Call me a purist, but ever since the french fry scales fell from my eyes a few years ago, I'm happiest when my spuds are simply tossed with salt and maybe some freshly cracked pepper. Before I saw the light, I used to employ any number of seasonings: garlic salt, Old Bay, Tony Chachere's—sometimes all at once—to attempt to enliven the baked from frozen crinkle cuts I ate growing up. But with all the great fry options here in Chicago, the distraction function of these seasonings is largely rendered moot.
This doesn't mean, though, that inventive seasonings can't be used to enhance. Take the Togarashi Spiced Fries ($3.00) from Belly Shack, Bill Kim's neighborhood joint located under the rumbling Western Blue Line stop. The pale fries themselves evoke straight-from-the-fryer McDonald's: delicately crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside, and just as addictive. The fries are tossed in togarashi, a Japanese chili blend that usually contains, among other things, red chili pepper, sansho, roasted orange peel, black sesame seed, ground ginger, and nori. Garnished with finely julienned cilantro and served with a curry mayonnaise, these fries do their best to evade establishing any sort of flavor frame of reference. The spice blend packs mild heat, and the other flavors are at once familiar and hard to place. Though good on their own right, the fries come alive once dipped in the curry mayonnaise. Like the best ailois, the sauce is rich, garlicy, and a perfect foil to the crunchy fries.
Maybe I've been a little hard on seasoned salts as of late. Or maybe togarashi is just where it's at. Regardless, it looks like I could use to broaden my horizons. Any Chicago Serious Eaters out there have recommendations for uniquely seasoned french fries?