Traditionally relegated to side-dish territory, these area restaurants provide evidence that simple fried potatoes are worthy of a closer look. And definitely a few more bites.
Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack
201 S Clinton St, Iowa City,
1940 Lower Muscatine Rd, Iowa City
Jimmy Jack’s may be known for its smoky meats and delicious housemade sauces; however, it’s the french fries that keep me coming back. These square-cut thick steak fries are deliciously crispy on the outside and served in a waxed bag overflowing with goodness.
The texture combination of these fries can only be compared with a properly made sourdough bread: an audible and resilient crust around a fluffy, warm center. The textural feat achieved by Jimmy Jack’s is impressive and offers contrast to their meals, such as a pulled pork on a pillowy bun and a piece of sweet honey cornbread. Mildly seasoned, these fries work great alone or serve as the perfect vehicle for their array of sauces, in particular the Cowboy sauce—a thick, sweet and smoky chipotle barbecue sauce.
5 S Dubuque St, Iowa City,
600 N Dodge St, Iowa City
Nodo was named the number one restaurant in Iowa for 2016 by Yelp. While this was a point of contention—especially for out-of-towners—it isn’t hard to see why fans are raving and craving the place. With an extensive menu of sandwiches, wraps and salads, Nodo is a healthy option for grabbing a great lunch on the go. If you’re feeling extra munchie but still want to stay healthy, grab a side of their sweet potato fries. These sweet, thin-cut fries are served in tin foil, fresh from the kitchen, with a side of tangy and addictive garlic aioli.
The fries are delicious, but it might be the ridiculously good aioli that really sets them off. Nodo also offers traditional Brew City fries, for the purist in the group. Can’t commit? Get a half-and-half basket with aioli and ketchup on the side and choose your own adventure.
Brewing Company 59 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
Lion Bridge Brewery is nestled at the north end of the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids and offers a small but well-executed menu of bar snacks and plates. The poutine is a paradox: crisp, hand-cut fries are served in a luscious pork gravy made from the brewery’s Dark Mild Workmen’s Compensation, a two-time gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival, and topped with Milton Creamery cheese curds.
As any good poutine should, the cheese curds work perfectly to complete the dish; the smaller curds melt onto the fries and the larger curds hold up well in the hot gravy. The Workmen’s Compensation pork gravy offers a balance of bright, tangy notes amidst the well-developed umami base. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, top this dish with a fried egg for an extra velvety, rich finish.
1006 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids
Bata’s is a veteran establishment in the NewBo District of Cedar Rapids. Known for its eccentric twist on classic dishes, like the blueberry burger and the orzo mac and cheese, the real gem on its menu is the caramelized sweet potato strips. These are a particularly rich treat: The plate features an orange sauce as a foundation for a generous pile of crisp, thick-cut sweet potato fries finished with a duo of balsamic reduction and caramel drizzled on top.
The best way to enjoy these fries is while taking in the view from the tables nestled in the front windows or paired with a hoppy, local IPA at the intimate bar.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the owner of Bata’s Restaurant. The restaurant’s majority owner since January 2016 is Joel Kane. Little Village regrets this error.