Evanston is the “Dining Capital of the North Shore,” but forget the highfalutin’ establishments as we evaluate E-town’s restaurants on their crispiest criterion: french fries. Any self-respecting fast food joint carries some variant of the greasy finger food — some opt for straightforward thin-cuts, while others get ambitious with sauces and toppings. But go beyond the obvious favorites, like Edzo’s and Burger King, and you’ll find Evanston has a lot to offer when it comes to the ultimate side dish.
Verdict: Better than expected
To be honest, we were skeptical of BK. We really only stopped by because we needed a baseline to compare everything else against. Maybe it was the low expectations, but we were actually impressed with their fries — they taste more like actual potatoes than one might expect. They’re light on the salt, but the oil makes up for it in flavor. We salute you, BK. Way to play the low-budget game right.
Type: Steak fries (big, fluffy)
Special options: Sweet potato fries
It seems that one goes to Clarke’s for the type of food they sell rather than its quality. All their dishes are outclassed in pretty much every way by surrounding establishments’ fare. This is true of the fries, as well — they’re big and fluffy, but ultimately bland and unsatisfying. The sweet potato fries, on the other hand, are pretty good — they taste exactly what you’d expect sweet potato fries to taste like.
Neü Über Bürger
Type: Boardwalk fries (skin-on, greasy)
Special options: Cheddar, chili, chili cheese, a host of delicious sauces
Verdict: Great, with impressive variety
After ordering fries, you’ll be handed a brown bag soaked through with grease — this is a good sign. The salt isn’t overpowering and doesn’t mask the potato’s natural flavor, but the fries’ real strength is in their sauces. The cheese actually seems real, and their menu sports diverse offerings like wasabi mayo and garlic aioli.
Special Options: Cheese, spicy bacon cheddar, chili cheese, club fries, bleu cheese, Greek-style feta
The embarrassingly-named Wild Dogz serves “meh” fries. While the base is ho-hum, the Dogz come through by serving an impressive array of styles, which are leagues better than the plain fries. Our favorite was the spicy bacon cheddar, which is worth the thousands of calories.
Type: Boardwalk fries
Special Options: Cajun
Verdict: Greasy goodness
The guiding philosophy of Five Guys seems to be tied to American values (bigger and greasier is better). The portion sizes are enormous — a diner with a normal appetite would struggle to finish even a regular order of fries (you’ll try, though). The fries themselves? Addictive and delicious. The Cajun option is good, as well, although here we recommend going for the classic. Also, props to management for implementing a humane ketchup-tub size.
Type: Boardwalk fries
Special Options: Cheese, garlic, “old,” “crazy” (chili, cheese, onion), “loaded” (cheese, bacon, green onions, sour cream), buffalo, Taylor Street (gravy, peppers, giardiniera), angry (spicy sauce, hot peppers), truffle
Verdict: Truly impressive
Since its arrival in 2009, Edzo’s has gotten so much buzz that there’s not much to say about it that hasn’t been said already. Edzo’s sports a wide variety of delicious well-thought-out options, and for that they deserve special recognition. They’re not perfect — the fries alone can be rather dry and flimsy, but that hardly matters if you get something with toppings. The fries are expensive and the portions are huge, so they’re meant to share.
Mustard’s Last Stand
Type: Thin cut
Special Options: Cheddar, BBQ
If you’re ever up by Ryan Field, go to Mustard’s Last Stand. Their approach to fries is a straightforward one: they’re thin, crispy and salty. You won’t be blown away, but if you’re up north and jonesing, Mustard’s is cheap and worthwhile.
Special Options: Cheese, chili, chili cheese
The fries at D&D Dogs are only OK. If you’re into a big-and-fluffy fry-eating experience, their crinkly fries will be right up your alley. But fries should have a balance between potato, salt and grease flavors, and D&D favors the potatoes so heavily that they barely taste like fries. Also, their cheese is far-and-away the worst in Evanston.
Special Options: With or without feta
Verdict: A good niche fry
Cross Rhodes came highly recommended, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a Greek restaurant, and as such, they only serve Greek fries, which are steak fries with a sharp sauce of wine, lemon and spices (feta op-tional). These fries pack a lot more flavor than Wild Dogz’s, though the acidic sauce is a little overpowering.