I ordered single orders of both the Spicy Curly Fries and Skinny Fries, and let me tell you that these are a STEAL. For $2.50 you can get a large bowl of french fries, which is probably one of the best deals you'll ever find in the Bay Area because that bowl of fries was, as I said, LARGE, people! With the money you've saved on the fries, you can then walk down the street to Fenton's and a get a nice scoop of Coffee Cookie Dream!

Onto the fries.

(Please forgive the somewhat gross close-up shots)

Part 1.
Skinny Fries. They seem cut in-house, nice and skinny, but were really pale (AKA, New oil that has not broken down yet, and thus the oil cannot properly penetrate the outside of the potato. See, I'm learning!). Slight crunch on the outside, maybe just a tad bit too mealy on the inside. Underseasoned, but some salt really brought out the fried potato flavor (sidenote regarding something really annoying: the salt is contained in a salt shaker grinder apparatus, and was not the appropriate type of grinder for such large salt rocks. It took a bit too long just to get a tiny sprinkle of salt on the fries, and the fries really needed a lot of salt).

The Skinny Fries are definitely better than most of what you can find out there. I'd order them again, knowing that some salt and ketchup will definitely help out.

Part 2.
Spicy Curly Fries, served with "home-style" ranch dressing. I'm not sure what "home-style" means. In the style of home? Made in the kitchen? Anyway,  these fries were again a bit underseasoned and needed a bit of salt. They are really not even "spicy," although there are hints of something caliente in the batter. From what I could tell they looked battered and then deep fried.

These, however, were nice and crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. One can only assume that these were fried in a completely different batch of frying oil. The flavor of these fries were definitely enhanced by a dip in the ranch dressing. I really enjoyed these, although they're not really comparable to a regular old standard fry.

Skinny Fries:
Price: $2.50 (a steal, people!)
Portion Size: Large
Texture: Not crispy enough on outside, a bit mealy on the inside. Super pale!

Greasiness Level: 2 out of 5 (actually not that greasy)
Seasoning: Very underseasoned
Fried in: 100 percent vegetable oil

Condiments: salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard

Overall Quality of French Fries: 6.0 out of 10 (don't be mad at me, Brad. I still think these had good flavor in spite of the paleness. And at least there was some crispness on the outside.)

Spicy Curly Fries
Price: $2.75 (again, an absolute STEAL!)
Portion Size: Large
Texture: Crispy on outside, soft on the inside. Yum.

Greasiness Level: 2 out of 5 (not that greasy)
Seasoning: Underseasoned
Fried in: 100 percent vegetable oil

Condiments: Comes with a side of home-style (what does that mean?) ranch dressing that really enhances the flavor, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard

Overall Quality of French Fries: 
Not what I would really deem "spicy" (ie, it's not going to knock your socks off or anything), but there is a definite hint of spice.
7.5 out of 10

Kwik Way Drive-In in Oakland, CA

(This is way overdue. Like, a year and a half, so apologies for that.) 

First, a bit of a history lesson courtesy of the East Bay Express (from an article by John Birdsall in June, 2011) about your friendly local Kwik Way Drive-In:

"In the Fifties [Kwik Way] was part of a local drive-in chain…In the days of red-lining Kwik Way's customers were mostly white; after I-580 slashed through the neighborhood in the 1960s, they were mostly black. Like a wide swath of Oakland's commons the Kwik Way withered, then closed, though the parking lot continued to thrive — no more cheeseburgers or fried prawns, but a late-night menu of eight balls and front-seat blow jobs, with the roar of the freeway as soundtrack."

In other words, it used to be a place that a younger Anthony Bourdain would have frequented (I'm assuming that here, "eight ball" means the white stuff and not pool-playing).

Today, it is a pleasant walk up, with five tables outdoors so you can eat in the sun. As for the fries, let me just say this: I was SHOCKED.  The first thing you notice is that the portion size is quite generous for the price (just $2.15 including the tax!).

(This time around they were brought home and above appear on the kitchen cutting board.)
The quality and taste are superb, and the fries appear to be hand-cut. They arrived piping hot and delicately cooked with a slightly crispy skin and hot, soft innards (ooh, so graphic). These tasty morsels are also incredibly well-seasoned with a very nice balance of salt, pepper, and parsley.

I had such low expectations for Kwik Way, but I think I may have found a new love.


Price: $1.95 ($2.15 includes tax. Or maybe it was $2.12. What's the tax here again? I don't feel like calculating right now.)

Portion Size: A bit bigger than a medium
Texture: Crispy on outside, soft on the inside

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Perfecto! Salt, pepper, and parsley
Fried in: Canola Oil

Condiments: ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper

Overall Quality of French Fries: 8 out of 10. YUM.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Oren's Hummus Shop in Palo Alto, CA

 If for some reason you find yourself at Stanford Universityperhaps even just to see a spectacular college campus–then there's no reason not to take a little trip down the street to Oren's Hummus Shop.

It's called a Hummus Shop for a reason. The hummus, falafel, and pita bread are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

The fries maybe not so much, but I do think they are made in-house, so points for that. The fries were pale, like they had not been cooked through enough, and were a bit too mealy on the inside. They were also underseasoned. But I feel like Oren's can almost get away with it what with the quality of the remainder of the menu. They probably have the best falafel sandwich I've ever tasted, and it's probably a good thing that I don't live down the street from this place, because I would be even poorer than I already am.

Sidenote: Are you a Seinfeld fan and ever wondered what a Babka looks like in real life? They have both Chocolate and Poppyseed Babka, people! I've always been too full to even think about it, but I promise one day I will leave enough stomach room to actually buy one and taste it.


Price: $3.95
Portion Size: Medium
Texture: Not crispy enough on outside, soft on the inside. Pale.

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Underseasoned
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: salt, pepper, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: 5.5 out of 10

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cato's Ale House in Oakland, CA

This review is long overdue. I have been going here for a few months now, as part of a crack team trying to win trivia on Monday Trivia Nights. The music round gets us every time! My go-to guess whenever I hear a boy band is the Jonas Brothers (always wrong), and I don't even know if they're around as a 3-member band anymore. We lost our young pop culture genius for the next couple months as she travels across the world, and that has been quite a blow. But there is always the fries.

 (soft focus shot)

Onto the fries. First two times I got them, eh, not so bad. 6.0 But a few nights ago I got them again as part of the Fish 'n Chips plate (DELICIOUS) and damn, those fries were good! Different cook? Different oil? I don't know what it was, but that night was a magical night for the fries. Nice and crisp on the outside, good frikkin' chew (I use the word "frikkin'" to express how outstanding that bite/chew/slight give was), and nice, soft, and piping hot innards. Also, because it was part of the Fish 'n Chips entree, it came with a spicy chili aioli which was quite nice for dipping purposes. Will be trying again, very soon.


Price: $4.50 as a side ($9.95 if you want the Fish 'n Chips plate)
Portion Size: Medium
Texture: Crispy on outside, soft on the inside, darn good chew!

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Well seasoned with salt
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper

Overall Quality of French Fries: Apparently varies. 6.0 the first few times, 7.5 on my most recent visit. Yum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emeryville, California

Everyone Oakland knows about Rudy's (or at least sorta knows about it).

Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt opened the original in Emeryville in 2002 and there's now a new one in downtown Oakland. Based on the two facts that they're one of the very few eateries open around here until 1AM and (note italics AND bold) that they carry vegan doughnuts, you really, really want to like this place (oh, and they have amazing Guinness floats!).

The fries came with a very poorly made grilled cheese (a whole other story), and were pretty much what you'd expect from a sort-of diner. Most likely frozen, almost too crispy, and slightly orange. Pretty average, pretty much what you'd expect from a restaurant like this, but a whole lot better than the "grilled cheese," which was a few slices of cold, unmelted cheese on bread that had marks on it from a panini press.

PS: This place does have a special place in my heart in spite of the poor quality of fries. I love going to the Emeryville location for a vegan doughnut and glass of soymilk. And the waitresses are sassy.

PSS: Still really need to take notes on the quality of frying oil (see previous post).


Price: $6.95 with a poorly made grilled cheese, $3.25 on their own

Portion Size: Medium
Texture: Good chew factor, but a tad bit overcooked/too crunchy on the outside
Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning:Very underseasoned
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: Salt, pepper, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: Pre-cut and frozen. 5.00

Friday, February 3, 2012

Still figuring it out...

The whole "old" frying oil versus "new" frying oil I've been reading about in a book I mentioned in a previous post, How To Read a French Fry. I just have to take some time to take some notes before I eat my next french fry. But sometimes you just want to eat the fries, without actually thinking about the science behind them. This also takes patience. And for me, hunger + french fry does not = patience. We'll see about next time...

T.G.I. Friday's at Market Fair, Princeton, NJ

These fries are not good. They are sort of what you'd expect from a chain restaurant. Frozen pre-cut fries, deep fried until sort of tough on the inside and hardish on the outside. Very underseasoned, and though served hot, the "chew" of the fries could not be disguised even with condiments. Now as you may know, I like a good chew on a fry. But I don't want it to be so chewy that it's bordering on bubblegum.

I hate to be so harsh on a french fry, because after all the fry itself is not to blame. Ultimately, however, a fry is only as good as its maker, and sometimes the maker is not good indeed.


Price:$10.00 (I don't actually remember, but I think it was close to this--I forgot to jot down the price!),
came with a vegetarian cheese burger

Portion Size: Small
Texture: Chewy. Overcooked.
Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning:Very underseasoned
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: Salt, pepper, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: Pre-cut and frozen. 4.00

Kensington Circus Pub in Kensington, CA

This quaint little place in the tiny town of Kensington fancies itself a British Pub. I love the atmosphere, even in spite of the spotty service and the fact that it was freezing on a cold night (the waiter was wearing shorts and short-sleeve polo shirt, while I had a skullcap on. Sometimes I just don't even bother to ask).

(I know this photo isn't doing anyone any favors. Blame poor light and a phone camera.)

I ordered the Fish and Chips, and while I'll give the fish a very low "decent" grade (absolutely bland, but yet still comforting, as I'd been craving fish and chips for months now), the fries were, I hate to say it, pretty darn bad. Hard on the outside, and while soft of the inside, I just couldn't get over the fact that they tasted like they'd come out of the freezer, and were extremely underseasoned. In spite of this, and as is usually the case, I ate them all (I took leftovers home, and it did take me 2 days, but I still ate them all).

Note: Props for being a cozy place that's kid-friendly (not that I have kids, but it might be something that you might want to know)


Price:$11.00 for both the Fish and Chips (I ordered the 2-fish small portion; there is a 4-fish large portion that is $14.00)

Portion Size: Medium
Texture: A tad hard on outside, soft on inside. A bit overcooked.

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning:Very underseasoned
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: Salt, pepper, ketchup, vinegar

Overall Quality of French Fries: Pre-cut and frozen. 5.00 Verging on Bad

Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Read a French Fry

My friend Brad alerted me to the existence of a certain book by Russ Parsons titled,
How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science, which apparently tells you how to well, read a french fry (and other stories). I bought this book for myself in order be eligible for free Amazon shipping (meanies), and after reading it will hopefully have a better understanding of the fries I eat. Here's to science and food!

Hudson Diner in the West Village, NY

The Hudson Diner happened to be open at 11:15 PM (if you've ever been in that area on Hudson Street in the freezing cold, you know that your dining options are limited for a reasonably-priced meal). And the sign says, "Breakfast * Lunch* Dinner * Ice Cream" for goodness sake!
What's not to like?

(See that second plate of fries? They came with my friend's order of Eggs Benedict.
Please don't ask why.)

Well, I must say that the fries were pretty subpar. Most likely frozen, but they did arrive screamingly hot, which I wholeheartedly appreciated. Sort of a harder-than-usual mealy on the inside, crispy on the outside, they were pretty much what I expected. They tasted sort of what I imagine styrofoam to taste like, totally bland. Nevertheless…

Bonus points: My friend and I were the only ones there the Sunday night after Christmas, and they stayed open for us until close to midnight, even though they were scheduled to close shop at 11:30. I'd go back again, not for the fries, but for the friendly staff and comfort of a diner in the middle of New York Nowhere.


Price: $9.10, came with my Garden Burger (also not good, but that's another story)
Portion Size: Small
Texture: Crispy on outside, mealy on the inside

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Completely underseasoned
Fried in: Some salt of vegetable oil

Condiments: ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper

Overall Quality of French Fries: 3.5 out of 10.

 Pacific Coast Brewing Company in Oakland, CA

Please don't even get me started on the disgusting eggplant "sandwich" topped with congealed paremesan cheese that I ordered at the Pacific Coast Brewing Company (the fries came with it. Not sure how much fries are if they are just ordered as a side, it doesn't say on their menu). I have very vivid memories of that eggplant sandwich. 45 percent congealed, shiny cheese, 45 percent bread, and the rest assorted vegetables. To be eaten with a steak knife and a fork.

(*Note congealed atrocity in background)

As for the fries, I cereally didn't think they were so bad. Sure they were most likely frozen, and were over-cooked. And they glistened with an orange hue. But I've had waaaaay worse. My french-fry partner-in-crime for the day deemed them absolutely horrifying. I give them a steady 5.5, if only because they could be easily disguised with salt, pepper, and an occasional dip in ketchup. Not too shabby for a fluorescent orange fry. I realize this rating will baffle some of you, but again, I have had way worse, and for me these were tolerable!

*I should mention that the weirdness of this experience--the cheese, the sandwich, did I mention the cheese, and the poor wait service--was amplified by the fact that the restaurant was filled with people on lunch break from a "Jewelry Convention" going on down the street, and that 99 percent of the diners were older white people (mostly women, and a few husbands who probably wanted to cry). I did see a couple Asian ladies who are apparently into beads and stuff there too. Even weirder, though, was when my companion and I were asked if we were "in town for the Jewelry Convention," which completely baffled me, seeing as I don't perceive either of us as putting out any bead-making vibes.


Price: $11.00 includes gross congealed sandwich

Portion Size: Medium
Texture: A tad hard on outside, soft on inside. A bit overcooked.

Greasiness Level: 3 out of 5 (a bit greasy)
Seasoning: Underseasoned!
Fried in: Some sort of vegetable oil

Condiments: Salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup

Overall Quality of French Fries: 5.5 out of 10.