Happy National French Fry Day!
I hate to brag, but I like to think of myself as a french fry expert. I’ve scoured the land, mainly Manhattan looking for the perfect fries. You don’t want them too soft or too hard. If they’re too thick, they usually aren’t cooked evenly the whole way through. And if they’re too thin, they’re usually disappointing and too salty.
There’s also the dipping sauce. Are you a purist? Do you want your fries with just a little bit of salt? Or are you bougie and prefer your fries with fresh shaved truffles, rosemary and bit of oil? Maybe you’re a person who insists on having a savory/sweet mix, and dips your fries in honey or a milkshake. The possibilities for fries are endless.
I’m not here to judge your french fry preferences, because they’re exactly that. Preferences, purely subjective to the person who’s eating them. Unless you dip your fries in mayonnaise. That’s just gross.
I will however, tell you about my favorite fries in New York City at a little spot on the Upper East Side, called La Pulperia. It’s been over two years since the last time I’ve had them and I still think about them frequently. They’re the best fries in New York and if you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to pop by the little Latin restaurant when they reopen and experiment with the best fries in the city.
I had been casually interested in fries for years, but when I moved to New York, something in me changed. When I got to New York, I decided it would be my job to find the best fries in the city. I went into the journey with an open mind, trying everything from the fries at (literally) all of the holiday markets in Manhattan. I loved the fries at The Smith — all the locations; they’re simple but delicious and perfectly cooked every time. I think the moment I knew I was in love with my ex-boyfriend, was when I went to the bathroom one night and I came back to a big plate of fries that he and ordered for me.
I just fucking love the potatoey goodness. And in Brooklyn at Kimchi Taco, you’ll get incredible spicy fries with kimchi on top. And honestly, there’s also something super satisfying about going to McDonald’s in Harlem at 1 am to grab a large fry before taking the train home. And yet with all the restaurants in New York, and trying fries from no less than 50 different spots, I go back to the fries at La Pulperia.
The Main Feature
La Pulperia is located on 2nd Ave and looks cute but overall unassuming from the outside. I went for the first time on a whim because my friend was visiting from Texas and we needed an easy spot in the neighborhood. The ambiance was at once, inviting. Soft lighting, wooden furniture that’s almost rustic but feels elevated. The restaurant is somewhat upscale without feeling pretentious and the staff is so welcoming a come-as-you-are environment.
We ordered the fries because the menu described them as something I had before. Think of a fancy seven-layer dip, but with fries. The first layer was a perfectly cut layer of french fries, followed by cheese, a house-made hot sauce, truffles, more cheese, avocado, and an egg on top. Cat and I looked at each other, somewhat skeptical of these fries that sounded so overdone that they would just be a soggy mess. At the same time, we knew we had to try them. From the first bite, I was hooked. They weren’t soggy at all. They were cooked to perfection and kept the right amount of crisp to hold up against the amount of toppings that smothered them. They were gooey without being messy and even the egg made sense! I’ve had a lot of incredible food in my life, but the medley that was on that high-calorie plate was unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Since that night, nearly four years ago, I haven’t been the same. The fries paired perfectly with any of the house-made cocktails, but I love a good margarita. The spiciness of the sauce along with the fresh avocado married perfectly with the house margarita. Just skip the salt. Try to get a table at the front of the restaurant, looking out onto 2nd Avenue, so you can take in the UES while enjoying your fries and cocktails. It’s truly an experience not to be missed.
Nothing Will Ever Compare
Part of what makes the fries at La Pulperia so special is that they’ve taken something so classic and put a truly unique spin on them. You’ll also likely never find something quite like them again. In fact, half the time those fries aren’t even on the menu.
And that’s what kills me. Imagine searching for something for so long and you’ve finally found it, and then you lose it. So you keep going back to it, but still wanting to see if there’s something else out there that will compare. You continue your journey, thinking that surely you’ll find something as delicious as what you had before.
But you don’t find it. Instead, you have to convince your brain that you’re alright with never having them again and find fries you love just as much but differently. And be grateful for the memories.
I know it sounds like I’m discussing a lost love, but that’s kinda how I feel about these fries. I was so excited when I had them the first time, and I went back to them to celebrate several special occasions. There still hasn’t been a plate of fries that I’ve enjoyed or thought about that much.
For now I mainly abstain from fries, eating only McDonald’s every once in a while, dreaming of the elegant truffle fries at La Pulperia, hoping to taste them once more.