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5 Pittsburgh area spots with must-try fries

November 20, 2018

Behold the humble french fry.

World famous and served up skinny, crinkled, wedged, curly or even waffled, is there anyone who doesn’t love fries?

Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing them to America, serving them at a White House dinner in 1802.

Fries piled high on salads and sandwiches are a tradition for Pittsburghers.

The Trib tracked down five Pittsburgh area restaurants serving up plates and plates of delectable fries.

Grab the ketchup. And a napkin.

Or, The Whale

463 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh

Executive Chef Dennis Marron doesn’t rush the fry process at his newest restaurant, Or, The Whale.

With a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Marron has years of cooking experience in cities that include San Francisco, Minneapolis and Washington D.C.

Only one spud makes the cut in his kitchen-- Idaho Russets.

They receive the VIP (very important potato) treatment.

“Most often potatoes are in cold storage and that causes the starches to tighten up,” Marron said.

Or, The Whale potatoes avoid the refrigerator for several days, ensuring room temperature status.

After slicing, the spuds soak in plain water overnight, releasing starch and allowing for maximum flavor and texture.

Fries are fried twice here. Once at about 275F until they “start to get wrinkly” said Marron.

Placed on large sheet pans, the partially cooked fries cool completely, go back into the cooler where they are stored for an additional day.

Deep fried again at 350F, until golden, the fries ($9 for a plate) are garnished with salt, pepper and (top secret!) herbs.

“I’ve heard only good things about my fries,” he said.

The Original Hot Dog Shop

3901 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh

“The Dirty O” or “The O” is a fry lovers destination.

This Oakland old-school local institution has been feeding late-night revelers for more than 55 years.

Come here for the experience, not the ambiance.

And the fries. Fried in peanut oil, CNN named them “Best Fries” in 2012.

Piled high on a cafeteria plate and priced right ($7.09 for the large), make it a meal or share with friends.

Customers insist on dipping them in cheese sauce, ranch dressing or gravy.

Greasy fry goodness awaits and O regulars offer a tip: order the fries cooked slightly crispy.

Hemingway’s Cafe

3911 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh

Stroll a few doors down from The O and hit up popular watering hole Hemingway’s for fries.

A staple on Pitt’s campus, “Hems” screams college bar -- casual, cheap and open late.

Here you’ll find non-typical fry offerings.

With a name like “Cloggin’ Fries” ($8) you know what you’re getting -- a generous serving of french fries topped with melted cheddar jack cheese and bacon, served with a side of ranch.

Another hearty option, the Pulled Pork Fries ($9) -- topped with BBQ pork piled high and shredded cheddar cheese.

Park Bruges

5801 Bryant St., Pittsburgh

This Belgian-inspired cafe tucked away in historic Highland Park serves up fries in a bistro vibe setting with a French flair. Nosh on authentic pommes frites (French for fries is you are curious.)

Order the Bruges Frites ($6) and dip them into a homemade roasted garlic Dijon mayo sauce.

These fries, like many previously mentioned, are twice cooked.

Cycle Diner

139 E 6th Ave., Tarentum

Go nostalgic and nosh on fresh fries in a restored train car.

Everything here is prepared from scratch.

Owner Tommy Scanga doesn’t have a freezer in his Cycle kitchen -- fresh is a requirement.

“Everything is fresh here, never frozen,” Scanga said. Scanga cooks up seven signature fries with only Idaho potatoes making the cut in his kitchen. Potatoes are soaked in a water/vinegar mixture and fried in canola oil.

“The vinegar/water gets rid of some of the starch,” Scanga said. “The homemade cheese sauce is our most in-demand fry topping.”

Extra napkins are a must with the Sloppy Fries ($5.99) -- smothered with provolone and mozzarella cheeses and topped with homemade gravy.

Try the Loaded ($5.99) piled high with homemade sweet Italian and choriza sausage, shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses and topped with two fried eggs.

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