For those enlightened few who know French fries are more than just a sidekick to burgers or a vehicle for Heinz’s red sauce (which are very, very important roles of their own, of course), I offer you a greasy high five.
Because I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with French fries.
When I call the bank to clarify a charge, I first answer the security question, “What’s your favorite snack?” with a proud, “French fries.” And when it comes to fries as a topping, I can’t get enough. (No, seriously, throw a few more on top, would you?) There’s something about that slight crunch, that starchy flavor, that touch of fryer grease that only adds to everything it’s paired with.
Pittsburgh transplants are already thinking of Primanti Brothers, where the namesake sandwich is a slice of Italian bread piled high with fries and coleslaw atop provolone cheese and the lunchmeat of your choice. I’m not from there, but oh, I’ve been there: I’ve made a special trip to this mecca just to dine on this amazing stack of a sandwich.
The good news is, when I’ve got a hunger only fries-on-a-sandwich can fix, my savior is within walking distance: the Dagwood at Plank’s Bier Garten on South High Street starts with toasted Italian bread topped with your choice of a meat (ham, turkey, corned beef, or salami) and a cheese (American, Swiss, cheddar, provolone, or pepper jack). My choice is always turkey and provolone—which is then piled high with coleslaw and French fries. Not far off from the Primanti Brothers’ classic.
Bonus points if you get it with a side of fries.
The bad news is, Plank’s has been closed since December, when a middle-of-the-night fire caused a reported $50,000 in damages. A grand re-opening is set to happen soon, but in the meantime, I’m pleased to report that I’ve found plenty of worthy substitutes in the fries-as-a-topping realm… no Steel City road trip required.
Lara’s Pittsburgh Princess
Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace
248 S Fourth St., Downtown; 2836 W Broad St., Westgate
The hot dog that makes yinzers proud—and makes any fry-lover start to salivate. In all of my visits to Dirty Frank’s, I’ve literally never not gotten this royal delight. (Including the time I went the night before I had my wisdom teeth pulled. #lastmeal) Why? Because an all-beef hot dog in a steamed poppyseed bun is then stacked with fries and coleslaw and doused in malt vinegar, that’s why.
Steak ‘N’ Fries Salad
961 S. High St., Brewery District
Steak. Fries. Salad. Yes, it’s true. And Gresso’s embraces this other spuds-covered Pittsburgh classic like they do every other transplant to Columbus: with flag-waving gusto. That means fresh greens, cooked-to-order sirloin, a hearty helping of salted fries, and a liberal sprinkling of cheese. The steak and fries cause the lettuce to wilt ever so slightly, the cheese gets all kinds of melty and the perfect bite involves spearing all four. (Although some solo, cheese-covered fries aren’t so bad, either.) •
143 E. Main St., Downtown
You know it’s good when the namesake sandwich is loaded with fries and comes with fries on the side. Hellooo, Wallie hoagie. Thinly shaved steak covers a bisected hoagie roll and is sprinkled with cheddar and coleslaw (I could have gone for more and/or had it be a bit more mayo-ey) before the cook heaves a serving and a half of french fries both onto the sandwich itself as well as piled alongside. Heaven. Horseradish mayo on the side adds an interesting twist.
15 E. Frambes Ave., Campus
Plenty about PJ’s is potentially offensive—including, but not limited to, sandwiches whose names all start with “fat,” and sandwiches packed with meats, mozzarella sticks, fries, onion rings, and egg rolls. Okay, fine, that second one’s only really offensive to your arteries. Your inner meat, cheese, and grease fiend will be going nuts the second you bite into one of these fully loaded concoctions. Here, there are 31 potato-topped options to choose from (I’m including potato skins here because, well, obvi), and the Fat Caveman doesn’t skimp on fries—or grilled chicken, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, cheese, mozzarella sticks, or marinara. Honorable mention goes to the marinara and cheese topped “pizza fries.” (Somehow, it works.) •