Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Western Fries...only in the East?

On many occasions during my 30+ years growing up and living in the Baltimore area I ate what I knew as Western Fries...either as an accompaniment to a meal, or sometimes as a "snack" to tie me over till an actual meal. Western fries, generally speaking, are thick cut potato wedges that are seasoned (usually some form of batter) and deep fried (of course!). They are quite common in the Baltimore area as it seems like quite a few establishments have them, or some sort of variation of them on the menu; the best of which (in my opinion) is the Royal Farms convenience stores.

Yes, you read that right. I said Royal Farms. For those of you that don't know, Royal Farms is a convenience store chain that has 120 stores spread around Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They have a deli/grill section that has all kinds of foods to go...sandwiches, wraps, salads, fried chicken, and various side dishes. Their fried chicken is pretty good, but their Piece de Resistance is definitely their Western Fries. Now, while I was still living back on the east coast I just assumed that Western Fries originated in the West. I mean, they're called WESTERN fries for goodness sake. However, in the 2+ years that I have now lived on the West coast I have yet to see a single place offering these so called "Western" Fries. So what gives?

Determined to get to the bottom of it all, I did a quick search on Google for "Western Fries" to see if I could find out the origins of the Western Fry. Unfortunately, I didn't really have much luck. Of the results that came back, there were a few that were blog posts or reviews regarding Western Fries and most of them seemed to be based in the Baltimore area. Interesting. It would seem that these so-called "Western" Fries aren't so western after all.

For Christmas, my wife and I took a week long trip back East to spend the Holidays with Family and Friends. Of course, since finding Western Fries in LA is like panning for gold in Alaska, one of my required stops during the trip was one of the many Royal Farms' to satisfy a 2 year craving. Lucky for me, one of the newest additions to the Royal Farms locations happens to be right around the corner from some of my close friends' houses so fulfilling that requirement was quite easy. One fine evening while hanging out and playing Call of Duty, I made a quick run over to Royal Farms to see if the Western Fries were as good as I remembered them being. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

I purchased 2 family packs of Western Fries. One for myself and one for a friend. The family pack has approximately 21 thick-cut fries in it and is packed in one of their chicken boxes. Were they as good as I remembered? Oh yes...they definitely were. The beauty of the Royal Farms Western Fry is definitely the batter. It's seasoned and salty and carries so much flavor that I just can't get enough of it. It probably is loaded with MSG or something, but who cares. It's not like I'll eat these things every day (although I could!). They're definitely worth the oily fingers and ensuing thirst. Unfortunately, they're not available in the West. At least, I haven't been able to find them yet. What's up with that? If you happen to know of a place, definitely let me know! LA has A LOT to offer the foodie, but not having Western Fries in the West just seems to be a little ridiculous!

15 comments:

sara said...

I never realized these were called "Western Fries," I think I've only known them as potato wedges, but they are fantastic. It seems there are differences in french fry cuisine throughout the east coast. In my native upstate new york, we enjoy fries with vinegar and ketchup, in western pa people were eating fries with gravy or mayonaise and of course in the middle of their Primanti sandwhich (meat, cheese, fries, cole slaw in between two giant pieces of italian bread - don't forget the hotsauce). And in new jersey i think they eat them with gravy and melted cheese - which personally have never warmed to. Where oh where in cali can such delicacies be found?

ATChipmunk said...

I know, right? SoCal has great foods, but there are definitely some things that just CAN'T be found in Cali! As for the different fry cuisines, that is so true. French fries with vinegar is also popular in MD as well as fries with gravy or cheese (these go great with a good cheesesteak with hots!). Our neighbors to the north enjoy Poutine (I think that's how it's spelled)...french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and brown gravy. Have had it while visiting cousins in Toronto and must say I find it quite strange but interesting and good. Aaahhh...now i'm craving french fries!!!

SoNSo1 said...

Royal Farms' western fries are a hit or miss for me. Sometimes they rock. Other times they don't. All I know is I crave them madly. The best are the small slivers of potato that are crispy. Mmm. I'm going up the street now!

lastchance26 said...

i am baltimore born and bred and while i agree royal farm fries are great you will love blair brothers fries better if you are ever by the Northeast market by John Hopkins hospital on monument street plus they give you more for ya money.
those on the west coast can duplicate royal farm fries with flour,oldbay and pepper ,i use to work there for 5 yrs and though i never got the exact recipe [they ship the mix premade] i came up with a close match .
cut potatoes into wedges soke in water [use to have to cut 10 pd bag and leave covered in water every nite before close] combine flour,oldbay and pepper [i combined to taste] let tatters drain coat in flour mix place on cookie sheet in single layer leave in fridge for hr fry till crispy in fryer pressure cooked fryer works best[thats what we used ar royal farm] God bless

harold said...

From my 20 some odd years of living in Baltimore, the best and only REAL Western Fries came from a little store that went by the name of "SMOOTS" located on Whitelock Street and Linden Avenue. I 've had some Western Fries from Royal Farms Stores, but all in all Smoots has them beat hands down.

John said...

Oh wow! I was just writing something about Western fries on my own Baltimore blog. I, too, am from Baltimore (and am still there) but lived in SoCal (Inland Empire) for a few years. And I could never find anything like Western fries. The first time I asked, I don't recall the reaction, they must've looked at me like I had grown a new head. The best ones I have ever had are, strangely enough, in a small deli in a gas station in Lansdowne (Exit 9 off the Beltway) at the corner of Hammonds Ferry and Hollins Ferry. Tasty! But the Royal Farms ones are a good Western fry. They're the only good thing that Royal Farms makes!

Chicken Joe said...

We called them "Jockos" at my restaurant. But people asked for "Jojos" a few times, which I thought was a mispronunciation.

Potato wedges is the generic name. I've never heard of "Western Fries" in NY.

roo said...

I found this searching for the calorie content of these fries haha. I'm from north Jersey and have NEVER heard of thick-cut fries referred to as "western fries" until I got to Baltimore, they were always just "steak fries" "potato wedges" or simply "thick cut fries". It's weird.. Unless they're seasoned I prefer regular fries though. But nothing will ever overtake seasoned, spicy, Jersey Shore curly fries ;) Those are just awesome!

Anonymous said...

Thank you - I had begun to think that my experiences growing up ordering chicken boxes with Western Fries and a half and half (half tea and half lemonade commonly known as an Arnold Palmer)were some sort of dream sequence since everyone I asked from the East Coast about Western Fries looked at me with a confused look. Long live Western Fries and isn't it a shame that LA isn't so cultural as to not have them!

DINAH said...

dinah- I am from maryland and I found this site while searching for the recipe for western fries. I was raised on western fries and love. My children even crave chicken boxes and a half and half but today they have a new drink call triple mix which is loaded with sugar but is excellent with a chix box and western fries. I can not find western friend here in atl where i live now but I am willing to give it a shot to try and make my own. YES IT THAT SERIOUS!!!!!! If you want excellent western fries in maryland go to the lexingto market, northeast market, but for western fries that will make you smack your mama (lol) cherry hill church square or walbrook jucntion are the place to go!!!!

Anonymous said...

My experience with "western fries"comes from a little,[now it does'nt exist anymore] food joint Mother Hubbard's.Located on Eastern Ave.in b-more.Their peep[as it was called] came with fried chicken and the taters were piled so high you almost could'nt close the lid.The best ever.

Anonymous said...

As another born and bred Baltimorean, I think these really might be a Baltimore thing. I grew up with them at the long gone Homewood Deli on St. Paul's street. But the one's at Northeast market and Lexington Market are pretty good too. Crustier and bigger than the ones I've seen at Royal Farms and spicer than the bland versions from fast food joints. I'm getting hungry....

Anonymous said...

Steak fries are not the same as western fries steak fries are uniformed and not as thick as western fries with western fries u get wut u get all shapes and sizes

Anonymous said...

I'm from Baltimore City and I have only known these to be called Western Fries so when I refer to them as Western Fries people have no clue what I am talking about, lol. And Royal Farms do have the best. Another thing we do down here in Baltimore is have gravy cheese fries, which is french fries drenched in brown gravy and topped with mozzarella cheese and baked for a little bit. So GOOOOD!!!

Stacey said...

Thanks for this..RF fries are so good!! I'm vegetarian so I get the same thing every time...fries and a veggie croissant! The croissants are delish too so fresh and soft!! It's absurd the west coast doesn't have 'western' fries smh.