Pommes frites may be the que fancy way of saying French fries, but it’s a way to refer to the ultimate in comfort food with the respect it deserves. Belgium’s greatest cultural export is also its most pervasive, and it’s not difficult to explain why. Frites are simple, deep-fried potato goodness, a lightly salted, crispy, starchy temptation that’s got a direct line to the “get in my belly” part of our brains.
So when a friend suggested we go on a pommes frites tour of San Antonio for his wife’s birthday, it didn’t take much convincing for me to say yes. (My friends know how to party.) The plan was to stop at four restaurants to sample their potato wares. We devised a judging system that took in consideration factors such as authenticity, originality, crispiness and balance of flavor, but, let’s face it, any formal system of judging was quickly abandoned because we were too busy stuffing our faces.
The excursion began at The Luxury, Andrew Weissman’s open-air eatery. We ordered two servings of frites. The first was drenched in ketchup and a creamy honey-garlic aioli and sprinkled with diced onion. The second was topped in Weissman’s signature fried egg. The fries were perfectly cooked and salted, and their crispiness held up against the condiments and runny yolk. Have plenty of napkins on hand, because snacking on frites at The Luxury isn’t exactly a tidy eating experience, but, then again, potato gorging isn’t for the dainty. 103 E. Jones, (210) 354-2274, The Luxury on Facebook
Next, we headed up to Pearl to park ourselves at the bar at Cured. Chef Steve McHugh’s cozy carnivore palace takes potatoes (also known as meat’s best friend) very seriously. The menu offers his take on poutine, the Québécois staple. At $16, Cured’s pig cheek poutine was by far the priciest of the afternoon’s potato purchases, but it's a satisfying way to partake in communal tater gluttony. These French fries are served in a hefty cast iron pot and smothered in warm brown gravy, braised pig cheeks and tangy cheddar cheese curds. They are also topped with pickled broccoli. While that may be blasphemous to any traditionalists out there, it bolsters the acidity to balance out the overall flavor. Of course, we had a side of fries with our French Canadian fries. Cured serves them up with a smooth and creamy garlic aioli that's delicious enough to stand on its own. 306 Pearl Parkway, Ste. 301, (210) 314-3929, curedatpearl.com
Our third stop, La Frite Belgian Bistro, was obligatory. The Southtown restaurant was the closest we could get to the pommes frites motherland without boarding a plane to Brussels. For most of our group, La Frite was the hands-down favorite. The bistro goes the traditional route when it comes to their hand-cut fries, serving them in a cone of paper with ketchup and a white wine, vinegar and parsley dipping sauce that is absolutely delicious. We decided to go full-Belgium and paired our frites with steamed mussels. The menu offers a variety of moules. We went with the Bavarian, which drizzles beer, bacon, whole grain mustard and a smattering of bleu cheese over the opened shells. 728 S. Alamo, (210) 224-7555, lafritesa.com
The afternoon expedition spilled over into the evening with a final stop at The Monterey. The lax, gourmet patio joint goes the simple route when it comes to their frites, serving crisp fries in white bowls and pairing them with Monty Sauce, the eatery’s own creation made with red wine vinegar and dijon mustard. The sauce was a flavorful complement to the frites, if not a bit runny. Still, The Monterey helped end our French fry tour on a simple, yet satisfying note. 1127 S St. Mary’s, (210) 745-2581, themontereysa.com
By the end of the evening, we all had our fill of frites, but we still made note of the stops we missed on our epic potato quest, including Nordstrom Cafe Bistro which tosses their frites in parmesan, herbs and Kalamata olives. There’s also Olive Frites at the Quarry Farmers Market on Sundays. We’ll be sure to add those to the itinerary, because there will be a next time.