In a town where great fries are only a hot dog away, I've never felt the need to seek out a spuds-only place. But after perusing the overwhelmingly un-fried options at the Chicago French Market, I couldn't help but give the Belgian Fries ($5.00 for a large) at Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer a try. And I'm so glad I did, because even though the stand has recently started selling fancy pretzel bunned burgers, these fries are worth making a meal of on their own right.
As far as technique goes, the sign says it all: "one frying to cook, one frying to crisp." While the best Chicago versions are twice fried to an extra-crispy golden brown, Frietkoten's paper-coned fries stop at crisp and golden. Subtle and semantic distinction, maybe, but it makes all the difference. These properly seasoned blonde fries are tender, with a pillowy-creamy interior not unlike an expensive memory foam pillow. And unlike their darker, sturdier Chicago counterparts, they are delicate: not only would they be completely overpowered by a mustardy hot dog, they would be broken to bits if they were forced to share a wrapper together.
Frietkoten prides itself on offering a wide variety of sauces (1 for $0.75, 3 for $2.00) for all your fry dipping needs. The social mores of Belgium elude me, but this being Chicago, I played it safe and ignored the various ketchup varietals and concentrated on mayo-based options. Clockwise from the top are Garlic, Harissa, and Curry, each one balanced and tasting as advertised. All three were great, but if we're going purely based on how much was left at the end of the meal, the acidic Harissa came in a close second to the rich Garlic, with the heady Curry being a distant third.
Perhaps the best thing about these fries is their independent singularity. Rather than being able to rely on an exceptional hot dog to carry them to greatness, Frietkoten's fries have the chops to stand unadorned, front and center. Next time I get a hankering, I'm going to continue to snub the burger and keep it that way.
Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer at the Chicago French Market
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