Duck Fat Fries from Hot Doug's
Ask anybody in Chicago about where to get the best duck fat fries and you'll almost always get the same answer: Hot Doug's. Famous around the country for their gourmet sausages, or as they refer to them, "encased meats," Hot Doug's duck fat fries are only served on Fridays and Saturdays. People line up for hours to get them (in our case, two hours) and they are a welcome reward for waiting for so long. The distinct flavor of the duck fat adds a dimension to the starch of the fresh potatoes that'll have you planning out your next visit immediately.
3324 North California Ave., Chicago IL 60618 (map); 773-279-9550
Cheese Fries from Portillo's
Yes, these are frozen. Yes, this is fast food. But that doesn't stop us from putting Portillo's cheese fries on the list. Portillo's is well-known in Chicago for their Italian beef, hot dogs, and burgers, but you'll see a lot of people ordering the cheese fries as well. They come crispy and well salted with a piping hot cup of bright yellow cheese sauce. And sometimes, that's all you need.
Multiple locations around Chicagoland
Fries with Muffaletta Dip from Wiener and Still Champion
Awesome name, right? This no-frills joint, located just north of Chicago in Evanston, has a mastery of the deep fryer. On the menu you'll find country-fried bacon, deep-fried pickle chips, and country-fried gyros. One of the best things about ordering here is the evolving selection of dipping sauces for any of your fried foods, including your french fries. They go well with the hand-cut and double-fried french fries, which are already perfect by themselves, crispy, rich, and oily and always made to order. Pictured here is the Argentine herb sauce, flavored with garlic and parsley, and the olive-rich muffaletta sauce, which is mayo-based and packed with flavor.
802 Dempster, Evanston IL 60202 (map); 847-869-0100
Garlic Fries from The Bad Apple
The Bad Apple not only serves up fantastic burgers; they also make some tasty french fries. Skin-on and fried, they get that rich hue of brown, rendering them crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. Pictured here are the garlic fries tossed in a perfect amount of fresh minced garlic. If garlic isn't your thing then you have your choice of truffle oil, firecracker, Old Bay, curry, sweet and spicy chipotle, or creole. All fries are served with housemade ketchup.
4300 North Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60618 (map); 773-360-8406
Fries with Merkt's Cheddar from BenjYehuda
This bustling lunch-only spot serves a fresh, eclectic mix of Mediterranean street food. It's especially popular with office workers in the Loop. The larger fries are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and the smaller ones have a crunchiness like fresh potato chips, which you'll be hunting out like an addict. Get the Merkt's Cheddar (sold separately) on the side, and you are in fried potato heaven. If you're feeling guilty, there's plenty of healthy options on the menu (ha!).
1212 W Van Buren Street, Chicago IL 60607 (map); 312-408-2365
Foie Gras Fries from Big and Little's
The foie gras fries were among the best fries I've ever had and have undoubtedly secured a spot on my list of 10 best things I ate in 2011. The fries are blanched then fried a second time in canola oil. The hand-cut beauties have a crisp exterior and soft interior and are bursting with fresh potato flavor. The foie gras was flawlessly cooked and had a nice crust around the ridiculously soft liver.
939 N. Orleans Street, Chicago IL 60610 (map); 312-943-0000
[Photo and text: Daniel Zemans]
Sweet Potato Fries from DMK Burger Bar
This is a popular place for a burger in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, but they also serve up some of the best sweet potato fries in the city. These fries have a thin crispy exterior and a sweet interior with a hint of caramel flavor from the natural sugars of the sweet potato. They're served with a lemon-Tabasco aioli that cuts through the sweetness with a spicy kick to make things even more interesting. You can order them as an individual order, or a large one for sharing.
2954 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago IL 60657 (map); 773-360-8686
Taylor Street Fries from Edzo's
This cheerfully decorated burger joint in nearby Evanston offers double-fried, freshly cut french fries. There are 11 varieties of french fries on the menu, but if you're looking for something really fun, try the Taylor Street Fries. They start with your standard order of fries, douse them in Italian beef jus, then top them with sweet peppers and spicy giardinera. The result is a glorious cross between an Italian beef and french fries. The giardinera oil is what makes the whole pile sing. Order the Nutella milkshake on the side, and you've officially reached nirvana.
1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston IL 60201 (map); 847-864-3396;
Triple Truffle Fries from Franks 'n Dawgs
Franks 'n Dawg's quickly rose through the ranks as a competitor to Hot Doug's, and with good reason. They serve all of their delicious sausages on a grilled New-England style bun. On the weekends, however, they serve one of the most popular items on the menu: Triple Truffle Fries. The pile of waffle fries are tossed in truffle oil, truffle butter, and truffle salt. The crisp, buttery waffle fries are sprinkled with a bit of fresh parsley to finish them off. Despite the triple attack, the truffle flavor isn't actually overwhelming and you'll be surprised at how fast they disappear off your plate.
1863 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago IL 60614 (map); 312-281-5187
Fries on a Hot Dog at Gene and Jude's
This Chicagoland hot dog institution was awarded the title of "Best Hot Dogs in America" by SE in a feature we did with Every Day With Rachel Ray earlier this year. So, how are their fries? A generous portion comes with every hot dog order. The best way to eat them is stacked directly atop the hot dog. They're made with freshly cut potatoes fried in vegetable oil with a touch of beef fat, which adds a welcome savory element. Alone they're great, but eaten on top of the hot dog, they become something else altogether. This is one of those stubborn establishments that has no ketchup on the premises so if you want to look like an old pro, don't even mention the K-word.
2720 River Road, River Grove IL 60171 (map), 708-452-7634