Awhile back, my best friend, Laura, and I had been going to McDonald’s to “study.” Of course, we always got a few snacks, and it always included French fries. One day, we went to the other McDonald’s in the far, far away land known as West Laramie instead of our regular stomping grounds at the one on Grand Avenue. Once our fries were delivered to us, we tasted them and thought they were eons better than the ones from the East Laramie McDonald’s.
“You know what we should do?!” said Laura.
Whenever she says, this I know a great idea is about to spew from her mouth.
“We should go around to all the restaurants in Laramie and try all of their French fries and see which ones are the best.”
Of course I agreed, but as college students trying to save money as well as being busy, we had never gotten around to it. Until now.
I now have a chance to complete this experiment and try a load of French fries from restaurants in Laramie. I was unable to try ALL the French fries from every restaurant, because, you know, that costs money and takes time. However, I chose eleven places in Laramie including: McDonald’s (in both east and west Laramie), Burger King, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Lovejoy’s, Almanza’s, Born in a Barn, The Crowbar and Grill, The Cavalryman Steakhouse, and Altitude Chophouse and Brewery. My selection is a mix between fast food, bars, and finer dining. These are also commonly selected restaurants, which Laramie residents enjoy on a daily basis.
I had come up with a rubric for tasting all these French fries. The categories are: Flavor, Preparation, Presentation, and Portion. In each of these, I rated the fries on a level of 1-5, 1 being low and 5 being high. I also took into account how oily they were and whether or not they would taste better with ketchup. Full disclosure: I really like ketchup on my fries and my opinion may be a little biased. At the end, I added up the score and gave the fry order an overall rating out of 20. This list is in the order of worst to best in my opinion.
11. Burger King -$1.58
These fries were very bad. I will start by saying that. There was only salt sprinkled on top of the fries neatly tucked into a cardboard holster. There were no French fries that fell out and lived at the bottom of the still Christmas-themed-to-go bag. This is bad in my opinion, because this means Burger King doesn’t want you, the customer, to get any extra food for your money. However, they were very nicely placed within their container.
These came in a quite small portion for their price, as compared to others I purchased. The flavor in general was not much like a potato but more like a potato chip. The texture was either very firm or soggy and chewy. These did not have any potato peel on the outside, as would be expected from a fast food restaurant. I could not get ketchup on these any faster than I did, but what a relief to have some tomato-sugar paste on these barely-edible fries. Laura uttered three small words about these Burger King French fries.
“Not so good.”
Next on the list is a place a little less traditional when it comes to French fries. Voted Number One Place to Eat at 1 a.m., Almanza’s is the mecca for drunkards, college students, and Mexican food-lovers. Despite their vast menu of tacos, burritos, and churros, Almanza’s also offers French fries. The drive-thru took a little longer than expected, considering the other fast food places took less than three minutes. Instead of hash browns, Almanza’s puts French fries in their burritos. I had eaten this before and remembered a crispy, deep fried outer layer, so I was eager to try an entire order. However, what I got was not as expected. The fries were that fake-looking pale yellow color that only McDonald’s can pull off, with little to no salt. Also in the bag, came two dishes of red salsa, napkins, and a fork. I don’t know how they expected me to eat French fries, but my routine does not include a fork and hot sauce. I strongly believe these needed ketchup in order to be worth eating. The portion was reasonable for the price.
9. Lovejoy’s Bar & Grill-$4.77
How about that price, eh? I was surprised, too. At first, the waitress at the bar even said it was $7.77, but then corrected herself to $4.77. Not much better in my opinion. However, the experiment had to continue. So I paid up, looked inside, and became even more disappointed. The fries looked like a larger version of Burger King’s. She included a side of ketchup without having to ask me, which was convenient. If there was any seasoning, it was just a smidgen of salt. Otherwise, the flavor was pretty bland and unamusing. They were pale yellow and kind of mushy. The packaging did contain a wrapper, which is commendable, but the portion and quality of the French fries were not worth the uppity price.
8. McDonald’s (East Laramie)-$1.48
In my opinion, McDonald’s serves some of the best French fries known to man…well, at least to the fat man. I ordered a small fry, which came in a paper bag inside of another paper to-go bag. This time, there were some bottom-of-the-bag-fries with which I was pleased. They were sprinkled with salt only and were thinner than the rest. Also in the bag, were napkins, which none of the others included.
I went to grab my first fry with excitement, but just when I was about to pull one out, I noticed a detrimental factor. There was a giant, dark brown, coiled hair sitting smugly on top of the fries. There was even a piece of lint added for flair. I gasped and set down the package.
“The experiment must go on!” I said to Laura, despite the look of horror on her face.
I searched the other side of the pouch for a cleaner fry and ate it. The consistency and flavor were as you’d expect of a McDonald’s fry. There was a good amount of oil, causing me to wipe my fingers after each one. I don’t really mind the oil and I think it gives the fry more flavor. Ketchup wasn’t necessarily needed because there was a pretty prominent potato flavor. Overall, I was disgusted with the loose hair, but I have eaten McDonald’s fries many times and know they can do better.
7. The Cavalryman Steakhouse-$2.99
The Cavalryman is arguably the best restaurant in Laramie. That is, if you classify two miles outside of town “in” Laramie. I had always heard comments about this restaurant including things like, “They have the best steak, but it costs an arm and a leg.” When I walked in, the restaurant looked like a Pinterest board. There were classy taxidermy, dark wood floors and interior, cloth napkins, and what seemed like twinkling overhead lights. They had just opened at the time I had gotten there, about 4:25 p.m. My order came with foil wrapped fries and a side of ketchup, again, without me having to ask. I would describe the fries from the Cavalryman as classic steak fries. They were rectangular and thick, with seasoning. When fries are prepared this way, I have a hard time enjoying them because of the thick potato consistency. I liked them a little better with ketchup. The portion was not that large for the price of three dollars, but again, this is generally an overpriced restaurant.
6. Applebee’s -$1.58
I opened up the container for the Applebee’s fries and noticed that they were just inside the Styrofoam without any wrapping. They looked similar in that there were salt and pepper thrown upon them and were relatively the same size. There was also a lot of potato skin on the outside, making them seem more real. From the image, you can tell that they are a little less cooked and emptier under the skin. When I first tasted them, I could tell they had been out of the fryer for a while. Some were soggy, but some were crunchy. Laura, had an opinion that they were crunchy and she liked them. Overall, they were cooked well and did not have an excessive amount of oil on them. I decided they were better with ketchup, but once again, I do enjoy ketchup on my fries in general.
The portion from Chili’s was huge, dusted with salt and pepper, and lined with foil and a wrapper with the Chili’s signature design. They looked similar to the Applebee’s in that there were salt and pepper thrown upon them and were relatively the same size. The portion was a little bigger than Applebee’s but also cost $0.50 more.
When I bit into the first fry I noticed it was quite thick, about a half inch, which allowed for a lot of potato flavor to come through. Also, on many of the fries was the outer potato skin layer. This made the fries seem more authentic and home cooked.
In this case, the ketchup covers up some of the potato flavor, but the fry didn’t need it to taste good.
These fries weren’t very oily which is attractive and keeps those who are health conscious happy.
4. McDonald’s (West Laramie)-$1.48
When this small package of happiness came into my hands, it was hard not to eat all of them at once. I could tell they were freshly cooked, as they still had oil on them and were hot. It seemed like there were less in the bag than from East Laramie, but the quality was certainly notable (not to mention, they were hair-free). They were the same size as the East Laramie McDonald’s fries and had about the same amount of salt. The fact that they were warm and fresh makes me rate them higher.
3. Born in a Barn-$2.11
When I strolled up to Born in a Barn, the wind was blowing furiously in my face, whipping my hair around. I struggled first with the outside door to the restaurant from the wind, then with the second, which clearly said “Pull,” yet I continued to push. When I finally managed to get inside, I think the man at the bar was quietly chuckling about my flawed entrance. He gladly gave me my French fries, and I skidded out of there. These fries were one of only a few of my studies to have any other seasoning on them besides just salt and pepper. I really enjoyed the steak seasoning and flavor of the fries. The consistency was a little mushy and limp, but the flavor makes up for the stability. I believed that these fries did not need any ketchup to taste good. These were folded up in black and white checkered paper. There were not very many that came in one portion, for the price though, this was okay.
2. The Crowbar & Grill-$2.12
I had to wait a couple minutes for these even after I had called ahead by about five minutes, which was a change from the day before. However, when I opened the to-go box, I was very pleased with my “meal.” There was a fairly large portion caressed in the same black and white checkered paper as Born in a Barn. I saw big chunks of sea salt resting diligently on each fry along with black pepper. These were thinner than average, I would say. After every fry, I had to wipe off my fingers because of the oil, but it added a nice flavor.
1. Altitude Chophouse & Brewery-$3.18
Altitude is also called the best restaurant in Laramie. Their French fries confirmed this. I received a clear plastic to-go box, not Styrofoam (oooh, fancy) and a side of ketchup, again without me asking. What makes these fries so different is that they were cooked waffle-style. They were also seasoned with that magical orange-colored dust that adds a ton of flavor. They were crunchy on the outside and warm on the inside. For the portion, I thought it was a little overpriced, but Altitude is one of the most expensive restaurants in town.
If you are a Laramie resident or ever plan to visit Laramie, I hope this list of reviews helps you in deciding which place to eat based on the most common side dish in America.