Photos by Leah Backstrom
In the mood for some fries? I gotcha, spud. I went on a journey to find the perfect French fries in downtown Fargo.
What exactly makes for a perfect fry? To me, it has to have a crispy outside with a soft and smooth center. Served as an appetizer, the portion should be a good amount that can feed at least three people but not break the bank. When comparing the french fry appetizers, I looked at four important factors:
- Price of the dish
- Quantity served
- The crispiness of the fries
- Seasoning/toppings or dips on the side
I wanted to see how downtown restaurants presented their version of this great all-American food. I was accompanied by two taste testers — Michael Schumer and Tanner Lee — chosen for their opinions and empty bellies. Here are five french fry appetizers we think will satisfy your taste “spuds.”
JL BEERS | Loaded Fries
Seasoning/topping: Jalapeno cheddar spice, beer cheese drizzle, bacon bits, and diced jalapenos.
Served in a large basket, the fries only took up about half of it. At first glance, the fries were almost drowning in their toppings. The beer cheese sauce cascaded over the fries with bacon bites and jalapenos spread over the cheese. Sprinkled in was a jalapeno cheddar seasoning to finish. With so much spice, it was hard to even taste the fries, much less enjoy them.
“Wow, these are hot… pretty spicy.” — Schumer
“These would be dope without the jalapenos.” — Lee
The Loaded Fries basket definitely fits its name. Because of the toppings, there wasn’t much crispiness, and we had to use forks because they were limp and overloaded. Even with a reasonable price, I didn’t feel we got our money’s worth.
Sitting next to us, Jon Dahl, who lives above JL Beers, was quick to give his opinion.
“I never order the chips and fries here, I just get the burger. I like my fries straight up. I don’t like them loaded. Fries are finger food. I’m a purist. I want them to be plain — just salt and crispy.” – Dahl
POUNDS | Poutine Fries
Pounds has since revamped their menu, removing the type of poutine featured below. They now have two types of poutine, find out more about them here!
Price: $9.50 ($7 without bacon but who would order that?)
Seasoning: salt, gravy, cheese, and bacon bits
Look at that picture. A large bowl of poutine-style, this Canadian dish consists of fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds … and topped with bacon. It is truly a beautiful sight.
Even with an amount that could easily feed three or four people, the price was the highest of the five plates we sampled. For me, as a full-time college student on a tight budget, this was one of the biggest problems.
“They’re so salty but I’m kind of biased. I like salty fries. I’m not a fan of the gravy. It makes them soggy.” — Lee
For me, the added gravy pretty much wiped out whatever crunch was there before.
“Regular fries are really good but the poutine is really, really delicious. I appreciate the gravy and cheese combination.” — Schumer
WURST BIER HALL | French Fries
Seasoning: salt, served with beer cheese and ranch/sriracha dip
After Pounds, Wurst Bier Hall had the least expensive fries of the five stops we made. Our order at Wurst was nothing fancy, just fries with salt. The waiter recommended some dipping sauces, so we paired our potatoes with beer cheese and a ranch Sriracha mixed dip. After french fry sampling at two restaurants already, we tried to take it easy … but you can always make room for fries, right? Within 15 minutes the basket was empty.
“It’s all-American. Them sh*** are poppable!” — Lee
Simple really won over my taste buds. Potato? More like po-tasteful!
“(These) are a nice, safe option as far as basic fries go. I’d say decent value. So, yeah, Wurst is the best.” – Schumer
TWIST | Truffled Fries
Seasoning: truffle oil and fresh parmesan cheese, served with ketchup
Twist prides itself on “dining differently.” I was excited to try its truffle fries, especially after our waiter commented that they are “pretty incredible.”
Served in a wide bowl with matching square ketchup cups, the display was elegant, which is a word I have never used to describe fries before. While the presentation was nice, it definitely decreased the number of fries you could get in the conical bowl. And, unfortunately, the taste didn’t make up for the small portion.
“I didn’t think the Parmesan cheese complemented anything else about those fries.” — Schumer
“I respect what their trying to do, but I wouldn’t get these again.” — Lee
TOASTED FROG | Truffled Fries
Seasoning: truffle oil, parmesan and bacon bits, served with a Havarti cream sauce
Upon first inspection of the menu, the only appetizer fries I could find were sweet potato fries. The fries themselves were very crispy, but also very thin; there wasn’t much to them taste-wise. I was a little disappointed. After talking with our waitress, we discovered Toasted Frog’s truffled fries are also served by themselves as an appetizer. She was quick to swap out our fries with no extra charge. Size-wise the basket was a bit smaller than the other apps we sampled, but still a good quantity.
The dip was what stood out the most.
“I feel like I’m dipping into a little cloud” was my first thought. If Bob Ross, the light-hearted PBS and YouTube painting teacher, joined the party it would’ve been a happy little cloud. Made from cheese and butter.
The Havarti cream sauce was so soft and fluffy its texture reminded me of marshmallow fluff. The light buttery taste complemented the Parmesan on the french fries. The fries themselves lost some of their crunch but still qualified for “finger food.”
“I would rate these like a 6, but the sauce bumps it to like an eight.” — Schumer
The thing about rating french fries is there never really is a loser. Each stop on my “fry-day” proved at least one thing to be true about these fries: You can always make room for one more.