Contrary to popular belief, one of America’s most popular foods, the french fry, originated in Belgium and not in France. Variants of this favorite food are plentiful: thick-cut fries, steak fries, shoestring fries, crinkle fries, curly fries, hand-cut fries, tornado fries… Call them whatever you want – Americans scarf down heaping amounts, approximately 28 pounds per person per year. Pittsburghers are no stranger to these luscious cuts of fried root vegetable. After an arduous brainstorming session, this writer narrowed down Pittsburgh’s five best local venues to get your french fry fix on in the ‘Burgh. Beware: this list might surprise you.
The Potato Patch
Behind The Thunderbolt roller coaster
4800 Kennywood Blvd
West Mifflin, PA 15122
Price: Between $3.99 – $5.99 with additional toppings
Hours: Sun to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri to Sat – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Did you sincerely believe this life-long Pittsburgher would neglect to put everyone’s favorite amusement park treat at the number one spot on this list? Potato Patch French fries are a Pittsburgh institution. Freshly peeled, sliced and fried right on the spot, the stand also offers every drool-worthy topping imaginable. Salt, garlic, vinegar, gravy, bacon, barbecue, ketchup and that luscious cheddar cheese sauce makes this incredible side accoutrement fulfilling enough to suffice as your entire meal. Sure, the corn dogs across the way are good, but these tasty spuds are downright amazing.
Fuel & Fuddle
212 Oakland Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Hours: Daily – 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
This Oakland staple has been pleasing the college crowd for years with its quirky blend of house-brewed ales and off-the-wall menu items. Its half-price appetizers are also a mega hit. After 11 p.m., most of the menu’s front page is half off. Fuel & Fuddle’s fries are among these options – and are to die for. Most platters come with a haphazard arrangement of mouth-watering russet and sweet potato fries. Whether the fries are freshly made or frozen remains to be determined, but these babies come in handy after a long night of boozing on Forbes Avenue.
46 18th St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
The fries at Primanti Bros. are so good, they can be found on a sandwich. The story behind the infamous french-fry-coleslaw-and-whatever-else-ya-want-between-two-thick-slices-of-Italian-bread goes something like this: the original owner, Joe Primanti, opened his first store in the Strip District of Pittsburgh in the mid-1930s. He catered to the graveyard shift workers and kept his doors open from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. One winter, a gentleman brought in a load of potatoes and took some to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. Old Joe threw the lot on the grill and when the customers asked for them, he added the fries to their sandwiches. The downright delicious Primanti Sandwich was born. Today, Primanti has expanded its repertoire, but the enduring darling of the restaurant will always be the french fry laced “sammitch”. The fries alone are simultaneously soft, crunchy and greasy, and add another amazing layer of flavor to the sandwich when grilled together.
Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop
3901 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Price: Hot dogs are $3.79 and a side of fries runs between $2-$5
Hours: Sun to Thurs – 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., Fri to Sat – 10 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Two specialty items of note are the hot dogs and the double-fried, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside fries. A small cup will runneth over and satisfy two, if not three, in your party, while simultaneously doubling your calorie intake for the day. Buyer beware: extra ketchup costs more, so you might do well to smuggle in your own bottle. You’ll also do well to avoid the restrooms and eat quickly – the Original Hot Dog Shop location in Oakland is always packed with famished college kids fighting for a seat.
5747 Ellsworth Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Hours: Mon to Fri – 11:31 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sat – 11:01 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday brunch – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
By popular demand, the sweet potato tots and French Fried Pertaters stole a spot on the list. The Harris Grill, a long-running Pittsburgh establishment, is best known for its offbeat sense of humor (just check out Big Gay Al’s Strawberry Chipotle Barbecue Dry-Rub Bacon description under the “wings” tab) and unique, generous eats. You can opt for other sides, but many of the coworkers of this writer went simply googly eyed when Harris Grill’s french fries were mentioned. Crispy, crunchy and delectable, these little fellas are not to be missed.
Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.