We Try the Fry Bar

Last week my sister and I went to Pommes Frites in New York.

A Few Words about Pommes Frites
Pommes Frites is on Second Avenue in New York, near enough to the NYU dorms to have some late-night, drunken, college foot traffic.

It is a Belgian French fry bar. The only thing served at this little hole in the wall is fries and toppings and dipping sauces. There is a small selection of bottled drinks, but -- very much to my dismay and a leading factor of the reason I will not likely return to Pommes Frites -- no alcohol.

Given the limited nutritional scope of Pommes Frites, we ate some salad before we left the house. Given the non-existent beer options, I had a Schneiderweiss when I got home.

A Few Words about The Eyes
The sister who went with me is number three, age-wise, of the four girls in my family and heretofore has had no nickname on this blog. I shall call her The Eyes, in honor of her sparkly eyes and in honor of the 30 Rock episode, “The Head and The Hair.”

Unlike me, the Eyes loves French fries. She also has eyes that are much bigger than her stomach and refused to split an order of fries with me when we got to Pommes Frites.

For $4, you can get a “regular.” This portion size is just a few fries more than any fit and healthy person can eat in one sitting, even on an empty stomach. $6.25 buys you a “large,” which is more than suitable for two. The “double,” at $7.75 seems a bit obscene.

If you’re into fries, which The Eyes is, you’ll immediately be dazzled that Pommes Frites’ frites are fried twice. There are two separate vats of oil that you can easily see behind the tiny counter, just in case you aren’t likely to take the staff’s word for it.

The fries are made of real thick cut potatoes. They’re salted, but not heavily, and they are served in paper cones. My favorite part is that there is a bar where you can eat, which has holes in it that are precisely the right size for balancing the paper cone.

The real treat, though, is the expansive list of sauces, which cost $0.75 each or three for $2 if you get them in plastic containers, or three sauces for the price of one if you get them layered into your cone of fries, like a greasy, mayo-and-fry parfait. We tried three in cups: Vietnamese pineapple, horseradish mayonnaise, and pomegranate teriyaki. I thought the Vietnamese one and the teriyaki would be different. They were both just flavored mayonnaises, but the pineapple one was extremely tasty. The horseradish was good, but a little less adventurous, and the teriyaki didn’t taste right on fries, though it would have been killer on a chicken or pork sandwich.

A few of the condiments are complimentary, like plain mayonnaise, the traditional topping for Belgians, raw onions (which I had), jalapenos, malt vinegar (for the Brits), ketchup, mustard, and Tabasco. Another option is the Frites special sauce, which is nothing more than a squirt of ketchup, a squirt of mayo, and a dash of raw onions in a cup.

I didn’t like that almost all the sauces are just doctored-up mayo, but I get that that’s half of what makes it a more authentic Belgian experience. In Europe, people eat their fries with these little wooden sporks – imagine the wood stick you get with an Italian ice, only with tines. At Pommes Frites, I had to ask for a fork, and it was just a plastic one, which detracted from the experience for me a little bit more. Finally, not having a beer to wash that heavy mouthfeel put a significant damper on it all for me. If the place had beer, on the other hand, it would be much too crowded to enjoy. A Belgian beer bar next door that allowed you to bring in your food (similar to the set up at Rosamunde and Toronado in San Francisco, two of my most favorite places to eat and drink in that city) would be the perfect solution, as long as they carded the NYU students heavily… The more I think about it, the more I realize why beer would not work in that particular setting, but damn it, I would never go back to eat those fries again without a beer!

If you're into French fries, though, you can't pass this place up. The place is open until 3:30a.m. on the weekends and 1a.m. on weekdays.