Editor's Pick

Our Editors Draft the Best French Fries in Vancouver

Who makes the best fries in the city?

It’s fry time.

Last week, our editors assembled once again for a draft, this time in honour of the humble French fry. 

Given how many places serve deep-fried potatoes, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that each of our editors remarked on how much easier this draft was to navigate than pervious iterations.

In fact, there were so many options, all five of our editors took five picks instead of the usual four. And still there were a handful of honourable mentions we wanted to shout out. 

But first, a look back at our most recent draft, sushi!

In a very tight race, it’s Neal who comes out on top with his cadre of fancy pants picks. But once again, the voting is very close, setting up for a fun battle this time around.

Will Neal do it again? Can Nathan get back on top after a couple drafts in a row in the passenger seat? Will Stacey actually go to the places she picks? Let’s fry it up. 

READ MORE: Our editors draft the Best Burgers in Vancouver

We put our editors’ names into a random draft simulator (snake style, obviously) and off we went. Here are the results and the reasoning behind each pick.

Round One

Stacey McLachlan, editor at large: La Belle Patate

La Belle Patate (translation: “The Beautiful Potato”) was my favourite late-night snack spot when I lived in the West End in my early 20s, and I stand behind it as my top pick to this day, because it is a medical fact that French fries are best enjoyed at 2 a.m.

Yes, I may have occasionally used my feminine wiles to flirt my way into extra stamps on my poutine card (put me on the Power 50 list already, sheesh!) but bribes aside, these double-cooked, Quebecois-style fries remain good as gold in my books.

Anicka Quin, editorial director: Salade de Fruits Café

Here’s where my fry bias comes in: there’s really only one style of French fries that I love, and that’s, well, French fries: skinny frites with the right salt-to-fry ratio (on the salty side of the equation). And Café Salade de Fruits, in Le Centre Culturel de Francophone Vancouver is the gold standard I hold all fries up to. Plus, they make their own (incredible) mayonnaise—and as their sign clearly states, don’t even think about asking for ketchup.

Nathan Caddell, associate editor: Les Faux Bourgeois

There are a lot of items worth getting at Faux Bourgeois (which I’m genuinely stunned to get with the third overall pick), but whether its steak frites or mussels with frites, frites are always going to be a part of the meal. Like the above, just don’t ask for ketchup. It’s mayo, or dipped in the mussel sauce. And it’s incredible.

Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor: Colony

I had to choose here between being strategic or speaking from the heart, and I chose the heart. Colony’s beer battered fries are the best. They’re not basic or classic by any mean—battered, of course, and tossed in parmesan cheese and this delicious lemon pepper—but hey, if you’re going to be number one, you’ve gotta go above and beyond. They’re crunchy and complex and better than a side dish. During this draft there was lots of talk about places that were good, but that you wouldn’t go to just for the French fries. I have gone and will go to Colony just for the French fries.

Neal McLennan, food editor: Au Comptoir

How is it that the French have such mastery over this most American of inventions? While I often skew towards a more shoestring style, the crisp medium sized offerings from Kits’ Au Comptoir go so well with their food, be it a perfect steak frites, their underrated burgers, brunch stuff, that they get my nod with my first round pick.

Round Two

Neal: Japadog

Notwithstanding my first pick, if I’m being honest most fries just sorta blend into each other—in a good way—so when local legend Japadog introduced their shaker fries, me, Ice Cube, Steven Segal and Daniel Dae Kim all went crazy (TBF Segal may have had a preexisting condition). It was a quantum leap in both flavour and disgusting sticky fingers. I’m a shoyu guy, but I love all of ’em—even at their elevated price.

Alyssa: Jackson’s Resto Butcher

Jokes about me always picking places within walking distance of my house are getting old (Nathan), but it’s not my fault Kits is an awesome neighbourhood for food. I actually had not been to Jackson’s Deli before this draft, but thanks to a tip from Instagram, it’s my new go-to place. Big, crunchy, and served with a ketchup that’s got something a little different (it was almost salsa-like), these fries are an excellent pick on a rainy day.

Nathan: DownLow Chicken Shack

True story: last time I got takeout from here, they got my name wrong. But they made “Mason” look so cool that I think I need to change my name now.

In any case, the fries in the bag were definitely worth an identity crisis. It was always going to be hard to beat DownLow in the chicken sandwich category. But the fries have become relatively underrated. Crinkle cut, perfectly spiced, with a custom dipping sauce and in a rather large portion, they’ve got my vote for best takeout fries in the city.

Anicka: Maxine’s Cafe & Bar

It didn’t take long for Maxine’s to become my regular haunt once it opened in the West End, and while the $7 glass of sparkling during happy hour is certainly a big driver, I also never leave this place without ordering the fries. Perfectly salted Kennebec fries, served in their own little cone… they’re as much a reason to get the steak frites as the excellently prepared steak itself.

READ MORE: Our editors draft the Best Pizza in Vancouver.

Stacey: Chambar

Fries, but make it fancy! The fries Chambar serves in its moules frites dishes are expertly engineered for sopping up the extra sauce, and I have to applaud that… once I’ve finished polishing up every last drop of the tomato coconut cream, that is.

Of course, a $30 seafood dish isn’t the only way to enjoy Chambar’s gourmet take on the bar snack. Grab a platter of pomme frites for the table to snack on alongside a chi-chi cocktail and you’ve got yourself a little taste of the good life.

Round Three

Stacey: McDonald’s

Does it feel good to have McDonald’s on my fries dream team? No. But is it correct? Absolutely. As Anicka begrudgingly admitted on our vicious, winner-take-all Zoom draft, “When you’re at a nice restaurant and you say, ‘these taste like McDonalds fries, you mean it as a compliment.”

The recipe has been cultivated for hundreds of years or however long McDonalds has been around (I got bored and turned The Founder off halfway through, okay?) and it would just be willfully obtuse to pretend that they have not perfected it. Go get a fancy burger elsewhere to enjoy it on your high horse if you must, but trot through the McD’s drive through to truly complete your next royal feast.

Anicka: Buckstop

So apparently Kennebec fries are the best fries (and I’ve only now looked into why that is—thanks Seattle Met!), because the Kennebec’s “almost nutty essence makes it taste more like a potato than most potatoes do.” I’m buying what you’re selling, Kennebec marketing board—and I love the salty excellence of the Kennebec fries at Buckstop. Plus, if they could bottle up their house-made ketchup for me to enjoy at home, I’d be all over that.

Nathan: Alibi Room

It’s hard to pick a beer that doesn’t go well with fries, even at the Alibi Room, which has one of the better beer lists in the city. And these fries further that challenge. Skinny fries with a delicious house-made ketchup set a reliable baseline for the stouts and sours you’ll go on an adventure with. 

Alyssa: Yasma

I’ve already waxed poetic about these fries and how they left me wanting more—literally. Again, I’ll say that because they’re so thick and chunky, a human person probably should not eat a ton of them. But I don’t care. These fries are super crispy on the outside and cloudlike on the inside, and magically transport well (which is a must, since Yasma is takeout-only).

Neal: Pizza Coming Soon

Can I get real for a moment? The fries at Pizza Coming Soon are quite a bit better than Japadog—they have a wonderful, enticing mix of ramen powder and Aonori (I don’t know what this is btw) and they’re a steal a $6—but I was pretty sure no one else had tried them so I felt confident waiting until the third round even though they’re my #1 pick.  Also this place just generally gets it at everything… but they really get it with coated fries.

Round Four

Neal: Potluck Hawker

More shaker fries, this time “tossed in our Malaysian style shaker seasoning of galangal and toasted rice powder, fried shallots, and curry leaf.” They’re also quite a bit better than Japadog’s, have a lovely crinkle cut and at $5.50 are a way better deal—and I was also sure that I could get them late notwithstanding their greatness because they’re sort of an outlier at the great Potluck Hawker. A smoking pick in the fourth round!

Alyssa: Moderne Burger

I’m not winning any points for photography on this one, but I think it’s not a bad pic for being taken while running for the bus. As far as classic fries go, Moderne Burger takes it for me. They’re not a pick for the salt-shy, but the low-sodium crowd isn’t really their target audience, anyway.

Nathan: White Spot

Oops, I did it again. 

I wasn’t leaving this draft without White Spot (as I didn’t leave the burgers draft without it either, much to the chagrin of numerous poor sports—cough Neal cough). But hey, if the chains are going to get taken, I’m taking the B.C. one. I know there are haters, but I will take these thick-cut fries any day of the week (unless I’m feeling particularly saucy, in which case I’ll pivot to the yam fries and the spicy mayo, let’s go). 

My colleagues from Ontario and Alberta won’t understand (stop trying to conservatorship me!), but anyone born here gets it. 

Anicka: Swiss Chalet

My friend Steven has a Pavlovian response to say “St. Hubert is better” every time I wax nostalgic about Swiss Chalet. But as a former Ontarian, Swiss Chalet is for me what White Spot is for Nate. The fries here buck my “I only love frites” trend, given that they’re softer and less crispy, but man do they feel like a warm hug on a rainy day. Plus, a reason for an extra side of Swiss Chalet gravy.

Stacey: Popina

You can judge fries on any number of criteria (crispiness, salt-level… okay, maybe just those two things) but I think there’s definite room to give bonus points for environment. And on a nice summer day, Popina’s Fry Experience ™ absolutely levels up. The patio on the water, fresh-from-the-frier shoestring fries on your tray (hit with a just-so sprinkle of tangy tomato salt), seagulls terrorizing tourists in your peripheral vision: pair it all with a Popina lager and you’ve got yourself the perfect Granville Island day.

Round Five

Stacey: The Naam

The Naam should have a plaque, something to the effect of: “Give me your tired, your hungry, your cramming-for-a-final masses yearning to pass their sociology course.” For decades, the crunchy-granola, open-late Kits vegetarian spot has been a student favourite, so, yeah, I think we can safely say the kitchen knows its way around a French fry. The hand-cut sesame fries are best enjoyed smothered in miso gravy but on their own, the chunky, home-fry-style taters are either the perfect cram-sesh comfort food or an opportunity for a starch-induced nostalgia trip to the ol’ college days.

Anicka: Score on Davie

It’s a local haunt that could probably get away with less excellent food than they do. But the menu never feels like an also-ran to their decent microbrew list, and their GF options are great, too. I’m back on the salty-crispy train for the fries here, perfect alongside the classic Score Burger, but even better when they had their fried chicken dinner on the menu. (Formal request to Score to bring it back!)

READ MORE: Our editors draft the Best Tacos in Vancouver

Nathan: Peri Peri Shack

One of the newest (and still relatively unheralded) additions to the food utopia that is the corner of Kingsway-Fraser, the Peri Peri Shack is like a cooler Nando’s (not to knock on the latter or its Kerrisdale location that I have visited many times). But peri-peri fries are just, uh, much better than regular fries? With an awesome spice and top notch spicy mayo, the decision at the corner just got even harder, somehow. 

Alyssa: Shameless Buns

These fries are like the bigger, better cousin of salt and vinegar chips. My first venture into Shameless Buns’ Sinigang fries was actually an accident—my friend ordered a vegan version of their “Jacked Up Coconut Fries,” and the lovely dude behind the counter muscle-memoried mayo all over them. Free fries for me! And they were awesome. Purists will hate them. 

Neal: Elisa

These “triple-cooked” fries are not a good deal—they’re $13 which is big jack even if they are braised, blanched and then fried. But if you’re rolling into Elisa looking for deals, brother, you took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. But they are wonderful, again medium sized but crispy and such a perfect compliment to a Holstein strip-loin that it is one of those rare treats like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers getting together because they rely on each other, uh uh. This choice could have easily been Hy’s, because they check all the same boxes, but I blurted out Elisa first.

Honourable Mention

Nathan: Meet on Main

Another one I took in the burger draft. The fries here are just so solid and crispy (and plentiful) and pair perfectly with the Angry Burg (our go-to). It all gets a bit sloppy, but that’s quite alright. 

Alyssa: Deacon’s Corner

About once a week, as my partner and I have a meandering conversation about what to have for dinner, the topic turns to Deacon’s—at which point we both grab for our phones to check the time. Cursing ensues. Because this great place, with delicious salt and pepper fries and killer burgers, closes at 8pm. On the days we are organized enough to go, it’s heaven.

Stacey: Duffin’s Donuts

I forgot the East Van late-night mecca existed while we were doing the draft (even though we once sent an intern to spend 24 hours there), which I think means I have to hand in my Vancouver Card and banish myself from town. Apologies to the Duffin’s family, because they truly could have gone all the way with their superbly crunchy, fresh even-at-midnight fries. 

The Picks

Stacey: La Belle Patate, Chambar, McDonald’s, Popina, The Naam

Anicka: Salade de Fruits, Maxine’s, Buckstop, Swiss Chalet, Score on Davie

Nathan: Les Faux Bourgeois, DL Chicken, Alibi Room, White Spot, Peri Peri Shack

Alyssa: Colony, Jackson’s Resto Butcher, Yasma, Moderne Burger, Shameless Buns

Neal: Au Comptoir, Japadog, Pizza Coming Soon, Potluck Hawker, Elisa

Who made the best calls? And what did we miss? Vote below or share your thoughts on our Instagram page. Voting results will be shared when we come back next time. 

Next draft on the schedule: places to buy Christmas gifts

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