Happy Fry Day

S nack. Side. Add-on.

The humble French fry is used to being called such names. (Also chip, wedge and frite.) Yet it would be much easier to count up the people who don’t enjoy its company than the people who do.

New Haven has countless French fry options. Here’s the not-so-skinny on seven good ones.

Alpha Delta Pizza. This modest-seeming late-night pizza joint—open ’til 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 a.m. the rest of the week—fries up a darn good potato stick (pictured first). Piled into a styrofoam-like tub that clips shut, these relatively thick fries wear a good mix of salt, pepper and, I think, something else that’s hard to place. Soft interiors still retain some density, and the fries with potato skin on them sometimes offer strong hits of baked potato-y flavor. According to the fellow behind the counter, they aren’t cut or spiced in-house—a supplier takes care of all of that—but even so, it’s hard to argue with the result. (371 Elm St; $4.99 small, $5.99 large.)

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ROÌA. They’re cut to uniform thickness, about three quarters of a centimeter. Then they’re soaked in water, extracting some of the starch. Then they’re blanched in oil. Then they’re frozen, to pull moisture out and break down cellular structure. Then they’re fried, salted, peppered and placed inside a handled ceramic bowl, next to matching ramekins of ketchup and mayo. Then they’re stuffed down happy gullets. ROÌA’s Pommes Frites (pictured third), as they read on the menu, taste both indulgent and light. The crisp on the outside is balanced, the interior is fluffy and the salt level is restrained but present. They don’t weigh you down and don’t fill you up too much. (261 College St; $6.)

Heirloom (inside The Study at Yale). The fries here (pictured seventh) are the thinnest of the bunch, just a little over half a centimeter, and they’re also the briniest, flaked with healthy amounts of what appears to be sea salt. The outsides of Heirloom’s fries tend to offer a pleasing little crunch, and the interiors are surprisingly pillowy; you don’t expect that with such a thin cut. Also unexpected (unless you’ve looked at the menu) is, instead of ketchup, a fragrant sea salt and malt vinegar aioli. It’s a good option for moderately late-night snacking because, unlike most higher-end restaurants, this one’s inside a hotel, which keeps the kitchen open until 12 a.m. most nights, particularly when Yale’s in session. (1157 Chapel St; $6.)

Five Guys. Not far from the border with Woodbridge, this fast and casual chain spot serves up white paper cups overflowing with fries inside brown paper bags (pictured second). Copious grease spots soak through the paper before it’s even been handed to the customer. But Five Guys owns that oiliness, perhaps because it’s one part of an approach that imparts a lot of flavor. Instead of crisping up, the fries’ outer layers stay generally soft, allowing the oil’s fatty flavor to seep inside. Combined with slices that’ve kept a lot of the original tuber’s skin and some simple salt seasoning, these fries are good at conjuring memories of boardwalks and carnivals. (75 Amity Rd; “little” $2.79, regular $3.79, large $4.99.)

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Union League Cafe. Known for its impeccable service, you’ll get it even if all you do is order some fries. Next to a spotless bottle of Heinz 57 given its own plate, my order arrived in a huge white bowl, clearly portioned for sharing (pictured fourth). It carried a buttery perfume at first, perhaps from something that’d been cooking next to it in the kitchen. Consistently just under a centimeter thick, the fries’ exteriors range from soft to crispy, with salt and finely ground pepper splashed here and there, not dispersed evenly throughout. Both factors made one fry taste different from the next, an especially nice feature when you’ve got so many in front of you. (1032 Chapel St; $7.75.)

Jordan’s Hot Dogs & Mac. Sporting the only crinkle cut of the lot, the fries at Jordan’s, seasoned with salt and pepper, fry up to a ballpark yellow and approach two centimeters thick (pictured sixth). The outside crisp is heftier than average and so’s the inner potato filling. They retain heat well, meaning you can eat them at reasonable leisure with little consequence. For sauces, see the common fixings station to the left of the main counter, where ketchup and mustard in classic red and yellow squeeze bottles await. (970 State St; small $3, large $5.)

Rudy’s. Naturally. Along with beer, Belgian-style frites (pictured fifth) are the foundation of the place. The fry on the fries is a bit heavier than average, imparting a darker amber color and leaving some a little chewy. There’s a sweetness to them, but not much tater flavor. That’s okay here, since the salt-tossed fries are meant to be a vessel for any number of the bar’s 18 sauces, from straight ketchup (not actually listed on the menu) to a Maple Sriracha mayo to a Thai Peanut coconut curry. (1227 Chapel St; regular $6, grand $11.)

After eating so many fries and saying so much about them, it’s probably time I shut my fry hole. As for you? New Haven’s French-fried potatoes await.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories, helped in no small part by a small team of dedicated contributors.

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