Short List: French fries

To know them is to love them. How often do you hear people say, “I hate french fries”? We’d guess never. Really, cold french fries are the only pariahs, though we also steer away from any fry so thick or so soft that it begs to be eaten with a knife and fork. Give us as much crunch as mealy mash, we say. Or else just make a baked potato already. Imperfect french fries will always find takers, yes – though there are others, like these, our favorites, that inspire true love.

Café Provencal
427 S. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, 314.822.5440
Slender, long and undulant, the frites at the Francophiliac Café Provencal in Kirkwood hardly look like unholy temptations. Yet each fry is fleshy – so fleshy, in fact, you’ll feel no need to cluster a few to create a satiating bite. How do they achieve their supple crunch? An extended soak in water before cooking along with repeated rinsing. (Au revoir, starch.) The main source of pleasant distraction is the seasoning, a frolicking mix of coarse kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary and a tease of lavender. Added to this enamoring herbal spice rush: a bold béarnaise dipping sauce with abundant vinegar and tarragon. Mon dieu.

Onesto Pizza & Trattoria
5401 Finkman St., St. Louis, 314.802.8883
Crunch, crunch, crunch. The french fries at Onesto in South City – perfected by chef and co-owner Vito Racanelli Jr. at the erstwhile Big V’s Burger Joint in The Loop – are a triple-fried force. Racanelli blanches the hand-cut fries twice in peanut oil in advance of service, and a third fry happens just before they hit the plate. (But greasy they are not.) On top: a three-way combination of kosher salt, black pepper and Parmesan.

33 N. Sarah St., St. Louis, 314.535.5100
Pardon us for, oops, cleaning the plate. Like other fries, the frites at Terrene in the Central West End smite with simple means: potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Unlike other renditions, these skin-on charmers soak in brine overnight, which accounts for an underlying – but not overwhelming – saltiness. Terrene’s frites are accompanied by two solid, house-made dipping sauces. Alternate, by bite or by fry, between a subtle mayo with pickled onion and a horseradish ketchup that delivers an unexpected prick. If you need a refill of either condiment to finish off your frites, so be it.