Why Do the French Fries at Blue Smoke Suck?

It's almost a cosmic question. Blue Smoke is owned and run by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. I know the general manager there, Mark Maynard Parisi, and the chef, Kenny Callahan. These guys all know good food and how to serve it. They make an array of very good sandwiches, everything from an excellent fried oyster sandwich to a killer cubano to even a fine straight-ahead tuna sandwich on buttermilk toast. And their burger is absolutely terrific, one of the best in the city. And I know these guys know how to make great french fries. The fries at the Union Square Cafe served with the burger are among New York's best french fries.

At Blue Smoke ...

The barbecue potato chips are exellent.

So are the deviled eggs.

Ditto for the macaroni and cheese.

The ribs are pretty damn fine as well.

So the fact that Blue Smoke's french fries are sub-standard doesn't make any sense. It's like a good progressive Democratic politican declaring he's against all forms of stem cell research.

So why do Blue Smoke's french fries suck? Hungry minds want to know.

So yesterday, eating lunch there with friends, I ran into Mark Parisi and posed the following question: Why do your french fries suck? "Well, he began, "that's a very good question." Of course his response contains implicit agreement with my judgement. Parisi said they were having the hardest time finding a good french fry made without trans-fats. Of course that is only an issue if you are buying frozen french fries. It's been obvious to me for awhile now that Blue Smoke has been using frozen french fries.

But why doesn't Blue Smoke, a restaurant that prides itself on making everything from scratch (even its mayonnaise) make fresh french fries. Parisi said they simply serve too many people (covers in restaurant parlance) between the restaurant and the jazz club downstairs to have the time to cut up potatoes and then fry them twice (the way all good french fries are made).

I told them that argument did not hold up, as there are many restaurants serving more covers in the course of a day that serve french fries. Balthazar and Pastis immediately come to mind. They can serve a thousand people on a weekend day at Balthazar, and the french fries there are fresh and magnifique.

It should be noted that the french fries at the Shake Shack (also owned by the same company) are distinctly mediocre. When I've asked about the fries there i've been told there is not enough room in the shack to make fresh french fries. I'm not sure I buy that argument, but since I love the burgers, hot dogs, and frozen custard so much at the Shake Shack, I'm going to give them a pass on the french fries for the moment.

So join me in my quest to make the Blue Smoke fries as good as they can be. Write to Mark Maynard Parisi, Blue Smoke Manager, 116 E. 27th St., New York, New York 10016. E-mail him at MmaynardParisi@BlueSmoke.com. Even if I had his cell phone number I wouldn't give it out.