Austin's Top 10 french fries

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 05.15.12
Shoestring fries from a freezer bag are good for drawing the line between serious burger places and tired fast food. These 10 spots make the best french fries of the 120-plus restaurants I visited. Find the Top 10 onion rings at this link, and look for the Top 10 burgers at this link
1. P. Terry’s Burger Stand. I’ve cut fries at P. Terry’s for a Statesman story, so I’ve seen the working end of the science that goes into making these long, elegant beauties brown and crisp. Factors like harvest conditions, truck temperatures, relative humidity, pre-soak ratios, oil temperature. How they come out so precise and snappy is both a mystery and a simple application of physics. 3311 RM 620, across from Lake Travis High School in Lakeway. 512-263-9433, more locations at (above)
2. Mighty Fine Burgers Fries Shakes. Mighty Fine keeps the menu pared down to focus on moving people through the amusement-park line that ends at the register. Burgers, fries, drinks, shakes and chili dogs. No rings, no apple pies, no salads. But fries like these need no wingman. They’re whittled one potato at a time through a shiny, $40,000 monster into long, picnic-style crinkle fries, then double-dipped in the fryers for color and backbone. 10515 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1), No. 205 in the Arbor Walk shopping center. 512-524-2400, more locations at (above left)
3. Hyde Park Bar & Grill. I’ve never left Hyde Park without Hyde Park french fries. They’re dipped in buttermilk, then floured, then fried. Twenty-five years ago, they were the first battered fries I’d ever seen, and I thought they were crazy stunt food. What’s next, deep-fried bacon? A chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey? Burgers with doughnuts for buns? By now, battered fries feel like a return to sanity, or at least a return to the little house on Duval Street where I always feel at home. 4206 Duval St. 512-458-3168, (above center)
4. Black Star Co-op. For a brewing cooperative, Black Star gets extra points for treating food with the same respect as beer. Like flat-cut potatoes in the English chips style, with skins and salt and garlic, lots of garlic. If you weren’t thirsty before, you will be after these, and that’s reason enough to eat as many as you can. 7020 Easy Wind Drive in the Midtown Commons center at Airport and North Lamar. 512-452-2337, (above right)
5. Second Bar + Kitchen. Truffle oil usually sets my teeth on edge, but it’s a component at this stylized urban lunchroom rather than an interloper, integrated into a french fry the size of your pinky finger, if your pinky finger were wearing little rings made of Italian Parmesan. 200 Congress Ave. at the base of the Austonian. 512-827-2750, (above left)
6. Hat Creek Burger Co. Side orders on Hat Creek's streamlined menu begin and end with fries that are cut in-house throughout the day. They're as many shades of tan as a Texas beach, showing just enough skin to make it interesting. 5400 Burnet Road. 512-452-2025, (above center)
7. Hopdoddy. The fries are shoestring thin and crisp as a Texas lawn, the kind McDonald’s spuds would like to be when they grow up.  It’s like a whole potato in a wax paper envelope, delivering heat and color and little dots of herb. 1400 S. Congress Ave., Suite 190A. 512-243-7505, (above right)
8. Hopfields. Pale and delicate, these potatoes put the French back in french fries. It’s like they were made just for you, this fragile handful, as if each one were sculpted with just enough form and color to qualify as a rustic side dish rather than models for a still life. OK, that’s going too far. Good fries and an even better tap wall at this New Tavern destination. 3110 Guadalupe St. 512-537-0467, (above left)
9. Elevation Burger. Elevation cuts potatoes in the kitchen every day to make its long, thin fries. Then they get a two-stage dunk in olive oil. I’ve had good and just OK results at Elevation, but this time they were cooked with such character and color and crispness you’d think they were shooting a commercial in the back. 2525 W. Anderson Lane. 512-419-7444, more locations at (above, top right)
10. Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Jenga-sized blocks of potato, too hot to touch, with a good balance of mottled brickle on the outside, flaked starch on the inside. They’re cut from the 50-pound bags of Idaho potatoes stacked like barricades by the front door. A regular order comes in a soda fountain cup. Starts there, anyway. Five Guys’ mandate must call for them to fill your brown paper bag to three-quarters full with fries, no matter what’s inside. 3208 Guadalupe St. 512-452-4300, more locations at (above, bottom right)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)