Your diners may look like nice, normal people, but inside, they’re living in a sea of culinary conflict. They jump at the chance to order Buddha bowls, functional non-alcoholic beverages and meals made with 100 percent clean ingredients. But just as the server is about to walk away from the table, they’ll add, “can we get an order of the chili-cheese fries, too?”
Mirroring the Oscar Wilde aphorism of being able to resist anything but temptation, even the most health-focused, gym-going, karma-covered diners can’t seem to resist the indulgence of ordering a platter of fries for the table to share. And these days, the idea of eating naked fries is beginning to seem positively Puritan, as chefs find new ways to pile on flavors.
Mashups and fusion
These loaded-up, topped fries (also called disco fries on some menus) are moving beyond mere chili-cheese or poutine and are now taking cues from global cuisines to create mashups like Asian-style fries. This flavor profile is popular with many diners, especially the 42 percent of Gen Zers who seek out international street foods on menus. Check out the recipe for Loaded Kimchi Fries from the chefs at the T. MarzettiTM kitchen, linked below. They call for a plate of fries to be topped with pulled pork that’s mixed with Marzetti® Korean Barbecue Sauce. Shredded cheese, kimchi, a fried egg and a green onion are used to top the meat mixture, making this mashup just about irresistible.
Mixing it up
Everywhere you look, chefs are getting creative with their fries and toppings. The Buffalo Spot, a four-state chain, serves what it calls “world famous” Buffalo fries, topped with spicy chicken nuggets. At San Francisco’s Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, they pile up the meat and melted Swiss cheese that’s usually at the center of a pastrami sandwich and instead slide it atop a platter of hot, fried potatoes (see recipe below). The gastropub Bear’s Lair Tavern in Berkeley, California, serves FOMO fries made with Kennebec potatoes, cheese sauce, chorizo, cilantro and chile cream.
If fries are already a regular item on your menu, it can be relatively easy for you to test and feature specials with some over-the-top options that pile on the cheese, bacon, sour cream, truffles and garlic—and more.
How about a topped-fries special tied to St. Patrick’s Day on March 17? Shake Shack has featured a limited-time St. Patrick’s Day fries special, topped with horseradish cream, scallions and Applewood-smoked bacon. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews has run a themed poutine fries special during Oktoberfest, but an item like this might have some appeal for winter-into-spring hearty eating. If it seems like a crazy, over-the-top, incredibly indulgent idea, it’s probably just about right for your topped fries.