Thanks to a recent boom in food trucks, the basic french fry has undergone a makeover. No longer are crispy potatoes a mere side dish — the modern french fry has become a unique meal in itself. By some accounts, “french” fries date back to the late 1700s right before the French Revolution, a time when street vendors sold potato wedges on the Ponte Neuf bridge in Paris. However, foodie historians trace the beloved skinny spuds back to Belgium, pleasing appetites since the late 1600s.
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A long way from the streets of Paris or Belgium, I set out on a mission to hunt down the best fries in the desert. While plain salted fries are perfectly fine, my objective was to discover the area’s french fry masters. People making fries that are a little crazy. Out of this world fry-tastic. These chefs are using toppings to fancify their fries and the result is nothing short of memorable. This is one of those culinary conundrums where more is definitely more.
Here are the best french fries from 5 restaurants in Greater Palm Springs.
VIDEO: Big Rock Pub chef Jeremy Saccardi shows how their fry-tastic dish.
Big Rock Pub
Before sitting down to a plate of fries, I find myself transfixed at the entrance — there is so much to see. Big Rock Pub is a large space filled with classic-rock memorabilia including autographed guitars by such legends as Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. It’s museumlike, complete with a stage for live music and a sprawling view of the golf course. The menu itself is tucked in an old record sleeve; it lists mouthwatering dishes named after classics like “Livin’ on the Wedge” and “Sympathy for the Devil-ed Eggs” — think of upscale pub food. There are scores of different french fry dishes on the menu, but my eyes are on the Waltz Across Texas: house smoked Angus beef– and bean chili–smothered russet and sweet potato fries with two cheeses, onions, and poblanos. These are not your typical chili fries; these are chili fries with soul, style, and layers of all your favorite flavors. Everything is made from scratch, fork friendly, and tummy satisfying. Every bite transports me to the Southwest, lassoing my taste buds for a culinary hoedown. Order to share as an appetizer or as a complete meal. Protein, cheese, potatoes, and veggies: that’s four food groups right there!
Big Rock Pub, 79940 Westward Ho Drive, Indio. 760-200-9844; thebigrockpub.com
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Burgers & Beer
Thick or skinny? This can be used to describe the difference between pizza crusts, Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1,225 pages) and Orwell’s Animal Farm (140 Pages), or my thighs depending on the season, but today it’s what’s on the fry menu at Burgers & Beer. This lively, family-friendly sports bar serves up succulent burgers and toasty fries. The Chipotle Fries are topped with oozing cheddar and jack cheeses, crispy bacon, and chipotle. The dilemma: thick-cut or skinny? That decision is almost as hard as “What am I going to wear today?” but in this case, I choose both.
Chipotle Fries balance cheese and bacon against the richness of the chipotle.
Two baskets of fries are better than one anyway, especially when those fries are drowning in different toppings — I’m just doing my part to save the poor things. I stick my fork into the center of basket No. 1, and with a lift of the fork I try to break the potatoes free. The cheese is giving me a fight; the bacon is not helping either; and the chipotle, well it’s just along for the ride. The cheese and bacon balance the bold richness of the chipotle marrying together in a mouthful of flavor. I still can’t decide whether I prefer thick-cut or skinny, but I leave with a full belly, and that’s really all that matters. These fries pair well with the Chipotle or Cowboy burgers, and a refreshing beer picked from the restaurant’s mile-long list is the only way to wash it down.
Burgers & Beer, 72773 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-4522; burgersandbeer.com
This elevated pub is adjacent to Arrive Palm Springs, the hotel whose adult amenities list reads like an itinerary from the best summer camp ever. Draughtsman is one of Arrive’s eateries with a complementary chill, outdoor vibe where guests can relax and enjoy an extensive beer selection, handcrafted cocktails, and a menu that includes a Monday-through-Friday Happy Hour (I’m all about $5 Wine Wednesday). Here, everyday is Fry-day where patrons can enjoy french fry varieties like asparagus fries and — the dish I’m currently obsessing over — Short Rib Poutine Fries. These are like a gift from the foodie heavens. Inspired by our neighbors in Canada, eh, the french fries are smothered in slow-cooked short ribs, gravy, cheese curds, and pepper bacon. Grab a bib and your lumberjack growl and dig into these meaty, cheesy hunks of fried-potato goodness. I mean, where can I go from here? This is truly all I need in my life. This and a glass of pinot, sipped on Draughtsman’s patio watching all the pretty people walk by as I stuff my face. Life is beautiful.
At Draughtsman in Palm Springs, Short Rib Poutine Fries are smothered in slow-cooked short ribs, gravy, cheese curds, and pepper bacon.
Oh, I get it … Gorilla Burger. That’s the epiphany I had about 20 minutes into cozying up at the bar at this Palm Desert establishment where the décor is jungle themed — more specifically, it’s full of gorilla paraphernalia. What’s even wilder is the wildly good fries they serve. I decided to try something a little different — a little California with a side of healthy: avocado fries. Wedges of fresh avocado are dipped in beer batter, rolled in Panko breadcrumbs, deep-fried, and seasoned with sea salt. Since avocados are high up on my most-favorite-things list, it was a no-brainer to order them fried; they’re served with two drool-inducing dipping sauces, pesto mayo and Sriracha mayo.
At Grill-A-Burger in Palm Desert, avocado wedges are dipped in beer batter, breaded, deep-fried and seasoned with sea salt.
Each bite is a slow dance with my taste buds and I really don’t want it to end. (Is a second plate of these avocado fries considered gluttonous? I mean, you can never eat too many green things, right?) Other options you need to try: bleu cheese bacon fries, parmesan fries, and fresh garlic fries.
Grill-A-Burger, 73091 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert. 760-346-8170; grill-a-burger.com
Woody’s Palm House
If you’ve ever felt like there was something missing in your life, you can fill that hollow void with Woody’s sweet potato fries. Julienned and drizzled in a caramelized maple glaze, the mix of salty and sweet is just what the doctor ordered. They’re somewhere between a savory side dish and a dessert — and I’m totally loving it. The upscale restaurant on South Palm Canyon Drive offers a dimly lit supper-club vibe, with a posh bar and nightly entertainment that ranges from funk to Motown.
Woody’s Palm House’s sweet potato fries gives you that mix of sweet and salty.
Formerly a burger joint that was located a short drive down the street, the family owners relocated and rebranded Woody’s last year — but they definitely still make some of the best fries in town. Not a sweet potato fan? Woody’s serves a few alternatives, including classic beer-battered fries, hand-dipped onion rings, and fried pickle spears, all of which rival my orange spuds.
Woody’s Palm House, 450 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-230-0188; woodyspalmhouse.com
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