GROUPON GUIDE TO CHICAGO

Six Ways to Make Potatoes Less Boring

BY: STAFF | 11.6.2013 |

1. POUR SOME CHEESE ON THEM

Cheese Fries at Susie’s Drive Thru (Albany Park | 4126 W. Montrose Ave.)

As I said in “The Rules for Cheese Fries,” ask any North Sider where to go for cheese fries, and they’ll likely direct you to Susie’s Drive Thru. Fries are fresh cut, the cheese is a pleasing shade of orange, and the edible bowl (something like you’d put a taco salad in) is even freshly crisped. Underneath the cheese, seasoned salt adds a little zest. Though this spot is tiny, the menu here is not. – Aimee Algas Alker

Fresh-Cut Fries with a Cup of Cheddar Cheese at Phil’s Last Stand (Ukrainian Village | 2258 W. Chicago Ave.)

Phil’s fries are hand-cut, so you typically get a few great, long strands of potatoes. These are the ones to fish out of the paper sack, twirl into some goopy, rusty-orange cheddar, and then drive home as a chaser to one of Phil’s famous char-dogs. The rest of the fry bag, aside from these few lengthy cuts, is pretty much a whole mess of crumbly potatoey bits. Now, this is not a bad thing—especially if you have a fork and a cup of the cheddar, which acts as a sharp and necessary congealing agent, turning these fry bits into starchy pegs on a wonderfully messy bite of cheese. – John Flaherty

2. MAKE A BEER OUT OF THEM

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Pipeworks Brewing Co.’s Batata Obscura Imperial Porter from Bottles and Cans (Northcenter | 4109 N. Lincoln Ave.)

Nisperos de batata are little Puerto Rican treats, balls of painfully dulcet sweet potatoes and coconut. Pipeworks Brewing Company (1675 N. Western Ave.) repurposes that recipe with Batata Obscura, an imperial porter that tags in some yeast and a grain bill, but stays pretty true to the character of the treats. [Read our Q&A with a Pipeworks cofounder.] Coconut rounds out a very present sweetness and a serious alcoholic kick from candi sugar, and there’s some earthiness from the sweet potatoes as well as a touch of holiday spice. You might pair it, as I mistakenly did, with a strange Norwegian movie featuring a startlingly dull tractor chase. – Cody Braun

3. MAKE A PIZZA WITH THEM

Red Pizza with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Mashed Potatoes at Piece (Wicker Park | 1927 W. North Ave.)

Mashed potatoes and pizza are perhaps the best comfort foods. Piece has combined the two, offering mashed potatoes as a premium topping. The mashed potatoes melt in your mouth atop parmesan and mozzarella cheese, spinach, and mushrooms (which made me feel like I was getting my allotted veggies for the day). The pizza's even better when you add a growler of the brewery’s Oktoberfist. – Shannon Jewitt

4. PLOP AN EGG ON THEM

Frites with Barb’s Eggs at The Publican (West Loop | 837 W. Fulton Market)

On a recent Top Chef episode, a guest judge told the contestants she was “so over” the trend of topping everything with eggs. Luckily, the chefs at The Publican don’t feel the same way. They crown their frites with two perfectly seasoned over-easy eggs that turn into a tasty dipping sauce when pierced with a fork. And if you’re like me and paw through an order of fries to find the crunchiest ones, you’ll be delighted to find that every single fry is perfectly crisp, keeping the yolk-covered potato slices from turning into a mushy mess. The only downside is that some of the fries lie outside of the eggs’ grasp, making them seem a little dry in comparison. But that can be easily remedied with a side cup of the most deliciously garlicky aioli. – Colleen Loggins

5. HAVE A CELEBRITY CHEF MAKE THEM

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Causita Clasica at Tanta (River North | 531 N. Wells St.)

Peruvian spuds shined as the foundation for this colorful causita clasica, just one example of Chef Gaston Acurio’s upscale take on the bold, vibrant flavors of Peru. [Read more about Chicago’s Peruvian food scene.] A chilled bottom layer of yellow potatoes far surpassed silky into a dreamy texture I’d never known potatoes to achieve. Next came a creamy, well-seasoned crab-salad layer, with tomato, hard-boiled egg, and a little avocado to round out the small towers. A smear of lime-laced huancaina sauce further brightened the plate, and gave each bite just enough acid. It was as if all the flavors of my favorite picnic salads had been assembled into elegant unity. – Hillary Proctor

6. CALL THEM FRITES

Pomme Frites a la Graisse de Boeuf at Creperie Saint Germain (Evanston | 1512 Sherman Ave.)

The frites at Creperie Saint Germain taste just like the ones they serve along the Seine. These frites come cooked in beef tallow, which means they are healthier than fast-food fries. The flavor is zesty, especially when dipped in the garlic mayonnaise. In fact, they are so good, they almost—but not quite—distract from the main course of a buckwheat crepe stuffed with duck confit, truffled turnip purée, and a fig reduction sauce. The quaint bistro interior summons France almost as much as the food, with an oversize map of the Paris Metro on the wall and cozy tables that form an outdoor patio in the summer. – Stephanie McDaniel

Photos by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon

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