Loaded fries cut across menus, dayparts

Photograph courtesy of Simplot

Loaded fries have migrated beyond their traditional role as bar food to take on a solid role across the industry to noncommercial dining menus, as well as across dayparts. The versatile nature of this popular dish has inspired dozens of variations that mirror the appetites and ordering habits of guests.

Embellished fries

Topped fries that reflect the specific style and menu of an operation offer an opportunity to reinforce the brand and create memorable dining experiences. Fat Sal’s, a Los Angeles diner, underscores its identity with bacon cheeseburger fries, a pile of chopped bacon and hamburger patties, two types of cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and special sauce. Loaded Philly cheesecake fries are a natural fit for many settings, as well. Holidays present an opportunity for limited-time offers reflecting the time of year, such as corned beef-topped fries for St. Patrick’s Day or turkey-and-trimmings versions at Thanksgiving.

Global spins

Ethnic twistson loaded fries provide limitless possibilities for themed menus and stations. Poutine—arguably the inspiration for many loaded fries creations—brings French Canadian flavor to the plate with cheese curds and gravy. Saus in Boston takes poutine up a notch, offering add-ons such as pork belly, carnitas, kimchi, crispy shallots, bacon bits, sambal or all of the above, along with a choice of classic chicken and beef or vegan mushroom miso gravy. Greek interpretations of loaded fries layer on halloumi, feta, shaved lamb and tzatziki. Mexican-inspired fries can go the nacho route with melted cheese, chopped tomatoes, chilis and sour cream or the taco route by adding seasoned ground beef, cheese and salsa, among other iterations. Italian versions typically mimic pizza without the crust but with toppings such as spicy sausage, marinara and mozzarella, while Korean-themed loaded fries provide an explosion of flavors from a mix of kimchi, pork belly, cheddar, spicy mayo, chopped scallions and cilantro.

As a snack

Appetizers like loaded fries satisfy cravings for many. Twenty-three percent of consumers in Technomic’s recent Starters, Small Plates and Sides report said they would order an appetizer as a midmorning snack, while 30% would choose one midafternoon, 26% midevening and 34% late night. The ability to share a dish influences appetizer orders as well. Sixty-eight percent of consumers said a key factor driving their order is an item that everyone enjoys. Loaded fries can satisfy cravings throughout the day for smaller but satisfying meals, and they are a fun and easy way to share with friends. In Technomic’s report, 43% of consumers said that if offered, they would order loaded fries.

Additional applications

Loaded fries are also great on kids’ menus and as breakfast options. Kids love fries as much as anyone else. Creating a scaled-down version just for them, topping fries with kid-friendly add-ons like chicken tenders, barbecued beef and nacho fixings is sure to win younger consumers’ loyalty. At breakfast, the possibilities for loaded fries as the foundation for hearty egg dishes or as a side on a brunch menu are unlimited. Au Cheval, an upscale diner in Chicago and New York, serves crispy fried eggs with mornay sauce, garlic aioli and a runny, fried egg.

Carrying over loaded fries dishes from popular restaurants onto noncommercial menus is easy. The ingredients are likely already on-hand, and the clientele is ready for innovative, craveable options.

This post is sponsored by Simplot