Magic happens when a freshly cut piece of potato meets a kettle full of bubbling fat. The resulting product, commonly known as the French fry, may or may not have originated in France, since Belgians claim they were the first to start frying spuds.
Whatever their origin, these golden brown strips (or wedges or coins) have become a quintessential American pleasure. Here on Long Island, there are some magnificent fries to be savored. We'll steer you past the pre-frozen, batter-dipped, corkscrew-shaped varieties, straight to the aristocrats. A sprinkle of salt, a dip in ketchup (or, Euro-style mayonnaise sauce), and you're tasting paradise.
Here are Newsday's food staff picks.
Peter M. Gianotti's picks
10 Main St., East Hampton, 631-324-8555
The fries at Rowdy Hall start as Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes. They're double-blanched and fried to order in a canola-vegetable oil blend. These delectable spuds accompany the Rowdyburger and, of course, steak frites. You can order them "wet" with brown gravy, too. Side order: $5
850 Franklin Ave., Garden City, 516-877-2177
The No. 1 Russet from Idaho meets its destiny in Waterzooi's sensational fries. They're twice-cooked: at a lower temperature for the inside, then higher, for crispness, in a canola-vegetable oil blend. Try them with the house's steamed mussel dishes and mayo. Side order: $4
470 Wheeler Rd. Hauppauge, 631-761-5602
Yukon Gold potatoes become truffled pommes frites at Venúe 56. These beauties are twice-fried using canola-based oil and seasoned with black-truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. They're an a la carte choice: $7
Joan Reminick's picks
267 Burnside Ave., Lawrence, 516-792-6842
At this eat-in deli cafe (owned by the same Afghanistan-born family as European Republic in Huntington), hand-cut Idahos are twice-fried in canola oil to a deep bronze. Served in paper cones, the sticks are lightly crisp, imbued with dulcet earthiness. Get yours with one or many dipping sauces (Thai-inspired peanut sauce has a curious appeal) or just ketchup. $3 small, $4.25 large, $5.75 double
339 New York Ave., Huntington, 631-692-9330
Aziz Yosafi, who was born in Afghanistan, started out making fries in Amsterdam and Hamburg. Eleven years ago, he opened this casual Huntington spot. Here, Idaho potatoes are hand-cut, twice-fried in canola oil and served, Euro-style, in paper cones. Each golden stick tastes of nothing more complicated (or delectable) than potato and salt. Have yours stark naked, with ketchup or any number of flavored mayonnaise dips, from mango chutney to Jamaican curry. $2.99 regular, $3.99 large, $5.99 triple.
Six locations on Long Island; fiveguys.com
Here, sacks of potatoes from a variety of sources are displayed; the origin of what's served on a given day is posted. First, hand-cut, skin-on tubers are soaked in water; then, they're partially cooked. The moment an order is placed, they're plunged into hot peanut oil, emerging golden brown, crisp, creamy and sweet. They're seasoned with salt (or Cajun spice blend) and shaken into a cup that's placed in a paper bag. One more scoop goes in for good measure. $2.89 regular; $4.56 large
FIRST NATIONAL FRANKS
3147 Rte. 112, Medford, 631-696-1900
The L. I. fry scene has gotten just a bit hotter with the entry of this Medford newcomer, a quirky hot dog shack serving only breakfast and lunch. Here, potatoes are well done in more ways than one. Chef Jenn Morabito hand-cuts large skin-on Yukon Golds and cooks them halfway. When an order comes in, they're finished in the deep fryer, turning out nicely burnished with a nutty campfire flavor. $1.99
Erica Marcus' picks
84 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, 516-741-0608
Hildebrandt's burnished-gold, coin-shaped fries got their start as a timesaver. Many decades ago, then-owner Al Strano (who died in 1998) found that it took far less time to slice the red-skinned new potatoes crosswise than cut them into sticks, according to his daughter Susan Strano-Acosta, who now owns the restaurant with her husband, Bryan Acosta. "The little red potatoes have more flavor than Idahos," Strano-Acosta said. $1.95 for a small plate, $2.95 for large
Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-382-9590
When Bobby Flay opened this, his first Burger Palace (there are now four) in 2008, he was serving frozen fries. A year ago, however, he saw the error of his ways. These classic, skin-on fries are accompanied by BBP's delectable, piquant, coral-hued "fry sauce."
1570 Union Tpke., New Hyde Park, 516-437-8420
The crusts of Deli King's wedge-shaped fries evince a distinct caramelized sweetness, reminiscent - if anyone out there remembers - of the fries at the original Nathan's in Coney Island. According to owner Eric Newman, the prepped Idahos are soaked in saltwater before their initial trip to the fryer and are refrigerated overnight before receiving their final browning.