Countless Crispy Critters

Dear Dara confronts the French-fry issue

Dear Dara,

I have been on a French-fry quest for a number of years. I am operatic in stature, and the fries, I'm certain, are what keeps me at fighting weight. Without a doubt, the best fries in the Twin Cities are made at the 112 Eatery. I'm glad you (and everyone else in the world) like the place. It was your words that got me to go there.

On to Fugaise. We had lunch the first week and then I took my partner back for dinner that weekend. I told him about the great French fries that my friend Penny shared with me. Sense a theme going here? Unfortunately, they didn't have the fries on the evening menu.

The fries at jP look like a bouquet of tuber, as envisioned by the Italian futurist sculptor Brancusi
Bill Kelley
The fries at jP look like a bouquet of tuber, as envisioned by the Italian futurist sculptor Brancusi

Location Info


The Wienery

414 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Jp American Bistro

2937 Lyndale Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

112 Eatery

112 N. 3rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The Craftsman Restaurant

4300 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Seward/ Longfellow/ Minnehaha

Ike's Food & Cocktails

50 S. Sixth St.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Black Forest Inn

1 E. 26th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > German

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

When I told our savvy and attentive waitguy that I brought my partner into Fugaise for a great meal and the French fries, he apologized. He also returned and relayed the chef's offer to make some. We accepted the offer and enjoyed them immensely. I thanked him repeatedly, and after the third "thank you" he leaned in, and in a stage whisper said, "It's okay, we just ran down to Whitey's Bar and picked some up."

Not true.

Then, as our meal progressed, I spied the 112 folks eating across the way and sampling lots of the chef's offerings. French-fry coincidence? I think not.

Let me know when you do the French-fry issue.

--Robert, of Minneapolis


Dear Robert,

I am doing the French fry issue!

Now, there are some who would say that my entire career could be called the French-fry issue, but to them I say, I pay you $90 an hour for this?

The plain truth of the matter is that French fries are, like paper, paper clips, and Pay Per View Ultimate Fighting, one of the great achievements of man, one of the accomplishments that vaulted our kind from mere bipedal top scavengers, like crows, to a six-billion-strong army of earth-transformers, like termites. Yet, unlike termites, many of us look cute in shorts! Which has nothing to do with French fries, but as it's early December and we have just tipped into the delightful season of snow-pants and afghans, that's not really our concern. No, our concern is examining what a marvelous French-fry sort of town we live in.

Why, I remember when I started this beat, back in the dark, poverty-struck days of the 1990s, when almost no Americans had personal photo printers, but we were unspeakably rich in jokes about stained blue dresses, and nearly every French fry came from a paper bag, and the fancy ones were waffle-cut and came with a packet of sour cream. In those dark days you had to look long and hard to find a real French fry, cut from actual potatoes. If I remember correctly your options were limited to the State Fair, the St. Paul Grill, the Wienery, and Annie's Parlor.

Then came the American cooking revolution, and some people remembered how good French fries were, and other people remembered how profitable it could be to have hordes swarming to your door to pay $6 for a couple of potatoes and some oil. And that brings us to today, a day when Minnesota is nothing short of a fantastical French-fry wonderland. I know it because Robert's letter prompted me to whip up my personal short list of the dozen or so best French-fry vendors in the Twin Cities. After which I visited them all in the space of a long weekend--yes, all eight, thus no doubt involving my future cardiologist in French-fry issues of her own. But I am firmly in Robert's camp there, I think I'd rather live life operatically, with blondes in Valkyrie hats, high notes, toreadors of questionable motive, and plenty of fries.

Here's what I found.

Essentially, we are rolling in great French fries in this city right now. This is where those persistent stains originate. Seriously though, there is what I have come to think of as the French-Fry Long List. Here I speak of Ike's Food & Cocktails, the Craftsman Restaurant, Andy's Garage, the Black Forest Inn, Hamlin's Coffee Shop, 112 Eatery--I could go on, but basically I have concluded that I won't, there simply isn't space, time, or a digestive tract long enough to mention them all. Never has it been so easy to fit operatic living into beers with friends or a malt with the kids.

I don't have room here to mention the merely great. That's rich times. After that we have two places of such originality and unique vision that if you decided to have a hit put out on me for failing to mention them, I could see your point. However, they are not for everyone. Here I speak of jP's pommes frites and the fries at the Wienery. The fries at jP American Bistro are very long spears of potato, dusted with oak-smoked Spanish paprika, and served standing up in a paper cone that rests in a spiraling metal cone. They look like a bouquet of tuber, as envisioned by the Italian futurist sculptor Brancusi. They go very well with big red wines, aren't bad with one of the restaurant's practically wholesale-priced single-malt scotches, and make a strong case for people who live around Uptown and LynLake to remember the bar in the front of jP, where you can have a very civilized, low-key, grown-up drink, and some exceptionally memorable fries.

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